Month: November 2010

Caring for Your Cat After Surgery

The only surgery for most cats, if they’re lucky, will be their spay or neuter surgery.  But as cats get better care, and potential problems are diagnosed earlier, they may also need surgery for other conditions.  According to Dr. Arnold Plotnick, a feline veterinarian who owns and operates Manhattan Cat Specialists in New York City, “the most common surgeries we perform, after spays and neuters, would be removal of skin lumps or masses. Bladder stone removal would also be high on our list.”

Regardless of the type of surgery, caring for your cat after surgery can be a challenge.  Cats may be uncomfortable, experience pain, and their ability to move around freely may need to be temporarily restricted.  Knowing what to expect, and what to watch out for, can make caring for your cat after surgery less stressful for you and help your cat recover faster.

Talk to your veterinarian before and after the surgery  

Make sure you understand the type of surgery your pet needs, as well as any pre-surgical requirements such as withholding food the night before.  Find out what the expectations for recovery are.  This will depend on the type of surgery, and your cat’s age and health status.   Will your cat need to spend the night at the veterinary hospital, or will you be able to bring her home the same day?  Dr. Plotnick sends most  of his surgical patients home the same day, only about a third may need to spend the night.

Ask your veterinarian about post-surgical care instructions.  If your cat requires medication such as antibiotics or pain medication, make sure that you know how, and how frequently to give the medication, and what to do if you miss a dose.  Ask whether the medication has any side effects so you know what to expect.

Discuss financial arrangements prior to the surgery so that you don’t experience “sticker shock” when you pick up your cat.  Most veterinarians will provide you with an estimate for their services.

Provide a safe and quiet place for your cat

Cats may still be a little groggy after anesthesia, and they’ll need a quiet place to rest.  You may need to keep them away from other pets or small children.  You may want to set aside a bedroom or bathroom, instead of giving the cat full run of the house right away.  Put soft blankets or your cat’s favorite bed in the room, and make sure your cat has easy access to a litter box and to water.

Keep an eye on the incision site

Most cats will try to lick the area, and in the process, may chew or rip out their stitches or staples.  While licking and biting at the incision site is a natural healing process for cats, if you notice that the stitches are coming loose, you will need to put an E-collar (Elizabethan collar) on your cat.  Traditionally, these collars were made out of hard, cone-shaped plastic, which made simple actions such as eating, drinking, sleeping and even walking up and down stairs difficult and uncomfortable for cats.  Thankfully, there is now an alternative to these collars.  The Trimline Veterinary Recovery Collar is a soft, lightweight and flexible Elizabethan-style collar that provides a barrier to the treatment area from licking and biting, while still allowing pets to move around comfortably and easily.

Not all surgical patients will need E-collars.  Dr. Plotnick only sends E-collars with cats whose  sutures are placed in a location where they could be chewed out or traumatized by a paw.  “For example,” says Dr. Plotnick, “when doing a delicate eyelid surgery, you don’t want the cat to rub hereye and damage the incision, so an Elizabethan collar is often placed on these cats.”  Dr. Plotnick likes the Trimline collars “because they’re softer and more comfortable. I like that, in some instances, you can fold them down, so that they point toward the body (rather than up as a cone around the head). When they’re directed down, toward the body, cats can eat more comfortably and they still have their full peripheral vision.”

Watch for any redness, swelling or discharge from the incision.  Call your veterinarian if any of these are present.

Watch for any signs of pain

Cats are masters at hiding pain.  The instinct to hide pain is a legacy of cats’ wild origins. In the wild, an animal that appears to be sick or disabled is vulnerable to attack from predators, and survival instinct dictates to act as if nothing is wrong, even when something most definitely is.

A good rule of thumb is that a procedure that is painful for humans will also be painful for cats.  Some signs to look for that may indicate that your cat is in pain are behavior changes (quieter than normal, hiding, pacing, aggression), decreased or no appetite, increased respiratory rate, or vocalization.

Pain control is important – not just because you don’t want your cat to hurt, but because pain causes stress in the body and stress slows down the healing process.  Pain management should never be optional, but rather, an integral part of managing a surgical patient.

It’s always upsetting when your cat is facing surgery, but knowing what to expect, and how to care for your cat after the surgery can make it a less stressful experience for cat and guardian.

Trimline Recovery Collars are available from Amazon.

Photo provided by Trimline Recovery Collars, used with permission.

The information shared in this post, and on this website,
is not a substitute for veterinary care.

[adrotate banner = 146]

About the author

Book Review and Giveaway: Complete Care for Your Aging Cat by Amy Shojai

Cats are living longer than ever before. More cats are being kept exclusively indoors, thus avoiding many of the health risks encountered by outdoor cats. More and more cat owners are understanding the importance of a healthy, species-appropriate diet as a foundation for good health. Advances in veterinary medicine now allow cat owners to pursue sophisticated treatments for diseases that would have been a death sentence in the past. But older cats (most commonly defined as cats age seven and older) have special needs when it comes to maintaining their health.

Amy Shojai’s Complete Care for Your Aging Cat was first published in 2003 and quickly became the “old cat bible.” However, seven years is a long time when you’re talking about health related topics. This newly released edition has been updated to reflect changes in veterinary medicine and includes a wealth of resources about treatment options, products and research, complete with links to websites when appropriate. The e-book version of the book includes hotlinks to relevant information.

This book is an invaluable resource for cat owners. Shojai covers basic information on how age affects your cat’s body in great detail. She explains how to look for changes that might signal health problems in older cats (for an excerpt, read Amy’s guest post Caring for Your Older Cat).  She discusses home nursing care to help older cats through various health issues, and presents advanced care options and how to make informed choices, including a section on making end of life decisions which is presented with great sensitivity, yet covers all the facts a cat owner needs to know when faced with this difficult choice.

The most valuable section of the book is the extensive and comprehensive listing of feline health conditions, ranging from arthritis to heart disease to kidney failures. Each section provides information on symptoms, reducing risk, and treatment options. I read a lot of cat health books,and I have yet to find another one that is as well organized and easy to use as a reference guide as this one.

But it’s not all hard facts and information. Each section of the book contains a “Golden Moments” segment, which contains heartwarming stories of real cat owners who share their lives with older cats and are continuing to enjoy life while dealing with typical issues common for senior cats. These touching, and often inspirational stories make this book more than just a reference guide.

I loved almost everything about this book. The one area that didn’t resonate with me was the author’s take on nutrition.  Pet nutrition is a controversial subject.  While the material is as well-researched and well-documented as the rest of the book, Shojai’s recommendations focus on senior diets and prescription diets.  I’ve written extensively about feline nutrition and won’t belabor the issue here.  You can read more about why I don’t believe these diets are the best choice for cats of any age here.

Even though I disagree with the author’s recommendations in this one area, I nevetheless highly recommend this book to all  cat owners, regardless of how old your cat may be.   This is a must read for anyone who wants to keep their cats happy and healthy well into their golden years.

Amy Shojai has generously offered to give away one copy of this book to one lucky winner.  If you’d like a chance to win the book, please share your story of your senior cat, or a friend’s senior cat in a comment.  The contest will run until Friday, December 10.  Share the contest on Facebook and Twitter and include the link in a separate comment for an extra chance to win.  Winners will be able to choose between an autographed hard copy of the book, or an e-book.

Amy Shojai is a nationally known authority on pet care and behavior, and the award-winning author of nearly two dozen nonfiction pet books, including Complete Kitten Care and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog.  She can be reached at her website http://www.shojai.com

About the author

The biggest dangers to pets on Thanksgiving

Guest Post by Diana Guerrero

Do you give in to cute pesky pets at the dinner table? This Thanksgiving holiday pet lovers are urged to resist the intense gazes and vocal demands of pleading pets to keep them safe. Learn about the seven biggest risks to pets on Thanksgiving.

There can be deadly consequences for animals during the holidays. Holiday threats to animals can include seasonal decorations, ornamental lighting, ingestion of inappropriate or toxic items, excessive consumption of rich foods or harmful food, candle flames, and many other hazards.

Before you sit down to feast, take away temptation–from both guests and pets. If you feed pets before the guests arrive you reduce the temptation for begging and stealing. You can also use a pet gate or play pen to house the pet nearby, but provide a safety barrier.

One of the easiest ways to avoid trouble is to make sure your guests know the pet rules and discourage them from feeding critters scraps from the table. The best approach is to make sure any animal is occupied with a chewy or playmates in another room. Once the table is cleared, make sure pets cannot get to scraps or bones.

The biggest hazards to pets on Thanksgiving include:

  • Rich, fatty foods (turkey skins, gravy, etc,) can contribute to pancreatitis. This gland inflammation is painful and can be serious-requiring emergency veterinary assistance.
  • Cooked bones can splinter and cause tears or obstruction in a pet’s digestive tract.
  • Baking strings, if ingested, can create trouble if ingested by your pet.
  • Onions in holiday stuffing can lead to canine anemia if consumed by your dog.
  • Grapes and raisin toxins can cause kidney failure in pets.
  • Ingesting chocolate can cause seizures or kill your pet.
  • Caffeine and alcohol are also toxic for pets.

The solution? Keep all goodies out of reach!

Preventative safety measures are the best strategies so store leftover food out of reach and in tightly closed containers.  Next, make sure garbage cans are secured to keep critters out.

What can you do instead?

Pet households should consider providing appropriate chew toys or food occupation devices for pets during the holiday activities.  The Kong Company produces great products and there is a goodie dispenser that keeps dogs occupied which is purr-fect.  Look for great bird and cat toys that provide similar activity as most pet stores carry these products.

The investment and preparation can insure that you and your pets have a happy and healthy holiday.  Finally, just in case you have a problem, it never hurts to keep your emergency vet clinic or veterinary hospital number handy.  You never know when you will encounter a disaster during holiday festivities.

Diana L Guerrero is an animal expert with over 30 years of experience with both wild and domestic animals. Based in California, the Ark Lady runs multiple websites and works as a pet parenting coach, freelance writer, and professional speaker. Guerrero is often featured in the media as a pet expert and is the author of What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality: Inspiring Lessons of Wild & Tame Creatures and Blessing of the Animals: Prayers & Other Ceremonies Celebrating Pets & Other Creatures.

About the author

Book Review: Natural Nutrition for Cats by Kymythy R. Schultze

Natural Nutrition for Cats: The Path to Purrfect Health by Kymythy R. Schultze, C.N., C.N.C, is a comprehensive guide to species appropriate nutrition for cats.  Schultze, a Clinical Nutritionist and Certified Nutritional Consultant, shares her extensive knowledge of proper nutrition and points out why most commercial pet foods may not be the best way to feed our cats.

The book covers the basics of cats’ nutritional needs in great detail.  Cats are obligate carnivores and need protein to thrive, but they also need fat, minerals, vitamins and water.  What they don’t need is carbohydrates, and Schultze explains why grains in a feline diet can cause many of the degnerative diseases we see in cats, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and even cancer.   She looks at how commercial pet foods are formulated and manufactured – information that is not for the faint of heart.  It may be quite surprising to many what actually goes into these foods. 

Schultze is a raw-food proponent; like many others, she believes that cooking, and especially the high heat used to produce commercial pet foods, destroys vital nutrients.  She cites the Pottenger’s Cats study as one example of how cats on a raw diet tend to thrive when compared to cats who are fed processed foods.  She provides step-by-step instructions on how to transition cats to a raw diet, and offers a variety of recipes for those inclined to make their own food.

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in improving their cats’ health through nutrition.  Even if you don’t think raw feeding is for you, the book still provides valuable insight into what makes our feline friends tick when it comes to nutrition. 

For a thought-provoking extract from the book, read Feline Nutrition – Who Bears the Responsibilty

You may also enjoy reading Feeding Raw Food  – Separating Myth from Fact, and The Truth About Dry Cat Food.

About the author

Caring for your aging cat

Guest Post by Amy Shojai

Older cats that become ill typically try to hide how they feel. They also tend to become more seriously ill more quickly, and take longer to recover. “The earlier we see these animals, the more we can do something for them,” says Sheila McCullough, DVM, an internist at the University of Illinois. It is vital to pay attention to your cat as she ages, to catch problems before they turn serious.

A good way to keep in mind the special needs of your aging cat is simply to use the acronym L.O.V.E.  That stands for Listen With Your Heart; Observe for Changes; Visit the Veterinarian; and Enrich the Environment.

Listen With Your Heart

Never discount that odd “feeling” that something’s different, not right. Listen with your heart and your cat will shout louder than words how she feels. That’s when you make the extra visit to the veterinarian and explain your concerns. “It’s more of an intuitive thing,” says Susan G. Wynn, DVM, a holistic veterinarian in private practice in Atlanta. Because of the love and close relationship you share, you have an advantage when it comes to “knowing” when something’s wrong.

A change in behavior is the number one way your cat tells you she’s feeling bad from either a physical problem or an emotional upset. Changes in behavior may be sudden and obvious, or may develop slowly and subtly over time.

Think of these changes as a feline cry for help. You need to have a good grasp of what’s normal for your cat in order to be able to recognize this shift in the status quo. That includes regularly observing your cat for changes.

Regular veterinary visits are a must. Any time you have an intuitive feeling or a more concrete observation that something’s not quite right, validate your concerns with a veterinary visit.

Finally, the environment your cat lives in impacts everything about her. When she begins to age, you have to make appropriate enrichments to her nutrition, exercise, grooming needs, and home life. Don’t forget to enrich her mind as well as her body. Follow the L.O.V.E. plan to keep her healthy and happy throughout her golden years.

Observe for Changes: Home Health Alerts

 Healthy aging cats see the veterinarian only a couple of times a year. You live with her every day, and you know your cat best. In almost all cases, you will be the first to notice when something is wrong.

Close proximity to your pet allows you to immediately notice any changes that can point to a potential health problem. The major disadvantage to this closeness is that you may overlook subtle changes, or those that have a slow, gradual onset. Veterinarians call sudden problems “acute” and those are the easiest for owners to spot. But conditions that develop slowly over a long period of time, called chronic problems, are more insidious. Changes of a chronic nature creep up on you, day by day, in such small increments that you aren’t likely to notice anything’s wrong. By the time a problem becomes obvious, the disease may have been simmering for months or even years, and the damage may be permanent.

The classic emergency I see is the 12-year-old cat that is feeling badly, and deteriorated over the last 24-48 hours,” says Steven L. Marks, BVSc, an internist and surgeon at North Carolina State University. “The assumption is that the pet has become sick in the last two days when in fact, chronic renal failure has been going on for months and maybe years. Now the body can’t compensate anymore and the pet’s suddenly sick and it’s an emergency.”

One of the best ways to stay on top of things is to create a log of your cat’s normal behaviors. A home health report card provides you with baseline measures against which to compare even the subtle changes in your cat’s health. For example, monitor how much your cat weighs. “Even a small amount of weight loss, an ounce or two, will really catch my attention in an elderly cat,” says Susan Little, DVM, a feline specialist in Ottawa, Canada. Should your cat at some point in the future be diagnosed with a particular condition, a home health report card also can help you measure how well the treatment works. That in turn helps the veterinarian make informed decisions if adjustments to the therapy are needed.

Once you have your list and a benchmark description of “normal,” review the home health report card on a monthly basis to check for any behavior or physical changes. If your cat has been diagnosed with a disease for which she’s receiving treatment, a weekly or even daily check to monitor changes may be better. 

Behavior Cues

Generate a list of as many of your cat’s normal behaviors as possible. The categories will vary somewhat from cat to cat. Be as specific as possible. Examples of categories follow, but don’t limit yourself to my suggestions. If your cat gets in the sink every day, for example, or enjoys chasing the dog, include that as a category and describe her routine. Any changes to routine might indicate a health concern that needs attention. For instance, if she wakes you every single day at five and then suddenly lets you oversleep, perhaps her joints hurt too much from arthritis to jump onto the bed.

  • Favorite Activity (games, how often, duration)
  • Vocabulary (reaction to known words)
  • Vocalization (increase/decrease)
  • Interactions/Personality
  • Sleep Cycles
  • Habits/Routines

Body Warnings

Generate a list of your cat’s normal body functions. Be as specific as possible. Examples of categories follow, but don’t limit yourself to my suggestions. “I’d rather see a case that doesn’t need to be seen as an emergency than not see one that needed to be,” says Dr. Marks.

  • Appetite
  • Weight Loss/Gain
  • Water Intake
  • Urination and Defecation (color, increase/decrease, “accidents”)
  • Skin, Fur And Claws (dandruff, sores, shiny fur, mats, etc.)
  • Eyes (clear, watery, squinting)
  • Ears (clean, smell, scratching)
  • Nose
  • Respiration
  • Gait/Movement 

This post is an excerpt from Amy Shojai’s Complete Cate for Your Aging Cat, winner of the Cat Writers’ Association HARTZ Award (for best entry on aging cats) and MERIAL Human-Animal Bond Award. The updated, revised 2010 edition is now available in paperback, and Amazon Kindle Edition with “hot links” to the experts cited in the book.

Amy Shojai, CABC is the award-winning author of 23 dog and cat care and behavior books, and can be reached at her website http://www.shojai.com

Coming Soon

A chance to win an autographed copy or e-book version of
Complete Care for Your Aging Cat
here on The Conscious Cat!

About the author

The top 7 things about older cats

Guest Post by Dorian Wagner

Pimp is taking the spotlight because he has taught me some very important things through the years about why older cats are fabulous. (Don’t tell him I called him “old!” He’s not old yet, just a little bit on his way…) 

Pimp is 11, and every single year he gets better and better. The longer he’s with me, the more love he shows and the more grateful I am that I have him. He’s taught me a lot in his 11 years — a lot of it recently. 

I have always adopted kittens, but I’m starting to see why older cats deserve to be adopted, too, and maybe even more. They have so much love left to give. And so without further ado… 

The Top 7 Things Pimp Wants You to Know About Older Cats

1. Old men are not dirty.
You know the stereotype about dirty old men? Doesn’t apply to older cats. He knows where his litter box is, and doesn’t need to be taught. He doesn’t raid the garbage can like rambunctious kittens and doesn’t knock over my red wine glass in a fit of flying kitten fur. 

2. A little gray is sexy.
Don’t you dare tell Pimp his gray whiskers aren’t sexy. He’s one good lookin’ older dude! Maybe he’s not quite as shiny as he used to be, but he’s just as soft as ever… and just as cute. 

3. Good food is one of the most important things in life.
(And so is good wine, but that’s for me, not Pimp. Ahem.) It’s crucial to feed your older cat good food, because their tummies are more sensitive. But seeing how much different food affects Pimp has taught me that even younger cats need good food. You are what you eat… and you want your cat to be good, right?

 4. It’s not picky, it’s “particular.”
You don’t need every toy in the world. Just because some new gadget comes out or there’s some fancy new model, it doesn’t mean that what you have isn’t perfectly fine. Some of Pimp’s favorite toys are older than his brother, Moo, and he’d rather play with them than anything new and flashy I get him. He doesn’t ask for much.

5. A comfy bed is better than any flashy toy.
Adding to #4, older cats realize that there are more important things than how many toys are in your toy basket. I used to get Pimp mice every year for his birthday, and he loved them, but lately I’ve gotten him things to make him comfy — and he uses them way more than all his toys combined! Soft beds = 20 hours a day. Fun toys = 30 minutes. (Don’t worry, he still gets tons of toys!) 

6. Peace and quiet is underrated.
Pimpy says relax. Older cats are content to just lie around, lounge and not create too much ruckus. You don’t have to entertain them (or else lose your nice curtains or favorite vase) and you don’t have to babysit them like kittens. They are easy and content to “just be”… so you can just be, too.

7. Love never stops growing.
Sure, your older cat may be done growing, and may actually be shrinking a little instead, but their heart somehow keeps expanding with more and more love. When Pimp looks at me, it’s with such love and adoration, and such happiness and sweetness. He knows he’s loved and he’ll always be taken good care of. He knows I’ll do whatever I can for him, for as long as he needs it. And he knows how lucky he is.

Older cats are extremely special. They often easily adjust to your home and don’t cause much trouble. If you have the room in your home and your heart, why not take a look at some of the senior pets in your area that need homes and go adopt one today. (Or tomorrow, Cute knows you may need a day to get their comfy bed and good food ready…)

Sure, they may need some extra care as they age (For the record – Pimp is going to live forever. I’ve already informed him of this.), but the love you’ll get in return and the fulfilling, incredible feeling you’ll get from taking care of them will give you a ton of joy.

Think of your grandma or grandpa — you would want them to be happy and comfortable in their sunset years, right? Older pets should have the same luxury!

Dorian Wagner is the creator of Your Daily Cute.

About the author

Diabetes in Cats: Treatment and Prevention

Diabetes in humans has reached epidemic proportions.  Statistics from the Centers of Disease Control show that in 2007, nearly 24 million Americans had diabetes.  Statistics are no less alarming when it comes to cats.  Just as for humans, there has been a tremendous increase in diabetes in cats over the past decade.   Diabetes affects as many as 1 in 50 cats, with overweight cats being especially prone to the disease.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes results from inadequate production of insulin by the pancreas or an inadequate response of the cells to insulin.  Without insulin, the body can’t utilize glucose.  This results in elevated blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia).  In diabetic cats, excess glucose is eliminated by the kidneys,  producing frequent urination.  This in turn leads to increased water consumption to compensate for the increased urination.

There are three types of diabetes in cats:

Type I:  Cats are insulin dependent and need to receive daily insulin injections because the beta cells of their pancreases are not making enough insulin.

Type II:  The pancreas may make enough insulin but the body cannot utilize it properly.  This is the most common type of feline diabetes.  Some of these cats will require insulin as well, but others may get by on dietary changes and oral drugs to control blood glucose.

Type III:  This is known as transient diabetes. These are type II cats who present as diabetics and require insulin initially, but over time, their system re-regulates so they can go off insulin.

Symptoms

While diabetes can affect any cat, it mostly presents in older, or overweight cats.  The four classic signs noticed by most cat owners are an increased, almost ravenous appetite, weight loss, increased urination, and increased water consumption.

Diagnosis

Diabetes is diagnosed with a thorough physical exam and laboratory testing of blood and urine.  If the cat’s glucose is elevated, a second blood test, called a fructosamine, will provide more information.  This test measures the average level of glucose control over the past few weeks.

Treatment

Diabetes is treated with a combination of diet, insulin, or oral glucose medications.

What causes diabetes in cats?

While diabetes can affect any cat, it occurs more frequently in middle-aged and older, obese cats.  It is more common in male cats.  The exact cause of the disease in cats is not known,  but obesity and poor diet seem to be major factors.  Other causes may include chronic pancreatitis, other hormonal diseases such as hyperthyroidism, and certain medications such as steroids.

The link between diet and diabetes

More and more evidence shows that diabetes in the cat is a preventable disease, and is most likely caused by the high carbohydrate content of most commercial pet foods, especially dry foods.  Since so many cats eat primarily dry food, these poor-quality, highly processed, carbohydrate rich diets that are the equivalent of sugared breakfast cereals are increasingly thought to be the major culprit for the epidemic increase in diabetes in cats.

A diet high in meat-based protein and free of grains and carbohydrates, either raw or canned, is not only the ideal diet for cats to prevent diabetes in the first place, but should also be the diet of choice for a diabetic cat.  Veterinarians vary in their approach when it comes to diets for diabetic cats.  Many traditional veterinarians still use high-fiber diets for these cats, but more and more holistic vets as well as feline vets have turned away from this approach.  Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins makes a convincing case for how a grain-free diet can help diabetic cats and reduce, or even eliminate, the need for insulin.  Her website Your Diabetic Cat provides a wealth of information on the connection between diet and diabetes.

There is no cure for diabetes.  However, with proper dietary management, some cats may no longer need insulin.  If diabetes has resulted from consumption of a poor quality diet and/or obesity, it is likely to improve or even completely resolve once the cat’s weight is under control.

About the author

The many voices of feline nutrition

I’m passionate about feline nutrition.  I believe that learning about and understanding cats’ unique needs when it comes to nutrition is the single most important thing we can do for their health.  There’s so much we can’t control – but we do have control over what we put in their food bowl.   

Opinions about what constitutes optimum nutrition for cats vary widely, and it can be a challenge to find unbiased and well-researched information.   This is why I was thrilled when I discovered the Feline Nutrition Education Society website. 

The organization was started by founder and executive director Margaret Gates after transitioning her own cats to a raw diet.  Her previous generation of cats had died, some from what she believed were diseases caused by or exacerbated by grain-based diets.  After making the switch to a raw diet, she witnessed dramatic, positive changes in her cats’ health.  She started the Feline Nutrition Foundation to promote awareness of the issues involved in feline nutrition and health, with an emphasis on species-appropriate raw feeding for cats. 

Gates found that very few cat owners had ever even heard of a raw diet for cats.  Most people she knew were feeding dry food.  So Gates began to do research.  The first thing she learned was how unhealthy dry food was for cats.  Then one day, while making dinner, she found herself shooing her cats away when they begged for some chicken:  “You can’t eat that, it’s raw. You’ll get sick.”  And suddenly, she realized that her cats were trying to tell her how wrong that was.  Cats eat raw meat in the wild – so maybe a diet emulating the natural diet of a cat would make sense for pet cats, too? 

Once Gates started feeding a raw diet, she noticed changes in her cats almost immediately.  One cat who had never had a firm bowel movement had a normally formed stool the next day.  After a couple of weeks, she noticed more changes.  Her cats had more energy, their coats had become softer and silkier.  The chubby ones lost weight.  They weren’t waking her up in the middle of the night anymore because they were hungry.  And, says Gates, “the amount of stool they all produced dropped by about half. Best of all, it didn’t stink any more. Really. With eleven cats, this was a very big deal. I’ll confess I probably would have switched them to raw for  this result alone.” 

The site contains a wealth of information, and contributors include such animal health leaders as Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, the founder of catinfo.org, Elizabeth Hodgins, DVM, Esq, a successful veterinarian for more than twenty years, former technical director at Hill’s Pet Nutrition and founder of YourDiabeticCat.com, and Dr. Michael W. Fox, author of more than 40 books and the syndicated column Animal Doctor.  Articles are thoroughly researched and carefully cited and footnoted to science journals and studies. 

The site contains a (free) membership area.  Gates hopes to spread the message of species-appropriate nutrition for cats and feline health in general by building a strong base of members who care about cats and their health. 

Feline Nutrition has big plans for the future.  The not-for-profit advocacy organization is currently setting up the non-profit Feline Nutrition Foundation in order to accomplish its longer term goals. The Foundation will establish a formal feline nutrition certification program, work toward creating a program of raw diet nutritional testing and evaluation, and initiate and be involved in institutional scientific feline nutrition studies. 

If you want to learn more about feline nutrition, visit the Feline Nutrition Education Society website – your cats will thank you for it.

About the author

Feline Leukemia Does Not Have to Be a Death Sentence

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is the second leading cause of death in cats, killing 85% of infected cats within three years of diagnosis. The virus affects the cat’s blood, causing various blood diseases.  It also suppresses the cat’s immune system, making it harder to protect against infection by bacteria, viruses or fungi found in our everyday environment that wouldn’t affect healthy cats.  However, feline leukemia does not have to be a death sentence; about 70% of cats who encounter the virus are able to resist infection or eliminate the virus on their own.

How is the virus transmitted?

The virus is transmitted through direct contact from cat to cat.  It only affects cats and cannot be passed to people or other animals.  The primary route of transmission is through saliva and nasal secretions, but it is also present in the urine and feces of infected cats.  Cat-to-cat transfer can occur through bite wounds, but also through grooming.  The virus only lives outside its host for a few hours, and because of this, transference through shared use of litter boxes and food dishes is not as common, but it can occur.

Which cats are affected?

Cats living with infected cats, or with cats with an unknown infection status, are at the greatest risk for contracting the virus, which is why it’s important to always get a new cat tested before exposing her to your exisiting feline family members.  Kittens and young adults are more susceptible than older cats, it appears that resistance to the virus increases with age.

Symptoms

Infected cats show one or more of the following symptoms:

– pale gums
– yellow color in the mouth and whites of eyes
– enlarged lymph nodes
– bladder, skin, or upper respiratory infections
– kidney disease
– weight loss and/or loss of appetite
– poor coat condition
– recurring or chronic illness
– progressive weakness and lethargy
– fever
– diarrhea
– breathing difficulty

Diagnosis

FeLV is diagnosed through a blood test called an ELISA test, which tests for the presence of FeLV antigens in the blood.  This test is highly sensitive and can identify cats with very early infections. Many of these cats will manage to clear the infection within a few months and will subsequently test negative.  A second blood test called IFA detects the second phase of the infection, and the majority of cats with positive results for this test remain infected for life and have a poorer long-term prognosis.

Treatment

There is currently no cure for feline leukemia, and in the past, euthanasia was usually recommended for these cats.  85% of cats infected die within three years of diagnosis, but with regular veterinary check ups and preventive health care, these cats can live with good quality of life for quite some time.

A healthy diet is a requirement as a good foundation.  Conventional veterinary wisdom suggests that feeding a raw diet to immunocompromised cats is contra-indicated due to the potential risk of bacteria or parasites in the diet; however, many holistic veterinarians now recommend a raw diet.   If raw feeding exceeds yours or your vet’s comfort level, a grain-free canned diet is the next best thing.  Other holistic approaches such as high doses of vitamin C, homeopathic remedies or Chinese Herbs can help boost the cat’s immune system.

Conventional medical treatment may include steroids, antiviral drugs such as interferon, chemotherapy drugs, and blood transfusions.  Steroids are used to potentially decrease the number of cancerous lymphocytes in the blood, but since they can also depress the immune system, they may make the cat vulnerable to other diseases.   Antiviral agents may reduce the amount of virus present in the blood of the cat, and they are easier on the body than chemotherapy.  All of these treatments will require assessing the risks of the treatment versus the benefits, and they can put a cat in remission, but will not get rid of the virus.

Prevention and protection

Keeping your cat indoors is the only way to completely protect your cat from the feline leukemia virus.  Outdoor cats and indoor/outdoor cats should be vaccinated with a non-adjuvanted leukemia vaccine to minimize the risk of injection site sarcomas.  New cats or kittens over eight weeks of age should be tested before being introduced into a multicat household.

A positive feline leukemia test does not have to be a death sentence.  Some cats may clear the virus themselves, and for others, proper care can lead to good quality of life for many years.

Photo by Kim Newberg, Public Domain Pictures

About the author