Holidays are a time of joy, family, and of course – food! Frequently people want to include their furry family members in on the festivities, which makes sense since they bring so much joy to everyday living. Many believe that a little "human food" could not harm an animal. This is a common misconception. The trouble comes in with how we season our foods and consume certain fruits and vegetables that furry family members would avoid eating, left to their own devises.
Rinsing off "human food" does not remove contaminants like salt, pepper, or meat injections for safe animal consumption. The great news is that cooking for animals is far easier than preparing our feasts. So put away the herbs, spices, gravy mixes, onions, and nuts. Here are some simple, safe meal tips for animals.
There are three invaluable tools for preparing meals for animals. They are the crock-pot, dehydrator, and food processor/blender. These tools make animal meal preparation hassle-free and are an enormous time saver.
White meats are low in fat and the easiest foods for cats and dogs to digest. It provides animals with the high levels of protein their bodies demand to remain healthy. To have a positive impact on the environment, and reduce the carbon footprint, purchase meat from free-range organic farmers. To reduce the carbon footprint further, look for an organic farmer that is local.
Preparing Meat for Animals:
Purchase a free-range, cruelty-free whole chicken. Place it in a crock-pot 24 hours before a feast gathering. Fill the pot with water so that it covers the bird. Put the lid on the crock-pot and set it on low. Check the water level once or twice to make sure it does not get too low. If it is, simply add more water. Do not add anything other than water, as nothing else is needed. This cooking method works well with any bone-in bird, providing it fits in a crock-pot.
When it is time to feed the animals remove the meat with a fork, place it in a bowl, and add some of the chicken water from the crock-pot. Mash the meat and water with a fork and set aside while preparing vegetables.
Preparing Vegetables for Animals:
The key to food preparation for animals is less is better. The only ingredients you should add are the vegetables and water. Do not add, salt, butter, sugar – nothing. These are the elements of "human food" that are bad for furry family members.
Carrots are good for cats and dogs. They are an excellent source of vitamin A and fiber. Cut off any roots and stems, and rinse. It is not necessary to peel them. Place in a pot, filled only with water. Boil carrots until tender. Place boiled carrots into a food processor and add some of the boiled carrot water. Blend until smooth.
Brown Rice is good for cats and dogs. This grain is a good source for vitamin B-complex. It is a healthier alternative to white rice because it is not milled and starched for prolonged shelf life. A simple method to keep brown rice fresh is to store it in the freezer.
Note: While grains provide some benefit, it is best to limit feeding. Only offer animals small amounts to avoid system irritation. When preparing, add rice to water and boil until tender. Do not add any other ingredients to the water.
Sweet Potatoes are a tasty sweet treat for dogs. It is a good source of fiber, beta-carotene, manganese, and vitamins B6 and C. However, these potatoes are also high in natural sugar and starch, so they should only be given as a treat.
To make treats, wash sweet potatoes until the surface is smooth. If the potatoes are fresh, there is no need to peel off skin. Slice into chips and place in a dehydrator on fruit/vegetable setting for 24 hours. Place a small bowl of the chips out with a tag that says, "Dog Treats," for when guests arrive. This encourages guests to interact with the animal and discourages guests from feeding the dog food they should avoid.
Green Beans are good for cats and dogs. They are a good source of fiber and vitamins A and C. It is best to use fresh or flash frozen beans and avoid canned. They can be steamed or boiled until tender. Place the beans in a food processor and add some chicken water, then blend until smooth.
Pumpkin is good for dogs and makes a wonderful treat. It is a good source of antioxidants and vitamins. To prepare a fresh pumpkin, quarter it and remove seeds. Score the meat with a fork or knife and lightly baste with olive oil. Place the prepared quarters into a deep pan and add a half-inch (1.27cm) of water. Bake at 300°F (149°C) until tender. Cooking times will vary depending on size, but expect a cooking time ranging from 20 to 45 minutes. Remove pumpkin and allow it to cool. This makes pumpkin skin removal easy and efficient with a knife. Discard all pumpkin skin. Cut pumpkin into strips and either place in the freezer or dehydrator for 24 hours. As an alternative, look for canned pumpkin and heat in the microwave. However, do not use pumpkin pie filling. It is not the same thing as pumpkin and contains ingredients that are harmful to dogs.
Blending Meals for Animals:
It is important to note that cats and dogs are different. Cats are carnivores. This means a true feast for them is meat and little else. Take the chicken mash; add a little carrot or brown rice, and a dollop of olive oil. Mix together and serve. Dogs are omnivores. This means that they enjoy a broader dining experience. Mix 2 parts meat with 1 part vegetable, 1 part grain (optional), and a dollop of olive oil. Mix together and serve.
A Note about Oils:
Not all oils are created equally. If olive oil is not available, do not substitute it with Canola or other vegetable oil. You are better off not adding any oil to their food. Canola and vegetable oils contain corn, to which both cats and dogs are allergic. Olive oil helps boost the immune system, fights off viruses, and reduces the risks of diseases such as cancer and heart conditions. It is easily digestible and promotes healthy skin, while providing an excellent sheen to the animal's coat.