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Healthy Pet Food Starts at Home

Cooking for four-legged friends.

Pet owner James Nail lost his cat, Roosevelt, to kidney failure and admits it was because Roosevelt was on a bad diet.

Nail has two other cats: Truman and a new kitty, Wilson. To make sure history does not repeat itself, Nail attended a pet food cooking class on July 21, hosted by PetSage owner Terri Grow. The class featured a cooking demonstration by certified personal chef, Kent McDonald at Southern Kitchens.

"We want to make sure we don’t lose the rest of them," said Nail.

The class started with a brief presentation about the benefits of cooking for pets and continued with the cooking demonstration at Southern Kitchens. McDonald cooked up a basic dog food recipe with ground beef, rice, vegetables, calf’s liver and fish oil. He also prepared a cat food recipe with ground turkey, spinach, raw chicken livers, fish oil and kosher salt. Calcium carbonate was sprinkled on both dishes.

FOR MANY PET owners, deciding what pet food is safe can be a challenge. A balanced diet is essential in ensuring pets stay healthy, said Grow. She said the class was designed to give people feeding options and give an alternative ways to keep pets healthy.

"Variety is the key, dry foods are the inverse of what we should be feeding our cats. They create severe nutritional imbalances," said Grow.

She said dry foods are high in carbohydrates, and that diseases like skin allergies, diabetes and cancer are attributed to pet diets high in carbohydrates.

Grow said cooking for your pets does not have to be drudgery and is also cost efficient. "It’s not that hard to do. You have to be aware of the proper ingredients and have fun doing it," said Grow, "It can be less costly to make your own food. Here we have food that sells for $8 a quart."

Ingredients used are cheap and can be found everywhere said Grow. She said pet owners can used a variety of meats and get creative with vegetable choices. She said pet owners should not be afraid of cooking for their pets.

MCDONALD SAID THAT before he was asked by Grow to do the demonstration he had no experience with pet food cooking. He has a cat and plans on cooking for him in the future. He said people often opt for convenience and "what’s healthy for your pets is often a secondary concern."

Grow and McDonald both agree that cooking for pets is easy even if people never readily cook. "If you can boil water you can do this," said McDonald.

"It’s very surprising how many people are willing to cook for their pets and not themselves," said Grow.

Pet owners who already cook for their pets say that cooking for their pets is enjoyable and is a nice addition to their relationship with their pets.

"They really like it when I cook for them. They come and sit by my feet and wait," said pet owner Darlene Branges, who started cooking for her Shih Tzus Moe and Patches to keep then healthy as they age.

TERESA ARCHER has a white boxer with food allergies and has been feeding her dog raw foods and likes knowing exactly what her dog eats. "I’m looking to give him variety," said Archer.

Grow suggests all pet owner cook for their pets. She said it does not have to happen for every meal. Pet owners can combine commercial food with home cooked food. She said it can work for everyone and can be easily customized for any cat or dog and the pet’s owner time constraints.

"It’s worth it. You’ll see a difference in your animals, from fur, muscle tone and energy," said Grow.