Tell me about homemade cat diets

There’s a thread about alternative dog foods now, but I didn’t want to hijack it with my cat questions. I’m doing a bit of looking into it, but I wanted facts and opinions from other people too. Have not yet talked to my vet, but plan to.

I’ve got three cats, and one of them is on this expensive-ass allergy kibble because otherwise he poops nasty things. Now, I don’t want to spend a ton of time cooking for my cats, but $50 a bag does kind of suck. On the other hand, the three of them do quite well on dry food - the two normal ones get Iams Indoor Weight and Hairball Control, and the expensive one gets Hill Science Diet z/d.

Any experiences with feeding a kitty with poopy allergy problems a homemade diet? Would it be cheaper? (It would definitely be easier to feed them all at once instead of locking Stokie in the kitchen!)

I came in to suggest that any recipe for chicken could probably be used to prepare a diet of cat, but never mind…


Hill’s z/d is going to be really hard to replicate at home. They process the proteins in a special way so that they don’t activate the immune system. (not the most in-depth description, but a starting point).

There may be a way to formulate a diet at home that does the same thing without the protein processing, but I am pretty sure you would have to know exactly which proteins your cat is allergic to in order to avoid them. Cats can be trickier to make a homemade diet for because they are carnivores with specific amino acid needs.

Hopefully someone with hands-on experience will come along and help out. Your vet will also be a good resource when you do have that discussion.

~beegirl13, vet student (who got really bored in nutrition class)

No help for the OP ( sorry Zsofia - I’m way too lazy to go the raw route ). But a bump for a hijack…

It seems a common meme on internet message boards devoted to cat nutrition that most vets are utterly ignorant on proper cat nutrition. The claim is often made that most veterinary students get minimal nutrition training and often it is not done by vet staff, but rather by reps such as people from Hill’s who have an agenda to push. The common refrain ( not universal, but it always pops up ), is that frankly it is often not even worth discussing nutrition with most vets. Anecdotally I have to admit that my own ( seemingly decent ) vet made Scooby-Doo-like querolous “hruh?” noises when I tried to go discuss current internet arguments over wet vs. dry foods, grain fillers, etc.

Now these folks can come off as slightly fanatical. In these same internets groups the consensus is commonly one that considers stuff like Hill’s Science Diet and Royal Canin to be only one step up from swill because of the grain fillers ( esp. corn ) and lower quality ( and quantities ) of meat used. So ultra-premium “grain free” brands like Wellness, Natural Balance and Innova tend to be vastly preferred and even prescription food is sometimes poo-poo’ed as being suited for temporary intervention purposes only, but not fit for everyday maintanence diets. And the “wet food only” advocates like this vet are highly respected.

As a current student what’s your opinion on the state of nutrition training in veterinary schools? Any opinion on any of the above?

Fact is I get frustrated at the seeming lack of academic consensus on issues like the above. They disrupt my sense of orderly balance ;). I tend to end up splitting the middle a lot of the time, since I can’t seem to get a really solid answer on the best ( semi-convenient ) way to go. So I current feed 50% dry/wet, with dry Royal Canin Urinary SO ( one struvite-prone cat ) and various varieties of non-prescription ultra-premium wet food. But the all wet-only folks would say that prescription dry food for a crystal-prone cat is nonsense, you need all wet. The ultra-premium folks would say Royal Canin is full of crappy corn fillers and is a lousy maintenance food. The vets say go all prescription diet ( effectively only Hill’s or Royal Canin ), but some dry is good for the teeth. etc. etc.

All fascinating to me in theory, but frustrating in practice.

ETA: Jeez, what a long hijack. Sorry again, Zsofia :).

Small animal nutrition was actually taught pretty well in my school, by two boarded vets specializing in nutrition (among other things). I just didn’t pay all that much attention because I planned to go into large animal and figured I could always look up what I had to pertaining to small animals. The large animal lectures were atrocious, unfortunately. The professor was not a vet, but an animal science prof who really likes hogs. Guess how many people in my class planned on being hog vets? Zero. After we all did somewhat poorly on his first exam and requested more help, he said he “didn’t know any other way to teach this stuff”.

We do get a lot of what I like to call “propaganda” from pet food companies. They buy us free lunch or dinner, and we pretend to listen to their sales pitch. There has been talk of eliminating this practice because we could become unduly biased by all the bribery of free stuff. But I think we can be (and are) above that sort of thing. I personally enjoyed sitting in the back of the room with my friends and poking holes in their sales presentations while gorging myself on free food and collecting free pens.

It could be that your vet just isn’t in touch with the debate among owners as to what is the best brand and what has the most “fillers” and whatever. When we learned to evaluate pet foods, we were taught just to make sure it has the AAFCO ( statement on the side of the bag. Almost everything does, except maybe some ultra-cheap sawdust & chicken neck formula from the farmer’s co-op. Of course, there are different levels of quality, but they are all required by law to keep the animal alive & well if they are to be approved by AAFCO.

We don’t get much clinical experience with nutrition. We have a nutritionist on staff at the vet school and are encouraged to consult her with nutrition problems in our patients. She writes up a diet plan and we send it home with the owner. She is good about explaining stuff, but clinics are so busy that the info usually goes in one ear and out the other. The stop at the nutritionist’s office is just a pause on the way to the next twelve tasks a student has in front of him or her that morning.

So there’s my long contribution to the hijack. Bottom line: I think nutrition would stick better in our heads if A. it was not such a dry subject and B. we had to use it more often before we got into practice. Also, this is only what goes on at my school. I have heard (could just be rumors) that some vet schools do not have nutrition as anything but an elective course.

That’s whacked, especially since I’ve read several articles bemoaning the reduction in numbers of large animal vets and rural vets in the United States as time goes on. At least, I’m assuming that’s where you’re located?

I’m sorry you had that experience – it sounds a bit like you’ve decided not to go that route?

Thanks for the thoughtful reply :).

By the way Zsofia, that vet I linked to above, Lisa Pierson, has a whole page on making raw cat food. She might be worth dropping an e-mail to with your questions.

Our cat gets her own “homemade cat food”, and about once a week or so leaves one on our doorstep for us!

Well, I’m not sure if it’s healthy for Stokie to make a diet entirely of cockroaches and flies. On the other hand, while I spend a fortune on his cat food I save a bundle on not having to spray inside.

We just tried the z/d because numerous antibiotics didn’t fix his poopies, and it happens to work. God knows what his actual problem is. I’ve read some on raw feeding (which is hilarious because although my vet recommends wet food it’s too much of a pain in the ass for me to bother with it, but I’m thinking of grinding up organs and bones?) but it seems like a big initial investment considering I don’t know if it’s going to wreck the poopies. Meat grinder, etc.

Must not wreck those fragile poopies! Good poopies = happy cat mom :slight_smile:

homemade cat diets= “meat”. It’s what cats eat. Raw meat, lightly cooked meat, liver,fish, poultry, rabbit, etc. Meat.

For smelly poopies add probiotics, I suggest making them eat an eyedropper full every day.

You could buy some from a pet store or even use human stuff, or just some of that Activa yogurt if the cats will eat it without a fuss.

I had a cat who ate nothing but small dried fish and whatever vermin (mostly lizards and cockroaches) she could find. Probably not idea but it’s what was available and it worked.