Cut Down the Cost — Not Quality — of Cat Food

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European cat eats dry foodAccording to the ASPCA, feeding one household cat runs pet owners an average $170 a year or around 50 cents a day. But if you pour premium cat food in Princess’s bowl, you could be looking at spending $1 a day or more on cat food that’s made without fillers or byproducts or to ensure the food is certified as being made in the United States. If a raw or whole diet is on the menu for your cat, you could spend nearly $2 a day on your feline’s feast. And while you can’t put a price tag on the health and wellness of your cat, it can be difficult to squeeze pricey premium cat food into a budget starved for disposable cash.

To cut down the cost of cat food, many owners are turning to their own kitchen to feed their cats without compromising taste or their beloved pet’s health and safety. Cat food made at home can rival the quality found in the most premium recipes without mimicking the price. With coupons, discount clubs, and in-store specials, you may be able to feed you cat high-quality food that’s not stuffed with filler, additives and preservatives for less than $1 — less than similar high-end bagged food found at your local pet store.

There are other advantages to making your feline’s food from scratch. Not only does DIY cat food offer peace of mind that you know all the ingredients Fluffy is eating, but homemade cat food also lets kids share in the nutritional support of the family pet.

Curious about how to whip up a feast your cat is sure to fancy? These tips will help you feed your kitty a healthy diet without making your budget sick.

Ask for suggestionsvet with a stethoscope examines the Persian cat
Before changing your cat’s diet, talk to your vet about “people” foods that can be dangerous to cats or foods he doesn’t recommend. For instance, it was once believed that cats should be treated to a daily saucer of milk; however, the ASPCA says cats do not easily digest cow’s milk and it can cause diarrhea.

Every cat is different, so it’s best to consult your vet for specific dietary recommendations based on age, breed, medical history and other needs. Veterinarian Kerri Marshall, chief veterinary officer of Trupanion, a medical insurance provider for cats and dogs, says cat owners should keep these danger foods in mind when shopping for DIY cat food ingredients.

Grapes and raisins. These should absolutely be avoided, as they can cause kidney damage for cats as well as dogs.
Citrus fruits. Lemons, limes, and grapefruit can cause upset stomachs. So can persimmons.
Onions or garlic. They’re toxic in all forms: cooked, raw and even powdered. They cause damage to the red blood cells, ultimately causing them to burst.
Rhubarb and wild mushrooms. These also contain toxins that are harmful to cats.
Chocolate. The caffeine and theobromine in chocolate are toxic to cats. Dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate are more dangerous because they contain higher amounts. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting and a rapid heart rate.
Alcohol. Even a small amount may cause vomiting, liver damage and brain damage for cats.
Avocado. These contain a substance called persin, which can be toxic to cats in large amounts. Persin is in the fruit itself as well as in the leaves and pit.
Fat trimmings and bones. Not only is fat unhealthy for cats to eat, but it also can cause pancreatitis, a potentially deadly disease that is also quite costly to treat. Pancreatitis often involves hospitalization and multiple prescription medicines and trips to the vet.
Nuts. Walnuts and macadamia nuts, raw or roasted, can make cats seriously ill, so it is best to keep these nuts and the foods containing them away from your cat. Symptoms of poisoning include rapid heart rate, vomiting, muscle tremors and muscle weakness.
Raw eggs. Salmonella or E. coli are very real possibilities from eating raw eggs. Avidin — a protein in egg whites — can block Vitamin B absorption, negatively affecting a cat’s skin and fur.
Salt. Too much salt can cause excessive thirst and urination and may lead to sodium ion poisoning. Your cat may show symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature and seizures if it has ingested too much salt.
Raw fish. Just as with raw eggs, cats risk food poisoning if they eat raw fish. Also, a particular enzyme found in raw fish breaks down thiamine; without this B vitamin, neurological issues can arise with significant detrimental effects.

Think bigMature woman cooking
Cooking and shopping in volume is the key to affordable homemade pet food. Shop for large quantities of liver, chicken and fish at warehouse clubs like Costco and BJ’s, and save what you can’t use in one week in the freezer. For extra time savings, freeze ingredients in small portions equivalent to what you use in one week.

And cook big, too. Bake homemade kibble and treats once or twice a month to cut down time spent in the kitchen and money needed to preheat the oven. Many varieties of homemade cat treats and kibble can be stored in the fridge, a cool, dark cabinet or pantry for up to one month.

Seek out dealsStore keeper serving a customer
Your grocer’s meat department may run unadvertised specials on meats and seafood it has in large quantities it needs to move off the shelf. It is the same great quality you expect from your grocer, but it needs to be cooked or frozen — two things the meat department can’t do — immediately.

While you’re at the meat counter, ask the butcher to grind ingredients like chicken, fresh salmon, tuna or liver to save that messy and time-consuming step at home.

Now that you’re ready to whip up a paw-fect meal, test out these recipes.

Child is kissing a cat

DIY canned cat food
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
2 ounces potato, cooked without skin
4 ounces carbs (choose one: cooked pasta, white rice, barley, oatmeal, peas)
6 ounces cooked animal protein (whole meat chicken, lamb, rabbit, beef, pork, tuna, salmon)

Mix all of the ingredients in a blender, and store in a sealed plastic container in the fridge to serve as needed.

Tuna patties
1 can tuna
1/2 cup boiled brown rice
1/4 cup pureed chicken or beef liver (found in the meat department at your grocer)
2 to 3 sprigs parsley, chopped

Drain the tuna, and mix everything together. Form into balls about the size of a walnut and then press into patties.
Store in the fridge, and serve to your cat as a treat or supplement to dinner.

Kickin’ chicken baked cat treats
1 cup raw free-range or organic boneless chicken pieces, minced
1/4 cup fresh steamed pumpkin (can also include other veggies like carrots or sweet potato), mashed.
1/4 to 1/3 cup cooked white rice

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Form balls of the mixture (a little smaller than a pingpong ball), and place on baking trays lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes at 325 degrees.

Turn halfway through baking to prevent one side form burning. Don’t worry if quite a bit of moisture comes out of the balls during cooking, this steams the treats on the tray.

Homemade cat kibble
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups soy flour
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup brewer’s yeast
1 (15 ounce) can of mackerel, drained
5 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 tablespoon cod liver oil
2 cups of water or as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In separate bowl, mash mackerel into small pieces. Add in oil and water.

Combine mackerel mixture with dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Dough may be tough and may require hand mixing.

Roll the dough until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut into 1/4-inch bits.

Bake bits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 25 minutes. Occasionally toss the pieces with two wooden spoons to ensure even browning.

Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Photo credit: Getty ThinkStock

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