Whole Food Nutrition for Pets

Whole Food Diet for Cats

This is a (mostly) raw food diet that’s designed to approximate the natural “wild” diet of a cat. It’s based almost completely on animal protein sources and unlike commercial cat foods sold on the market, it has a very low grain content and some leafy green vegetable and fruit components. Suggested supplements are also included, but you can use similar products as substitutions.

This diet will supply all the basic requirements to keep a healthy cat healthy. Because cats are obligate carnivores, cats actually benefit from feeling constantly hungry. It can be beneficial for your cats to “fast” for one day out of seven to ten days–feed them broth as desired during the fast days, preferably broth that’s home-made or at least a commercial broth made without too much sodium or questionable additives. Every cat is different: some love variety, some just want a basic, predictable meal every day. Some cats will avoid all the vegetable greens they’re presented with, but they’ll add to their diets if they’re allowed to spend time outdoors, eating grasses and small animals like mice when they can. Everything will balance out then. If you’re still worried about balance and access to the outdoors isn’t possible for your cat, you can use vitamin/mineral supplements (I’ve suggested a few that are comprehensive and bio-available) to provide the nutrients they need.

a well fed cat

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The basic recipe:

◊ 4 parts Protein: Meat (poultry, beef, lamb, rabbit), Fish, Dairy (yogurt or cottage cheese), and eggs. One part of the four can be organ meats such as liver, kidney or heart. Raw meat is the best and the most natural, or you can sear the meat lightly. Of course, organic, free range, and biodynamically raised meats and produce are the preferred option; that’s because you are more likely to know how these meats were produced and raised.

◊ 1 or 2 parts Carbohydrates, depending on your cat’s taste (for cats, it’s best to stick to leafy green vegetables such as spinach, rapini, barley “cat grass”, and cat nip–I like to mix them together and purée them in a blender before adding them to the protein. Fruit such as berries, melons, and banana can also be blended in or served to your cat with yogurt or cottage cheese, as your cat may prefer these as “treats”. Avoid feeding cats ingredients like garlic (a toxin for cats), pulses and beans, and cruciferous vegetables like cabbages and broccoli. Their systems are not designed to digest these foods easily.

◊1 tbsp Olive Oil (extra virgin and cold pressed–remember that anything else is “pomace”, a form of the oil not fit for consumption as a food). Avoid processed vegetable oils on the market, and avoid canola oils. Animal fats are also beneficial–use duck, goose, pork, beef, and chicken fats that you save from your cooking or skim off from home made broth. They should be liquefied as they will be used to enrich and bind the ingredients in the mixture.

◊ Approximately 1200 mg calcium (use calcium carbonate powder in a form that’s easily absorbed, or use dried, pulverized egg shells). Remember that raw chicken bones from chicken wings or necks are a great source of calcium for cats and they make a great cat treat–but they must be raw bones: cooked bones splinter and cause harm. Avoid using bone meal as a calcium supplement particularly if your cat has kidney trouble.

To gauge how much of the food to feed your cat so that a normal weight is maintained, keep an eye on how much your cat eats, and how frequently. If they leave food in the bowl, then they’re being offered too much food. You can feed daily amounts as your cat prefers: once, twice, or three times as day.

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Micronutrients – give the following amounts daily:

◊ Some form of bio-available multi-Vitamin, one daily dose, mixed into the food. I use a comprehensive liquid supplement called Bio-Strath Original and add 1 teaspoon to the food mix per day. It’s slightly sweet (so the cat loves it), mixes easily, and provides every nutrient in a very easily absorbed form.

◊ Salmon, Cod liver, or mixed Fish Oil mixed into food daily (one or two capsules or 1 tablespoon per day, if you buy it bottled). Sardines, Salmon, or Tuna mixed into the food are good substitutes, if you find your cat has a taste for them.

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Some sample food mixes (each amount below equals one part)

Proteins

◊ Meat, Liver or Fish: 2 ounces

◊ Eggs: 1 medium

◊ Cottage Cheese: 3 ounces (and also contributes one part Carbohydrate to your mix as well)

◊ Yogurt 4 ounces (also contributes one part Carbohydrate to your mix as well)

Preferred Carbohydrates: Raw or cooked, chopped or puréed in a blender

◊ Spinach, cooked squash or zucchini (or the raw, fresh flowers): 1 Cup

◊ Cooked carrots and fruits such as berries, bananas, and melon: 1/2 Cup

Typically, your cat will have a strong preference on carbohydrates. My rule of thumb: if your cat dislikes a particular carbohydrate fruit or vegetable, never feed it to your cat again. If you cat seems to like particular types of vegetables or fruit, they will eat a little more of it. As long as you stick to the basic four parts protein to one to two parts carbohydrates, your cat will always have balanced nutrition. Remember that some of the protein sources listed–in particular the dairy sources–contain both proteins and carbohydrates as well as fats: if you change the mixture now and then, maintaining the nutrient balance will not be a problem.

Whole Food Diet for Dogs

Like the diet for cats, this diet is meant to approximate the natural diet dogs would eat if they lived in the wild. It’s also based on animal protein sources and has a low grain, high vegetable/carbohydrate ratio. Supplement suggestions are also included. Unlike cats, dogs are not obligate carnivores, so they do require some grains and more vegetables in their diets. They may also benefit from partially cooked foods. Dogs can digest many of the vegetable and grain foods with ease, while many of these foods would cause distress to a cat.

The diet directions are calculated to fulfill the daily requirement for a 25lb dog of moderate activity (about 2-3hrs per day). If your dog is more athletic, muscular and lean, then you will need to increase the amounts by 10-15%. A more sedentary, overweight, or elderly dog needs less. Try decreasing the amounts suggested by 10-15%. Very small dogs may actually have greater requirements as their metabolisms may be higher–again, adjust accordingly (as you see fits your dog) about 10-15%.

If your dog prefers to eat twice daily, divide the daily amount in the mix to make two servings. Puppies generally need more meals per day so you can make the amount they’d need for one day and then divide that up for feedings throughout the day. Appropriate food quantities are individual to every dog. There is no “standard” or “normal” amount. If you see that your dog needs more or less to maintain optimum weight, adjust the amount you feed to suit your dog’s needs.

As a gauge, you can use this guide to adjust the diet to your dog’s weight:

Weight Multiply quantities by
5lb. dog 0.2
12lb. dog 0.5
25lb. dog 1.0
50lb. dog 2.0
75lb. dog 3.0
100lb. dog 4.0

◊ 4 parts Protein, Meat (poultry, beef, lamb, rabbit), Fish, Dairy (yogurt or cottage cheese), and eggs. One part can be organ meats such as liver, kidney or heart. Raw meat is the best and the most natural, or you can sear the meat lightly. Organic is always preferable.

◊ 3-4 parts carbohydrates

◊ 1 tbsp Olive oil, extra virgin and cold pressed. Remember that anything else is “pomace”, a form of the oil not fit for consumption as a food. Avoid processed vegetable oils on the market, and avoid canola oils, as all canola is genetically modified rapeseed oil. Animal fats are also beneficial–use duck and chicken fat that you save from your cooking or skim off from home-made broth. They should be liquefied as they will be used to enrich and bind the ingredients in the mixture.

◊ Approximately 1200 mg calcium (use calcium carbonate powder in a form that’s easily absorbed, or use dried, pulverized egg shells). Dogs benefit greatly from raw bones as a source of calcium, and they can be fed raw chicken bones as well (never cooked). I dislike using bone meal as an additive for calcium because it is not easily absorbed as a nutrient in that form and it may cause more problems than it solves, especially where animals with kidney ailments are concerned.

◊ Raw chicken or turkey necks and chicken wings can be fed to all dogs. All parts of raw chicken can be fed to medium and large dogs. This can be a treat, or if fed in quantity, reduce the number of protein parts in the mix and the amounts of calcium accordingly. Sardines are another healthy treat.

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Suggested Supplements – give the following amounts daily, according to body weight:

◊ A multi-vitamin, once daily

Salmon Oil or other Fish Oil, one-two capsules daily or 1 tsp to 1 tbsp daily . Mix in food. Omit this on days you feed sardines or fish as the main protein source.

◊ Vitamin C – 250-500 mg

◊ Vitamin E – 100-400 IU’s daily

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Some sample amounts – (each amount below equals one part):

Protein

◊ Meat, Liver or Fish 2 ounces

◊ Eggs 1 medium

◊ Cottage Cheese 3 ounces (equals one part Carbohydrates also)

◊ Yogurt 4 ounces (equals one part Carbohydrates also)

Carbohydrates: Raw or cooked, chopped or puréed

◊ Green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, greens like spinach and kale, squash and zucchini, cabbage, cauliflower 1 Cup

◊ Carrots and fruits such as berries, bananas, and melon 1/2 Cup

◊ Cooked Beans, Chickpeas, and lentils 1/4 Cup

Keep track of the fruits and vegetables your dog prefers: use these vegetables in your dog’s diet as often as possible and don’t worry about the ones your dog refuses to eat. The diet will still be well-balanced even if you stick with your dog’s preferences alone.

Grains:

◊Cooked Oatmeal, barley, rice, couscous, millet or quinoa. 1/3 Cup

◊Bread cubes or crumbs (from good whole grain loaves containing just flour, water, salt, and yeast) can also be counted as a grain and mixed into the recipe in the same quantity, 1/3 cup.

The important thing to remember is to maintain the same ratio of protein to carbohydrates for every meal–you can then make any changes or adjustments according to preference and still be sure that the diet will be balanced.

If your dog will eat them, you can increase the amount of certain raw, leafy vegetables in this recipe without adjusting the other ingredients. You can add extra spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, or cauliflower; or use raw cut celery sticks or carrots. These are great as dog “treats”, fresh substitutes for commercial dog biscuits, especially if your dog loves to eat them as a reward.

Sources

Local food producers are the very best sources for all the foods required in these diets–whether it be for meats or vegetables or grains. Biodynamic and organic farming methods are growing in popularity, and many small farming businesses are forming cooperatives, taking part in fresh food farmers’ markets, and selling directly to consumers. In the Niagara region, we have all types of community supported agriculture producers–from the Niagara Food Coop to cooperative Mennonite farmers who farm lamb, beef, chicken, and pork using drug free farming methods; many of these Mennonite meat shops will prepare organ, bone, and meat mixes for healthy animal food diets just like these. They are convenient and inexpensive–as most butcher shops no longer carry organ meats to sell to the public now that demand is so limited. There is a myth that these foods are pricier than the kind you can buy in your supermarket, which usually come from distant countries or are produced using highly questionable, corporate farming methods. If we’re trying to restore health to ourselves and to our pets, it’s best to avoid these foods: on top of everything, the cost of transporting the foods to distant markets adds to your own costs as a consumer. Buying locally actually can mean spending a lot less for higher quality, fresher, ripe foods that are more nutrient rich than what you will find in the supermarket.

Please see the Links and Resources page for suggested suppliers and producers.

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