obesity

Support Your Cat’s Immune System

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The immune system is an intricate system of biological processes and structures that protects the body against disease. A healthy immune system is able to recognize and fend off invaders such as viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. Keeping your cat’s immune system strong will help prevent health problems and protect her against disease.

In order to protect and boost your cat’s immune system, consider the following:Continue Reading

Cats on a Diet: Will They Still Love You?

fat-cat

Last week we wrote about the obesity epidemic among America’s cats (58% of cats in this country are either overweight or obese) and the serious health risks of obesity. What makes this trend so disturbing is that it is created entirely by the guardians who love their cats. There are no obese cats in the wild. Our cats rely on us to make appropriate nutritional choices for them, and one of the biggest mistake cat guardians can make is to equate food with love.

Getting a cat to lose weight can be challenging. It may require making changes to a cat’s feeding schedule, changing the food itself, increasing the amount of time spent playing with the cat, and more. Read Weight Loss Tips for Cats for guidance on how to get your kitty to a healthy weight.Continue Reading

Majority of Cats in the US are Overweight or Obese

obese-cat

The statistics are staggering: 58% of America’s cats are either overweight or obese. This trend has mirrored an equally disturbing increase in obesity among people. Overweight cats are facing the same health risks as humans, and what is almost as disturbing as the statistics themselves is that this problem is created entirely by humans. There are no obese cats in the wild. Obesity is the direct result of poor dietary choices for cats, free choice feeding, an overabundance of treats, and a lack of exercise.Continue Reading

Save on Cat Care Expenses Without Compromising Your Cat’s Health

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Costs for pet health care, food and other supplies continue to increase just as human health care and food costs are rising. There’s plenty of advice out there on how to save on pet care expenses. Suggestions range from price-shopping for a vet to foregoing veterinary care altogether in favor of at-home “medical” care, purchasing vaccines online and administering them yourself, and buying the cheapest food. All of this advice couldn’t be more wrong, and will most likely put your cat’s health at risk.

The following tips can help you save on cat care expenses without compromising your cat’s health:Continue Reading

State of Pet Health Report identifies the five most common cat diseases

Banfield_State_of_Pet_Health_Report

Do you think you know the five most common cat diseases? The findings in Banfield Pet Hospital’s State of Pet Health 2012 Report may surprise you.

The report captured and analyzed data from nearly 430,000 cats in 43 states over a period of five years. The driving force behind the study was a commitment to preventive care and early diagnosis. In addition to collecting medical data, the report also identified pet owner perceptions. For this part of the report, Banfield polled more than 1,000 cat owners in the United States.

The report also captured date from more than 2 million dogs. This discrepancy in cat vs. dog numbers highlights the prevalent trend that dogs get far more attention when it comes to medical and health studies than cats do. According to pet journalist Steve Dale, for every dollar devoted to cat health research, five to ten dollars are devoted to feline research.

The Banfield report foundContinue Reading

Giveaway: SureFlap Microchip Cat Door

SureFlap Microchip Cat Door

The SureFlap Microchip Cat Door is a new-to-the U.S. product from the United Kingdom. It uses RFID technology to read a cat’s veterinarian-inserted microchip and determine whether or not to let the cat inside. This prevents strays, and other animals, from entering a home and adds a high-tech level of convenience to the homes of outdoor cat owners.

Last year, SureFlap was kind enough to send me one of their doors for review. Since Allegra and Ruby are indoor kitties, I passed it on to our former feline vet, Fern Crist, DVM, who provided a comprehensive review of how well the SureFlap works for indoor/outdoor cats.

I recently came across a different use for these innovative cat doors. Continue Reading

How to keep your cat happy and healthy in 2012

feline-new-year's-resolutions

Happy New Year! With the start of a new year, many of us make resolutions, and most of them revolve around our health. We vow to eat better and exercise more. We resolve to spend more time with loved ones and enjoy life more.

For most of us, our cats’ health and happiness takes priority over almost everything else, so while you’re making resolutions to improve your own life, here are five simple things you can do for your cats that will keep them happy and healthy this year and beyond.

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.Continue Reading

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

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