Feline Nutrition

Limited recall of Purina One Vibrant Maturity 7+ Dry Cat Food

Purina One Vibrant Maturity 7+ cat food recall

Nestle Purina PetCare Company (NPPC) issued a recall for a limited number of 3.5- and 7-pound bags of its Purina ONE Vibrant Maturity 7+ Dry Cat Food from a single production run and shipped to customers in 12 states in December 2010.  This is being done because some bags of the product have been found to be contaminated with Salmonella.  Only Purina ONE Vibrant Maturity 7+ Dry Cat Food with both the “Best By” date and the production code shown are included in this voluntary recall:

Product NameBag“Best By” Date &Bag UPC
SizeProduction Code*Code
Purina ONE Vibrant Maturity 7+3.5 lb.MAY 2012  0334108417800 01885
Purina ONE Vibrant Maturity 7+3.5 lb.MAY 2012  0335108417800 01885
Purina ONE Vibrant Maturity 7+7 lb.MAY 2012  0334108417800 01887
Purina ONE Vibrant Maturity 7+7 lb.MAY 2012  0335108417800 01887
*”Best By” Date and Production Code are found on the back or bottom of the bag.

No additional Purina cat or dog products are involved in this voluntary recall.  No other Purina ONE brand products are involved.   Only Purina ONE Vibrant Maturity 7+ brand products which match the “Best By” dates and production code above are included in this recall.

Consumers who have purchased Purina ONE Vibrant Maturity 7+ Dry Cat Food products with these specific “Best By” Date and Production Codes should discontinue feeding the product and discard it.

Salmonella can affect animals eating the product, and there is a risk to humans from handling contaminated products.  People handling contaminated dry pet food can become infected with Salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with surfaces exposed to this product.  Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for the following symptoms:  nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.  Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation and urinary tract symptoms.  Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Pets with Salmonella infections may exhibit decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain.  If left untreated, pets may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting.  Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans.  If you pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

The product was distributed to customers located in California, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin, who may have further distributed the product to other states.

Nestle Purina PetCare Company became aware of the contamination as a result of samples that had been collected in several retail stores.

For further information or to obtain a product refund, please call NPPC toll-free at 1-800-982-6559 or visit http://www.purina.com.

Related reading:

How to wean your cat off dry food

The truth about dry cat food

Feeding raw: separating myth from fact

How to Wean Your Cat Off Dry Food

Allegra eating canned Wellness grain-free food

One of the best things you can do for your cat’s health is to stop feeding dry food. Dry food is the equivalent of junk food for cats. Many of the degnerative diseases we’re seeing in cats, including diabetes, urinary tract disease, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease, may be directly linked to these foods.

Cats need meat and moisture

Cats are obligate carnivores.  This means they need meat to survive.  They cannot get enough nutritional support from plant-based proteins such as grains and vegetables, because, unlike humans and dogs, they lack the specific enzyme that processes plant-based proteins metabolically.  They need few to no carbohydrates in their diet.

Cats also need moisture in their diets. They do not have a strong thirst drive when compared to other animals, and this can lead to chronic low-level dehydration when the cat’s main diet is a dry one. Even if your cat drinks water, it won’t be enough if she only eats dry food. A cat’s natural diet (prey) contains about 75% water. Dry food only contains 7-10%. Canned food contains somewhere around 75% (depending on the brand). Even though a cat on only dry food will drink more water than a cat who is eating canned food, when you add up the water they drink and the water that occurs in their diet, water intake still falls short for the cat on dry food. Considering how common urinary tract and kidney problems are in cats, this in itself should make a convincing argument against dry food.

Meal-feeding, not free-choice feeding

Many pet owners feed dry food because it can be left out during the day without spoiling while the cat is left at home alone.  This method of free choice feeding is one of the leading contributors to obesity in cats.  Cats, by nature, are hunters, and it doesn’t make sense that they should need access to food 24 hours a day.  Meal feeding twice a day mimicks their natural hunting behavior much closer, and by feeding controlled portion sizes twice  a day rather than leaving food out all day long, calorie intake, and weight, can be controlled much better.

Dry food does not clean teeth

The myth that dry food helps clean cats’ teeth is one of the most persistent beliefs when it comes to pet food, and it is simply not true. Most cats don’t chew their kibble long enough, if at all, for any of the scraping action that is the theory behind this myth to kick in.  What little they do chew shatters into small pieces.

Some pet food manufacturers offer a “dental diet” that is made up of larger than normal sized kibble to encourage the chewing longer, but many cats swallow even those larger size pieces whole.  Additionally, dry food leaves a carbohydrate residue in the cat’s mouth that actually encourages growth of tartar and plaque. And seriously, if it was true that dry kibble cleans teeth, wouldn’t human dentists recommend that we eat dry cereal to keep our teeth clean?

How to transition from dry to grain-free canned or raw food

Some cats will transition easily. The first time you feed them grain-free canned or raw food, they’ll start eating it right away, and I’m guessing what goes through their minds at that point is something along the lines of “finally, the humans have figured out what I’m supposed to be eating!”

Others can present more of a challenge. This is in no small part due to what pet food manufacturers do to make these dry food so enticing to cats. As part of the production process, the baked or extruded kibble is sprayed with animal digest (and yes, it’s pretty much as disgusting as it sounds: digest is material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolisis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue.) Cats love the taste of these digests; for some cats, it’s like kitty crack and actually causes them to be addicted. Some cats also love the texture of dry food and may resist the drastic change in texture from dry to grain-free canned or raw food.

Go slow, and be patient

The key is to transition these hard-core dry food addicts is to go slow, and be patient. And you may need a few tricks up your sleeve. For some cats, it may take several months. I’ve heard of one cat whose human would put down a small amount of canned food next to his dry food every day for several weeks. He refused to touch it, so she wound up throwing it out each time. Then one day, several weeks into the transition, he gobbled up the raw food and never touched his dry food again!

Stop free choice feeding

If your cat is eating only dry food, and you leave food out at all times, stop this practice immediately. This step is critical. Feed twice a day, at set meal times, and take up what the cat doesn’t eat within about half an hour. She gets no other food until the next meal time. Your cat will not try anything new if you keep his bowl filled with the old, familiar food 24/7.

Be prepared that your cat will make you feel like you’re letting him starve. This phase of the process can be much harder on the human than it is on the cat. Persistence is key. A little hunger at meal times can be a powerful motivator to get a cat to accept the new food.

Gradually increase the amount of canned or raw food

If your cat is already getting a small amount of canned food or raw food as a special treat, she will probably be much more receptive to being transitioned to all canned food or even raw food. All you have to do is gradually increase the amount of canned or raw food, and decrease the amount of dry food, until you’re only feeding canned or raw.

Add some incentives to tempt finicky eaters

Some hard core dry food addicts can be convinced to try canned or raw food by sprinkling freeze dried chicken or salmon on top of the food. A little bit of tuna or clam juice drizzled over the canned or raw food can also help. Other “bribes” can include cooked meat, cut in small pieces, a spoonful of meat-based baby food (make sure it doesn’t contain onion powder), or, as a last resort, a small amount of crushed kibble.

Never let your cat go without food for more than 24 hours

Be patient and persistent during the transition period, but never let your cat go without eating for more than 24 hours. Allowing a cat to go without food, especially one who is overweight, can result in a life-threatening condition called hepatic lipidosis.

Minimize intestinal upset

Most people recommend to transition to a new food gradually, by reducing the amount of the old food and increasing the amount of the new food over a number of days to avoid upset stomach and soft stools. I’ve found that when transitioning to grain-free food, this is usually not an issue.

I do recommend adding a good probiotic every day. I actually recommend this not just during the transition period, but as a lifelong immune system booster. Probiotics come in unflavored powders and can be mixed in with the food. I use Dr. Goodpet’s Feline Digestive Enzymes, a mix of enzymes and probiotics.

Cat parents who have weaned their cats off of dry food are usually amazed at the difference. Overweight cats who have been unable to lose weight are starting to lose fat and build muscle. Haircoats look sleeker and shinier. Stools decrease in volume and smell. And most importantly, cats are healthier.

Related reading:

The truth about dry cat food

Feeding raw food: separating myth from fact

New Dr. Goodpet banner

Did you purchase Natura pet food? You may be eligible for a payment from a class action suit

Innova EVO canned cat and kitten food

If you purchased Natura pet food during the last six years (between March 20, 2005 and July 18, 2011), you may be eligible for a payment of up to $200 from a class action against Natura Pet Products. Natura is the maker of the brands Innova, EVO, California Natural, HealthWise, Mother Nature & Karma.

A federal judge has entered an order for a preliminary approval of the class action suit against Natura in a California court, alleging, among other things, that Natura violated California’s Business and Professions Code when advertising their dog and cat food products and allegedly made false and misleading statements about the human grade quality of its food in its advertisements, promotional materials and labeling.

A $2,150,000 settlement fund will be reportedly created by Natura under the class action settlement.  The settlement fund will be used to make payments to settlement Class Members, as well as cover attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses, a payment to the Class Representative and the costs associated with administering the settlement.  Natura will also reportedly stop promoting its pet food products as human grade, human quality, or as something that you would eat yourself.  To get a payment (of up to $200), settlement class members must submit a claim form by January 8, 2012.

For more details on the suit, and how to make a claim, click here.

The Innova EVO cat and kitten food line was one of the first in the grain-free offerings. Amber, Buckley and Allegra all ate this food, and they did really well on it. I stopped feeding, and recommending, this line when Natura was purchased by Procter & Gamble in May of 2010. Even though there have been no reports to date that the formula has changed, and despite Natura’s promise to maintain the integrity of their formula once it was being manufactured under the auspices of a multi-national conglomerate, I just wasn’t comfortable feeding and recommending their diets anymore.

It should be noted that this suit was initiated before Natura was purchased by P & G. Natura agreed to the $2,150,000 settlement and will reportedly also stop promoting its products as human grade. 

Sadly, the moral of this story is probably that if you’re feeding commercial pet food, there just aren’t any guarantees that what you think is in the can is really what is in the can. At least in this case, unlike during the pet food recall of 2007, no pets died – at least none that we know of.

Related Reading:

Feline Nutrition: Who bears the responsibility?

How to read a pet food label

The many voices of feline nutrition

Does Your Cat Love Fish?

cat dreaming of fish

Guest post by Celeste Yarnall

If your cat loves fish, he has lots of company! However, it’s really not a good idea to feed fish to your cat, and here’s why.

The primary fish used in cat food are salmon, tuna, and tilefish (ocean whitefish). Let’s look at each of these.

Salmon

The vast majority of salmon today comes from farm-raised fish. In this form of factory farming, millions of these unfortunate animals are kept in huge, overcrowded pens in polluted coastal waters. They’re fed antifungals and antibiotics to limit the spread of disease, and dyes to make their flesh salmon-colored (otherwise it would be gray). Common water pollutants, such as PCBs, pesticides, and other chemicals, are found in farmed salmon at ten times the amount found in wild fish. These contaminants will be present in any product made with farmed fish, including pet food.

It has recently been revealed that krill, tiny shrimp that are the natural diet of many whales and other marine animals, are being netted in vast hauls, and processed into food for these “franken-salmon,” for their protein as well as their red color. The issues with krill are explained below.

Tuna

It’s the fish that’s most “addictive” to cats. They love it so much that they may stage a hunger strike by refusing their regular food until they get it!

Tuna and other predatory fish are at the top of the food chain. This means that they may accumulate high levels of heavy metals (including mercury) as well as PCBs, pesticides, and other toxins, by eating smaller fish. The older the fish, the more contamination. The FDA recommends only one serving of albacore tuna per week due to its high mercury levels.

Tilefish (listed on pet food labels as “ocean whitefish”)

are among the worst contaminated fish, along with king mackerel, shark, and swordfish. These fish are so toxic that the FDA advises women of child-bearing age and children to avoid them entirely.

The fish used in canned pet foods is typically whole fish, or leftovers from processing whole fish, deemed unsuitable for human consumption; this includes guts, feces, and bones, which are high in phosphorus—a problem for cats with kidney disease. On the other end of the urinary tract, many sensitive cats develop cystitis (bladder inflammation) and even urinary blockages if they eat any kind of fish at all. Fish and fish meal are both problematic.

A small amount of fish, such as wild caught sardines, used as a flavoring in a properly balanced, fresh meat-based diet, is not a problem, but fish should not be the main course for the cat’s diet.

What about Omega-3 fatty acids?

Aren’t fish and fish oils the best sources of these essential fats for our pets? Indeed, daily Omega- 3 supplementation from a marine source is extremely important for our cats as well as for us. Among many other benefits, Omega 3s fight inflammation, which affects our cats as much as it does us.

Krill is a popular non-fish source for Omega-3 oil. Krill are the major food source for many marine animals, including fish, whales, seals, and birds. Yes, there are a lot of krill in the sea, but the problem is that they are being harvested near critical feeding grounds of the animals that eat them. When even Whole Foods stops selling krill oil, as they did in 2010 due to concerns about sustainability, you know there’s a problem!

Cats do benefit greatly from an Omega-3 marine lipid supplement every day, but as we have seen, fish and krill oils are not the most environmentally friendly choices. Nor are they necessarily healthful. Many fish oils are processed by boiling the oil to separate it from heavy metals and toxins (distillation). Fish oil processing may also include the use of, alcohol, salts, solvents, and deodorizers to disguise the foul smell of the oil—a problem because fish decompose very quickly, turning the oil rancid before it can even be processed.

Additionally, as energy medicine practitioners, quantum physicians, and homeopaths know, the original energetic essence or “memory” of those heavy metals and pollutants, remains “imprinted” in the greasy substance that remains. The Omega 3s that survive, EPA and DHA, may be artificially concentrated in the process. It may be fair to say that the higher milligram values listed on fish oil labels are not necessarily better, as this is not the way they occur in their raw, natural state.

Alternative sources of Omega-3 fatty acids

We need an alternative source of marine lipids for all these reasons, as well as the cautions mentioned for the eating of these fish.

Research suggests that the New Zealand greenlip mussel (perna canaliculus) is our best choice for Omega 3’s. These greenlip mussels (GLM) are raised 100% sustainably. They are very low on the food chain; and have no fins, feet, or faces. GLM are bi-valve mollusks known to be a rich source of 33 fatty acids; 18 of them Omega 3s. GLM contain a unique array of Omega 3s. One of the most fascinating is ETA (eicosatetraenoic acid). ETA, which is not found in any other foods to any measurable degree, has extremely powerful ant-inflammatory properties.

The best scenario is to source a greenlip mussel oil that is organic, cold-extracted, and certified to be free of mercury and other toxins and pollutants. Ideally, choose a GLM marine lipid product which also contains antioxidants with high ORAC values (a measure of antioxidant power), such as cold-pressed, organic grape seed husk extract and/or kiwifruit seed oil—these will naturally deactivate free radicals, as well as serve as natural preservatives for the GLM oil.

While it doesn’t affect quality, a common complaint about fish oil capsules is their size. They are enormous! GLM oil comes in tiny capsules that are perfect for cats, who will often eat them right from your hand; or they can be punctured and the contents mixed with wet food.

Sources for quality Omega 3 greenlip mussel oil supplements are available online, and are proving to be the most beneficial and ecologically sound alternative to fish and krill oil.

Celeste Yarnall, Ph.D was an author, lecturer and holistic practitioner and author of four books, including The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care, co-authored by Jean Hofve, DVM. 

This article was previously published on care.com and was republished with the author’s permission.

Photo: dreamstime

Product review: New Wellness grain-free canned food

Allegra and Ruby Wellness canned cat food

I don’t usually accept food and treats for review here on The Conscious Cat. I like what I feed Allegra and Ruby, and I won’t use them as product testers for diets whose claims I can’t verify. However, I have been feeding Wellness® grain-free canned food for many years, and it meets my criteria for what constitutes a species-appropriate diet for cats (a feline diet must be completely grain-free, and it must be canned or raw. I don’t recommend ANY dry food for cats).

When a representative for Wellness® contacted me to see whether Allegra and Ruby would like to taste test their new Succulent Cuts with Savory Sauces for Cats line of grain-free canned diets, I accepted their offer (and there was much celebrating on Allegra and Ruby’s part). 

The new Wellness® Cubed, Sliced and Minced canned diets are 100% grain-free and contain no added artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. For each recipe, Wellness® has paired succulent cuts of wholesome, all natural protein sources like chicken, turkey, salmon and tuna with savory sauces that are designed to please the palate of even the most finicky feline. The new diets come in 12 different sliced, cubed and minced varieties

Finicky is not a word I’d associate with either of my two. Ruby would probably eat just about anything I put in front of her. Allegra is a little more discerning and sometimes needs a little encouragement whenever I present a new brand or flavor.

We tested the Minced Chicken Dinner and the Sliced Turkey Entree. Allegra got the chicken, Ruby the turkey. But why don’t I let the girls tell you what they thought.

Allegra: Finally! I told you about those cans that had been sitting on our kitchen counter last week, and even though Ruby and I tried our best, we just couldn’t figure out how to open them ourselves, and we had to wait for Mom to do it. When she popped the lids (She makes it look so easy – why can’t we figure it out?), the smell coming at me was incredible! I couldn’t wait to taste what smelled so good!

Ruby: I smell food! Woohoo! It’s dinner time!

Allegra: When Mom put the dish in front of me, I wasn’t quite sure at first. It looked really different from our usual raw food, and it looked different from any of the canned food Mom occasionally gives us, too. But boy, did it smell good! So I took a lick – and that was all I needed. I proceeded to eat the entire can in one sitting. Yummy!

Ruby: Food, food, food! Put it down already, Mom! I’m totally starving! I haven’t eaten in hours!!! – Oh. Hmm. This is different from what I had for breakfast. But it’s food! It smells great! I’m going to eat it all as fast as I can!

Well – I told you not to expect much of a review from Ruby.

Allegra eating canned Wellness grain-free food

Allegra takes her product testing duties very seriously!

We were also sent cans of the Minced Tuna Dinner and Sliced Salmon Entree varieties. I only very rarely give the girls fish protein based food, so we’re saving them as a special treat. 

If I were feeding canned food on a regular basis, I would definitely consider adding these new foods to my rotation. I think it’s important to feed a variety of flavors and textures to avoid having your cat stuck on only one diet. The different texture may be an issue for some finicky eaters who are used to the standard canned food texture, for those cats, Wellness®’s regular grain-free canned varieties may be a better choice.

If your cat has tried these new products, let us know how she liked them in a comment!

For more information about Wellness and their wide range of products, please visit their website.

You may also enjoy reading:

The truth about dry cat food

Cats are not small dogs, especially when it comes to nutrition

Feline nutrition: who bears the responsibility?

7 Tips for a Healthy, Happy New Year for Cats and Their Humans

cat-clover-grass

Happy New Year to all of you!  Thanks to your support, The Conscious Cat is growing rapidly. We have some exciting new things in mind for the new year, and we’re looking forward to continue to bring you all the information you need to keep your cats (and yourself) happy and healthy.

The seven tips listed below will get your year off to a good start and help make this your best year yet, for you and your cats!

1.  Feed a species appropriate diet

Nutrition is the foundation for good health. Cats are obligate carnivores and they need meat to thrive.  If you’re not already feeding a raw or grain-free canned diet, consider making this the year you make the switch. Your cats will thank you for it. You’ll find a wealth of information on feline nutrition, and on how to switch your cat to a healthier diet, right here on The Conscious Cat.

2.  Regular veterinary check ups

The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends a minimum of annual wellness examinations for all cats in its Feline Life Stage Guidelines. According to the guidelines, “semi-annual wellness exams are often recommended for all feline life stages by veterinarians and veterinary organizations.Their reasoning includes the fact that changes in health status may occur in a short period of time; that ill cats often show no signs of disease; and that earlier detection of ill health, body weight changes, dental disease, and so on, allows for earlier intervention.”

3.  Keep your cat’s teeth healthy

Dental disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for cats, and, if left untreated, can lead to serious health problems including heart, kidney and liver disease. For more on why good dental health is so important for your cat, click here.

4.  Regular playtime

Make time to play with your cats. Regular playtime will not only keep your cat happy, it’s also a wonderful time for you to bond with your cat, and it helps you relieve your stress. Additionally, it provides exercise for kitty. Interactive toys make playtime fun for both of you. Consider puzzle toys for the times when you can’t play with your cats.

5.  Meditate with your cat

The benefits of meditation for humans have been scientifically proven. It just so happens that cats make the ideal meditation companion. For more on how to meditate with your cat, click here.

6.  Educate yourself about cat health

You are your cat’s guardian when it comes to health issues, and the more you know, the better off your cat will be.  You can count on us to bring you the latest information on everything you need to know to keep your cats happy and healthy.

7.  Do something for less fortunate cats

Helping others is an integral part of a life well lived, and it’s good for your health.  Even though we’d like to be able to, we can’t save every cat in need of a home, but there are things you can do to help, from donating money to your favorite shelter, to fostering cats for a local rescue, to volunteering time at a shelter to give the cats some love and attention.

Tortitude banner for posts with border

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.

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.

Cats Are Not Small Dogs – Especially When It Comes to Nutrition

We’ve all heard some of these:  Dogs come when they’re called called; cats take a message and get back to you.  Dogs believe they are human; cats believe they are God.  If a dog jumps up into your lap, it is because he is fond of you; but if a cat does the same thing, it is because your lap is warmer.  Cats act and respond differently than dogs.  You’ll never see a cat wag his tail.   Dogs’ reflexes are quick, cats’ reflexes are incredibly fast.  Dogs prefer action, cats prefer watching first.  Maybe the cat is America’s favorite pet because cats are, well – different! 

The differences between cats and dogs become particularly evident when it comes to their nutritional requirements.  Even though both species are considered carnivores, cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they need meat in order to thrive.  In fact, cats cannot survive without at least some meat in their diets.  Dogs are considered omnivores – they can survive on plant material alone; however, they, too, do best on a diet made up primarily of meat.  

Why do cats need meat to thrive and survive?  Dietary protein supplies amino acids and is needed for the manufacture of antibodies, enzymes, hormones, and tissues. It provides energy and is essential for growth and development.  Protein derived from meat and poultry contains ample amounts of these essential amino acids, whereas protein in vegetables and grains does not provide these.   More importantly, unlike dogs, cats lack the enzyme required to process vegetable-based proteins metabolically. 

Another significant difference in nutritional requirements is cats’ need for taurine, which is  important for proper functioning of the heart.  Meat is a natural source of taurine; it is not available in plant tissues.  Dogs can make their own taurine, but cats cannot.  Commercial cat foods did not contain this important amino acid until 1987, when veterinarian Paul Pion identified the link between a lack of taurine in cats’ diets and feline dilated cardiomyopathy, a fatal heart disease that has been largely eliminated in the pet cat population since then. 

So what should you feed your carnivore?  The ideal diet that most closely mimics what cats would eat in the wild is a properly supplemented raw diet.  There are several reputable resources available online to learn more about raw feeding, two of the best are Dr. Lisa Pierson’s Feeding Your Cat:  Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition and the Feline Nutrition Education Society.  Raw feeding does not have to be complicated or a lot of work; fully supplemented commercial frozen raw diets are readily available and all a cat owner has to do is thaw and feed.  

However, not every cat owner will want to feed raw, and there are other, healthy alternatives available.  A home-cooked diet can be a good option for cat owners who like the idea of controlling the ingredients in their cat’s food and don’t mind the extra work these diets require.  Proper supplementation is key; a great resource for preparing nutritionally complete homemade diets is PetDiets.com.  The next best thing to feeding raw or homemade is feeding a quality grain-free, canned diet.  Look for foods that list meat as the first ingredient.  Be aware that with the recent popularity of grain-free foods, some manufacturers are now taking grains out of their foods, but are adding other carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and peas, and as a result, some of these diets are still too high in carbohydrates.  

Cats should not eat dry food.  Cats need moisture in their diet, and feeding only dry food is considered to be one of the most common causes of bladder and kidney problems.  Even though cats who eat a predominantly dry diet will drink more water, they still only get half the amount of water a cat eating canned food will get, even after adding all sources of moisture together.  If you must feed dry food, at the very least, consider feeding one of the grain-free varieties, and supplement with canned or raw food. 

Regardless of what type of diet you choose to feed, never feed cats free-choice.  Free-choice feeding, which means leaving food available for the cat all day long, is the primary reason why feline obesity has become an epidemic.  Cats by their very nature are hunters:  they kill, and then eat their prey.  They do not graze throughout the day.  Feeding two meals a day, appropriate in size for your cat, will go a long way toward keeping kitty fit and trim.  What is a normal sized meal?  Consider that in the wild, a mouse would constitute a typical meal for a cat.  Manufacturer recommendations may not be your best guide when it comes to portion size – they’re usually much higher than what your cat really needs.  When in doubt, consult with your cat’s veterinarian. 

I’ve been feeding my cats grain-free canned food for a number of years with wonderful results.  I recently transitioned Allegra, who just turned one, to raw food, and I now alternate raw and grain-free canned food, with raw food taking up the bulk of her diet (about 75%).  I’m also a firm believer in variety and rotate brands and flavors.  Cats can be finicky, and by exposing them to a variety of choices, they will not only be healthier (no one food can be complete and balanced, no matter what the manufacturers tell you), they also won’t get stuck on eating only one thing and refusing everything else you offer. 

So – what are you feeding your carnivore?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Diet

Far too many cat parents accept occasional, or even chronic, vomiting and diarrhea as a fact of life with cats.  Cats just do that sometimes, don’t they?  Well, no.  Healthy cats don’t vomit on a regular basis, nor do they have diarrhea.  Chronic vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, and, if left untreated, can become life threatening.

The most common cause of gastrointestinal problems for cats is Inflammatory Bowel Disease.   Although cats of all ages can be affected, it is typically seen in middle-aged or older cats.  The term IBD is used for a number of chronic gastrointestinal disorders.  Physiologically, it is characterized by an infiltration of inflammatory cells into the lining of the digestive tract.   The location of the inflammation can help determine the specific type of IBD.

Symptoms of IBD

Symptoms most typically include chronic vomiting and diarrhea, but sometimes, constipation can also be a problem.  Some cats present with weight loss as the only clinical sign.

Diagnosis of IBD

To rule out other causes of gastrointestinal problems, your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests that may include complete blood cell counts, blood chemistry, thyroid function tests, urinalysis, fecal analysis, abdominal x-rays, and ultrasound.  The most definitive way to diagnose IBD is through biopsies of small samples of the intestinal lining.  These samples can be obtained through endoscopy or abdominal surgery.  These procedures require general anesthesia.

Medical Treatment

IBD is usually treated with a combination of medical and dietary therapy.  Corticosteroids are used for their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant properties, and they can also serve as an appetite stimulant.  However, steroid therapy carries serious longterm side-effects.

The Diet Connection

There are commercially manufactured diets available for the treatment of IBD, most of them containing so-called “novel proteins,” ie., proteins that the cat may not have been exposed to before such as rabbit, venison, and duck.  (We used to call them the “Disney diets” when I still worked at a veterinary clinic – Thumper, Bambi and Donald…).

However, increasingly, holistically oriented veterinarians are seeing a connection between diet and IBD.  These vets believe that commercial pet foods, especially dry foods, are a contributing factor to the large numbers of cats with chronic IBD.  They also discovered that many cats improve by simply changing their diets to a balanced grain-free raw meat diet.  Similar results may be achieved with a grain-free canned diet, but a raw diet seems to lead to quicker and better results.

Vomiting and diarrhea are not something you, and your cat, should learn to live with.  Take your cat to a veterinarian for a thorough physical exam.  After ruling out other conditions or diseases as causes, the solution might just be something as simple as changing your cat’s diet.

Photo by Kim Newberg, Public Domain Pictures

New Dr. Goodpet banner

 

Feline Nutrition: Who Bears the Responsibility?

Guest Post by Kymythy R. Schultze

At this point in my investigative journey to decide what to feed my cats, the commercial, processed pet-food products were definitely not coming up roses — or even catnip. But let me state for the record that I don’t think the manufacturers are purposely trying to harm our cats. I don’t think there’s a cigar-smoking executive sitting behind his desk (in a corner office with a big window) doing a Snidely Whiplash impression while chanting: “I’m going to hurt some kitties today,” followed by evil laughter, of course. No, it’s not that personal — it’s just business. It’s like any other industry that makes billions of dollars every year: The bottom line is the top dollar.
 
I’m not faulting these companies for trying to make lots of money, but I don’t have to approve of the way they do it. I’m certainly not a fan of animal testing, low-quality ingredients, components that aren’t even appropriate for felines, too-frequent recalls, and questionable marketing tactics. But hey, when it comes down to it, my cat’s health isn’t really their responsibility.
 
Is my cat’s health my veterinarian’s responsibility? Not really. Yes, I go to vets for their professional opinions, which are very important to me. I respect their experience and education in most areas of animal health. But unless they’ve taken it upon themselves to study animal nutrition in an unbiased forum, they may not be the best source of advice for species-appropriate food for my cats. At veterinary schools, they receive very little education on this subject, and what they do get is mostly taught by employees of the larger pet-food companies. The little time devoted to nutrition usually involves the incomplete research we discussed earlier and heavy product pushing — not information about real food.
 
I have very dear friends who are veterinarians. Through their wisdom and my own experience and research, I’ve come to understand better why vets aren’t always the best source of unbiased nutritional information. You see, when I was studying animal nutrition at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine a few years ago, only a couple of my professors weren’t paid employees of pet-food companies.
 
I’ll never forget one particular lecture where the teacher/veterinarian was discussing the different forms of pet-food products — dry, canned, and so on. While she was talking about the semi-moist products, she mentioned in an offhand way that she would never feed them to her pets. Then she quickly laughed and said, “Oh, my boss would kill me if he heard me say that!”
 
I didn’t find it amusing. It was painfully clear that she was repeating (except for her slip-up) what the pet-food company wanted the students to hear — not unbiased information or her actual opinion.
 
The biggest pet-food companies hire brilliant marketers to sell their products. After all, what could be better than having experts (veterinarians) endorse your product? How did this come about? Well, one of the parent companies that’s become very involved with vets also makes toothpaste. Do you remember the old advertisement that boasted eight out of ten dentists recommend a particular brand? It was a brilliant campaign and put this firm at the top of toothpaste sales.
 
At the time, the company also had a very small pet-food division they were about to sell, but an executive came forward with a great idea: If they could use the same tactic with this branch as they had with their toothpaste, they’d be equally successful. So they used the pharmaceutical industry’s practice of spending tons of money to woo doctors. In fact, a retired sales executive from the pet-food company commented on why this marketing strategy works so well: “It’s just like taking drugs: You go to the doctor, and he prescribes something for you, and you don’t much question what the doctor says. It’s the same with animals.”
 
They know that the trust cat guardians have in vets is so strong that they’ll feed what they’re told without question. So the manufacturer spends a great deal of money enforcing that connection. In fact, other than universities, this company is the country’s largest employer of vets.  They fund research and nutrition courses and professorships at veterinary colleges and offer a formal nutrition-certification program for technicians. They’ve also written a widely used textbook on animal nutrition that’s given free of charge to veterinary students, who also receive stipends and get products at zero or almost-zero charge.
 
This relationship doesn’t end after graduation. The corporation sends veterinarians to seminars on how to better sell their products, provides sales-goal-oriented promotions, gives them lots of promotional tools, and offers big discounts so that vets make more money on product sales.
 
There’s really no point in naming names in this situation because these practices aren’t confined to a single pet-food company. Although one or two used to have a corner on the veterinary market, others have now reaped the rewards of employing similar strategies. It’s genius, really, and I can understand that many veterinarians have busy practices and may feel that they don’t have time to investigate pet-foods more closely. It certainly must be easier and less time-consuming to simply suggest a familiar product and be done with it, but if they’ve got such an extremely close association with a pet-food company, we may reasonably assume that it might be difficult for them to offer an unbiased opinion on nutrition to their clients.
 
Please understand that there are more and more vets today who are taking the time to learn about real-food nutrition. And with their busy schedules, I truly respect the ones who do; and I like to support these independent, open-minded individuals who enjoy continuing their education.
 
The bottom line is that my cat’s health is my responsibility, and your cat’s health is your responsibility. We choose which veterinarian to take our cats to. We choose to follow our vets’ advice or not. We choose which type of food to feed our cats. All the choices are up to us, so choose wisely, grasshopper (my cats love to eat those guys)!
 
Kymythy R. Schultze has been a trailblazer in the field of animal nutrition for nearly two decades. She’s a Clinical Nutritionist, a Certified Nutritional Consultant and one of the world’s leading experts on nutrition and care for cats. Visit her at Kymythy.com.