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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cat Food

Once a quarter, we make cat food.  We freeze it in pint containers.  It's a major production - and is for only one of our four cats.  So, let's start by introducing you to our cats:

George - the recipient of said cat food.  I found him when he was about three weeks old.  He and his littermates had been caught in a rain storm and mom was nowhere to be found and they were on the verge of hypothermia.  All four of them came home with me to be bottle fed and taught to potty.  Two of them found other homes, but George and Gracie stayed.  Petting Georgeous is like stroking velvet.  He's just incredibly soft.  And, he's a great cat.  Before he started getting stabbed on a regular basis, he'd come when you called.  But, now he's afraid he's going to have to deal with that pesky needle again.  You see, my favorite kitty was diagnosed with kidney disease about five and a half years ago.  Kathy (my vet - who has since retired) told me that by infusing him a couple of times a week and feeding him a special diet, I might be able to extend his life by a couple of years.  Five and a half years later, he's starting to look like he's getting older.  But, he is fifteen, after all so's he's a really old guy.  Kathy and her former receptionist, Molly, are always guests at our holiday party.  They always want to visit the furry people room to see how he's doing.  And, they're always amazed he's still with us.  So, back in February of 2005, I dutifully bought the bag of dry kidney patient kitty food.  George turned up his kitty nose.  What to do?  Kathy said she'd do some research.  Hamburger and liver and rice was the answer.  Then, a former neighbor who's a chef said she'd made chicken and peas for her employer's cat.  What if I combined them and added some carrots, cat vitamins and calcium carbonate?  All I can say is it's worked for George.

George - rooting for his favorite team

George - too tense licking out a tuna can.

The boy-o loves the sunshine!

George's litter mate, Gracie, is a princess.  If she doesn't get fed when she wants, she lets you know.  If I lie down on the couch, she's on top of me.  She's about the size of half a cat, so that's what she's typically known as - Half a Cat.  She would be the queen but when I got her, the queen already lived at my house.  Millie passed away in 2007 and is still sorely missed.

Then, there are the FOB's.  Fat Orange Boys.  They were both strays at my old office.  Their sib had been hit by a car so Wayne, who officed down the way (next door to Bobby Plump if you're a Hoosiers fan - and, yes, he's a great guy in person!) and I set out to catch the other two.  Wayne was going to take them home with him.  The best laid plans of mice and men.  I was the taker of the tuna fish and I caught them.  If I may pat myself on the back here, it was pretty ingenious.  I tied 25' of cord around a block of wood.  Then, I put one bite of tuna into each of five bowls.  The bowls started outside the front door and came about 6' into the office.  I blocked the door open with the wood then pulled the cord taut and sat at the far end.  When one of the FOB's got in far enough, I yanked.  The door closed.  The cat tried to get back out the closed door.  You know the cartoons where the cat goes splat on the door?  Well, that's what this looked like.  Nine month old feral male cats.  Yes, I was nuts!!  But, at least Mo has become a major lover.  TC, keeps his distance and will pretty much shred anyone but me - except he does put up with his Dr. Todd Dietz and Doc's assistant Linda - fortunately!!  I discovered that they were much happier boys being inside/outside cats.  Since we're at a pretty busy intersection, they're on an invisible fence that keeps them in the screened porch, on the deck and in a 12x20 area of the back yard.  To keep the racoons from gorging on cat food, we pick it up at night.  So, first one downstairs in the morning is usually greeted by this:

Mo and TC - hungry FOB's

So, there's the introduction to the cat side of our zoo :-)

And, here's how we make cat food:

Cat Food

1 large tray chicken breasts (bone in, with skin)
1 large tray chicken thighs (bone in, with skin)
1 large tray 80% lean ground beef
6 - 20 oz containers chicken liver
1 - 5 lb bag carrots, tops cut off and roughly chunked
6 cans peas (yes, I know it's embarassing to buy because you don't want folks to think you really eat those canned things)
3 cups uncooked rice, cooked until it's VERY soft
3 heaping T calcium carbonate (chalk - it'll help bone strength)
24 cat vitamins, crushed (contains lutein which helps keep their eyes strong)


We buy the mongo trays of meat at Sam's Club. I used to buy whole chickens but have discovered that the trays of meat are less expensive and (bonus!) it's easier to pick the breasts and thighs than the wings and legs.  

In one huge stockpot, I cook the chicken and the carrots.  Don't add anything else at this point.  You'll get a chance to turn this into liquid gold (aka stock) later.

In a big saucepan I cook the rice.  Actually, I frequently use the stockpot from my grandmother's old stove.  Do you remember the old stoves with the hole in the back for the stockpot?  Well, when I moved into my grandmother's old home in 1977, the stove was pretty much an antique.  We got rid of that stove and bought a new one.  I kept the stockpot and still use it a couple of times a week...  Make sure you cook the heck out of the rice.  You want it nice and mushy.  And, whatever you do, don't buy fancy rice.  Not converted, arborio, basmati or any of that.  Just, plain pipe rack rice.

In another big pot, I cook the hamburger and liver.  Yes, it looks gross.  Get over it.  Don't drain the hamburger.  The fat is ok here.  Better here than on your thighs, eh?

Grind the vitamins and mix them with the calcium carbonate.  You can buy the vitamins at pretty much any pet store.  The calcium carbonate you'll need to order at your local pharmacy.  They'll look at you like you've got three heads because they've never had anyone come in actually asking for the stuff.  But, if they take the time and look through their big list of things they can order, viola, it's usually there. 

Now, I'm not a vet so I can't tell you this is the magic formula for kitty health.  All I can tell you is that I've got a pretty happy guy and he's been around for a LOT longer time than expected.  Past results are no guarantee of future performance.  There, how's that for a disclaimer! Gads, I sound like a financial planner don't I?  Oh, wait, that's what I am.  When I'm not cooking, of course!

Now, this is how you put the mess together.  Take your biggest stockpot or bowl and mix everything together. 

If you don't have a big enough bowl, use a couple but make sure you add some from each.  Then, start in with the food processor. 

The carrots are the toughest to get totally ground up. 

It's really a mell of a hess to make this. Do not wear your Sunday best.  In fact, I'd advise wearing your clean out the attic worst.  Because you will wind up wearing some cat food.  And, your kitchen will wind up wearing a lot of cat food. 

Once you've ground up all the food, it's time to freeze it.  We use pint containers - or thereabouts.

We pretty much fill the door of our big freezer with containers of cat food.  George chows his way through about 1/2 cup a day of the food.  He weighs about 9 pounds - a bit less at this point. 

Now, one of the questions you undoubtedly have is if this is more or less expensive than canned cat food.  By my calculation, we're spending about a dollar a day on this food.  It's more expensive than the canned food that Gracie eats but has been totally worth it to me.

Ending with a nose kiss from George:


Angie's Recipes said...

wow You even cooked for the cats! Lucky them!

Magic of Spice said...

Lucky babies :)

sara @ CaffeIna said...

I have three cats and I was looking for a post on cat's food. You usually find dog cookies but not cat food...this is great thanks!

Sue said...

George looks great! And I've known him since he was a young boy! Sandy and Sunny send George and the other furry kids loads of prrrrs. (Sassy-says she'd like to try the kitty food,too!)

Kate said...

Sara - you're welcome :-)
Sue - all the furry kids send Auntie Sue and her furry kids lots of love. BTW - you showed up as Nashville instead of Columbus. Interesting, eh?

Susi said...

Cute babies you got there! Even though I don't have cats (I have two dogs) I'm impressed with you making your own food. This is something I have not tried myself for the animals but I think it is awesome :o)

The Mom Chef said...

Please don't tell our Molly that you do this. She gets a good brand of cat food, but it is dry and it is store bought. shhhhhh

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post, I've been wanting to make my own cat food because my boy cat Skitchy is getting picky as he gets older, and because I am worried about what is in the store brand stuff. After reading tons of these kinds of recipes yours was the best explained and thanks for the step by step pictures so I know what it is supposed to look like when it's done! Your furry family is amazing.

Drick said...

I think, with that last photo, it would be worth twice, ever thrice the cost.... interesting how you put it all together.....

Karen said...

We've got two of our precious babies (both 17!) dealing with kidney problems too...thanks for the cat food idea. Our little princess also turns her nose up at most food...maybe this is the answer.

whatsfordinneracrossstatelines said...

You know how many cats you just made jealous! I love your little babies. That does look like a lot of work, shows just how much you love them!

Jason Phelps said...

We are pet people too, but have never made food for them that we put away. Our 9 year old Jack Russell does get special food here and there, usually some hard boiled egg, pumpkin, carrots or the organs of the Thanksgiving turkey. He loves all of it!! Koko, our 12 year old cat looks like she is related to George. She came to us after having been abandoned by her mother (we like think her mother ran into trouble that wasn't her fault) as a kitten. She came home to our first cat Delilah who passed away from cancer (boy that made me mad after my own cancer experience) in 2005. Nothing is more wonderful that coming home to kisses and love from Pete and Koko!

Thanks for sharing!!


Kate said...

Christiane - my lips are sealed :-)
Drick - you are so right! About now (9:35 pm) he'll be coming downstairs to remind me it's time to head to bed. He's got so much personality!!
Karen and Foodthinking - I hope it helps your furry kids!
Gina - thank you!
Jason - lucky furry kids to have you and Margot as their humans!!!

Anonymous said...

What a pretty kitty! :-)

Jean at The Delightful Repast said...

Kate, I don't even have a cat at this time, but I adore cats (especially FOBs) so had to click on a post called "Cat Food"! Loved meeting your cats and admire the way you take care of them.

Katty's Kitchen said...

I love this post--and all your cats! What a wonderful mom you are! The nose kiss at the end is too adorable! Cheers to you and your lucky cats! >>^..^<<