Because of our IBD-cat Pigpen who is allergic to poultry, we grind rabbits and deer. The other 3 cats eat cut-up cornish game hen (CGH) but at times prefer ground so we also grind CGH, guinea fowl (from local farms), and heritage turkey (at Thanksgiving). However, I am going to discuss chicken here because it is more readily available for most people. There are recipes on the site for chunked pork meat & pre-ground rabbit from a farm.
This recipe should provide enough for 3 weeks' worth of food for four cats. Our beasties just to give you an idea, range from 8.5 lb Pigpen to Puma the 18lb bruiser with the two middle ones weighing around 10.5-12lbs each.
- 4 whole young (not roaster because those are older) chicken fryers approx. 4 lb. each i.e. 16 lbs of meat with bones
- Giblets/organs that come with the 4 fryers - liver, kidneys, heart, gizzards, but not neck (saved for cats to chew on while human slaves are grinding)
- *1 lb. veggies - preferably high-moisture low-GI index squash, zucchini (all lightly steamed), and home-grown oat/barley/rye/wheat grass from seeds. Depending on the water content of the veggies, this can be as low as 1 cup or as high as 2 cups in volume. For cats with CRF, pumpkin can be beneficial because it functions as a nitrogen-trapper. IBD cats too can be helped by the moderately fermentable fiber in cooked/canned pumpkin. For some reason, my cats love a steamed broccoli and cauliflower mix; do not use in raw form unless you have a cat with an overactive thyroid gland.
- 12 egg yolks (increase to 16 during shedding season) - can also add lightly cooked egg whites if you wish or make frittatas for yourself instead:); large yolks each have 18IU of Vitamin D & some iodine, hence no dulse/kelp is being added
- 13,500 mg L-Taurine or 5 tsp. L-Taurine powder - based on the fact that 1/4 tsp of L-Taurine powder = 675mg (Source Naturals brand)
- 32oz spring water or home-made chicken broth (check my book for recipe) - the moisture doesn't hurt kitties, and you'll also find it makes the whole mix easier to handle
*For cats allergic to veggies e.g. some IBD cats (FWIW, mine - Pigpen - is allergic to psyllium, but not to veggies or rice bran), substitute with rice bran or psyllium - 1/8 tsp mixed with 2 Tbsp water added each day to food, not to the whole mix. Pumpkin has a low GI-load though is moderate on the GI index, so if you have a diabetic cat, use either rice bran or psyllium or lo-GI index veg e.g. fresh grasses, which are more likely to show up in a mouse's tummy than anything else. I have not found any blood glucose spike with using a small amount of grass vs rice bran vs psyllium, but YMMV so please check for yourself how your cat responds and feed accordingly.
Optional Supplements (not necessary if you feed a variety of fresh whole animals):
Note: Although supplements can be tossed in the grinder along with meat and veggies or softgels such as for Vit A, D, cod liver oil, and E can be pierced with a thumb tack and squirted into the mix, it is best to add to each meal at feeding time. If using the plate with small holes, they can even be added in as-is interspersed with meat to prevent squirting.
All vitamin & mineral amounts are drawn from whole prey data, articles (referenced below), and AAFCO's daily adult maintenance requirements. Meat contains most of the nutrients cats require, so these should be considered maximum amounts so as not to lead to overdosing problems. Please keep checking back because as new information becomes available, I update recipes.
Ideally, include supplements at meal time. There is slightly more Vit E and B if added into the entire mix because freezing causes loss of vitamins B and E. Also, if using Nordic Naturals cod liver oil liquid rather than soft gels, add at feeding time.
Total amounts based on 80 meals - a 20 day supply for 4 healthy adult cats (total daily amounts per cat written in parenthesis for those who wish to add at feeding time):
- Vit A** - 100,000 IU (1,000IU)
- Vit D+ - 1,500 IU (15IU)
- Cod Liver oil in lieu of Vits A and D - Nordic Naturals brand softgel
- Vit E++ - 3 400IU softgels of Carlson's d-Alpha Gems Natural Vitamin E or GNC's Natural E 400 100% natural d-alpha capsules (10IU)
- Vit B-complex - 2 capsules of Thorne B-Complex Formula #12 which are the least stinky cat-safe one on the market (.025 of a capsule:) OR
if your cat can tolerate it, 1 capsule of Jarrow B-Right "Low Odor"; note: this is plenty stinky so don't be fooled by the name & it made me nauseous so I'm not a fan of this product
- wild salmon oil - (125mg) softgel at feeding time to avoid oxidation, never add to mix. Nordic Naturals and Carlson's Super Omega are good options. Some cats prefer krill oil to fish oil, in which case 125mg per cat per day works well.
** As per reference below (Harrson et al), in Table 4.1.29., if as a cat's daily food ration of 100g wet i.e. 30grams dry (assuming 70% moisture), s/he eats a mouse, s/he'd get 1,971 IU of Vitamin A; an adult rat would provide 1000 IU or approximately 50% of that amount with 6-week old chicken coming in at 107 IU. Hence the supplementation as chicken is rather low in Vitamin A compared to a mouse i.e. containing 9.4% of a mouse's Vit A amount or even a rat at about 18.5%.
+ Cats can't utilize Vitamin D from the sun (see Dr. Morris' article referenced below), and what little information we have regarding meat in the Danish database, there is not much Vit D in meat. What little research (see Dr. Sih & Dr. Morris' articles referenced below) I could dig up shows a D range in prey from 4.6IU to 35IU per 100g wet/raw or 30g dry matter.
As a comparison, large egg yolks contain 18IU of D, so adding even 2 yolks per lb of food would mean 36IU of Vit D per lb. An average-sized cat eating 100g or 3.5oz of raw would get a daily amt of 8IU from yolks.
++ From Table 4.1.29 in Dr. Harrison's paper, Vit E content for a 100g wet/30g dry mouse, rat, and chicken are 2.22, 4.56, and 1.83mg, or 3.33, 6.84, and 2.75 IU, respectively.
Additional supplements for cats with IBD and other digestive issues best added at meal time, not into the whole mix:
- Digestive enzymes
There are other optional additions that can be made such as:
- trace minerals - key word here being "trace" so only teensy amounts please
- egg yolk lecithin (during hairball season) - there was a study at UT Austin suggesting its use for hairball control
- kelp -some concerns due to kitties being prone to hyperthyroidism, so very small amounts are best
- nutritional yeast - okay as a bribe food but is high in Phosphorous so over time, can lead to imbalance
In other words, please use these judiciously.
Please read the IBD section for other supplementation ideas such as Slippery Elm Bark (this one not with meals)
Step 1: Line your entire counter top with large plastic shopping bags overlapping them.
Step 2: Place your dishes (for holding cut-up meat) and cutting boards on top of these bags. Assemble the grinder by placing the sharp/flat side of the cutting blade towards the spout end of the grinder. Start with the disk with the smallest holes because the ground meat will more closely resemble commercial food. Over time, you can move to the disk with the largest holes so that the mix is more coarsely ground.
Step 3: Place the grinder sideways so that it is facing the kitchen sink with the spout directly over the dish that will hold the ground mix. I place the bowl (usually I use a large stock pot) that will hold the ground mix in the sink directly under the grinder spout. You can line the sink with bags too if you wish. Even if you do not, this way anything that falls goes into the sink can be cleaned. In our case clean-up is easy because we have a stainless steel sink which is easy to disinfect.
Step 4: Cut up a chicken first at each joint, then in the middle lengthwise or across the back into several pieces, depending on the size of your grinder's chute. We use this 1000 watt Northern Tool grinder Model 168620 and the 1200 watt Tasin TS-108. Tasin is available on eBay.
Step 5: Fill your stock pot with 1/2 the broth or water plus canned pumpkin (if you prefer this to fresh veggies or in conjunction with fresh steamed vegetables). Mix well.
Step 6: Feed chicken parts in the grinder chute alternating with veggies i.e. intersperse liquids and soft ingredients with bony chicken parts to give the grinder a break.
Step 7: Mix all ingredients in the stock pot.
Step 8: Spoon mix into Mason/Ball/Kerr jars leaving room in each jar at the top for expansion. Can also use disposable plastic containers if you wish. A pint-sized glass jar/plastic container holds about six meals' worth, so each time I use up a jar from the fridge, I remove another from the freezer and place in the fridge. I always have 2 jars in the fridge - one from which I am currently feeding, and the other from the freezer defrosting.
Step 9: Clean-up - fold over all the bags, disinfect the exterior of the grinder, and clean the sink. The grinder parts can all be run through the dishwasher.
Cutting meat: Invest in a good cleaver. My favorite is one I got from a Chinese supermarket for $5 about 10 years ago. It is so sharp that one strong whack is all that is needed to sever a chicken joint.
Feeding amount: A good guideline is 2-2.5% of ideal body weight. This mix will be quite nutrient-dense because it contains no fillers, so all your 8-10lb cat will need is about 2ish tbsp per meal. You might want to add of warm water at serving time if the mix is a little too gooey.
Grinder maintenance: After the disk and other parts of the grinder are clean and dry, rub them with some vegetable/olive/food-grade mineral oil i.e. any edible oil to keep rust at bay.
Clean-up: Prepare 2 spray bottles - fill one with vinegar, and the other with 3% hydrogen peroxide. Mist first with one, then the other. It doesn't matter in which order, just keep each of the 2 ingredients separate in spray bottles.
Here's an article discussing this finding as first reported in the journal Science:
"Idiosyncratic nutrient requirements of cats appear to be diet-induced evolutionary adaptations", Morris J.G. Nutrition Research Reviews, Volume 15, Number 1, June 2002, pp. 153-168.
(note: they keep moving this article, and although I try and stay on top of it, please google it in case the link isn't working; here's the abstract, which seems to stay put:)
This paper by Dr. Sih, Morris, & Hickman covered 18 mos and looked at the effect of very large amts of D3 (control diet cats got 118 ?g *40 = 4720 IU and others got 846 ?g*40=33840 IU of D3)
"Chronic ingestion of high concentrations of cholecalciferol in cats" Am J Vet Res. 2001 Sep;62(9):1500-6.
They concluded: "These results indicate that cats are resistant to cholecalciferol toxicosis when the diet is otherwise complete and balanced." Dr. Sih et al's samples contain around 35IU for a 100g of wet food.
In this paper by Dr. Morris, alas, there's just a small sample size and a handful of prey items, but FWIW better than nothing:
As per Table 3, there is a large difference between rats, mice, and lab rats.
So if we use the lowest # i.e. for "roof rats:, and go by round # of 10nmol/kg = 153.8 IU/kg, then for a cat eating 30g dry matter, they'd get 153.8IU times 0.03kg = 4.614IU Wow, that's not much. Deer mice at 5x would provide 25IU.
"Ineffective Vitamin D Synthesis in Cats Is Reversed by an Inhibitor of 7-Dehydrocholestrol-7-Reductase, James G. Morris, Journal of Nutrition. 1999;129:903-908.
"Cats Absorb ß-Carotene, but It Is Not Converted to Vitamin A", Florian J. Schweigert, Jens Raila, Brigitta Wichert and Ellen Kienzle, J. Nutr. 132:1610S-1612S, June 2002.
"Dietary ß-Carotene Absorption by Blood Plasma and Leukocytes in Domestic Cats" Boon P. Chew2, Jean Soon Park, Brian C. Weng, Teri S. Wong, Michael G. Hayek and Gregory A. Reinhart Journal of Nutrition. 2000;130:2322-2325.
"In summary, these studies provide the first available evidence that domestic cats can readily absorb ß-carotene across the intestinal mucosa. ß-Carotene also is taken up by peripheral blood leukocytes and is distributed into subcellular organelles, notably the mitochondria. In the leukocytes, ß-carotene may play an important role in maintaining their structural and functional integrity. Therefore, some aspects of the biokinetic uptake profile of ß-carotene in domestics cat are similar to those of humans. This similarity suggests that domestic cats may be an appropriate animal model for studying ß-carotene absorption and metabolism in humans".
Modulation of humoral and cell-mediated immune responses by dietary lutein in cats. Kim HW, Chew BP, Wong TS, Park JS, Weng BB, Byrne KM, Hayek MG, Reinhart GA. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2000 Mar 15;73(3-4):331-41.
"These results support the immuno-modulatory action of lutein in domestic cats." Yolks contain lutein.
Intestinal Lengths and Transit Times for Digestion: mean retention time of 13 hrs" (another article that keeps changing URL)
Debra L. Zoran, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, "The carnivore connection to nutrition in cats', JAVMA, December 1, 2002 (Volume 221, No. 11)
D. McDonald Zoo Nutrition Advisory Group (NAG), Victoria, Australia.Nutritional Considerations - Section I: Nutrition and Dietary Supplementation, in Clinical Avian Medicine, Harrison G.J. and Lightfoot T.L, 2006
Note - as per Table 4.1.28 in the above section, mice have Ca:P of 1.7:1, rats 1.8:1, and chicken 1.6:1 with chicken containg a lower absolute amount as well of both Ca and P.