Monthly Archives: February 2009

A Natural Diet for Struvite Crystals and Furball’s Visit to the Holistic Vet

Furball was vomiting on and off for the past week so we took him to see Dr. Sara Skiwski, a holistic medicine veterinarian.  As a Holistic Veterinarian, Dr. Skiwski (aka Dr. Sara), is not only a licensed veterinarian, she also studied veterinary acupuncture and herbs.  I had been wanting to take Furball to see a holistic vet to discuss what would be the best diet for him given that he has struvite crystals and also had a bout of pancreatitis about two years ago.

I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his current diet of 1/2 Pinnacle dry cat food and 1/2 IAMS prescription diet for struvite crystals.  Let me clarify that I love the Pinnacle brand of cat food, but my concerns are about the IAMs food.  I discovered on Day 21 of my new year’s resolution of the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge that IAMs was owned by Proctor and Gamble, a company I had boycotted for over a decade because of ethical concerns about how they run their business.  Plus, I had noticed that Furball’s coat went dull when he was fed a 100% diet of the prescription diet for struvite crystals.

However, when I researched natural methods for dealing with struvite crystals as well as organic foods, I was overwhelmed by how complicated it was to find a natural diet for struvite crystals.  I decided the best thing to do was to consult with a holistic vet.  Furball was probably sending me a hint to go sooner rather than later as he started hacking up hairballs and gooey spit-up about two weeks ago.  His appetite also decreased, which is highly unusual for the cat who loves to eat anything and everything and he was a bit cranky too.  I was going to take him to see his regular vet, but the cat’s vomiting seemed to stabilize and then taper off.

The appointment with the holistic vet was a week away.  I booked the appointment, then cancelled it when Furball got better.  Then, Furball promptly vomited up some more gooey spit, so I rebooked the appointment.  At that point, I decided regardless of whether he was better or worse, I’d take Furball in for a check-up.  I’m glad we kept the appointment.

Furball’s fine.  However, I gained some valuable insights into how struvite crystals, pancreatitis and vomiting/gastrointestinal issues are related to diet.  Dr. Sara also gave us a recommended list of natural cat foods that would be beneficial for our cat.  The list is like gold to me because I didn’t know where to start.  I’m going to research each product over the next few weeks and post my findings.

In the meantime, here’s a summary of what I learned.  PLEASE DO NOT TRY TO SELF-MEDICATE YOUR CAT BASED ON THIS INFORMATION OR CHANGE YOUR CAT’S DIET WITHOUT CONSULTING WITH YOUR VET FIRST.  I may have misheard what Dr. Sara said or misunderstood it or remembered it incorrectly.  I’m also paraphrasing and adding my own opinion.  The information is provided only as a starting point for your own research into natural diets for struvite crystals and pancreatits.  You should always SEE A LICENSED VETERINARIAN FIRST!

  1. What’s good for humans is NOT GOOD for cats.  People benefit from seeds and plant oils such as flaxseed oil.  However, these types of fats are not beneficial to cats because cats are carnivores.  Cats are completely carnivorous and would do just fine on a diet of only animal protein.  In fact, flaxseed oil could actually trigger pancreatitis because the cat’s pancreas is not designed to process this type of fat.
  2. Cats should not be eating carbohydrates.  This includes wheat, rice, corn, etc.  As mentioned above, cats are carnivores.  Carbohydrates have a higher pH level (lower acidity) which actually contributes to the formation of struvite crystals.  Dry foods are full of carbs.
  3. A higher acid diet (lower pH) helps to prevent the formation of struvite crystals.  What this means from a natural perspective, is that a higher protein diet will naturally result in a diet with a higher level of acidity.  Unfortunately, many commercial cat foods for managing struvite crystals raise the acidity level of their formulas by adding ammonium chloride to their products.  I don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that ammonium chloride is not the same as animal protein.
  4. In general, canned food naturally has more moisture and animal protein than dry cat food.  While the label may say x amount of protein, this figure is determined by measuring what’s left over after the food is burned down to its basic composition.  There’s no distinction between animal protein and plant protein, or melamine for that matter.
  5. The moisture level and high animal protein in a quality canned food should be sufficient to help reduce struvite crystals.  Even though we add large amounts of water to Furball’s dry food, it’s not the same as him getting his fluid from wet food.  The water needs to soak into the dry food.  This is better than him drinking the water because cats naturally metabolize their water better through their intestines.  By drinking the water, the cat’s kidneys are forced to do most of the work.  This can lead to kidney issues later on in life.
  6. High heat rapid cooking alters the structure of the oils in food, making them not that healthy for your pet.  Slow-cooking at lower temperatures is better.  This is much like how olive oil is good for you unless you heat it at a high temperature.

Based on this information, we’re ready to start transitioning Furball very slowly to a diet of wet food only.  One other thing to note, the holistic vet said it was ok to give Furball the small amounts of grapeseed extract found in his PetzLife natural dental care product.  In fact, she was selling the product in her office.

Here’s the list of brands/foods that the holistic vet recommended:

There were a few other brands, but I couldn’t find them online (possibly renamed?).  The brands on this list are the ones that the holistic vet has experience with.  They’re all high animal protein with low or no grain content.  I’ll be researching them over the next few weeks to decide which to try.  Although, Furball’s finicky feline palate may be the determining factor ;).

Check Out Furball’s Cat Toy Book!
Furball loves to play and was so hyperactive as a kitten that I invented dozens of toys and games for him and even wrote a book about them.  The book features instructions for over 50 cat toys that are not only eco-friendly, but also can be made in minutes, if not seconds, from stuff you have around the home.

If you’ve ever bought a fancy cat toy and found your cat preferred the bag it came in, please check out Make Your Own Cat Toys.

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Tree Hugging Cats

Just came across this microsite for Yesterday’s News cat litter.  Having worked in the Internet industry for over a decade, I’ve built my share of promotional sites for products.  I suppose Tree Hugging Cats is Purina’s attempt at creating a “viral” site to gain some street credence for Yesterday’s News recycled newspaper cat litter, as well as utilize “web 2.0 social networking” to promote their product.

I guess it must be working since I’m blogging about the site.  I have to admit it’s a darned good name for a site and the illustration of cats hugging trees is cute and did make me smile.  The site was offering a free coupon, but it seems that they’ve exceeded the limit of how many they wanted to distribute.  Oops.  Never mind, you can still buy an organic cotton Zazzle T-shirt with a silhouette of a cat on a tree emblazoned on it…for only $25.95.

OK, time to set the cynicism aside.  My bias is to support local businesses.  However, many of these ma/pop shops have limited distribution.  So, if you live in an area with fewer options, Yesterday’s News recycled newspaper litter is one of your better choices.  Furball used this litter before it was bought out by Purina, but I continued using it because it was readily available and did a pretty good job of controlling odours.  After our move to the west coast, we switched to Cat Country organic wheat grass litter just because it was similar in texture and it was locally made from organic wheat grass.

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Raw Meat Diets for Cats – Answers from the Field

I’ve heard a lot about raw meat diets for cats, but admittedly am a bit squeamish on the idea.  Intellectually, it makes sense that raw meat is closer to a feline’s natural diet than processed pellets.  However, the idea of feeding raw meat to my cat triggers a lot of doubts and fears.  I decided to consult with a friend who has been feeding her two cats, Cocoa and Stanley, raw meat for several years.  After all, most fear is based out of ignorance, so if I could understand what feeding a raw meat diet to cats was really like, I could better decide if a raw meat diet was something I wanted to pursue for Furball.

One of the challenges with raw food is that if you don’t live near a store that sells it, you might be wondering where you can get it. Ordering cat food online is something to consider, especially when there are dehydrated versions of raw food available.

Aileen feeds her two cats, Pets 4 Life’s “Home Made Pet Cuisine”.  It’s a Canadian brand (she’s in Canada) made from premium human grade ingredients such as chicken, beef, turkey, duck, rabbit and wild salmon mixed with vegetables, seeds and grapefruit seed extract.  The food is purchased frozen and is defrosted as needed.   I asked Aileen some general questions and here’s what she had to say.

1. Were your cats on dry or canned food before the raw meat diet?   If so, did you have to transition them to raw food or did they take to it right away?  Any digestive issues while they were transitioning?

Both cats previously ate dry and wet food.  Stanley was a kitten and he took to it right away. Cocoa didn’t at first. I didn’t push. After a week, I tried again and she just ate it. She’s been eating it since. I think she was curious what Stanley was eating.

2. How do you feel the raw food is contributing to your cats’ health?

Stanley’s health improved from the time he was a kitten.  He was little and sickly, constantly with diarrhea and sinus problems. The raw food is easier to digest and it’s what cats naturally eat. Within a year on this diet, together with homeopathics, Stanley became a different cat. He became a stronger little guy. Cocoa relaxed and turned into a completely different cat after arriving at our home. Both of their stools are well formed and barely smell.

3. How do you feed it to them if it comes in a frozen package?

I defrost the entire package. The package looks like a mini ice-cream container. It feeds one cat two meals per day. My cats eat twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

4. Do the cats eat it all at once or do they graze throughout the day like they do with dry food? If they graze, are you concerned about raw meat sitting around in your house for several hours?

If my cats don’t eat it within 20 minutes, the food gets taken away. If they’re hungry, they have to wait until dinner.

It’s raw meat, it shouldn’t be left out for longer than 20 minutes. I treat the meat the same as I would for the meat I prepare for human consumption. I trained my cats to eat at certain times. I quickly got them out of the grazing habit.

5. Do you wash their bowls right away in case of bacteria?

Rinse them and soak them. I do what I’d do for human hygiene.

6. Do you feed them anything else?
Freeze dried meats – chicken, chicken liver, duck liver, turkey, livers, etc. Sometimes they eat the dog’s raw food…

Thanks Aileen, Cocoa and Stanley!

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