The initial assembly of the supplements and tools for making a home prepared raw diet for cats can seem a bit overwhelming. Bear in mind that once you’ve purchased many of the dry ingredients, they last a very long time. If you treat your grinder well, you should only have to buy that once. If you stock and organize supplies correctly at the start and keep them all in one place, you won’t be running to the store or hunting down individual ingredients in multiple places every time you want to make a batch of food.
Once you’ve gotten these things? Then when it’s time to make cat food, nearly everything you need is on hand. All you need to make sure you have fresh is the meat/bone itself, some fresh eggs, pure water, and organ meats.
When you’re done surfing this page, you might also want to check out the page with some additional and very nifty foodmaking shortcuts and tips.
In case you’re wondering, I order all my basic ingredients (salmon oil, Vitamins, etc.) from iHerb. Awesome prices, fast shipping. Plus, they have a nice little rewards program. If you’re a first-time orderer and use this link to get your supplies, you get a sweet discount. The coupon code is automatically entered in your shopping card. No catch, I swear. You get the discount, and I accumulate credits. Nice. You can click on the green banner to the right and go straight to the iHerb page.
But? Get your supplies wherever makes sense for you.
A hard-working electric grinder is the single most important, time saving tool you’ll need if you’re going to make cat food regularly. Being a wee bit of a control freak, I like grinding the meat and bones myself, thus sparing worry about whether someone else has kept his or her workspace and grinder parts spotlessly clean. Besides, if you want to grind meat WITH bone (which is really best), you’ll probably need to buy a grinder yourself as most butchers won’t grind bone for you.
You’ll need the grinder for grinding the raw bone and some of the meat attached to it, but an important part of raw feeding includes leaving plenty of nice fat chunks of muscle meat in the food for kitty to chew. Please remember, it’s best to “chunk” a good portion, if not all, of the muscle meat by hand, to give kitty a chance to do some serious chewing to help keep her teeth and gums in good health. If your cat is missing a large number of teeth, however, you may want to grind everything.
Few grinders are guaranteed for use in grinding bone. That said, one that has worked just beautifully for this purpose for me for many years is the Tasin TS-108 grinder. It weighs about 16 pounds. Quickly disassembled, it’s very easily stored in a small space. Once I stopped feeding commercial food, I found that I could quite easily store my grinder and all the supplies and supplements used for cat foodmaking in the same cupboard space that was once filled with cans and bags of commercial cat food. Be advised that grinding bones is NOT what this grinder is designed for. That said, I’ve found that using this grinder for its “unintended purpose” works just fine — I’ve put thousands of pounds of meat and bone through my grinder for years with absolutely no troubles. I love this grinder. I even wrote an ode to it and to The One Stop Jerky Shop several years back.
If you’re a clean freak like me, you’ll also be glad to know this grinder is a snap to clean. My buddies at One Stop Jerky Shop also sell a wonderful product for sanitizing that works beautifully with the grinder. It’s called Alpet D2 Surface Sanitizer and is super easy to use. After I’m done making cat food, I wash the grinder parts with hot soapy water, rinse, and thoroughly dry. Then I spray the Alpet Sanitizer until the surfaces are completely wet and, per the directions, let everything drain and air dry. No need to rinse off the sanitizer.
You can order the Tasin grinder directly from the One Stop Jerky Shop. The price there, the last time I checked, was $150. When you consider what you’d pay a vet for prescription medications or bloodwork on a chronically ill cat, it’s money well spent and actually quite a bargain.
With diet, it’s a ‘pay now or pay a lot more later’ kind of a deal.
The kind folks at the One Stop Jerky Shop typically have the Tasin TS108 meat grinder in stock. In most cases they can ship the next day and your order arrives within two to four days in the lower 48 states. They carry grinder parts as well, and they stand by the product. Best of all, grinding bones won’t void the one-year warranty on the grinder either, and they can normally repair one should it fail since they carry the parts. Abuse, of course, is another issue. I can personally attest to the fact that their customer service is absolutely first-rate too. More than a few site visitors who purchased grinders from them report the same thing. It’s one of the key reasons I’m absolutely delighted to host an ad for their product on this site.
I’ve had my Tasin TS108 grinder for well over a decade, and it’s still going strong. It weighs in at an easy 16 pounds and has processed more than a ton (for real) of cat food I’ve made over the years. I keep thinking one of these days it’s going to poop out on me, but it never has.
The One Stop Jerky Shop also sells several other super-powerful grinders that get very high ratings, and deservedly so. If you want a faster, quieter, and truly quality-built grinder — or are looking to process very large amounts of raw food and speed matters to you? Then have a look at these:
- The Weston Pro Series #12 is not warrantied/covered if there’s a problem arising from grinding raw bone. That said, plenty of folks use the Weston #12 for grinding meat with bone and have no problems. It comes with a 5-year warranty, weighs in at a pretty serious 45 pounds, and can grind six to nine pounds a minute. This is one mighty serious, industrial-grade meat grinder.
- The Weston Pro Series #22 Electric Meat Grinder (65 pounds) and Weston Pro Series #32 Grinder (75 pounds)? Now these are holy-toledo-batman-grinders-to-die for. Both of these grinders (#22 and #32) are warrantied for and capable of grinding smaller, softer animal bones such as rabbit, chicken bones, whole chicken pieces, and other birds, due to both the power and all metal construction of the units. Remember, however, to never grind large, dense animal bones in them as they are very difficult to process (i.e., hard bones one would find in large-game, pigs, or cows).
One loyal site visitor and raw feeder — Kimi Thomas, who runs the very cool New Conceptions website –told me some time back about a nifty addition to her grinder: a special 3/4 inch grinding plate with large holes to use for grinding the meat. Using this extra large plate produces nice large chunks of meat, thus saving her the time previously spent hand-chunking some of the meat to give her cats some big pieces of meat to chew on. The great news is that the One Stop Jerky Shop now carries this clever little tool so if you’re ordering a grinder from them, you can add this plate to your cart and have all the things you need for grinding in one order.
- Please remember that you should always wash your grinder parts by hand, and not in a dishwasher. No worries though, the Tasin TS108 meat grinder cleans up easily and quickly. I promise I wouldn’t say that if it weren’t true. I’m not a fan of long kitchen cleanup chores.
You have some choices out there in the world of grinders. And, to my mind, it’s really not necessary to spend a fortune for a grinder that will do a perfectly fine job for you. Yes it’s a big investment, or at least it can seem so at first. But it’s still cheaper than multiple prescription medications and veterinary visits for all manner of nutrition-related ailments. I really love my grinder. It runs like a charm and has never, in over 15 years, needed a repair or failed to handle what I’ve put it through. It’s definitely outlasted other appliances in my kitchen that seem to fail on me at a staggeringly high rate. If they could get the Tasin to toast bread, grind coffee beans, and wash dishes, I’d have it made.
Meats and organs.
If you want meats that are free-range, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free, a decent chain in the United States and Canada is Whole Foods Market. They also sell very nice organic chicken liver, so I often pick up fresh liver there as well. Sourcing hearts can be tricky, but it’s well worth the effort. You will have to call around to see if you can find someone who will keep you supplied with hearts.
If you happen to live in the DC Metropolitan area, check out My Organic Market for meats. I love that store.
It’s possible to get wonderfully fresh whole rabbit, delivered freshly-frozen direct to your door. I sometimes order rabbit from Hare Today. They’re located in northwest Pennsylvania and work beautifully for those of us on the east coast of the US. If you’re on the West coast, another great supplier that serves that area and that will deliver directly to your door is Wholefoods4pets. They’re located in Washington state. Most important, people whose judgment I trust have nothing but great things to say about that company’s product, hygiene practices, and service.
Try and search out free-range meats that are not administered “preventive” antibiotics or growth hormones. If you can’t find “organic” meats, then at least try to use liver from a good source (i.e., no antibiotics or hormones and from a free-range animal) because the liver stores all the body’s toxins and a non-free-range, overmedicated animal will be packed with toxins. Same goes for eggs -buy eggs from cage-free, un-medicated hens. Animals raised in humane conditions aren’t right on top of one another, and one another’s feces (gross, I know). They live in naturally cleaner conditions with access to the natural disinfectant action of the sun and are much less prone to the diseases that mass-production farms are continually vaccinating against and administering antibiotics for. Your cat has no use for second hand antibiotics or growth hormones. Your cat is a carnivore and needs quality meat.
My cat food “repertoire” of flavors includes: whole chicken, whole rabbit, whole guinea fowl, and batches made with just turkey thighs (with bone, of course). When the cats in this house were treated to their first meals of whole quail, I got a eight paws up on that.
A very kind visitor to this site, Kathy Harris, told me about the Weston A. Price Foundation. This is a nonprofit charity founded in 1999 to disseminate the research of Weston Price, a pioneer in the study of nutrition. The Foundation’s website has links to local chapters in the United States to help people source locally grown organic foods, including chicken and meat from pasture-fed animals. You can visit their site to source higher-quality meats in your area.
Use the REAL thing when it comes to organs whenever you can and don’t substitute unless you absolutely have to. Try to use heart (not just Taurine) and real liver (not cod liver oil or a Vitamin A/D substitute.). The organs are really full of so much goodness that you just can’t completely make up for these using selected substitutes. There’s more in heart than just Taurine, for example. Taurine is just the most ESSENTIAL thing from hearts that your cat shouldn’t go without.
The sometimes vexing chicken heart issue.
You’ll note that the recipe that I use calls for chicken hearts. I am a big believer in trying to use real organ meats to supply some of the key nutrients needed in a healthy carnivore diet. No one will ever convince me you can duplicate Mother Nature’s genius using isolated supplements. While it’s certainly possible to improvise and use store-bought supplements to make up for that if you cannot source organs, hunting down the real thing is worth a bit of your time.
Lots of people – myself included, at first- have faced a hard time sourcing chicken hearts. I can’t even begin to count how many butchers I harassed and stalked, how many grocery stores I visited, and how many pleading e-mails I sent before I found a local source, but even that source was not so great in terms of being able to procure hearts reliably from their supplier.
In the US, some parts of the country seem to have more suppliers for hearts. My suggestion is to try your local health food stores, paying special attention to the smaller stores that tend to work harder to cater to special needs. Please don’t give up too soon if you can’t immediately source real heart–it is such a magnificent source of real taurine and so many other rich, health-giving nutrients that are wonderful for our carnivore friends.
That said, please don’t NOT try this diet just because you can’t find chicken hearts. Go ahead and follow the instructions for adding additional taurine if you come up dry in your hunt for hearts.
Hare Today carries chicken hearts at a very, very good price. The chickens they purchase are from an organic-certified farm. In fact, I received my first order of hearts from Hare Today on a very hot July day, and I not only was everything beautifully packed, but it was still good and frozen. Be still my (chicken) heart! Best of all, the hearts came in oh-so-convenient two-pound packages, which saved me the trouble of hauling 40 pounds of hearts in my car home and spending the next hour weighing and bagging them.
This is easy. Almost any regular grocery store or health food store carries containers of plain whole psyllium husks or psyllium husk powder. Remember to get loose powder rather than capsules that you need to individually open. You can also order psyllium husks from plenty of places online. If you want to read more about “why psyllium,” please see Michelle Bernard’s wonderful online essay on the subject.
You’ll note on the recipe that I use that not all cats require or benefit from adding psyllium into their diet. If your cat has been eating low-quality commercial food for several ears, especially dry food, she may have lost bowel elasticity and may benefit from the extra fiber. As a general rule, I recommend using psyllium when an adult cat first gets raw food, particularly if the cat has been eating a lot of dry food. At least one study suggests that cats on processed, cooked diets lose bowel elasticity over time, so it can be a good idea to try psyllium and then judge whether or not to continue based on your cat’s stools.
I never add psyllium these days to the food I make. Some cats seem to get constipated without additional fiber, whereas other cats seem to get constipated if they get too much fiber. Each cat is unique, and you’ll have to judge which works best for your cat.
Click here to see where I order the psyllium I would use – and first-time orderers from this iHerb site get a sweet discount on the first order.
If you can procure wild salmon oil (versus farmed) that has high concentrations of EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), then do that. I’m also fond of the Carlson brand of salmon oil, which has nice high levels of EPA and DHA and is free of detectable levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, PCB’s and 28 other contaminants. Remember that salmon oil degrades quickly, so serving it fresh from a newly opened capsule is best. In addition to adding it to the recipe itself, I also squeeze some drops of salmon oil from capsules on to prepared food a few times a week. Most cats adore the flavor and it’s nice to get the fresh oil into them regularly. Just clip the end of the capsule with a small scissors or pierce it with a sharp pin and squeeze a few drops on to the food.
I strongly suggest that you steer clear of salmon oil that comes as a liquid in a bottle. That oil can go rancid very fast once it is exposed to air, even if it comes in one of those lovely cobalt-blue bottles that’s supposed to protect the product. It’s really best to buy capsules instead.
Remember–your cat needs an ANIMAL-based source of Essential Fatty Acids. Don’t let anyone tell you that flaxseed oil or another kind of plant-based EFA source works as well. It doesn’t. Your cat is a carnivore and cannot derive all that she needs EFA-wise from plant based sources. There are many ways in which cats function differently biochemically from dogs. Cats, for example, cannot make their own Arachidonic Acid even when there is linoleic acid present. A cat’s “chemical factory” (liver), contains no delta-6 desaturase enzyme to make the conversion of linoleic acid to Arachidonic acid. And there is little or no Arachidonic acid in plant matter. A dog, on the other hand, if consuming the proper fats, can make Arachidonic acid.
Cats would normally get ample EFAs from eating the brains and eyes of her prey. So unless you’re feeding brains and eyes, don’t use flaxseed to get EFAs into your cat.
What do I buy? Click here to see where I now get my salmon oil capsules; if you use this link, by the way, you get a discount on your first order through iHeb.
Many folks have a hard time finding a good glandular supplement – don’t sweat it if you can’t find it. Just skip it. but what I use is Immoplex. What I like about it is that it comes in capsules (versus tablets) which means it’s simple to pull the capsules apart. This is much easier than crushing a tablet in a mortar and pestle. More importantly, I like this brand because unlike many other glandulars, it contains a good variety of raw tissue concentrates including spleen, brain, liver, heart, kidney, thymus, adrenal, pituitary, pancreas, and duodenum.
If the glandular supplement you purchase comes in tablets, you can crush them in a mortar and pestle or, if you don’t have those tools, put them in a plastic baggie, wrap it in a towel, and smash them up with a hammer. See why I like the capsules? So much easier.
Remember, do not simply buy anything labeled a “glandular supplement.” Many of these products are made from plants, herbs, or other food supplements. You’re not looking for something with various herbs to help glandular health in humans; you ARE looking for a something that CONTAINS actual glands and nothing else.
I buy my Immoplex from here; if you use that link, you get a sweet discount on your first order.
Vitamin E and vitamin B-50 complex.
These are very easy to source at any health food store or online. Click here to see the Vitamin E I use.
Click here if you want to order from the same place I get B-50 complex.
And if you use those links? Yup, you get a discount on your first order, which is nice. It’s automatically applied as a coupon code at checkout. Suh-weet!
Personally, I like using sturdy, wide-mouth, glass freezer jars for storing the food. Click here to see what I use, if you like. I’ve had the same jars for many years now and the only things I’ve periodically replaced are the metal lids that, over time, tend to get worn out. I prefer storing food in glass over plastic and the thickness of these jars aids in protecting the food from freezer burn.