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February 16, 2020

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Feeding pets during coronavirus epidemic

The ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak has made life inconvenient. Many residents have confined themselves at home since the Lunar New Year holiday and many aspects of daily life are yet to be resumed.

Amid the epidemic, pets are also affected. Pet shops and many veterinary hospitals are now closed and online shopping is also restricted. For cat and dog owners who are running out of pet food and cannot purchase more, homemade pet food cooked with basic ingredients available at supermarkets and grocery delivery services is a temporary solution.

Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs. Cats are carnivores while dogs can eat a suitable amount of plants and carbohydrates.

Homemade pet diets can include raw feeding and cooked meals if you are looking for a temporary fix. Raw food is not recommended since it’s more difficult to source safe, appropriate ingredients. Handling raw meat requires specific knowledge, and for pets the transition to raw food can also take a long time.

Cooked meals for pets can be made with any meat that people eat on a daily basis, including chicken, duck, beef and mutton. Pets often eat more white meat than red meat.

The first step is to calculate the calories needed by your pet. Kittens and puppies should consume meat (raw weight) equaling 10 percent of their body weight. Cats and dogs aged between 4 and 11 months consume 6 to 8 percent of body weight, and adult animals eat roughly 3 to 4 percent.

The calories of different meats can be looked up online and planning a recipe in advance saves time and money.

As a temporary solution, you don’t need to be exact with the numbers. A basic homemade diet recipe for cats should contain around 90 percent muscle meat and 10 percent liver. Dogs also need 10 percent liver in their diet and small-breed dogs require 30 percent cooked carbohydrates such as potatoes. Both cats and dogs can eat egg yolks.

Supplements are needed in homemade pet food but there are shortcuts to take. Eating duck and pork can provide vitamin B, and chicken or duck hearts are good sources of muscle meat that contain necessary taurine for cats.

Calcium is a must-have supplement for both cats and dogs. Powders like calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are common options, but if you cannot purchase such products you can make eggshell powder from scratch — simply peel off the membrane inside of eggshells, thoroughly clean and air-dry the eggshells before baking them for 10 minutes at 150 degrees Celsius, then grind them into a fine powder.

Roughly 0.6 grams of eggshell powder or calcium carbonate should be added in every 100 grams of meat (raw weight).

The best way to cook meat for pets is steaming, which preserves the flavor, nutrients and moisture. Searing meat on a non-stick pan without adding oil (or with a small amount of unsalted butter) is also viable. Boiling meat in water is not recommended as water-soluble vitamins can be lost. Cooked meats can be of different shapes and textures depending on your pet’s ability to chew food. Many animals that are used to eating dry kibble will find it difficult to eat slices or cubes of meat, so mincing into paste may be required.

For food safety concerns, raw meats shouldn’t be frozen and thawed multiple times. You can divide the meat into proper portions and then cook fresh meals each time. Some pets need a transition period to adjust to a new diet. Introducing an all-meat diet suddenly may raise the risks of pancreatitis especially for cats and dogs that have been eating dried kibble for years, so you may want to start the transition slowly when there is still some old food left.

Cats especially are known to be picky eaters, so sprinkling ground kibble powder on top of homemade pet food may help them accept a new diet. It’s very important to do this slowly and gradually. Starving animals may develop potentially deadly fatty liver issues.


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