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Home > Cats > Is It Cheaper to Make Your Own Cat Food? (Vet Answer)

Is It Cheaper to Make Your Own Cat Food? (Vet Answer)

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Vet approved

Dr. Iulia Mihai Photo

Written by

Dr. Iulia Mihai

Veterinarian, DVM MSc

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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With the ever-increasing prices of commercial cat food, many owners are wondering if it would be cheaper if they cooked their cat’s food instead of buying it.

Depending on the ingredients that you choose, homemade food can be cheaper or more expensive than commercial food. By buying cheap ingredients, you can lower the cost of your cat’s food.

High-quality commercial food is expensive, and this is due in part to the quality ingredients and supplements used (in some cases) but also to the branding and advertising that the manufacturers do.

Before deciding on which food to give your cat, let’s see what cats need to eat to stay healthy.

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What Cats Need to Eat

Every cat has their own nutritional requirements, and no single diet is suited for all cats.1

Felines are obligate carnivores, which means their diet is mainly based on meat, so they need animal proteins. Cats develop best when meat is the primary ingredient of their food.

Recommended high-protein foods for cats include:
  • Fish (salmon, trout, tuna, and white fish)
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Pheasant
  • Rabbit
  • Beef

Unlike humans and dogs, protein is the main energy source in cats’ diets. But this does not mean cats cannot consume a little bit of fruits, vegetables, or seeds. They can eat certain foods from all these food categories. The difference is that some foods are easier to digest than others.

A cat’s digestive system is not specialized for digesting plant material, so they need meat to stay healthy.2 Besides meat, cats also need vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and water.

Cats can eat carbohydrates but only in small amounts, and they are not necessary for your pet’s diet. That said, researchers say that low-carb content can provide your cat with extra energy and help reduce the expense of home-cooked diets.3 So, if you’re thinking of cooking your cat’s food at home, check with your vet, and find out if your cat can eat small amounts of carbs.

Cat eating his food_Ralph_Pexels
Image By: Ralph, Pexels

Is It Cheaper to Make Your Own Cat Food?

If you decide to cook your cat’s food at home, keep in mind that it must be complete and balanced and correspond both quantitatively and qualitatively to your pet’s nutritional needs. Do not feed your cat the food that you eat, even if your pet seems to want it. Human food is not nutritious for cats, and it contains ingredients that can be toxic, such as onion and garlic.

Cats need a diet based on good-quality meat protein and animal fat that should be low in carbohydrates.

Costs depend on you and the ingredients that you choose. The better the ingredients, the better the food will be, but it will also be pricier. If you want to involve a veterinary nutritionist in your cat’s diet, expenses will increase even more. Also, you will be more likely to avoid health issues (and the associated expenses) due to adequate nutrition.

Not all cats can eat the same diet because they have different nutritional requirements. So, a cooked meal where you add meat and carbohydrates along with a vitamin supplement will not be the best diet for your cat if it is not complete and balanced, even though it may be cheaper.

If you choose to feed a raw diet to your cat, the total costs can be lower than commercial food. However, be very cautious of the sourcing and handling of ingredients to avoid putting their health or yours at risk. You will need raw meat, bones, organs, and specific vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to add to their food. Also, kittens require different levels of vitamins, minerals, and proteins compared to adult cats. Be sure to consider this when budgeting.

But before choosing to cook for your cat, talk to a vet, as they can evaluate your cat’s health and recommend the best diet for them.

long haired cat eating food from a cat bowl
Image Credit: Seattle Cat Photo, Shutterstock

What Should a Healthy Diet Contain?

Here are the ingredients that you should consider including when cooking or choosing a diet for your cat:

  • Animal proteins
  • Essential amino acids. Taurine and arginine are two essential amino acids to be included in a cat’s diet. They are unable to synthesize them and will develop disease if their diet is deficient in them.
  • Lipids. Fats are often in the form of fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6. Too much fat can lead to weight gain, but in the appropriate amount, it contributes to maintaining beautiful and healthy skin and coat.
  • Carbohydrates & Fiber. Although carbohydrates (starch and fiber) are not essential for cats’ diets, they are sources of energy. Cats need fiber for healthy digestion and to prevent gastrointestinal problems. Soluble fibers (prebiotics) help maintain the health of your cat’s intestines by promoting good bacteria, while insoluble fibers promote normal intestinal function.
  • Vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, D, E, K, and B complex and folic and pantothenic acids are required in your cat’s diet. Other necessary minerals include calcium, phosphorus, and iodine.
  • Water. Your cat needs 4 ounces of water per 5 pounds per day. The water must be fresh and clean.

It is not only about including them, but they should be present in the correct amounts—not in excess and not deficient. Many work in relation to one another to cover your cat’s nutritional needs, and this is why you can not just “wing it” when it comes to preparing your cat’s food.

Is It Better to Make Your Own Cat Food?

Very few pets need home-prepared diets and it’s usually due to health reasons. A home-cooked diet that is not complete and balanced can seriously damage your cat’s health. Many pet owners usually do not have the time to learn about feline nutrition before starting. However, online consultations are available, and you can get a couple of recipes and supplements for a personalized diet for your cat.

Sometimes, homemade food can be specifically recommended when cats have a sensitive stomach or are allergic to certain ingredients in commercial foods.

Broadly, the benefits of home-cooked food are:

  • Ingredients can be cheaper.
  • You know exactly what your cat is eating.
  • You can change the menu at any time.
  • It can be the most individualized diet.

The disadvantages of home-cooked food are the following:

  • You must have a feline nutritionist-created recipe to guarantee the diet is healthy for your cat.
  • It needs time to prepare.
  • It cannot be left in the bowl for a long time.

With all this in mind and considering the extra time and effort you will have to put into sourcing recipes, ingredients, and preparing the food, our recommendation is that if you are going to do it, please ensure that a professional is advising you.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is It Cheaper to Feed Dry Food to Cats?

Dry food is cheaper than wet food, but it can be pricier than making your own cat food. Its cost depends on the quality of the ingredients. If you want to feed stray cats or have a strict budget, dry food is an ideal option. One advantage is that it is easy to store and can be served for a longer time.

Is It Okay to Free Feed Cats?

Cats that are sedentary tend to become overweight. For this type of cat, free feeding is not an option. Most indoor cats should have multiple small meals a day. In the wild, cats eat between 8 and 16 small meals in 24 hours.

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Conclusion

Cooking for your pet is not the same as cooking for your family. Store-bought cat food must have more than the minimum number of nutrients to be classified as complete and balanced to be a suitable diet. Most of the time, home-cooked food is deficient in one or more essential nutrients and can make your cat sick. Also, the cost of home-cooked food will be high or low, depending on the ingredients that you use. The higher the quality of the ingredients, the higher the costs. The best way to ensure that your cat’s cooked food diet is nutritionally balanced is to speak with a veterinary nutritionist.


Featured Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

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