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What are Some Alternatives to Commercial Pet Food for Cats and Dogs

Susana Bradford
January 12, 2024
April 28, 2023
6 minutes
Updated By
Expert Reviewed By:
April 28, 2023
August 29, 2023
6 minutes
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Ensure your pet's health and nutrition with a variety of options beyond commercial pet food. Explore alternative choices to keep your furry companion nourished.

The 2007 pet food recall, due to melamine contamination, shocked pet owners and sparked great public concern about the quality of commercial pet food. This issue also made people want to eat less store-bought food and more home-cooked meals and foods made with high-quality ingredients.

Cat Food Alternatives

Looking for cat food alternatives? Consider adding cooked fish like salmon or sardines, lean meats such as turkey or venison, and vegetables like pumpkin or sweet potato. Avoid feeding your cat onions, garlic, and avocado as they can be toxic to felines.

Below is a comprehensive look at alternatives to commercial pet food and what to look for in these feeds for optimal nutrition. Whether you have an emotional support animal, a service dog, or a regular pet, it's essential to ensure that you take the best care of your furry friend. 

pet food for cats and dogs

Why are Some Pet Owners Moving Away from Commercial Pet Foods?

Conventional pet diets are considered nutritionally balanced; thus, most veterinarians recommend them to pet owners. This balance is essential for proper nutrition and preventing nutritional deficits. 

Commercial pet foods are also convenient and, in some cases, cheaper. Despite this, a growing number of pet owners are abandoning commercial pet food for a variety of reasons.

Quality of Ingredients

Most commercial pet food doesn't have the best ingredients, and some of them can be harmful or even deadly for your ESA dogs and cats. Some pet food manufacturers use unhealthy fillers in their feeds to avoid using too much meat.

High-Heat Processing

About 95% of dry pet food sold in stores is made through a high-heat process called extrusion. This high heat, (which can sometimes reach 400°F, destroys most of the natural vitamins and nutrients in pet foods and significantly lowers the nutritional value of the food. High heat processing can also cause something called the Maillard reaction, which takes away essential amino acids like lysine from animals. 


  • Consult a veterinarian before completely changing your Emotional Support Animal's diet. All pets have unique nutritional needs that you should ensure are addressed for the safety and health of your pets.
  • Pet food labeling is not regulated in many places, so do not place too much credence on the claim made on the packaging.
alternative pet food for cats and dogs

What Are the Alternatives to Commercial Pet Food for Dogs and Cats?

Below is a comprehensive guide to the alternative pet foods you can feed your cat or dog.

Raw Food Diets

Raw pet foods are supposed to mimic a pet's diet before being domesticated. A pet's raw food diet usually includes raw eggs, organ meat, muscle meat, vegetables, and supplements. Users of the raw food diet claim that this food leads to healthier teeth, skin, and shiny coats. 

However, take caution while feeding your pets raw food, as bacteria like E coli and salmonella could get them sick. Several studies have linked resistant E. coli in dogs to raw dog meat. 

Home-Cooked Pet Food

Home-cooked pet food is similar to raw food in that you combine various components. The possible viruses that accompany raw food are also eliminated when the food is cooked. 

To make sure your dog or cat gets all the nutrients they need to live a happy and healthy life, you will need to plan and prepare home-cooked meals for them.

Grain-Free Pet Food

More and more pet owners are feeding their pets' meals without grains, and allergies are a big reason why. Some pets develop a gluten or wheat intolerance. 

Diabetic ESA cats can benefit from grain-free diets as well. If your pet is not allergic to grains and your veterinarian has not advised against them, they can be included in your pet's diet.

What to Consider When Customizing Your Pets' Food

The best pet food is the food made by the owner. Making your own pet food lets you use fresh, healthy ingredients and try out new, tasty flavors to get your pet hungry. 

But you need to know what your cats and dogs need to eat for the food to be made correctly.

Below is a guide on the nutritional needs of cats and dogs to help prepare the best meals for them.


The essential components of dogs' diet should include:

  • Proteins: Puppies that weigh up to 5kg need about 56g of protein daily, while adult dogs that weigh about 15kg need to consume 25g of protein. For elderly dogs, it is recommended that their meal formulations have an even higher protein content, at about 75g protein for every 1000kcal.
  • Fats: The fats in dogs' diets are responsible for maintaining healthy hair and skin, aiding in structural cell functions, and developing eyesight and the brain. Animal oils, such as pig fat and poultry oils, are great lipid sources as they are highly digestible and palatable. The National Research Council recommends that puppies up to 15kg consume 14g of fats daily, and elderly dogs consume less fat as their metabolism is less efficient.
  • Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the primary source of your dog's energy in all developmental stages. Puppies with a body mass of 5kg need 990kcal daily, adult dogs up to 20 kilograms need 1353kcal, and elderly dogs up to 20kg need 1093kcal daily.
  • Fibers: An adult dog's diet should contain 2.5 to 4.5% fiber of the total mass of food to guarantee good intestinal functioning.
  • Vitamins: Vitamins in a dog's diet are related to health, skin, and sight activity, among others. Vitamin A helps prevent sight and respiratory problems, K with clotting, thiamine with neurological health, and E with reproduction and skeletal muscle development.
  • Minerals: The NRC recommends 1.0g of calcium, 0.75g of phosphorous, 150mg of magnesium, 1g of potassium, and 200mg of sodium. 

Generally, your dog's diet should contain 10% protein, 5.5% fats, 2.5 -4.5% fiber, and 50% carbohydrates of the total food mass. 


Cats are obligate carnivores and rely on proteins found in animal products. Their nutritional needs also vary through life stages, i.e., kittenhood, pregnancy and lactation, and adulthood.

The essential components of a cat's diet include the following:

  • Proteins: Adult cats of up to 4kg need 12.5g of protein daily, while kittens of up to 800g need about 10g daily.
  • Fat: Kittens of up to 800g need about 4g of fat a day, while adult cats weighing around 4kg need 5.5g daily. Sources of these fats include salmon, liver, or beef. If extra fat is required, it can be obtained from fish oil, soybean oil, and beef fat. 
  • Carbohydrates: Cats do not need a minimum amount of carbohydrates daily as they have evolved to get most of their energy from fats and protein. Although cats can digest small amounts of carbohydrates, they play a small role in your cats' diet.
  • Minerals in the diet are essential for enzyme formation, nutrient absorption, and other functions. 
  • Vitamins: The daily recommendation of vitamins include Vitamins A, D, E, K, B1, B6, B12, and riboflavin. These vitamins are crucial in normal growth metabolic regulation. The vitamins are found naturally in ingredients such as seeds, grains, and vegetable oils.

Generally, adult cats need a minimum of 26% proteins (30% for reproduction and growth), 9% fat (higher for highly active cats), and less than 10% of their carbohydrate calorie intake.

For more information on pet nutrition, ESA certification, and other pet resources, visit Pettable's blog!

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.

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