A new study published this week suggests that people who use homemade cat food — based on recipes from books and the internet — to feed prized felines may be inadvertently harming them. The study authors found that nearly all of the 100 recipes they examined had at least one nutritional defect. In some cases, they even contain dangerous ingredients that can make cats seriously ill.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis examined 114 cat food recipes found both online and in cookbooks, using software to estimate their nutritional content. They then compared the content of these recipes to the Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Adult Cats established by the National Research Council, a trusted source on Feeding dogs and cats.
In total, 94 recipes provided detailed and sufficient information to calculate the nutritional value. All failed to meet the cat’s basic nutritional allowance, such as taurine, iron or vitamin E, and most failed to meet the allowance of three or more nutrients (At least one recipe provides inadequate levels of 19 nutrients). Recipes written by non-veterinarians clearly or without instructions for adding supplementation failed even worse, while five recipes reviewed by vets contained all needed nutrients except for choline (in two of these recipes, it was not clear how much taurine was provided).
There is no clear sense of how often cat (and dog) owners turn to homemade recipes for their pet’s diet, senior study author Jennifer Larsen, a veterinarian and researcher in dog and cat nutrition at the University of California, Davis, told Gizmodo via email. But many owners who use them come to their clinic with sick pets, while others just come for advice on keeping their pets healthy. And when she and others check the nutritional content of these diets, they almost always fall short.
These experiences led Larsen’s team to pre-review homemade recipes for dog as well as for Cats with kidney disease. But as far as you can tell, their studies, published In the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, it is the first attempt to look at recipes prepared for healthy cats.
“It is not a simple process to formulate a balanced and appropriate homemade diet for a dog or cat,” Larsen said. “Extensive training and experience are necessary to fully understand the various aspects of this process.”
Like humans, cats can become malnourished from unbalanced diets. Given the wide range of nutritional content in these recipes and the overall health of the cats that eat them, this risk can vary. But in 7 percent of the recipes, ingredients like garlic, onions, and other plants belonging to the allium family were found — all of which can be toxic and deadly to cats and dogs in large or chronic doses. Some recipes also called for raw animal meat, which can cause disease outbreaks It is a foodborne illness in both pets and humans. Outside of this study, there is also no loss of people who insist on feeding their carnivorous cats an all-vegetarian diet.
Some cat owners aren’t likely to stop homemade diets no matter what a study or vet tells them, so Larsen and her co-authors say those owners should consult with a veterinary dietitian to make sure their cats diet stays put. balanced as possible.