Devoted cat owners who spend hours every week slaving over a hot stove and preparing their pampered cat’s meals are convinced that they’re providing their pet with the best possible diet. But whether or not this is true depends on what they’re actually giving them. Still more important is how much variety they’re giving them — a constant diet of even the freshest and most expensive fish, for example, would not constitute a balanced diet.
Many cats are tempted by tasty, home-cooked titbits; however, you should always ensure that such treats are part of the overall diet, and not ‘extras’ which would just make your pet put on weight.
A healthy adult cat’s diet should contain a balance of nutrients, including protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. It may surprise you to know that this is more difficult to achieve, in the right proportions, with home-cooked foods. With prepared foods, the proportions have been calculated — in theory, anyway — for you. However, when you cook and store fresh food for your cat it is easy to miss out on important vitamins and minerals. Thus it is advisable to give a mixture of prepared and fresh foods rather than limit meals exclusively to either.
The golden rule with home-cooked food is always to give variety. A constant diet of any one food — even if it’s the best quality and the most expensive lemon sole or fillet steak — would not constitute a balanced diet and can cause vitamin deficiencies. So ring the changes each day between meat, fish, liver and poultry.
The minimum amount of protein that a cat needs daily is reckoned to be about 5g for each kg of body weight (1/8oz for each lb). In addition to the protein element in your cat’s food, it is also a good idea to add a little fat in the form of chicken fat, butter or sunflower oil, and some bulk in the form of bread (crumbled toast is popular) or cooked potato. Eggs and cheese are other valuable protein sources.
Some people maintain that cats that are fed raw meat develop better and are stronger and healthier, but this is not generally advisable because it is the main route by which they contract certain diseases, such as toxoplasmosis. The bacteria that cause such disorders are destroyed by cooking. The answer is to cook lightly —boiling or steaming, say, for 15 minutes — which is unlikely to have any harmful effect either on proteins or on most of the vitamins.
Research shows that 50% of owners give their cat two meals a day; 20% give only one meal; and another 20% give three meals. The remaining 10% either vary the number of meals from day to day, or regularly give four or more meals a day.
Vitamin supplements are most likely to be necessary for your cat if it is being fed on home-cooked foods.
Cats should be offered a bowl of fresh water, which they need to flush their kidneys. Wash the bowl thoroughly each time.
Chicken or rabbit bones can be dangerous to a cat, because they can splinter and cause internal injuries.