Cat Care Newsletter
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Vol. 1, No. 47
Have you ever started telling someone that you assist feed your cat and then you get this feeling that they might be thinking that you are just a little bit ah, different? You go ahead and explain what you are doing and they kinda give you that "Well ok let's change the subject look." If you have experience this scenario, take my word they just don't get it. Most cat lovers I know would put up with months of sleep deprivation, max out their credit cards and forego all weekend outings with friends to take care of their ailing kitty. We get it. The people who don't understand us, in my opinion, are missing a depth to life that cannot be equaled.
There is a famous quote by French novelist Anatole France (1844 - 1924) that I think sums it up best. If you have been in the online animal community very long, you probably have seen it
When I was younger, I thought everybody had the capacity love animals the way I did and I just didn't understand why some people chose not to express their love for animals. As I grew up, I started to realize that perhaps people didn't feel the same way I did. I didn't understand these people and I actually felt some anger and impatience towards them. I then met a man that I really liked. He was very much a people person, was very much involved in the community and would give you the shirt off of his back. The only problem in my eyes was that he didn't care for animals. HOW could someone so nice and so giving, not like animals? We had several discussions over coffee about this very topic. He nonchalantly said that he did not know, but that he just didn't care about animals and it was no big deal. He even told me that his 20-year old daughter didn't understand his indifference towards animals. THEN I read the above quote by Anatole France and a light bulb was lit I got it. Some people are just not awakened a part of their soul is asleep out of touch unawakened. Now, when somebody doesn't understand how I can spend so much time, money and love on my cats it doesn't bother me because they are the ones to feel sorry for... because they are missing out on experiencing a love like no other.
In an effort to show fairness to the various feeding protocols, I thought it would be appropriate to "break the ice" on the most controversial of all: The raw food diet. Understand up front that I do this with a slight negative tilt.it isn't something I would do for my gang. But my role is to report, not to judge, and many people feel the raw food diet is extremely beneficial. So here we go.
My research into this arena was skimpy, at best. Not because I didn't look, but because there is so little to find. To compound the problem, what I did find seemed to be either: (a) A sales pitch for commercially available (frozen) products, or (b) Articles that were written by individuals, and were highly biased for or against. There seems to be little (if any) qualified research, or clinical studies, done on the subject of raw food diets. So I chose to select what I felt was viable information from both parties: The Downers assure us that a raw food diet will kill our cats, and the Uppers assure us that anything but a raw food diet will accomplish the same goal. Believe it or not, folks, there is information in that murk, pro and con.
First of all, let's discuss some of the benefits. One, of course, is that you control everything that goes into the food. Not only in content and proportion, but also in quality. Another benefit, say the Uppers, is that since cats are obligate carnivores, what could possibly be more natural than a raw food diet? A third benefit is one of the mind, but noteworthy: You're doing something very personal for your kitty. If we believe that kitties can read our minds (and we do believe that, right?) then Kitty knows you're doing something very special. As for the long-term benefits of a raw food diet, it's too soon to tell. Before we could justifiably bless the concept (or condemn it) we'd have to do controlled studies with a wide range of cat breeds, starting at birth and lasting throughout their lifespan, and I can find no evidence that this has been done.
The Downers. An interesting group of folks with interesting information about what can happen if we don't do things perfectly. Or even if we do. One of the most significant downsides to a raw food diet is the risk of potential bacteria, and it's a double edge sword: First of all, the essence of raw vs processed is risky in and of itself, and the handling (and re-handling) of raw food simply adds to that risk. The Uppers assure us that if we follow the guidelines perfectly every time, the risk is minimal. But will we? Every time? It only takes one mistake. Another downside is the issue of evolution: True, cats once lived on wild meat alone.vermin. Unfortunately, we don't know how long they lived on such a diet: One article says that if we restricted today's cat to mice and birds, they'd live about three years. So we have to ask: has evolution altered dietary requirements? Good question, and I'd have to say it has.
So here we are back in no-man's land again: Should we or shouldn't we? Problem is, there's no "book" on this one; no studies to show good or bad.it has to be a personal call. If you choose a raw food diet, my only advice would be that you follow in my footsteps: read as much as you possibly can from both parties before chopping up the neighborhood cow.
the night before Christmas, and throughout our house,
Last week, we talked about some general thoughts to keep in mind when choosing a product to clean your house that will be safe for your furry companions. We also listed some product families that should be specifically avoided and briefly mentioned commercial substitutes and alternate solutions you may make yourself that will not be toxic to your furry companions. This week we will expand on the substitutes, and suggest some formulas for common household tasks - including windows!
For some reason, the girls were very excited about helping with the formulas for kitty-friendly cleaning solutions and gave me a huge shopping list of materials to procure. On the list were flasks, beakers, test tubes, retorts, and even a Bunsen burner! We had to sit down had have another one of our frequent talks, at which time I explained that we are supposed to suggest formulas for homemade household cleaners, not furnish a chemistry laboratory for the production of rocket fuel! That out of the way, we then sat down to concentrate on the task, and that was to determine if there was a one-size-fits-all cleaning solution or if we had to come up with several. We ultimately decided on the latter, being that different household surfaces attract different categories of dirt and film.
With respect to commercial, premixed cleaning solutions that may easily be found in your local supermarket, we could only agree upon the one we mentioned in last week's article, i.e., Murphy's Oil Soap®, and be sure to read the product label, as it has many more uses besides floors. We did find others, deemed acceptable by many authorities, but they were rejected because some contained ethyl alcohol (the same type in anti-freeze).
There turned out to be no shortage of formulas for homemade cleaning solutions, but a great many were found to contain substances hazardous to small animals or other questionable ingredients. After a lot of thought and serious head-scratching, keeping safety in mind at all times, we came up with the following:
All Purpose Cleaner
Window Washing Liquid
Disinfectant and Mildew Remover
You may search the internet and print media for cleaning solutions on your own and you will find countless numbers of formulas for cleaning solutions, but many had been chosen without considering their toxicity to small animals, so beware! For example, borax is a popular ingredient found in many formulas for cleaning products, but Borax (sodium borate) is reported to be moderately toxic and a potential carcinogen! Do allow common sense to guide you, and if there is any doubt, then do not use it! The formulas listed above were chosen because of the safety of the ingredients in mind, but all, including the vinegar, may cause harm to sensitive skin membranes in their undiluted form. Also, do exercise care if applying any of the above mixtures via a spray bottle that may cause irritation to curious eyes and store the undiluted ingredients in a secure place away from prying paws.
Do not allow the simplicity of some of the formulas in deceiving you that they will not go a good job. For example, the floor cleaner that is merely a vinegar and water solution will do a good job by itself, will not need to be rinsed, and is completely non-toxic. In fact, if your furry companions wish to help, you may allow them to do so without fear!
Dear Dr. Ed,
My 4 year old cat has to have her teeth cleaned again. They were cleaned before and the tarter just came back. I tried brushing her teeth, but she hates it and I don't do that good of a job. I don't want to switch to a tarter control food. I feed a natural food and she is healthy. It seems to me that the amount of tarter and how fast it builds up has to do with body chemistry because my other cats don't have tarter buildup and they all eat the same food. What can I do to prevent tarter or get rid of it besides getting her teeth cleaned?
It would be difficult to say exactly what would work for this cat, but some general ideas about dental hygiene might help to direct further efforts. First and foremost, it must be stressed that virtually nothing will completely prevent the accumulation of plaque and tartar; oral hygiene is designed to minimize the speed of the process, and more importantly to prevent the development of a disease state. Consider that even people - who usually brush more or less daily - still accumulate small amounts of tartar which need to be cleaned off every six months or so. So do our pets. Secondly, your perception is correct that in addition to factors such as hygiene and diet, there are individual variations in the accumulation of tartar which appear to be genetic in origin - at least, we have no better explanation at this time. It has been suggested that certain strains of bacteria or other microflora in the mouth may affect the process, but as yet there is little clarification of this hypothesis. In any event, the important thing that even if all else is equal some cats will develop plaque, and thus tartar, more quickly than others. The single best way to keep your pet's teeth healthy is to brush them daily, or as often as possible. As you may have discovered, this is often easier said than done. Because the pet doesn't really understand the purpose of the activity, it's difficult to persuade them to hold still. Most cats can be trained to accept brushing by a method of gradual acclimation, but this may not be practical for all owners. The goal is to remove plaque before it hardens into tartar, a process which takes days to complete; thus, any brushing is better than none. If the cat's gums are otherwise healthy, regular brushing will almost completely prevent gingivitis. 'Tartar control' treats and diets rely on harder, crunchier kibbles to help clean teeth by abrasion; as the cat bites into each piece, the pieces scrape the tooth surface to remove tartar. Obviously, a cat which wolfs its kibbles down whole will not get the benefit of one which chews more thoroughly. The key word is 'control' - these diets will not prevent tartar buildup, but usually help to slow it down. As far as I can tell, there is no appreciable difference between 'prescription' tartar control diets and the ones found at your local pet supply store. Tartar control treats, in moderation, may be as effective as changing the whole diet; certainly it's better than nothing, but again complete prevention is nearly impossible. Choice of diet can have some effect on the rate of accumulation. All things being equal, dry foods are said to be better for dental health than canned. Reports vary on this question, but it is likely that any difference has more to do with the fact that dry food does not stick to teeth as readily. Even within dry foods, formulas with more carbohydrate (i.e., grain) appear to promote more rapid plaque and tartar formation; again, there is dispute as to how much difference this really makes. Semi-moist foods are definitely bad for teeth; not only do they stick to teeth, but the ingredients which give the food its consistency also give a head start to plaque-forming bacteria. In the end, almost all cats need regular tooth cleaning; frequency varies with the individual cat, its diet, and the amount of oral hygiene. The goal is to remove tartar before it starts wedging under the gumline and causing gingivitis. For most cats, cleaning every six months to a year is optimal. There are a few veterinarians and other practitioners who will do non-anesthetic tooth cleaning for animals which do not need more intensive dental work such as extractions. In addition to scaling tartar and cleaning out the gingival pockets, your pet should have its teeth polished; scraping creates tiny scratches which protect bacteria and can actually accelerate re-accumulation of tartar in the future. I recommend Houndstooth, who can be reached at (877) 309-8849 - but there may be other choices in your area. I apologize that there isn't a simple, certain solution to the problem; if there were, somebody would be selling it. The important point, again, is not so much to keep the teeth flawlessly clean as it is to prevent dental disease from taking hold. Prevention, in any form or degree, is better than having to treat a more serious problem. Best of luck to you and Merry Christmas to all.
-Edward A. Dimmick, DVM
Typos? Please email me at Kathy (at) AssistFeed.com
Copyright © 2003-2013 by Kathy Fatheree. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy's assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.