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News Article

Study examines home-prepared diets for cats

None of the recipes meet recommendations for essential nutrients for adult cats

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, compared the nutritional content of home-prepared maintenance diet recipes for cats with the US National Research Council (NRC)’s recommended allowances (RAs) for essential nutrients for adult cats. Some recipes even contained ingredients potentially toxic to cats.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, is believed to be the first to examine home-made recipes for healthy adult cats. Researchers looked at 114 recipes from online sources and books, written by both non-veterinarians and veterinarians. 113 contained vague instructions regarding preparation while 46 did not provide feeding instructions.

According to lead author Jennifer Larsen, veterinary nutritionist with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, only 94 recipes provided adequately detailed information for computer nutritional analysis and of these, none provided all the essential nutrients to meet the NRC’s recommended allowances for adult cats.

Recipes lacked nutrients regardless of the source or whether they were written by veterinarians, although those by veterinarians had fewer deficiencies in essential nutrients. Most recipes lacked concentrations of three or more nutrients, with some lacking adequate amounts of up to 19 essential nutrients. Many recipes also had severe deficiencies, providing less than 50 percent of the recommend allowances of several essential nutrients including choline, iron, thiamine, zinc, manganese, vitamin E and copper.

Researchers found just five veterinarian-authored recipes that met all but one of the essential nutrients, choline.

Seven percent of the recipes included ingredients that are potentially toxic to cats, including garlic or garlic powder, onions and leeks. Some recipes included raw animal products without any mention of the potential risks of bacterial contamination. Recipes that included bones failed to mention the importance of grinding them to prevent gastrointestinal tears.

According to Larsen, there has been an increase in cat owners opting for home-prepared cat food recipes following the discovery of toxic substances in commercial pet food imported from China more than a decade ago. While some cat owners choose home-made recipes because they want more control over their cat’s diet, others believe their cat should have a vegetarian diet, or one with sustainably sourced or organic ingredients.

Larsen, however, feels that cat owners should be cautious about home-made recipes. She explained that while home-made diets are not necessarily better, owners planning to use one should ensure it is safe, balanced and suitable for their cat.

Larsen said cat owners should not be afraid of commercial diets, but recommends that cat owners wanting a home-made diet should consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.

Evaluation of the nutritional adequacy of recipes for home-prepared maintenance diets for cats. Wilson SA, Villaverde C, Fascetti AJ, Larsen JA. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (2019) 254 (10):1172-1179. Doi: 10.2460/javma.254.10.1172

Nutrient requirements of dogs and cats. National Research Council, 2006. The National Academies Press, Washington DC, USA, 424 pp.

Article details

  • Date
  • 07 May 2019
  • Source
  • University of California, Davis
  • Subject(s)
  • Animal nutrition