Cooking for your pet

Andreae Prozesky is part feline.

Once, I lived with a handsome cat friend named Vincent, on whom I doted as though he were my own human boyfriend. For breakfast I would fetch him bowls of thick Balkan yogurt. For dinner I would sauté chicken livers with garlic and dust them with wheat germ (for a shiny coat) and brewer’s yeast (to ward off fleas). The reward for my effort was a warm, purring bed-mate who could amuse me for hours on end with his paper-ball-chasing antics, and who rose through the social ranks to become emperor of all cats in the reeds and bushes behind our building.

Eventually, another cat moved in, and then an actual human boyfriend. I got busy with school, and seldom cooked any more. The whole relationship between Vincent and me began to disintegrate. My home-cooked cat food was replaced by store-bought, and Vincent was forced to supplement his diet with pigeons, whose wings he would arrange on the back step in a fashion both artful and threatening, and mice, which he would swallow whole. Years later, Vincent is living in New York, surely to this day resenting me and my nutritional negligence.

I’m not the only one who has cooked for their pet. Loveable american cook Rachel Ray dedicates the last page of each issue of her magazine to recipes she shares with her darling pit bull, Isaboo. Butternut Squash Mac and Cheddar, Pâté on Toast Points, Potted Sweet Potatoes with Carrots and Chicken. It’s not exactly the sort of dinner they’d be getting in the wild, but, then again, neither is a bowl of dried out old kibble, no matter how much you paid for it.

(Neither is a big old dish of tainted gluten, for that matter.)

There are two kinds of people who prepare their own pet food. The first kind is the sort who want their pet to have the best possible diet in order to ensure a long, healthy life. They’re the raw food people, who grind up bones and gristly bits for their cats and dogs to eat, who try to estimate exactly how much partially-digested grain would be contained in a day’s worth of mice, or how much lichen in the guts of a felled caribou (shared six ways.)

Their cats and dogs will surely outlive us all. Someday they may be our masters.

Then there are the rest of us—the suckers who cook for our pets because the sight of a cat eating an open-faced cheese-and-chicken-heart sandwich is so freakin’ funny. We think about nutrition, sure. We keep the dogs out of the chocolate lest it make their hearts explode (although many a dog has devoured the odd Toblerone with minimal ill effects), and we know that kitchen scraps are bad (although generations of dogs have lived to ripe old ages eating bits of fat and Brussels sprouts from some child’s hand beneath the table, and cats wouldn’t be cats if they didn’t get up on the counter every now and then and lick a half-pound of butter down to nothing). But a couple of scrambled eggs with some tuna juice thrown on top, how can that be bad?

Cats are carnivores. They want to eat meat, but most of what’s in store-bought cat food tends to be un-meat. Dogs are omnivores, and enjoy a good serving of vegetables fairly frequently.

I’m no more qualified to give nutritional advice for animals than I am for humans, but I figure if your vet says it’s okay, go ahead and whip up a salmon and goat cheese soufflé for you and the cats. Or a decent beef stew for the dogs. They will surely love it, and they’ll love you all the more.

My one warning: be willing to commit to it. The transition back to the dry stuff is a rough one, and you might not want to wake up to a pair of pigeon wings at your feet.

I still get shivers just thinking about it.

cooking your pet
(headline not by andreae)

There are tons of pet food recipes on the web. Here are a few links:

(select “Pet Friendly” from the left-hand menu)

(information on the raw food diet, plus recipes)
(holistic nutrition for humans, dogs and cats)
(like it says, a recipe goldmine)
(recent article, with recipes)

Send your questions, comments, suggestions and pigeon wings to