Pumpkin does paperwork

Pumpkin does paperwork

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Your Cat's Diet: "Going Raw" may significantly improve health and happiness - UPDATED

This is the first of a 3-part series of posts about the benefits of a raw food diet for your cat. Here are links to part #2 and #3.

Why a raw food diet may be the best thing for your cat since prepackaged catnip.

Some varieties of raw pet food
A lot of science suggests we humans should include more raw food in our diets, like fresh-picked fruit and uncooked vegetables. Mass-produced foods most of us eat, and feed to our pets is actually not that healthy. Cooking and/or processing removes valuable nutrients and introduces less healthy elements. Many "diet" foods contain things like "high fructose corn syrup" which is a substitute for cane sugar and other naturally-occurring sweeteners. Our bodies don't know what to do with many of these substances so they don't do us any good, or they can cause us harm and create environments friendly to inflammation and disease. Your body knows what do do with cane sugar and other foods which actually occur in nature.

It's the same way in the pet food industry, only worse, since the pet food industry is not regulated nearly as much. In many pet foods, unhealthy additives and fillers are often included to boost volume, enhance flavor, improve shelf-life, ensure package integrity, and reduce costs. A diet consisting of mostly commercial cat food is a lot like a diet of breakfast cereal, candy bars and soda-pop. Your cat may love that premium-priced "life-stage" cat food, but it may actually be more effective at improving your cat's susceptibility to disease and shortening your cat's life. "Life-stage" and other special varieties of cat food products are just marketing to get you to buy a particular product. A life-long diet of dry food like kibbles will very likely keep your cat in a perpetual state of milde to seveire dehydration and destroy your cat's kidneys over time, causing kidney failure, very common in traditionally-fed cats.

In the wild, and in your back yard, cats don't eat kibbles with wheat and cranberries or beef liver paté. Cats are predators, technically obligatory carnivores. They are designed to chase, catch, kill and eat rodents, birds, small reptiles, bugs and insects. It's what they do. Your veterinarian will tell you that small bones from fresh prey clean and strengthen teeth, and that those nasty critters your little hunter brings in the house contain just about all the nutrients she needs.

Feeding your cat a raw food diet can do a lot of good for your cat, and you, including easier cleanup and less waste for the litter box, including reduction in odor, and possibly reducing your veterinary bill. Properly formulated raw cat food contains live enzymes necessary for good cat health. It takes significantly less time to digest, and many cat owners report significant outward improvements like coat health, mood improvements complete elimination or significant reduction of diseases like diabetes, kidney failure, skin problems and crystals in urine. At Bright Haven Wholistic Animal Retreat in Sebastopol, California, animals are fed a 100% raw-food diet and they routinely have cats who live 20 years and longer.

Raw food is available frozen, or in freeze-dried forms. It typically costs more by the package than mainstream canned and dry food, but when you look at the actual numbers - compare the actual protein and nutritional substance, not to mention the possibility of lower vet bills, the cost may actually be less than you think and who can put a price on a happier, healthier cat?

Some useful resources on cat health and raw-food diets:
Always consult with your veterinarian before attempting any changes to your cat's diet. 

Here are links to installments #2 and #3 of this series.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Your Cat's Diet: "Going Raw" may significantly improve health and happiness

This is the second installment of a 3-part series of posts about the benefits of a raw food diet for your cat. Here are links to installments #1 and #3.

Brodie eats raw cat food
My own experience with a raw food diet for out cats

In the last several years, an increasing number of cat owners have begun reaping the rewards of raw-food diets. Their cats are healthier and happier, making fewer visits to the vet, having increased energy, and probably living longer, happier lives. 

My experience with raw pet food begins with the story of our own cat, Brodie, who is a senior citizen in cat years, yet he behaves like a kitten. Several years ago, my wife Nona, related Brodie's story to a friend who had asked about raw food diets for her cats:

Brodie, our 9-year-old cat had been losing weight for a long time and was lethargic. He had been successfully treated for pancreatitis and a bladder infection but still couldn't gain weight and was still lethargic so I started researching online and I discovered a book written by a veterinarian, Elizabeth M. Hodgkins, titled "Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life."

Dr. Hodgkins formerly worked for Hills (Science Diet manufacturer) and she talks about kibble as being a bad diet for cats for several reasons. She says it is basically made of cereal and has flavoring sprayed on the outside of it to make it palatable to cats. Since cats evolved as obligate carnivores they don't do well on grains. Also kibbles don't contain the moisture that cats need - drinking water doesn't provide them with enough liquid because they were originally desert animals and don't get as thirsty as they should and therefore they need to eat food that contains moisture.

In her book, she talks about cats treated in her practice and talks about how she treats her patients for various diet-related problems. She feeds her own cats a raw diet and she encourages her clients to do the same, but if they can't handle that, she suggests a high-quality canned food diet.

After getting Brodie on raw food exclusively, he gained 11 ounces in one month and had been maintaining that weight. He hardly sheds any more and he plays like a kitten. The change in his health has been remarkable. The other two younger cats are doing very well, and we are confident they will be healthier long term since we started them on this diet early.

Dr. Hodgkins points out that cats haven't changed much from the wild, desert creatures they were before they were domesticated and they need a diet close to that of their ancestors. They need more protein than most canned cat foods contain and they need a grain-free diet.

Dr. Hodgkins makes a compelling case and Brodie seems to prove her right. As of 2016, he is 15 years old and STILL runs around the house like a kitten.

A raw food diet for your cat consists of uncooked, minimally processed protein-rich natural meat products specifically formulated for cats. There are many to choose from. I have provided a list below. Of course, you shouldn't simply feed your cat ground-turkey from the corner grocery store. Meat intended for consumption by people is expected to be cooked thoroughly. It probably contains a fair amount of bacteria, and it doesn't contain the dietary supplements your cat needs. Raw pet food is specifically formulated with the intention of being consumed uncooked so there are extra precautions in place to ensure quality and purity.
 

List of raw food product manufacturers
Always consult with your veterinarian before attempting any changes to your cat's diet.

The Next installment will provide information on how to convert your cat to a raw food diet.

Here is a link to installment #1.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Your Cat's Diet: "Going Raw" may significantly improve health and happiness

This is the third and final installment of a 3-part series of posts about the benefits of a raw food diet for your cat. Here are links to installments #1 and #2.
Addressing concerns about raw pet food and converting your own cat to a healthier diet.

If you are concerned about things like bacteria and disease, fear not. Commercially-made raw food is carefully prepared and naturally treated for harmful organisms. It does not contain the "guts" of animals - where the bulk of harmful parasites are found (stomach, intestines, etc.). These items are removed as part of the processing. Have you ever noticed your cat leaving you a "present" of mouse guts? That's why. Your cat knows what to do, avoiding the "bad" parts. The "good" organs like the heart and liver are typically included in raw food products, and these are parts your cat will readily consume from live prey anyway.

Some of the bacteria we hear about in the news is already present in the digestive flora of your cat, and your cat's digestive system is fairly short, and very well equipped for the consumption and digestion of "live" food. If you're still concerned, make sure your raw food is frozen solid for at least three days, that will also help ensure purity. Raw cat food is as safe as any regulated pet food, and doesn't contain harmful chemicals or substances your cat cannot digest.

This 12 minute video may shed some light on your concerns as well:



Converting your cat to a raw food diet


Of course, the best way to get your cat accustomed to a raw food diet is to start her off young, so she doesn't become used to kibbles and mainstream cat food. Converting a "spoiled" cat to raw food can be a small challenge. It can take a few days, or a few weeks to convert a cat to a raw food diet. Some cats take to it right away, others are a little more stubborn. Cats love routine so getting them from one routine to another can be challenging, but once they get used to the new routine, they usually just settle in. Persistence is key, you may need to be the Alpha Cat in your household for a while. 

Here are some things you can try if your finicky feline does not immediately take to raw food

  • Try to get samples of various raw cat foods to try on your cat. Better pet stores may have samples of some of the more popular raw food products.
  • If canned food already part of diet, conversion may be easier. You can try switching to 100% canned food, then to raw. 
  • If your cat is already on a mostly kibble diet, upgrade to better kibble (more protein, less grains/vegetables)
  • If your cat just refuses the raw food altogether, don’t force him to not eat. Liver failure can occur within days, sometimes in as little as 12 hours.
  • Try mixing raw and canned food
  • Put crushed kibble on top of the raw food
  • Try ground up dried chicken liver on top of raw food. Freeze-dried chicken liver can be found at better pet supply stores. Make sure it's 100% just chicken liver and nothing else.
  • Put a small amount - teaspoon or so - of raw food next to a bowl of regular food, this can help your cat associate the food she is used to with the raw food.
  • You can try raw chicken necks (also available at better pet supply stores). Do not cook them.
  • Spread an all-meat baby food on the raw food
  • You can try 100% dried fish sprinkled on raw food
  • No or low sodium chicken broth or tuna juice - slightly warmed, poured over the raw food sometimes helps 
Cat owners who are successful in switching their feline companions to a raw food diet are often amazed by their cat's health improvements. Few ever go back to commercial cat food, and all are helping to improve the long-term health and happiness of cats everywhere.

If you simply cannot afford a 100% raw food diet for your cat(s)

What ever you do, eliminate the dry food (kibble) if at all possible. Replace it with high-quality, high-protein canned cat food. Include some raw food if you can as a supplement or as treats. High quality doesn't mean "Fancy Feast" either. Most high-quality cat foods are found in smaller independent pet supply stores. Some larger commercial retailers stock some of the better products. You may have never heard of some of these brands as they are not mass marketed. The "mass" market is not interested in high-quality cat food. Cheap cat food is what the mass market wants. Cheap means lots of additives, fillers, chemicals and other things your cat was never meant to consume, some of which can actually harm your cat and possibly shorten her lifespan. If you feed treats, choose only pure meat, or cat-specific raw treats. You can dice some non-ground meat from your grocer and cook/boil it lightly (but completely), or you can choose from many excellent freeze-dried treat products. If you purchase pure-meat treat products, it doesn't matter if the packaging says "for dogs" or "for cats." As long as it is pure meat (actual pieces of meat), you can feed it to your cat, but only feed pure meat treats to her as an occasional treat. Your cat's diet needs to be balanced and cat-specific.

The following list will help you find high quality alternatives to a 100% raw food diet. Note your cat does not need all those vegetables added to many canned foods, and should not consume grains, potatoes or other carbohydrates either. Make sure the product you choose contains at least 10% "crude protein" (more is better), no grain (rice/wheat), and little if any vegetable ingredients. Be sure to check with your veterinarian about any dietary changes to your cat's routine. I also strongly recommend against purchasing any pet food products imported from or processed in China that you intend on feeding to your cat in large quantities (as her primary food source). All of my recommendations below (with one exception) are either of domestic origin, or other reliable, healthy sources. You can find these products in most independent pet supply stores. The proprietors of the independent stores are an excellent source for information about better pet food products. and in many cases they can be found on the web for better prices, especially if you buy in larger quantities.

The links below will allow you to purchase the items directly from Amazon, but you can also shop around the web for better pricing/shipping if you like.

Canned Cat Food (check with manufacturer to be sure cans do not contain BPA):
  • Nature's Logic varieties, typically at least 40% crude protein.
  • Weruva varieties, typically at least 40% crude protein.
  • Old Mother Hubbard "Wellness Core" varieties, typically at least 10% crude protein.
Note: The above recommendations are for products from manufactures who have addressed recent concerns over BPA in pet-food cans.

Pre-packaged All-Meat Treats:
Others:
  • Stella & Chewy's - They offer raw, freeze-dried food which can be given as primary diet or as treats. You can also purchase small sample packages.
Always consult with your veterinarian before attempting any changes to your cat's diet.

Good Luck!

Many thanks to Vanessa Hill of The Raw Connection in Carmel, California. Her knowledge, expertise and personal experience with raw pet food has been helpful in the research of this article, and invaluable to the well-being of our own three cats. Here are links to series installments #1 and #2.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Kitty Porch Protects Indoor Cats from Undesirables for under $50

This was a weekend project that was fun to do, looks good and protects your indoor or semi-indoor kitties while affording them a taste of the outside world. There are commercial products like this which can be purchased for hundreds of dollars and have limited customization options.

The total cost of this project was under $50 (not including the kitty door which was already installed.
The 20" x 36" x 72" "cage" allows our cats to step outside and observe the critter highway in back of our house

The tricky part of this project was that the whole thing had to be secure, but the sliding screen door behind it had to still function.

Since kitties love high places and afternoon sun, I also built in three sunning shelves for them to lounge around on. The "front" or large side of the cage is hinged and has two barrel bolt latches. The entire panel can be opened for access. The primary materials are 2 x 6 wire fencing and redwood 2 x 2s.

The enclosure is constructed of redwood 2x2s, 4x2 wire fencing, pine shelving and plywood. The 2x2s were slotted down the middle on a table saw, and the wire fencing was "inlayed" into them for a secure fit around the entire perimeter of each panel.
The hinged wide panel open for access

I only had to construct two sides and a top. The top is a piece of plywood which also acts as a storage shelf. I also added a spring to the hinged side as safety measure, in case one of us need to get into the cage for some reason, and stepped away from it, leaving the side panel open by mistake.

The spring closes the door so if a forgetful human opens it up and leaves without latching it, the door will close by itself. It's up to the human to remember to latch the bolts. The theory is, that if the door is just closed but not latched, a cat who ventures out into the cage will see that there is no opening, and not try to get out. The barrel bolts prevent cats who try to get out from escaping.

Construction detail
Its very secure, durable, cat and critter-proof. I stained the wooden parts before assembling the whole thing with brass hardware, so it looks nice as well.

See additional images below for more views of the project and the security inspection team hard at work.


Baxter approves

Inspection team at work



Friday, August 14, 2015

Photographing your cat: A 5-minute essentials guide


In just 5 minutes, learn some cool techniques for getting great shots of your feline friend(s).

What you need:

  • A cat
  • A camera
  • Some light
If you are comfortable fiddling with your camera's settings and spending a little more time to get your shot, you have even more flexibility for great pictures. The purpose of this article is to suggest how you can get great pet shots without fiddling with camera settings, apart from turning it on!

Your Subject

  • Get close.
  • Tell a story.
  • Capture candid and spontaneous moments that don't look staged.
  • Take pictures at kitty’s eye-level.
  • Include meaningful elements in your shot and show kitty enjoying himself.

Lighting

Good lighting is a very important part of getting great pictures.
  • Use natural lighting and try to avoid using the flash if you can (except as noted below).
  • Strong lighting from the side provides a great effect.
  • Try to avoid scenes with very bright areas and very dark areas.
  • Morning and afternoon light are excellent times to make natural-light photographs outside or next to windows.
  • Avoid using your flash unless there are bright elements behind your subject. 
  • Avoid red-eye by turning your flash off or try to prevent your subjects from looking directly at the camera. Many cats will be startled by some camera's pre-flash systems, it is best to avoid startling your cat in the first place by just not using the flash. 
  • Try to get a "catch-light" in your pet's eyes. A small bright glint of a light source reflected in the eyes will add life to your shot.

Focus

  • Make sure kitty's eyes are in focus. If your camera doesn't allow you to control focus, or if you'd rather it focus for you, make sure kitty's face is near the center of the frame, hold the shutter button down half-way, to establish a focus and exposure lock (most modern cameras will do this) and recompose your shot if you like, without changing your distance from kitty.
  • Brace yourself and/or the camera against something solid and unmoving whenever possible.
  • Hold the camera as steady as possible, especially if you are not using the flash.
  • Press the shutter button slowly and deliberately.

Composition

There are rules. Some have been used by great artists for many years, some rules are meant to be broken, some just make sense. Ultimately, you get to decide what you like, but here are some guidelines.

Don't put kitty's face right in the middle of the shot. Put her off to the side a little, Imagine your scene split up in to nine rectangles, all the same size. Where the lines intersect are good places for kitty's face/eyes.

Be aware of foreground, middle ground and background elements. Avoid elements that interfere with your intended subject, like that wayward house-plant vine sticking down behind kitty's head.

Above all, have fun!