Cooking at Home for Your Cat

 

You love a delicious home-cooked meal, right? Turns out that your cat just might enjoy one, too. "The ingredients in homemade cat food are fresh and less processed," says Nathalie LaPierre, a veterinarian at the Lilburn Animal Hospital in Lilburn, Ga. "Digestibility is easier, and the benefits to the cat's body are greater."

And many pet owners take this to heart. Joy H. Bailey of Cartersville, Ga., has been making her cats homemade meals for years. "When I make my cats' food, I'm in control of the ingredients," says Bailey. "I love my cats, and they give that love back tenfold. Why wouldn't I give them the healthiest food I can?" 

Are you ready to hit the kitchen? Before you pick up your frying pan, it's important to know that cats are not able to eat all of the ingredients people can eat. To make sure your efforts result in a safe and healthy meal, learn these important safety rules about cats and food.  

1. Certain foods are toxic for cats
"Never feed your cats chocolate, or anything in the onion family," warns LaPierre. Why? Chocolate contains the compound theobromine, which is a diuretic, as well as a cardiac stimulant. This can cause a pet's heart rate to increase or cause the heart to beat irregularly, both of which can be dangerous to the animal. Onions contain sulfoxides and disulfides which are toxic to the red blood cells of cats and can lead to anemia. Other foods to avoid are pork (including bacon), raw fish, raw eggs or bones. Each of those forbidden foods has its own ill effects on cats.

2. Skip the milk
Even though many people believe cats love a big saucer of milk, most cats are lactose intolerant. "The adult cat has lost its intestinal flora to break down milk properly," Dr. LaPierre says. "It can cause diarrhea in cats. Even kittens shouldn't drink cow milk -- only the milk from their mommies."

3. Don't create a diet for your cat that has vitamin deficiencies
"When you make your own cat food, you risk nutritional deficiencies if you don't prepare it correctly," Dr. LaPierre warns. Consult your vet about suggested vitamin or mineral supplements for your feline.

4. Go by the book
There are many cat cookbooks in bookstores, such as Real Food for Cats: 50 Vet-Approved Recipes to Please the Feline Gastronome by Patti Delmonte (Storey Publishing, LLC), and The Ultimate Treat Cookbook: Homemade Goodies for Finicky Felines by Liz Palika (Howell Book House). Using vet-approved recipes found in books like these will give you peace of mind that your cat is getting all the required nutrients. "I think a cookbook takes some of the risk out of making homemade treats," says Palika.

One of Palika's favorite recipes for felines is for "Sardine Spectacular Cat Treats." The only two ingredients you need are one 3.75 oz. can of sardines in oil, undrained, and a half-cup of plain, unseasoned bread crumbs. Place the sardines and their oil in a food processor or blender and puree to a thick paste (Add a tablespoon of water if the fish doesn't form a paste.) Place the paste in a mixing bowl and add the bread crumbs. Stir until thoroughly combined. Place the mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least one hour, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Bon appétit!

Litter Box Solutions for All Cats

When you brought your cat into your home, you committed to providing love and care forever. But one thing you didn't promise is to sacrifice your aesthetic sensibility and keep a drab plastic box in your kitchen until the end of time. And now you don't have to. These days, there are a slew of attractive alternatives to the standard litter box. Finding the right one for your home is simply a matter of your taste -- and your cat's.

Uncovered Boxes
Portland, Oregon-based feline behavioral consultant Mieshelle Nagelschneider says 70 percent of cats prefer uncovered boxes. "Covered boxes tend to trap odors and keep the litter moist longer, and both of these are a big deterrent for cats," she explains. "Escape potential is also important to them, especially once they reach social maturity, and a covered box doesn't allow for an easy out." Most litter box solutions do come in the form of covered boxes. If your cat insists on an uncovered box (and it will make its preference known), you can get creative and decorate your own box, or try something like Sittin' Pretty Cat Products' litter basket -- an acrylic-lined willow basket that can be stained or painted to suit your style.

Flummoxed about what to do with her own cat's unsightly litter, Boston cat owner Lindsay Potter bought an all-purpose tub at a hardware store, and a large piece of canvas from an art supplier. "I painted the canvas to contrast nicely with my bathroom. I used a staple gun to attach it to the tub. It looks a lot nicer, and the tub has high walls, perfect for my male cat."

Faux Furniture
One innovative and attractive type of covered litter box looks more like a cabinet than a restroom for kitty. The Refined Feline, for example, offers a closed wooden cabinet with a hidden side-door. Another option comes from Felinerina, featuring a white bathroom cabinet with wainscoting panels, shelf space and towel bars -- the litter box goes inside, your cat enters through a space carved from the front of the cabinet. And another style, made by Pet's Best Products, hides the litter box in a faux plant pot, complete with the fake plant of your choice sprouting from the top.

"Some cats will use a box no matter what its design, and that kind of cat would do well with a box that falls into this innovative category," says Nagelschneider. "If you choose this design, make sure it's roomy and kept clean. Also, bear in mind that it may be better tolerated by felines in single-cat homes."

Kitty Cabanas
You don't have to buy an entire piece of furniture to hide an unsightly box. The most common (and least expensive) type of litter concealer is simply a cover placed over the box. NYC Dog & Cat suggests that you hide your cat's litter box under a high gloss laminate design (a palazzo, a country manor, an antique bookcase, or a plain damask cover). Petaroo offers simple basket-weave covers that blend into any space. Top-loading boxes, available at most pet supply stores, come with their own covers (with openings in the top for your cat's entry), and are good for male cats that aim high.

"The litter box cover saved my relationship," laughs Austin, Texas cat owner Brian Nash. "My girlfriend didn't want to move in unless I could offer her a closet, but the extra closet was where I kept Paul's litter box, and I didn't want the box out and exposed in my apartment. The cover helped us both get what we wanted." With a little bit of trial and error, you and your feline friend can get what you want, too. 

Homeopathic Remedies for Cats ... and are They Healthy?

While most people take their cats to a traditional veterinarian for care, some may wonder whether homeopathic veterinarians are actually the way to go. Homeopathy in general is about addressing symptoms rather than naming a disease, which some may say puts limits on treatments.

Dr. Arthur Young, DVM, CVH, was a traditional veterinarian for 30 years before moving over to homeopathy gradually. He changed his focus when he began to think that many animals’ health problems stem from over vaccination, excess antibiotic use and poor nutrition.

Here are some of the basics you should know before making the decision to switch your own pet over to the homeopathic route.

Pet Profiling

Homeopathic remedies are not species specific, but symptom specific.  As Dr. Young explained, “Homeopathy is individual specific. Once you have a picture of the patient built by questioning the owner, that creates a profile of the animal and the problem. It doesn’t have to be a cat; it could be a dog or hippopotamus. There are over 2,000 homeopathic remedies, and whatever fits a patient’s problem, that’s the one that’s correct.”

Treatments

Dr. Young said that he sees many cats that he believes have problems due to over vaccination. The solution, according to Dr. Young, would be to vaccinate your cat when she’s a kitten, and then not do it again. In his practice, Dr. Young says that cats he’s seen who he believes have been over vaccinated tend to have emotional instability and increased fear, which he treats with Bach’s Flower remedies. This type of remedy helps alleviate stress, which is a huge obstacle to getting better.

An important part of homeopathy is solid nutrition. “Cats get 70% of the moisture [they need] from their food,” said Dr. Young. “Cats are notoriously bad water drinkers. Dry food contains 10% moisture, so they have a 60% moisture shortage if your cat only eats dry food. This lack of moisture leads to problems with the urinary system like cystitis or inflammation without an infection.” 

A homeopathic approach to the lack of water in a cat’s diet would be to feed her a good wet food product that contains minerals, vitamins, enzymes and probiotics. Dr. Young also recommends supplementing your cat’s diet with taurine, a dietary supplement that prevents blindness.

Check out this story for more on understanding your cat’s drinking habits.

The homeopathic remedies that your vet will recommend for your cat do not require a prescription. They come in small pellet, tablet, powder or liquid form, and are given orally. “When you give your cat, or any animal, a homeopathic remedy, the protocol is no food and no water 20 minutes before or after,” said Dr. Young. “If your cat just ate or drank, it will compromise the energy of the pill, since it produces the effect in the nerve endings of the tongue.”

Taking the Plunge

At the end of the day, the type of medical treatment you pick for your cat will be a very personal decision, and finding the correct remedy for an ailment may take some time and a few tries. If you do decide to try homeopathic medicine for your pet, find a board certified veterinarian who has been trained in homeopathy for animals. You can look up a list of homeopaths at http://www.ahvma.org/

The 5 Easiest Ways to Keep Your Cat Healthy

We know you love your cat. But even the biggest cat lovers can fall prey to a dangerous trap: thinking that your furry feline is “low-maintenance.” While it’s true that cats are less needy than many other types of pets, Dr. Jason Nichols, AKA “The Preventive Vet,” says that cats are merely silent sufferers.

To ensure that your cat lives a long and healthy life (or nine), check out Dr. Nichols’ five easy steps to promoting feline wellness.

1.      Keep Your Cat Indoors.

Depending on your home environment (and your individual cat), keeping your kitty indoors 100% of the time can be tricky. But making sure your cat stays inside, however, is one of the best ways to make sure she stays safe. She won’t be at risk of attack by other animals, like coyotes, and she won’t get into fights with other cats, which can lead to Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or injury. Indoor cats also have a lesser risk of contracting parasites. 

Additionally, more cats are killed by cars each year than are euthanized in animal shelters. By keeping your pet indoors, you’ll be keeping her safe from automobile injuries.

2.      Keep an Eye on the Litter Box.

Your cat’s litter box can provide many clues to her health. Scoop and check the box daily, and get to know your cat’s routines. If there are suddenly fewer urine spots each day, or there’s no urine at all for two consecutive days, it may be an indication that something is amiss. Irregular urination can be symptomatic of degenerative kidney disease, cystitis, inflammation of the bladder or urethral obstructions, which are all common in aging cats. Additionally, diarrhea or lack of bowel movement can also be a sign of infection or disease.

It’s not just about detection, though—prevention is also key. By encouraging water intake, you can help increase urination and prevent these diseases. Feeding your cat a canned diet (which comes in measured amounts) will help, as will adding additional water bowls around the house. Water bowls with various depths, as well as circulating foundations, can help lead to more water consumption.

Lastly, creating a welcoming litter box environment will promote healthy habits. A good rule of thumb is to have one litter box more than the number of cats you have, i.e. two boxes for one cat, and three boxes for two cats, etc. Uncovered litter boxes with unscented litter, in a low-traffic area of the house, will be most appreciated by your cats.

3.      Make Your Home Hazard-Free.

Even if you keep your cat indoors, there are still plenty of dangerous—even fatal—everyday hazards your pet could encounter. Strings like dental floss, mistletoe, Easter grass, sewing thread and fishing line can get wrapped around cats’ tongues or can damage their digestive tracts, requiring surgery 99% of the time, estimates Dr. Nichols. One easy way to fix this is to cover your bathroom garbage can, preventing your cat’s access to dental floss.

There are also many unexpected toxins that could be lying around your house. Lilies are extremely dangerous to cats—every part of the flower is toxic, including the pollen and the water that lilies sit in absorbs the toxins as well. Even a small amount can send cats into kidney failure, which is extremely expensive to treat and fatal without veterinary help. Additionally, acetaminophen—which is found in many combination medications—is also toxic if ingested.

Lastly, flea treatments formulated for dogs can be very hurtful to cats. Pet owners often believe they can save by dividing up their dog’s treatments for cats, but these medications can cause seizure-like tremors in cats. Never medicate cats without the direction of a veterinarian!

4.      Watch Your Cat’s Weight.

The majority of indoor-only cats should weigh between 9 and 12 pounds. Heavier cats are at greater risks for urethral obstruction, diabetes and arthritis, as more pressure is put on their joints. A high-protein, low-carb diet will prevent weight gain—talk to your veterinarian about an appropriate diet for your pet.

Additionally, promote exercise with fun toys that will keep your cat moving. Laser pointers and interactive toys encourage cats to run around and cut down on the likelihood that your feline will become obese.

5.      Book Yearly Vet Appointments.

Most cats don’t get the veterinary care they need. Annual exams are extremely important; aside from vaccines, a yearly visit will help your vet track what’s been going on in your cat’s life and detect diseases like heart disease, hyperthyroidism, arthritis and periodontal disease before they worsen.

These five easy steps won’t take a ton of time or money, but they’ll pay off in a big way when it comes to protecting your beloved cat’s health.

De-stress Veterinary Visits for Your Cat

Few cat owners relish the thought of taking their feline to the veterinarian, so imagine how your cat feels about it. “Cats are the ultimate control freaks,” explains Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinarian at Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, Calif. “If you even so much as move a couch in your home, your cat will likely be in a tizzy for weeks.”

Richter is very gentle with his furry clients. He was recently named one of the top ten veterinarians in the entire country by Petplan pet insurance, but even he has seen many vet-phobic cats over the years. Is it a hopeless mission to ease the fears of a freaked out feline in such situations? Absolutely not, he says, as does Dr. Jane Brunt CATalyst Council Executive Director and former president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. Here’s what they suggest:

1. Schedule appointments at less busy times.

The same way you wouldn’t want to wait in a noisy room packed with malcontent patients, neither does your cat. Richter advises scheduling appointments either early in the morning, first thing, or toward the end of the vet’s day. In both cases, the crowd should have dissipated, making the atmosphere less noisy and chaotic.

Brunt additionally says that “you might want to consider finding a cat-friendly veterinarian. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has developed a program that certifies veterinary practices as ‘cat friendly.’” Participants have to apply and may obtain either a gold (“optimum level”) or silver (meets “essential criteria”) status.

2. Get your cat to like its carrier.

Richter echoes Brunt’s advice above. “You wouldn’t believe some of the carriers that people bring in,” he says. “Some look like they’ve lived on a workbench in a garage for ages. They come in dirty and smelly. It’s no wonder the cat hates the carrier.” He and Brunt recommend that owners do the following:

·         Leave the carrier out in the open in high cat traffic areas. The cat will then become more used to it and not only associate it with scary things.

·         Keep the carrier clean at all times. Cats are among the world’s most fastidious individuals.

·         Place a soft blanket, towel or other cover inside. Brunt says that many cats may even nap inside the carrier willingly.

·         Put food treats in the carrier every so often, again so that your pet will associate it with pleasant happenings.

3. Make the vet visit as fun as possible.

Your cat reads your emotions, so stay calm and upbeat. Drive smoothly, avoiding any bumps and sharp turns, if possible. Avoid loud air conditioning and radio, since less stimulation during potentially scary times is better for your cat.

4. Lessen visual and auditory stimulation while in the waiting room.

If you have a scared-y cat, it helps to lessen what your pet sees and hears. Ideally, your veterinary office will have separate waiting rooms for dogs and cats. Place a towel over your cat’s carrier, if necessary, to close out visual stimulation and some smells (your cat will be sensitive to these).

5. Work with your vet to determine the proper level of restraint.

Richter has some feline patients who seem to crave any and all attention, while others “get really wound up and are ready for blood by the time I enter the room.” Even cats that are tame at home can suddenly revert to a more feral state when out of their familiar environment. In those cases, it helps to have an understanding, experienced vet. Richter keeps detailed records on each cat patient, so that he knows exactly how to manage each feline’s needs.

6. Keep the visit brief.

“This is more on the vet,” Richter says. But you can help by not stopping for unnecessary social chats or running errands while your cat may be hoping to get back home.

7. At home, allow your cat to calm down.

“Cats are classically known for displaced aggression,” Richter explains. “They may dig you one if they are unhappy once out of the carrier. If stressed, just let them calm down for a while.”

All of the above might seem like a big hassle, but Brunt reminds that 68 percent of all cats over the age of three suffer from dental disease. She adds that most cases of diabetes can be prevented with proper advance care. “A simple checkup can help detect and treat preventable diseases and conditions that can cut a life short,” Brunt shares. Patience and preparation before vet visits can therefore offer big rewards.