Homemade food for dogs and cats is easy to prepare

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The author buys chicken -- legs and thighs

The author buys chicken -- legs and thighs are very economical -- and boils them until cooked, pulls out the bones and chops the meat and skin in a processor. Photo Credit: AP / Mel Evans

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Marc Morrone Newsday columnist Marc Morrone

Marc Morrone was born in 1960 in the Bronx and, when he was 2, his family moved to

Q: I once saw you on a TV show demonstrating in real time how to make your own dog and cat food. I have wanted to do this for a while, but some of the concoctions I have read about on the Internet seem to be very involved, I was wondering if you could tell me something that is a bit easier. --Fran Gonzalez, Seaford

A: I actually did that segment with Martha Stewart on her show many years ago, and I am sure it pops up on YouTube here and there. Since this is a popular topic these days, I will go into it in more detail.

First of all, there is nothing really wrong with commercial dog and cat foods -- either dry or canned. Millions of animals all over the world eat them and do just fine. However, the more processed a food is, the harder it is for an animal to digest. Some animals just do not do as well on processed foods as others.

Plus, in any brand of dry food, certain ingredients are added to help along the processing, and these are not very digestible for carnivores like dogs and cats. Thus, those ingredients come out in the animal's stool and make it more voluminous.

The main issue with making your own pet food is that, unless you are a nutritionist, it is not possible to really make it nutritionally complete with all the proper vitamins and minerals your pet needs. So some supplementation probably needs to be done, no matter what ingredients you use.

At any rate, here's what I do: I buy a bunch of chicken legs and thighs, since they are very economical. I boil them until cooked, pull out the bones and chop up the meat and skin in a processor. In the water the chicken cooked in, I boil some white potatoes and sweet potatoes and coarsely mash those up. Some people use cooked rice instead of potatoes, but many animals do not chew or digest rice very well. I get a bag of frozen mixed garden vegetables, thaw them out, then mash them up with a fork so they are still rather lumpy. For dogs, I mix together one part chicken with one part potatoes and one part vegetables. For cats, I do two parts chicken with one part each of the potatoes and vegetables, because cats need more protein than dogs.

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Then, I put the mixtures into plastic bags and store the bags in the freezer. As needed, I defrost them in the microwave. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, you can make a month's worth if your freezer can hold it all.

Feed your pet as much as it will eat twice a day. At first, the volume the dog or cat is eating is so large it is alarming. But as a week or so goes by, you will see the homemade food is so satisfying that the animal starts to slack off and eats a lot less.

Because the chicken you are using has no bones or viscera, it is lacking in calcium and other essentials. So you will need to supplement the food with vitamin and mineral tablets.

Years ago, when my life was simpler, I used to feed this to my pets all the time, but as things got more complicated in my world, I had to go back to using commercial foods, and my pets were just fine on them.

Lately, though, my oldest cat, a 17-year-old Siamese named Wheezer, came down with irritable bowel syndrome. My vet put him on Prednisone, and that helped a great deal, but his issues of vomiting and diarrhea did not go away entirely until I got him off the commercial food and put him back on the homemade recipe I described above. After three months of this, we no longer need any Prednisone. He has put back all the weight he lost.

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