Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Imagine a cold winter day. You are driving home from a 10-hour work day, shivering as your car is just starting to warm up, squinting through the blizzard. Although you only live 20 minutes away it takes an hour to get home because the roads are also icy. Finally, you get home, turn off your car and run in to your house. As soon as you open the door a wall of warmth hits you and the smell of your favorite meal wafts to your nose. Your spouse just slaved away in the kitchen making your favorite and warm comfort food! It seems that your tough day just melted away as soon as you found out you had a home cooked meal ready to eat.
Now doesn’t that sound just delightful? I can bet your companion would LOVE this same treat!
Home Cooked Diets are just as it sounds a home cooked meal. These diets are very diverse in their applications as well as their ingredients. Fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, grains and vitamin supplements are typically center stage in this type of meal. The food is also typically cooked, steamed or baked unlike the raw food diet. When it comes to dogs this diet can be varied heavily providing lots of tasty options. Cats however are obligate carnivores and require a high protein content, moderate/high amounts of fat and low/no carbohydrate content which can be limiting in this diet option.
In a survey of 110 participants 8.6% feed their companion home cooked diets. Keep in mind this can include owners that feed home cooked meals in addition to another type of pet food (i.e. raw, freeze-dried etc.) The most popular reasons owners choose to feed their companion a home cooked diet includes recommendations made by their veterinarian as well as family or breeders. The ingredients and quality of the diet also was an important consideration.
Out of the total participants 51.9% believed this diet was good for their pet. Of those that explained most believed that it was good because they had the control in what they were putting in their companion’s body and that it was good if it is balanced properly. Other explanations included that home-cooked diets had no preservatives or recalls. On the other hand, 11.5% of participants believed this diet was not good for their companion. Of those that explained their answer participants said it was not good because there are not enough nutrients and these diets are to fatty. Other answers that more or less explained why the owner chose not to feed this diet was because they believed too many people couldn’t balance the diet and that they did not have the time to prepare it. Finally, 38.4% of participants were unsure if a home cooked diet was good or not. Reasons included that this diet could be good for the pet if it was balanced and included quality ingredients. Others suggested it wasn’t good for daily meals but rather for sick companions.
One benefit of this diet is that most often the meal that you cook for your family can easily be made into a meal for your companion especially your canine. Because you are in control of what is going into your companion’s body you choose the quality of the food. Although this is true of any food that is in the hands of a pet owner you know exactly all the ingredients that are involved!
While this diet is more controlled by the preparer and contains far more water content than dry pet foods, when it comes to the preparation process, much nutrients is lost to cooking, baking and steaming (1, 2). Depending on the preparation method and specific ingredient, this diet however retains much more nutrients than dry, wet and dehydrated foods.
Just like anything there are several myths surrounding a home-cooked meal.
Myth #1 This type of diet is really expensive
In many cases when cooking for yourself and your family most meals can be also feed to your pet so what you spend in your personal groceries is similar to what you would spend on your companion. The difference however is your pet most likely will be eating a smaller portion, depending on your companion’s size of course.
In addition, with a higher quality diet this means you will be saving money in veterinary bills. Your companion will be healthier and with a quality diet hopefully some major diseases are more preventable. Furthermore, with more nutrient dense foods your pet will be producing less waste so less litter used for your feline and less waste to pick up in the yard for your canine.
Myth #2 Human food is bad for my companion
There are some foods that should never be fed to your cat or dog companions but there is a much longer list of food that are perfectly healthy for your companion.
Cats should not have:
Dogs shouldn’t have:
Fruit Pits and seeds
Myth #3 These diets are way too hard to balance
With research one can formulate a well-balanced diet for their companion. This may take some time but its only appropriate that an owner would perform necessary research on any diet they are feeding their pet, home cooked or other.
Furthermore, there are a lot of resources out there including cookbooks and websites that have already formulated and balanced home cooked diets for you and your companion.
In a survey of 110 participants, 59 participants that feed a home cooked (or raw diet) stated the source of which their pets diet was formulated. 13.5% said the diet was formulated by a veterinarian, 23.2% did personal research, 5% used a recipe while 59.3% chose “other”. This included formulations by a nutritionist and owners who provided the meal when they cooked for themselves.
In short the pros of this diet include:
Easily made with your family’s meal
Opportunities for variety
Lots of recipe/formulation resources
Great for pets with allergies or who are sick
No preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, or additives (depending on your food sources)
Low risk of recall (there can be recalls in human food)
Closer to a natural diet (closer but keep in mind it is not their natural diet
Must be balanced
Can be time consuming
Can be expensive (but not more than what you spend cooking for yourself)
Nutrient quality goes down with cooking process requiring supplementation
More difficult to get a cat to eat this diet
Includes ingredients most companions cannot properly utilize even if pureed (fruits, veggies, grains) (5, 6, 7, 8)
Additional oral hygiene practices are needed
Although this diet may involve a bit more effort it will be well worth it. Your pet will be healthier and happier and who knows maybe your nutritional health will improve as well!
Join us next time to learn about a unique new diet, the freeze-dried diet.
Kimura, M, and Y Itokawa. “Cooking Losses of Minerals in Foods and Its Nutritional Significance.” Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1990, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2081985.
Scott, Dana. “Why 99% Of Dog Food Is Fake.” Dogs Naturally Magazine, 9 May 2018, www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/dog-food-nutrition/.
Cortinovis, Cristina, and Francesca Caloni. “Household Food Items Toxic to Dogs and Cats.” Frontiers in Veterinary Science 3 (2016): 26. PMC. Web. 20 July 2018.
Kovalkovičová, Natália et al. “Some Food Toxic for Pets.” Interdisciplinary Toxicology 2.3 (2009): 169–176. PMC. Web. 20 July 2018.
Ann Wortinger, BIS, LVT, VTS, "Cats: Obligate Carnivore," CVC in Kansas City Proceedings, Aug 1, 2010.
Kienzle E. 1993. “Carbohydrate metabolism of the cat. 1. Activity of amylase in the gastrointestinal tract of the cat.” J. Anim. Physiol. Anim. Nutr. (Berl.) 69:92–101.
Case, Linda P., et al. Canine and Feline Nutrition: a Resource for Companion Animal Professionals. 3rd ed., Mosby/Elsevier, 2011.
Hofve, Jean. “Digestive Enzymes.” IVC Journal, IVC Journal, 10 Aug. 2017, ivcjournal.com/digestive-enzymes/.