Warning about homemade cat food

When it comes to cat food, home cooking may not be the best for our feline friends.

In a UC Davis study that looked at 114 popular household cat food recipes, researchers found that none met all of the National Research Council recommended allowances for adult cats. Some recipes called for ingredients that could harm cats.

“Homemade diets are not necessarily better,” said lead author Jennifer Larsen, a veterinary nutritionist at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “If you are going to use one, you need to make sure it is done safely and it should be balanced and appropriate for your individual cat.”

The study was done, in part, because of consumer reaction to contaminants in pet food imported from China, which led to more cat owners turning to homemade cat food recipes. There is a smaller cadre of cat owners who want to feed their cats vegetarian, organic, and locally sourced diets.

The recipes, shared online and in print publications, are likely well-intentioned, but even those written by vets fail to include all the nutrients that cats require.

Most recipes lacked three or more nutrients, but some had as many as 19. Others had less than half of the recommended daily servings of essential nutrients including choline, iron, zinc, thiamin, vitamin E and manganese.

Whether cats are harmed by diets depends on the feeding instructions, the duration of that diet, the prescription level for nutritional deficiencies and the cat’s general health.

However, seven percent of the recipes included potentially toxic ingredients including garlic, garlic powder, onions and shallots. The researchers also found a lack of recipe instructions. Those that included raw meat didn’t mention the potential risks of handling and feeding raw foods, and those that included bones didn’t warn that they should be ground to prevent ruptures in the stomach and intestines.

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