Feeding furkids

I cook my pet cat 100 percent organic homemade food. But someone told me that homemade food is bad for pets. I just want my pet to be green! Thoughts?

I have a problem with the word “pet.” It implies ownership. I prefer “furkid,” acknowledging that your relationship to the animal is familial. My brood of seven cats, three dogs, a turtle and two ferrets have reading hour every night; take a family nap midday and go for a walk around the block each morning (allowing for some backtracking so as not to discriminate against the short legs of the turtle and the free will of the cats). But there is one area of our shared lives in which I do not force my human ideologies on the animals, and that’s with food.

During the recent “pet food recall,” frenzied people cooked up homemade food for their respective furkids, potentially to the detriment of the animals. The American Veterinary Medical Association issued a strong statement against cooking for your furkid. The reasoning? “Pet nutrition is very complicated and unique to species and individual animals.” To put it bluntly, “Many foods that humans love to eat can be deadly if ingested by pets.” So while logic might suggest that organic and local ingredients are the most important consideration in a living being’s diet, believe it or not, there are other considerations afoot. I know, I was floored.

The solution? The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine urges people to consult a board-certified veterinary nutritionist if you insist on home cooking for your furkid. The UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital will create a recipe for your furkid. But the total service costs $100.

So, should you just head to the store and buy the pre-made stuff? Interestingly enough, “Very few pet food companies employ board-certified nutritionists,” said Dawn Cauthen, nutrition service coordinator at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Four companies are the exception: Hill’s Science Diet, Purina, Royal Canin and Natura. “Typically, veterinary nutritionists don’t differentiate between organic and conventional,” she said, citing lack of evidence that one is more nutritious than the other.

But it’s not all gloom and doom in the world of furkid food. You can educate yourself at the American Association of Feed Control Officials Web site, which offers definitions for the most commonly misunderstood claims made by pet-food companies. The educated consumer is the best kind of consumer. And a well-fed furkid is the happiest kind.