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Feeding your cat or dog vegetables.

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

When we talk about species appropriate diets for our pets there is no denying that an animal protein-based diet is the correct choice, however, this doesn’t mean their diet should be devoid of plant matter. On the contrary, both cats and dogs would naturally consume plant matter if eating whole prey such as rodents, birds or rabbits. If we choose to not feed any form of fruit or vegetables then our pets would be missing out on many nutrients including antioxidants, the anti-aging super stars.

So how do we prepare our pets vegetables?

1. Additive free:

Just as we wash our vegetables before making a salad for our family, we wash vegetables we are serving to our pets, this ensures any pesticide or other foreign residue which may be harmful to your pet is removed. If you can buy organic or grow your own, then that’s even better. A few carrots in a corner of the garden or spinach in a tub on the patio to feed the whole family.

2. Cooked vs raw:

Whenever food is exposed to any form of heat the nutritional value decreases, most vegetables should therefore be fed raw to ensure the maximum nutritional value is retained. Ideally if the vegetables are cooked then minimal steaming is the preferred method of cooking to preserve as much of the nutritional value as possible.

3. Crushing the cell wall

All plant matter is comprised of many cells, each cell covered in a cellulose wall. Neither dogs nor cats have the enzyme required to break down this cellulose wall so to make the nutrients available we must mimic the ‘processing’ which the prey animal would naturally do. We do this by crushing/grinding the food into a juicy pulp, splitting open the cells to release the valuable nutrients within. A high-powered blender or juicer is a great investment but you can start simple, a rolling pin can be very effective on soft vegetables.

4. The convenience factor:

When discussing preparation of vegetables at home it’s important to consider the circumstances as every home, pet and pet owner has their own set of expectations and limitations, be it time, equipment, knowledge, enthusiasm etc. Tailoring a plan to suit the situation will ensure maximum success for both you and your pet. I recommend batch processing for my clients, choose a day that suits and whip up a batch of assorted vegetables then simply freeze in appropriate portions using ice trays, muffin pans, zip lock bags or containers. That way you always have a portion on hand when you need it with minimal effort. As a guide, a vegetable portion of about 2% of your pets’ diet will give a great nutritional boost but vegetables and other treats can form 10% of the diet without upsetting the balance.

5. Picky pets:

All pets are different with some being decidedly picky while others will inhale anything on offer. Just because our pets choose to be picky doesn’t mean we should avoid trying to improve their nutrition, a healthy diet is a lifestyle choice for our pets just as it is for ourselves. Introduce new foods slowly to increase acceptance, try mixing a little with their regular food or high value treat. Some vegetables such as carrot or pumpkin are sweeter than others, opt for these initially if your pet has developed a sweet tooth.


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