Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is homemade diet safer for cats than commercial diet ?
It all depends… Making homemade cat food can be done wrong and lead to some serious health issues. The best ways to prevent or minimize problems is to learn about cat nutrition, communicate with others and share recipes and ideas. Food variety is also very important. Combine different homemade or add some commercial wet food diets.
We all know that the pet food industry made a lot of errors in the past, including taurine deficiencies, recent contamination with melamin and uric acid, pH and mineral imbalances causing chronic urinary tract problems and high carbohydrate diets promoted to be fed to carnivores leading to increasing number of cats with kidney disease, obesity and diabetes. If you feed commercial pet food only, there is no way to avoid the danger associated with these errors because you don’t have any control over the formulation, raw material source or manufacturing process. However you can minimize the risk by adding or replacing it with well-balanced homemade diets where you can have better control over the formulation, source for your ingredients and process of making the food.
2. How much to feed ?
It would be difficult to recommend the exact calorie requirements for your cat because there are many variables – your cat’s age, activity level, neuter status, health issues, etc. You can start feeding 15 - 25 calories / pound of body weight per day and recording your cat’s weight with the amount of food you feed. You can use a personal scale - weigh yourself first, then weigh yourself while holding your cat The difference between the two numbers is the weight of your cat. You should do this frequently at the beginning. Once you figure out the calorie requirement and your cat is maintaining a healthy, steady weight, you can do the weighing less often.
3. How to express the nutrient content of a food ? What is dry matter (DM) ?
There are four ways of how to express the nutrient content of a food:
1. As fed basis (% or amount of nutrient / kg of food as it is fed)
2. Dry matter basis (% or amount of nutrient / kg of food dry matter)
3. Dry matter basis, energy density defined (% or amount of nutrient / kg of food dry matter at a specific energy density)
4. Energy basis (amount of nutrient / 100 kcal of foods energy content)
Dry matter (DM) is a weight of a food remaining after the water content has been subtracted from the “as fed” amount. Dry matter basis, thus, is the amount of nutrients in the food’s dry matter. The usefulness of dry matter basis is limited because the energy density of individual foods can vary widely. Therefore dry matter basis, energy density defined is the most accurate and most widely used method of expressing food’s nutrient content.
How to convert “as fed basis” to “dry matter basis”
If the food has 80% moisture it has:
(100% - 80%) = 20% dry matter.
The protein level of your food “as fed” is 5%. Divide the 5% protein by the 20% dry matter and you get 25% protein on a dry matter basis:
(5 / 20 * 100) = 25% protein on a dry matter basis
How to convert “dry matter basis” to “as fed basis”
If the food has 20% dry matter and 25% protein on a dry matter basis, the protein level on an as fed basis is calculated:
(25 * 20 / 100) = 5% protein on an “as fed basis”
4. What is metabolizable energy (ME) ?
Metabolizable energy (ME) is defined as the amount of energy available from pet food once the energy lost in the feces, urine, and combustible gases has been subtracted. Essentially, ME is the energy left for your pet's body to use once all digestion is complete. ME equals the usable calories and their concentration, or density. With a higher ME, your pet's body will receive more energy from a smaller amount of food. ME can be determined using feeding trials or through mathematical calculations.
How to calculate "metabolizable energy"
ME(kcal/kg) = [10[(3.5 x CP) + (8.5 x CF) + (3.5 x NFE)] Where:
ME is Metabolizable Energy
CP is % crude protein
CF is % crude fat
NFE is % nitrogen-free extract (carbohydrate)
NFE = 100% - % moisture - % crude protein - % crude fat - % crude fiber - % ash
For a cat food that has:
Moisture = 10%, Crude Protein = 24%, Crude Fat = 14%, Crude Fiber = 4%, Ash = 6%, NFE = 42%
ME = 10[(3.5 x 24) + (8.5 x 14) + (3.5 x 42)]
= 10 x (84 + 119 + 147)
= 10 x 350
= 3500 kcal/kg (or 3.5 kcal/g)
5. What is calcium : phosphorus ratio ?
Calcium to phosphorus (or Ca:P) ratio is important for proper bone development and maintenance. Ca:P ratio should range between 1.0 to 1.3 parts of calcium for each 1 part of phosphorus. Unfortunately just feeding your cat pure meat is not good enough to achieve the ideal Ca:P ratio (meat is very low in calcium). Bones can provide significant levels of calcium although bones are also very high in phosphorus and these diets usually end up with high levels of both calcium and phosphorus. You can calculate Ca:P ratio simply by dividing the calcium amount in your cat’s diet by the phosphorus amount.
If your food has 0.87% calcium (Ca) on a dry matter basis and 0.76% phosphorus (P) on a dry matter basis, the Ca:P ratio is calculated:
Ca:P ratio = 0.87 / 0.76 = 1.16
6. Why are vitamins K and A missing in Alnutrin supplements ?
We decided not to include vitamin K in Alnutrin Supplements because of the controversy surrounding health effects of menadione. Vitamin K3 (also known as menadione) is a synthetic version of vitamin K. Technically menadione isn't even a vitamin, but a precursor that is converted in the body after ingestion. Natural vitamin K is fat soluble, while menadione derivatives are water soluble and bypass the natural pathway of utilization by the body. No other forms of Vitamin K (K1 or K2) are approved as feed ingredients. According to AAFCO guidelines Vitamin K does not need to be added unless the diet contains greater than 25% fish. While most of commercial cat foods contain menadione derivatives, few companies already removed it from their formulations relying on the contribution of the dietary ingredients and intestinal synthesis of vitamin K2.
All of our recipes include liver, an excellent source of vitamin A, therefore there is no need for additional Vitamin A in Alnutrin supplements. Please do not leave liver out of your recipe. On the other hand do not feed too much liver either. The amount of liver should not exceed 10% of your formulation (all our recipes have about 6% of liver).
7. Why Alnutrin supplements do not include omega-3 fatty acids ?
Key Omega-3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). Both are found primarily in oily cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. Unfortunately, these important nutrients are extremely prone to oxidation, especially in the powdered form, when the oil’s surface area exposed to air is increased by several orders of magnitude. With oxidation, the oil powder will experience a reduction in unsaturated fatty acid content. If you want to include omega-3 fatty acids in your cat’s diet it seems more beneficial to do it by adding fresh salmon oil encapsulated in softgel capsules. They are widely available in vitamin stores or online.
8. How did you determine the nutrient profiles of your recipes and how accurate are the results ?
Two major approaches are used by the food industry to determine nutrient content of a diet. The first method is to obtain a detailed laboratory analysis which is very straightforward and usually accurate. The major limitations of this technique are the expense and time involved. We use the second approach. We calculate the nutrient content of a diet based on published nutritional values for the ingredients. The accuracy of this method depends entirely on the accuracy of the published nutritional values for the actual ingredients. Another inaccuracy is caused by nutritional value variations within the same ingredient (chicken meat from different farms will probably have a slight variation because it was fed different food). Just out of curiosity we did a comparison of the same recipe using two different databases, USDA Nutrient Database and Danish Food Composition Databank and received surprisingly close results (considering the different environments and probably different analytical methods used).