grain-free food

Rotation Diet for Cats

 rotation-diet-cats

Human nutritionists tell us that food variety is an important part of maintaining a healthy diet, and yet, we don’t think twice about feeding our cats the same food, day after day. I can’t imagine that they enjoy this lack of variety any more than we would.

But in addition to the boredom factor, there are other important reasons for feeding a variety of foods, also knows as the rotation diet, or rotation feeding. You can rotate different proteins, brands and flavors on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.Continue Reading

The Best Food for Cats: Is There Only One Right Choice?

cat_eating

Guest post by Jodi Ziskin

Cats are like snowflakes – no two are exactly alike. And no two households are exactly alike, either. These are important factors I have to take into consideration when helping cat guardians discover the best diet for their cats – and for their lifestyle.

There is a dizzying amount of information out there. There is also a great deal of misinformation. Some of the tips and protocols shared by well-meaning advocates of one type of diet or another may not be based on facts, but rather on interpretation. Think about how many times you have read articles on the “one, perfect diet for humans.” Biological facts about our bodies are often twisted to meet the ideals of the author.Continue Reading

More Reasons to Stop Feeding Dry Food to Your Cats

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If you could do one simple thing that would improve your cat’s health for the rest of her life, wouldn’t you want to do it? Well, there is. Stop feeding dry food.

Dry food is the equivalent of junk food for cats

Dry cat food, even the high-priced premium and veterinary brands, is the equivalent of junk food for cats. It’s really not all that different from feeding sugared cereals to kids. Cats are obligate carnivores: this means they need meat not just to survive, but to thrive. 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 or no carbohydrates in their diet. Feeding foods high in carbohydrates can lead to any number of degenerative diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.Continue Reading

Product Review: Freshpet Select – Fresh, Refrigerated Cat Food

Fresh Pet Select cat food

I don’t usually accept food and treats for review here on The Conscious Cat, unless it’s something I’ve already thoroughly researched and/or tried. I won’t use Allegra and Ruby as product testers for diets whose claims I can’t verify. For those reasons, I was hesitant to try Freshpet Select, but after taking a look at their information, I agreed to a test.

Freshpet Select is a line of freshly prepared meals. According to the company, each recipe only includes select ingredients like high protein meats and eggs, and vegetables. The cat food contains no grains, although it does contain some pea fiber. As Freshpet Select states on their website, the recipe is much like a meal you would prepare for your family with simple ingredients you are familiar with and can pronounce.Continue Reading

Another Furball? It Might Be Feline Asthma

Guest post by Andrea Tasi, VMD

Has your cat been coughing? Watch the video below and you may recognize that sound. Many people assume that the cat is trying to cough up a hairball and don’t realize that their cat could have asthma. Untreated, asthma can progress and even be fatal. But, like human asthmatics, cats can be treated and the disease can be managed.

It is estimated that about 1% of cats suffer from asthma. Siamese, Burmese and other Oriental breeds show a greater incidence, but any breed can have asthma. It usually first occurs in young to middle-aged cats between the ages of two and eight.

It is widely recognized that asthma attacks can be triggered by allergens in the environment such as pollens, dust, smoke, fumes, mold, fragrances and aerosols. Heat, cold, stress and exertion can also trigger attacks.

What is Feline Asthma?

Feline asthma is a disorder of the lower airways, called bronchi and bronchioles, in which inflammation causes increased production of mucus, spasms of the airways and difficulty moving air out of the airways. It is considered to be an immune-mediated condition, which means that the inflammation is triggered by some allergic or over-active response of the cat’s own immune system.

What are the Symptoms of Feline Asthma?

Different cats may be affected in different ways, but the most common symptom is a wheezing or gagging cough, often called a hairball-type cough. In my professional experience however, hairballs do not cause coughing, as they are gastrointestinal and not respiratory in origin. Hairballs can cause retching, gagging and vomiting. With an asthmatic cough, most cats will stretch their necks out, get in a hunkered down posture and then cough in either a dry or moist sounding fashion. They may stick their tongues out a bit when coughing. Often it sounds and seems as if they are coughing some mucus up and then swallowing it.

Other symptoms may include decreased activity, becoming winded by normal activity, increased rate and effort of breathing and even open-mouth breathing in severely affected patients who are having trouble moving air out of their lungs.

Feline asthma in its most severe form can cause death by asphyxiation: the cat simply can’t breathe.

How is Feline Asthma Diagnosed?

A cat presenting with a history of coughing, wheezing and/or respiratory difficulty will usually need the following tests to determine what is going on:

• A thorough physical examination, including listening carefully to the lungs and heart.

• Chest radiographs, commonly known as x-rays. These help rule out other causes of respiratory symptoms like heart enlargement, fluid in or around the lungs, tumors or pneumonia. Many cats with feline asthma have prominent airways and hyperinflated lungs, which means too much air is trapped in the lungs. It is important to note that cats can be severely asthmatic and have normal chest radiographs.

 • A complete blood count: a blood test which looks at red and white blood cell numbers and helps determine if a patient is responding to inflammation or infection. Many cats with feline asthma have an increased number of eosinophils, a white blood cell type that responds to allergic and parasitic inflammation.

• A heartworm test. Heartworm disease can mimic the symptoms of feline asthma.

• A fecal test for intestinal parasites. Some intestinal parasites have life stages that migrate through the lungs and can cause inflammation and respiratory symptoms.

In general, the diagnosis of asthma is made by ruling out other causes of coughing and respiratory difficulty, as there is no one test that determines with 100% assurance that a cat has asthma or not.

How is Feline Asthma Treated?

Conventional medical treatment of feline asthma is based upon two main drug types:

• Corticosteroids: This class of drugs is anti-inflammatory in nature. Oral prednisone or prednisolone, and/or inhaled forms of corticosteroids are used to reduce the inflammation in the airways. Side effects of corticosteroids can include increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, weight gain, diabetes, lowered resistance to infection, and even behavioral changes.

• Bronchodilators: This class of drugs helps open up the airways. Both oral and inhaled forms of bronchodilators are used. Side effects are generally minimal with bronchodilators, but these drugs should never be used alone, as that can actually worsen the condition. Special inhalant masks are available for cats to administer these medications.

• Several other drugs, such as antihistamines and anti-leukotrienes, are also used by some veterinarians. Holistic veterinarians may use alternative medical therapies to treat some asthmatic cats.

If a cat is in an emergency situation in a veterinary clinic, oxygen therapy will also be used.

How Does Diet Relate to Feline Asthma?

In over two decades of feline practice, I have attended many continuing education seminars on feline asthma and rarely heard diet discussed as a potential cause or trigger for the condition.

However, I have had several clients who, on their own initiative, changed what they fed their cats and found that the symptoms of asthma were either greatly reduced or eliminated. What was the change they all made? They removed all dry food and all grain-based products from their cat’s diet.

Most did this by simply switching to grain-free canned cat foods. Some used balanced commercially prepared or home-made grain-free, raw meat cat foods, either as the only food fed or in combination with some grain-free canned foods. After observing this effect, I incorporated diet changes into my case management of cats with asthma. I began to see many cases where my patients no longer needed medication — or much reduced doses — to control their asthma symptoms. It is important to note that not all cases of asthma will improve with the elimination of dry food and grains. But it is worth considering this change as a much less intrusive method of reducing or controlling symptoms. I have never observed a worsening of a cat’s asthma from a gradual and nutritionally balanced diet change.

Why does this diet change help some cats? It is my opinion that the processed and fractionated grain products in many cat foods are strong triggers for allergic or overactive inflammatory responses in some cats. Remove these triggers, and these cats get better or are even cured.

If you have an asthmatic cat on medication and are interested in this approach, you must do this in consultation with your veterinarian. Do not, under any circumstances, simply stop giving your cat his/her medications.

If your cat is on high doses of corticosteroid drugs, it is also important to remember that these drugs can be suppressive to the immune system, rendering a cat more susceptible to infection. In these cases, I would advocate using either a canned or home cooked grain-free, nutritionally balanced food, not a raw diet.

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Andrea Tasi, VMD owns and operates Just Cats, Naturally, a housecall based, feline-exclusive practice dedicated to the holistic, individualized approach to each cat. Dr. Tasi uses classical  homeopathy, nutritional therapy, and behavior/environment-related techniques to help healthy cats stay well and help ill cats regain their health.

This article originally appeared on the Feline Nutrition website, and is re-posted here with their permission. The Feline Nutrition is dedicated to providing thoroughly researched information on feline health and nutrition. If you care about cats and their health, please consider joining the society. Membership is free, and a growing membership base will help the organization spread the word about species-appropriate nutrition for cats.

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.

Benefits of a Raw Diet for Cats

Did you miss yesterday’s teleseminar on feline nutrition with a specific focus on Benefits of a Raw Diet for Cats with Margaret Gates, Executive Director. If so, you missed an inspirational hour filled with wonderful discussions about special needs pets and the amazing lessons they teach us. But not to worry! You can still listen to the interview by clicking on the link below. You can also save the recording to disk so you can listen to it on the media player of your choice by right clicking on the link, and then selecting “save target as” (for PC’s) or “save link as” (for Mac’s). Feline Nutrition Education Society? If so, you missed a lot of great information on feline nutrition and the special dietary needs of an obligate carnivore like the cat.  But not to worry! You can still listen to the interview by clicking on the link below. You can also save the recording to disk so you can listen to it on the media player of your choice by right clicking on the link, and then selecting “save target as” (for PC’s) or “save link as” (for Mac’s).

Benefits of a Raw Diet for Cats

Thanks to everyone who joined us on the call!