The Easiest, Least Expensive Way to
Make Raw Food For Your Cats
In early 2007, cats and dogs began to sicken and die from renal failure. Their deaths were quickly tied to the commercial food they had been fed, which was adulterated with melamine (a plastic). The melamine was deliberately added by the Chinese producer of the wheat gluten used by several pet food manufacturers, to make it appear as if the protein content of the gluten were higher than it was.
Never mind that gluten or grains of ANY kind don't belong in your cat's diet — the most compelling proof you'll ever have that feeding raw is optimal for your cat is actually seeing the changes in his/her health as a result. After about two months, you should see changes in your cat's coat. It will be fluffy and not greasy, and will shed way less. Thin cats will fill out; fat cats will lose weight. Your cat will have so much energy that the younger ones will be "bouncing off the walls", and you can actually sense older or more mellow cats kind-of "vibrating" (I don't know how else to describe it) with strength and well-being.
We've been feeding raw for 12 years. Once you've seen these changes for yourself, no ill-informed veterinarian will be able to dissuade you from continuing (and many of them will — that's when you know it's time to find a new veterinarian).
This page is for folks who already feed raw or already know they want to and why.
If you're considering this change and have yet to educate yourself about the benefits of such a diet, I highly recommend Natascha Wille's TCFeline (previously Feline Future) company, website, and book The Backyard Predator. If you don't plan on ever purchasing a meat grinder, no matter what, then your next best choice is to buy TCFeline mix for adding to raw meat.
But that can get very expensive, and I've found the lack of raw bone to be troubling. I've seen additional changes in our cats' coats with the inclusion of raw bone, and believe their health has improved as a result.
After years of experimentation I've arrived at the least expensive and most streamlined way to feed multiple cats an optimum raw diet with the least amount of effort, and I present it here so that you, too, can benefit from it.
Let me make this clear: My jumping-off point was Natascha Wille's pictorial about making your own food from scratch. You should start with that page to read her comments about the reason for each ingredient, and explore her websites for more information about raw feeding. My purpose is not to co-opt any of her hard work, but to show how this task can be made even easier. It doesn't need to be quite as complicated as it she makes it.
(Even more highly recommended: Feline Nutrition.org's Making Raw Cat Food for Do-It-Yourselfers. Please read this one as well before deciding what recipe you ultimately want to make.)
I will start with the major hurdle: you must be committed to buying and using a serious meat grinder. Once you do that, it makes the cost savings possible. It took me years to buy a meat grinder and now I don't know why I waited! The grinder will pay for itself within 8-12 months, if you were feeding raw before using a purchased mix, or even if you were feeding a "premium" commercial cat food and having to take your cat for vet visits that mine, as raw feeders, never need.
The Tools You'll Need To Start Grinding Your Own Cat Food
*The reason for my link to the One Stop Jerky Shop is that it can be difficult to be sure you're getting the genuine article otherwise, and the reason to be sure you're getting the genuine article is that this grinder has been well-tested by raw feeders to handle chicken bones with ease. (All grinders, even this one, recommend that you not grind bones. Take it from me that you can safely ignore this warning.)
- A Tasin TS-108 meat grinder*
- A large blender
- A meat cleaver and/or good poultry shears
- Containers for freezing
- An exceptionally large bowl or plastic beverage tub (the kind that holds ice and canned drinks at parties), plus additional bowls for holding meat before it is ground
- The commitment to spend a few hours a month making your cat's food (as little as 2 hours a month if you have only 2-3 cats)
The Recipe and Method I Use (Notes, tips, and photos follow)
This is an intentionally large recipe because we used to feed 6 cats for two weeks at a time with it. I made a batch every other weekend and froze it in 11-14 containers. Now, for only 3 cats, I make the same recipe just once a month.
**Hearts are sold in many supermarkets in packages or tubs. If you can't find them, special-order them from your market or health food store's meat department. Hearts are the richest source of taurine, a required amino acid for cats.
- 2 dozen egg yolks
- Cut up chickens totalling approx. 21 lb 6 oz.
- 2-2/3 lb chicken livers
- 5 lb chicken hearts**
- 24 capsules 1000 mg salmon oil, frozen
- 6 C water
Be sure not to mix body parts from different species, which can give cats digestion difficulties. Always use only chicken livers, and if you can't find chicken hearts, it's better to increase the total amount of chicken you're using by 5 lb. and add a taurine supplement.
(I also very strongly recommend a good supplement, such as this one. You will be mixing this into your cats' food IMMEDIATELY BEFORE FEEDING, not in the recipe that you freeze. I have seen even more improvement in my cats' coats since I started to supplement.)
(1) Gather food containers and lids, and tub or extremely large mixing bowl.
(2) Separate the eggs and open all the packages of hearts and meat.
(3) Cut meat parts with cleaver as shown in photos below and set aside in a large bowl(s). Parts only have to be less than 2" wide in order to fit in the grinder's feed tube, so not every part has to be cut.
(4) Using the medium/middle plate, grind meat and hearts together, in batches. Dump in tub as your receiving bowl or plate fills up from the grinder. (Tip: Use ear plugs while running the grinder.)
(5) After grinding up meat, IMMEDIATELY disassemble grinder and rinse parts clean. You can soak them in soap and water until after all your food prep is done, when you will hand-wash these and set them in a drainer to air-dry.
(6) Puree in blender half of the livers with half of the water and all of the frozen oil capsules. Blend until you no longer hear the capsules being broken apart, and pour mixture into tub with ground meat. Repeat with remaining livers and water, then rinse out blender. Blending all the oil capsules in the first batch keeps your blender from smelling like fish oil.
(7) Pour egg yolks into tub with meat and liver mixture. Mix everything together well. (This takes some elbow grease. Husbands are good for this.) Spoon into your containers and freeze.
Notes, Tips, and Pictorial for Making It Easier
The containers: You'll want to use a container that holds no more than about 2 days' worth of food for all your cats (at 1/2 cup per cat per day, split into two meals of 1/4 cup each), and thaw each container in the 'fridge for 2 days before feeding.
Necks: You can grind up the necks in your food, or do as I do and cut them with poultry shears, freeze them, and feed them to my cats as a meal addition, to give them something on which to exercise their jaws.
Egg yolks: I separate these with my fingers, as chefs do. Wash your hands and give it a try! You'll be able to remove the most egg white this way. (You never want to feed cats raw egg white.)
Salmon oil: I get Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil from Costso for a very good price. Wherever you get yours, keep it in the freezer so you can add the capsules to your blender where they will disintegrate, instead of piercing every smelly capsule into the food. The capsules themselves are made of gelatin, which is fine for your cats to eat.
Chickens: I recommend that you buy whole chickens at the supermarket and ask the butcher to "part them out", or cut them into legs, back, breasts, and thighs for you. Most supermarkets will do this for free, and it's cheaper than buying a pre-packed "whole cut up" chicken, so take advantage of it! You can always part them out yourself — and if you buy the cheapest whole chicken at a membership warehouse store, this is your only option — but this will add another 45-60 minutes to your prep time.
|This is the tub I use to mix food in. It might look metal, but it's plastic and washes very easily. I got it at a restaurant supply store, but these can often be found in places like WalMart, and in many other stores in the summer. Its nice, tall sides allow you to mix a large quantity of food without spilling over the sides.|
|You should be able to get hearts in packages in your market, or ask whether your grocery store or health food store with a meat department will special-order them for you. If you absolutely cannot find hearts, don't substitute another meat source. Instead increase the chicken by an additional 5 lbs.|
|Turn the thigh over so that the bone runs horizontally, then make just one cut through it, which is all you need.|
|The drumsticks and wings don't need to be cut at all. Just break the wing joint as shown so that it can be fed in straight.|
This is what the ground meat, bone, and hearts looks like when it comes out of the meat grinder. Notice the bowl of chicken parts to the left of the grinder. It may feel counter-intuitive to feed the meat from so far away from the grinder, but juice drips are much harder to clean off of the back of the grinder, so doing it this way saves cleaning time.
The red box in the inset photo shows which grinder plate to use.
If you have questions about this that aren't answered by Natascha Wille's or Margaret Gates' websites, consider posting them on our Facebook page so that others can see the questions and answers, too. If we need to clarify something we've written here, you can also write to us directly.
Feeding raw food to cats | How to make raw cat food | Raw chicken for cats | Raw food for cats
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