After decades of dry dog food and the occasional sneaked bits of “people food,” many dogs and cats these days are actually enjoying homemade food! Owners are going above and beyond to provide a more balanced diet than most store-bought foods offer and cooking for their pets on a daily basis! Our furry and fuzzy kids deserve a nice warm home cooked meal just like our human kids right?
Because dogs and cats were feral animals hundreds of years ago, their food sources consisted of whatever they could hunt to eat. Because of this, their diets were largely raw meat. However, as dogs – and much later, cats – were domesticated, their food options gradually expanded to a little less bloody and more flavorful meals!
By the Middle Ages, kennel supervisors would feed dogs in wealthy households hearty stew with vegetables, grains and meat scraps. Cats were expected to hunt and eat mice and other small prey during this era. Poorer households fed dogs only what they could spare, such as table scraps and bones. Sounds a little too crunchy of a meal for my taste!
Over time, as dogs and cats became more like pampered members of the family, large-scale pet food producers began to pop up. Of course, the focus was still largely on meat products and increasing amounts of grains. Kibble came about in the early 1900s, and the market expanded to include other options for dog owners of various affluence. Canned dog food was introduced in the 1920s, but World War II and its lean times brought the industry back around to mostly dry food.
Today, there are hundreds of commercial food products available for both dogs and cats. They range from basic selections on the grocery stores shelves to more fancy options such as those found in veterinarians’ offices or pet stores. Owners have become increasingly interested in maintaining their pets’ health and extending their lives through good nutrition. This is how the home-cooking trend for pets was born! Hopefully these people are being healthy themselves or else this is definitely a “Do what say, not as I do” kind of moment!
Cooking for cats at home is significantly different than creating meals for dogs. There is some debate whether cats should be eating cooked foods or those that are raw. But the general goal is to provide minimally processed meals for felines. Regardless of whether you choose raw or cooked, you need to be mindful of providing a variety of ingredients and provide a balanced nutrition so your cat will be healthy and happy! We all love that!
Of course, some experimentation likely will be necessary. Cats are notoriously finicky, so a homemade diet will have to be altered until you find just the right items that your cat will actually eat and enjoy! Even when providing home-cooked meals, you can still offer Special Treats for your cat that help round out its dietary needs or help fight issues such as hairballs or odor. But also who doesn’t love a good treat?
There are many trains of thought when it comes to feeding dogs home-cooked foods, each with its devoted fans. Many owners go for the the grain-free approach, while others swear by a mix of meat, grains, and dairy products in their dogs’ bowls. However, even the most expensive and fancy foods can be lacking certain vitamins and nutrients such as calcium, zinc and copper. That’s why a well-rounded approach requires research and care on your part if you choose to go the homemade route!
Remember, too, that there are many foods that are great for people but unsafe for dogs to eat. Most people know about the dangers of chocolate, but dogs also can’t have grapes, raisins, onions (or onion powder), garlic, avocados, and macadamia nuts, among many others. Artificial sweeteners such as xylitol can be deadly if your dog get a hold of some.
Generally when dog owners cook at home for their pets, they prepare a diet that combines proteins such as eggs, animal meats, or seafood along with carbohydrates like vegetables and grains. Essential fatty acids and calcium are also crucial ingredients, both of which can come from multiple sources. As with cats, you must experiment to discover which foods your pet will eat and which they will leave untouched in their bowl.
Dogs that have particular health problems are especially suited for homemade diets. You might be able to get some advice from your veterinarian about options, or find a cookbook designed to meet those special requirements. OR if you feel confident enough, you could write your very one dog cookbook with these special requirements to help others out!
Deciding which food ingredients to prepare for your pet is a personal decision. Some owners work to avoid grains at all costs while others eliminate dairy products entirely from their pets’ repertoire. There is plenty of information and advice from reputable sources online, and there are hundreds of cookbook titles that also claim to revolutionize your approach to feeding your pet healthy foods!
If you ever are in doubt, your family veterinarian is the best source for advice. They can help point you in the right direction of show you how to address specific health concerns using diet. For example, if your pet is older and has failing joints, your vet might advise foods made with supplements such as fish oil or glucosamine. Providing tasty and tempting homemade food for your pets is also a great way to get them to take medications they normally would eschew if you just added it to dry food.
Remember that any time you alter your pet’s food/diet, you should do it gradually rather than all at once. Mix the new food with the old over time in an increasing ratio until your pet is only eating the new offerings. Taking time to learn about home-cooked pet food is a process, but you might find your pet is happier and healthier as a result of your additional effort and care!!
If you find your pet loves any specific recipes, share them with BaxterBoo and all your animal loving friends!