Pet care includes meals from scratch

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Move over Alpo and Tender Vittles, pet owners are now cooking foods for their pets, adhering to many of the dietary standards that were once considered a people thing.

Were seeing people taking more control of the diets for their animal needs, said Terri Grow, who hosted a recent cooking class Saturday, Sept. 15, for pet owners at her PetSage food store in Alexandria.

Just as Alexandria is fostering the reputation of being a pet-friendly city, Grow is finding more people focusing on wellness of their animals, she said more natural foods. Grow has been cooking for her own pets for eight years now and has become an expert in the field, although she made clear to the class that she is not a nutritionist or veterinarian.

Dry pet food, although it is the easiest and cheapest, is the pet dietary no-no, equivalent to a trip to McDonalds in the fast food world, according to Grow. While a 5.5 ounce can of cat food has 209 calories and a serving of homemade cat food has 285 calories, a cup of dry cat food has 587 calories, said Grow.

In the old days, when cats hunted and got more activity, they burned more calories, but in the modern world, where the house cats exercise consists primarily of a trip from the couch to the kitchen, calories are a  big deal. In the wild, a cat will eat eight to ten mice a day, she said.

Cooking demos
The home cooked cat food recipes include proteins, fiber and vegetables, and almost always include some meat. Cats really dont need carbohydrates at all, she said. Grow did admit, I happen to have a cat that loves asparagus, she said.

During the class, Grow presented a slideshow and then took the class next door to Southern Kitchens design store where professional chef, Kent MacDonald, manned one of the demo kitchens to cook a dog and cats dish. The dogs food included lean ground beef, finely chopped broccoli, sweet potato, rice and chicken livers. Try to use fresh vegetables, said Grow.

MacDonald chopped up the livers, and threw everything in a sauce pan with water and a pinch of kosher salt, put a lid on it, and put it on the stove. A lot of slow cooking here, he said. With pet food, it isnt essential that the meat is thoroughly cooked, he advised.

Kathy Livoti was in from Chantilly for the class. I thought my dog had a food allergy, so she started cooking for the dog. She took the class to see if Im doing it right, she said.

Grow is an expert on holistic pet care and healthy diets and opened PetSage in that spirit 12 years ago. Learning about appropriate diets for cats and dogs, the types of ingredients, proper ratios in each recipe, cooking techniques to capture beneficial elements, and the additional recommended supplements is essential to ensuring the long term health of your dog or cat, she said.

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