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Want your feline to feast on green kitty gourmet? Turn to healthier cat food—which includes organic, natural, or vegan brands, or your own homemade green nibbles—to keep your cat and the planet in optimum health.

How to make your own cat food

While there are numerous natural wet and dry commercial cat foods available to eco-concerned consumers and their cats, the advantages of preparing homemade cat food are numerous. Most notably, you have full control over its quality and content. Before you introduce non-commercial vittles into your cat's diet, a couple of considerations:

  • The vegan kitty. If you're committed to feeding your cat a vegan diet, thoroughly research the topic and understand that it requires a lot of attention and dedication. Some sources recommend feeding the cat some meat to make sure a normal urine pH is maintained, as cats are particularly susceptible to urinary tract infections.
  • Back to the basics. The best homemade cat food recipes are those based on the diet of cats in the wild: primarily meat, organs, and bones of small animals. The recipes are often supplemented with necessary nutrients (such as taurine) to ensure a complete and balanced meal.
  • Hungry for more? Check out Making Cat Food, No Cans, eHow.com, and Raising Cats Naturally for more on cat nutrition and DIY feline food pointers. Are you a canine caretaker as well? Dogs can also be fed natural, homemade goodies that are of the non-table scrap variety.

Find it! Healthy cat food

Natural, organic, and vegan cat food brands are increasingly common on pet store shelves, but it's important to read and understand the labels. The following companies offer multiple styles and flavors for feline fish fanatics, Persian poultry nibblers, or veggie-loving Tabbies. For more on choosing healthy cat food brands see the Animal Protection Institute's Selecting a Commercial Pet Food.

Before you buy

While the term "natural" isn't regulated or specifically defined, it generally refers to foods that are minimally processed and preserved with natural substances. Organic cat food, on the other hand, must adhere to strict, regulated standards set by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that specify how the ingredients are produced and processed. Organic standards do not allow the use of pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, or genetically engineered materials.

Vegan cat foods, meanwhile, contain no animal products whatsoever. However, this doesn't necessarily say anything about the ingredients that are present. The vegan ingredients may or may not be organic or natural so check the labels. Pet owners looking to reduce their support of livestock production completely and extend their own commitment to their cats may be interested in vegan options.

Choosing healthier cat food helps you go green because...

  • You don't contribute to unsustainable and environmentally damaging livestock production practices.
  • Your cat will likely be healthier.

Cat foods often contain ingredients that are unfit for human consumption—mostly waste products (or byproducts) of the conventional agricultural industry. About 50 percent of every food animal is not used after slaughter, parts such as hooves, heads, udders, blood, intestines, lungs, spleens, unborn babies, and more. Some of these parts are allowed to be put into pet food. Although the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) works to maintain a uniform standard of feed, including pet food, each state is in charge of enforcement. State-wide enforcement varies.

Livestock production has been linked to numerous environmental problems: water pollution from manure run-off, high levels of antibiotics and growth hormones that contaminate natural systems, high consumption of land, water, and oil, as well as greenhouse gas production. The livestock sector is estimated to be responsible for 18 percent of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, more than what is generated through transportation. Perhaps more significantly, the livestock sector accounts for 37 percent of all human-produced methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times as warming as is carbon dioxide.[1] Some antibiotics in meat from sick animals pass through processing into pet foods. Mold is also a potential contaminant, more often a risk in dry foods. Between 1995 and 1999 there were two pet food recalls due to mold in grain ingredients, the second of which killed 20 dogs.

The 2007 pet food recall

Many consumers (pet-owning and not) are aware of the widespread pet food recall of March 2007. Menu Foods, Inc. recalled 60 million cans of pet food that were produced at two different plants between Dec 3, 2006 and Mar 6, 2007.[2] Two more pet food companies later recalled some of their products as well. Melamine, a small molecule containing nitrogen and usually used for industrial purposes, was detected in wheat gluten that was traced back to a Chinese supplier. Traces of melamine were also detected in the kidneys and urine of deceased cats, linking the contaminant to their deaths. Cats seem to have been more affected by the melamine than dogs.

Glossary

taurine: An amino acid that's only available from animal tissues. It's essential for cat nutrition, meaning they can't synthesize it from other amino acids, as humans and dogs can. A deficiency in taurine in cats will cause Feline central retinal degeneration, resulting in total blindness within two years, along with dilated cardiomyopathy.

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