Many families are struggling to find time to sit down together for a meal these days so it may seem funny that more people are making time to bake treats for their pets. But pets are gaining status in the family hierarchy, according to a Harris Interactive study. In fact, more than 90 percent of pet owners say their pets are an official member of the family. Twenty-four percent say they frequently cook specifically for their pets.
Dedicated pet owners have been making treats for their furry buddies since the 1800s, according to Chef Noel Ridsdale, culinary academic director at The Art Institute of Tucson.
He adds that in the last five to seven years, the number of people making pet treats has taken off. “There are many reasons for this, but I think it is the attitude that people have taken with their pets. It seems that over the past 20 years or so, pets have almost become another child in the house. So with this change in behavior toward our pets, it only makes sense that we would now want to feed them better.”
Value – both in cost and better health
Chef Ridsdale states that making pet treats at home is both economical and healthy.
“Recipes for these treats are not any different than food for their human counterparts. Most recipes include a protein, a vegetable and a bread. All of these ingredients are readily available and are inexpensive.”
Do-it-yourself recipes are available on reputable food databases including Allrecipes.com, food.com and AnimalPlanet.com – just be sure that the recipes have been tested by others prior to trying them on your pet.
Chef Ridsdale cites additional, important reasons for making treats at home. There have been more than 20 recalls by pet food manufacturers since January, 2013, according to the FDA. And with increased incidents of pet obesity, allergens and contaminants, knowing what’s in pet food – and where it’s made – is becoming increasingly important.
“We want to ensure that our pets are getting the same level of food quality [that we are]. If a dog food is made in China, we don’t know for sure what standards are being met. I would not want my pet eating something that might make them sick,” states Ridsdale.
Chef Ridsdale’s homemade cat treats
1 cup buckwheat or oat flour
1/2 cup dried garbanzo beans, ground into flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 ounces tuna, salmon, or other meat
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 13×9 pan with olive or canola oil. Cats can detect the taste of vegetable or corn oil, so do not use these.
1. Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl.
2. Mix tuna, egg and oil together at medium speed.
3. Slowly combine wet and dry ingredients.
4. Add enough water to create a cake batter consistency.
5. Spread batter in pan evenly and bake for 1 hour.
7. Lower oven temperature to 250 F and bake for 45-60 minutes more.
8. Remove pan and slice into 1 inch squares but keep treats in the pan until ready to serve.