I can’t say my feelings weren’t hurt. I write recipes for humans for a living. I am used to people diving into my culinary offerings with glee.
"But here they were, these two snooty Burmese princesses, turning their noses up at the meals I was serving them. And who can blame them? Dried kibble. Every day. Wouldn’t you be a little put out? I would."
I began to feed them commercial wet food. This was an improvement – at least they looked happy to see me when I ventured into the kitchen, swirling around my ankles in a hungry dance of pleasure. They would dive into their food, eating everything and clattering their bowls across the floor as they licked every remaining morsel.
Then, because I can’t help myself, I began cooking for them too. If you come into my house, I am going to make you something to eat. Them’s the rules. It made me – and them – inordinately happy. I’ve rarely had such an enthusiastic response from my human friends to elaborate marinated, seasoned, garnished and otherwise primped-up dishes than I had from Delphi and Liberty to some simply poached chicken or steamed fish.
But cats can be a challenge. Unlike dogs, who are invariably ruled by their stomachs, cats can be fussy. They might like something to eat, or to chase a leaf with laser-focused concentration, or to bask in a puddle of sunshine on a chair by the window.
I am reminded of this daily when I look at my two dogs, Gracie and Barney, wolfing down their food, so much so that Gracie has to have a special bowl with a sort of maze in the bottom to stop her guzzling her dinner without drawing breath. Meanwhile, Dixie, the elegant Burmese who currently deigns to live with us, eats with enormous grace and discernment.
In the wild, cats are carnivores. They hunt and eat what they catch, and very few of their nutritional needs are met by eating plants. I try to keep Dixie’s diet as close as possible to the kinds of foods she might eat in the wild. I feed her a combination of fresh food I make myself and commercial food with as short an ingredient list as possible. I go big on rabbit, chicken, duck and lamb, with the occasional bit of poached or canned fish or steamed prawns (shrimp). I keep the meat content of her diet as close to 90 per cent of what she eats as I can. And yes, I do give her the odd treat, for training and bonding, and to express my boundless love for her dear, sweet, aristocratic self.
The reason I don’t cook all of Dixie’s food is that developing a complete feline diet is a very complex thing. It would involve grinding up bones and an animal dietitian’s knowledge of which supplements might be required. I am not that person. If you think you might be, buy a good meat grinder and seek professional advice. I feed my cat home-cooked food about 30 per cent of the time, with a high-quality commercial wet food such as Lily’s Kitchen or Nature’s Menu, which are grain-free and very low in carbs, making up the balance of her food.
Of course, I feel crestfallen if she rejects my offerings at mealtimes, but I have learned what she likes, and that’s a mixture of really good, complete, canned food, some of my special dinners, and the occasional homemade treat. Give the lady what she wants, I say. She is sleek and healthy and has the energy and spirit of a tiny tiger.
I am sharing with you here some of the favourite dishes and treats I have created for the five cats we have loved over the past two decades. Sharing our home with our cats has given me so much pleasure over the years, so these offerings feel like a very small gesture of thanks for all their boundless affection. I hope your cats will enjoy them too.
Squash is a good source of fibre and is tolerated by most cats, especially when combined with turkey, which they all seem to love. You can use chicken in this recipe if you prefer.
My cat Dixie loves this dish. I add dill here for its alleged mild calming properties, though I can’t really say it deters her from running up the curtains that much.
These tasty items make a good little snack and are very easy to throw together. I keep ice-cube trays full of puréed vegetables in the freezer so I don’t have to fiddle about making up such small quantities every time I want to bake some treats.
Who doesn’t love a cookie? These are a tasty treat, and perfect for using up any leftover roast chicken you might have.
These are a great way to celebrate your cat’s birthday or any other special occasion. If you make them in a normal-sized muffin pan, you will need to feed your cat this special treat a bit at a time, or use a mini-muffin pan for a perfectly cat-sized snack.
* While cats might enjoy milk, cream and cheese, they have trouble digesting lactose and it can cause upset stomachs and diarrhoea. A small amount of unsweetened, plain live yogurt is an acceptable occasional treat, though.
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