Monthly Archives: March 2009

Tough Green Questions to Ask Manufacturers When Choosing a Natural Cat Food

Furball and family moved into our new home last weekend.  Now that Furball is mostly adjusted, it’s time for me to start researching which cat food to switch him to in order to help control his struvite crystals.  We had previously taken him to a Holistic Vet who recommended a high protein/minimal carb wet food diet.  She listed quite a number of different brands, so now it’s time for me to tackle the list and get more information from the manufacturers.

Here’s an email that I’m going to send to each manufacturer.  I’ve included some tough questions beyond the usual based on my previous research into organic cat foods.  I’m going to shortlist the foods based on the responses I get and I’ll post them up in a future blog entry.

If you’re thinking of switching your cat to a natural cat food, please feel free to use this email yourself and edit as needed.  I’d love to hear about what you learn so feel free to send me an email.  furball [AT] greenlittlecat.com.

THE EMAIL

Hello,

Recently, [CAT FOOD BRAND HERE] was highly recommended to me.  I have been thinking about switching my cat to a new formula and would appreciate it if you could please answer a few questions about your product.  Not only am I very concerned about the quality of the ingredients, but I also am concerned about where my pet’s food is manufactured as well as how eco-friendly your business practices are.

[INCLUDE THIS PARAGRAPH IF IT'S ORGANIC FOOD] I would appreciate it if you could please tell me which governing body certifies your food as organic as well as the general standards they require for organic certification.  What percentage of [SPECIFIC PRODUCT] is organic and if it’s not 100%, which ingredients are not organic and why not?

Could you please tell me where your product is is manufactured in terms of the ingredients and the processing?  Given the ongoing safety issues of overseas ingredients, I would prefer that the food I feed my pet is sourced and manufactured in [YOUR COUNTRY HERE]. This would greatly allay my concerns about safety as well as reduce the environmental impact of transporting pet food such a great distance. If your food is locally made, that’s amazing. If not, what is your company doing to move in this direction?  Are any of your products outsourced to other companies?  Are any made by Menu Foods?

Finally, I have been changing my purchasing habits to support businesses that implement sustainable practices and take a proactive approach to reducing their environmental impact. I was wondering what [PET FOOD MANUFACTURER] is doing to adopt greener business practices and support the local community.

As you know, switching a cat’s diet is not something to be taken lightly.  I am currently evaluating several different brands and will make a decision based on the answers I receive to my questions.  I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME HERE]

[INCLUDE YOUR ADDRESS IF YOU'D LIKE]

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The First Gold LEED Certified Animal Welfare Agency in the U.S.

What comes to mind when you think of an animal shelter?  For me, I think about the time I adopted Furball from my local Humane Society about 8 years ago.  The shelter was in an old building located in a slightly down-and-out area of town, beside a highway offramp.  Walking in, I was immediately hit with the smell of antiseptic chemicals, but they failed to completely obliterate the underlying musty animal smell and wafts of urine.  The cat section consisted of a small room bathed in the glow of fluorescent lighting and cages were stacked one atop the other.  Most of the cats lay around lethargically only a few inches from their litter boxes.  I wanted to adopt them all as the animals looked so miserable.

Fast forward to another time and place.  What comes to mind when you think of a Gold LEED certified animal welfare agency?  To be quite honest, when I first heard of this designation, nothing came to mind because I had never seen such a place before.  Well, the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV) is set to completely revolutionize how people view animal shelters.  As the first Gold LEED certified animal welfare agency in the United States, they’ve set the bar extraordinarily high.  So, what does a Gold LEED shelter look like?

I was recently given a tour of the HSSV’s new facilities by Laura Fulda, VP Marketing & Communications for the HSSV.  The new facilities are scheduled to open on March 28th and from what I saw even under construction, the new facilities are absolutely stunning.  What I found to be most remarkable is the vision behind the new facilities.  It’s not just a place that happens to have solar panels and eco-friendly building materials.  Instead, the HSSV’s mission is to create a community destination that will address the root cause behind animal homelessness.

But first, let’s talk green.  Just how green is this place?  Well, the first thing a vistor will notice when they pull up is the parking spots shaded with solar panels.  This is in addition to the photovoltaic arrays installed on the roof and over a portion of the dog park.  It’s estimated that the arrays will provide approximately 40% of the facility’s energy requirements.


A view of the dog park under construction

Yes, you did read correctly.  There is indeed a dog park on site.  It’s part of the HSSV’s vision to create a destination where the community can stay connected with the Humane Society beyond simply adopting a pet.  To quote Ms. Fulda, the HSSV wanted to create an “inviting, wonderful, family friendly place.”

In addition to the dog park, there’s also doggie daycare, boarding facilities, dog training, pet grooming, a pet-friendly cafe, a pet store, an education center, and a veterinary center offering low cost neutering and spaying.  By encouraging the community to visit the HSSV on a regular basis for activities, educational programs and family fun, the HSSV hopes to reduce animal abandonment.  The HSSV wants to provide a supportive environment to encourage pet owners to interact with their pets because one of the main reasons people give up their pets is because they fail to bond with them.

Now, back to the amazing green features of that make the HSSV deserving of their Gold LEED certification:

  • Heat recovery technology on all heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems reduces the amount of energy utilized by the building’s climate control systems.
  • A highly efficient cleansing system for kennel maintenance, which helps to reduce water consumption.
  • Synthetic turf in the dog park eliminates the need to water the grass, which is especially poignant in drought-prone California.
  • Low-flow showers, sinks, and urinals will reduce water usage by an estimated 45% as compared to similar sized facilities not taking these steps.
  • Sensors throughout the building provide lighting only when someone is in the room.
  • Server and client computers have been replaced with new units that are more energy efficient.
  • Stained concrete floors reduce the amount of building, cooling and heating required. They also lower maintenance costs and eliminate the need for certain chemical cleaning and polishing agents.
  • Installed a cool (reflective) roof. Cool roofs reduce the roof surface temperature dramatically, thereby reducing the heat transferred into the building resulting in reduced energy consumption (HVAC), reduced ‘heat island effect,’ and increased comfort for the building’s occupants.
  • Implementing a green cleaning policy, recycling program, and policy that favors green vendors and shows preference to environmentally friendly products.
  • Over 90% of the previous structure on the new site was reused to eliminate landfill.

In additon to these eco-friendly features, what really struck me during the hard hat tour was just how bright, spacious and airy the new facilities are.  There was still painting and hammering going on, but I could easily envision what a great place it would be for an animal to stay until it was adopted.  Ms. Fulda pointed out a very spacious area for dogs to socialize and play as well as the “rabitat”, which would be more reflective of a rabbit’s natural habitat.

Of course, I was especially interested in the kitty area and I was duly impressed.  Gone were the wire cages and in their place, were beautiful bright cat condos.  Each cat condo was the size of a 2-piece bathroom with large windows that would provide sunny spots for afternoon naps and great views of the outdoors for inquisitive felines.  Each condo was designed to hold only one or two cats so there’s lots of room to stretch out.  There’s also a cat community room to encourage interaction and socialization.  Here’s a photo of the cat condos.

The Humane Society of Silicon Valley is taking a leadership role in transforming the way people view animal shelters and they hope to encourage other animal welfare agencies to follow suit.  The vision for HSSV’s fabulous new facilities was conceived 10 years ago and they raised the needed funds mostly through individual donations.  At first, I thought that the HSSV must have had a marquee corporate sponsor to make their vision a reality and I was surprised when Ms. Fulda told me that there were no large corporate sponsors.  The decision to go green actually added $2.5 million dollars to the cost of the project, but the HSSV board decided this was the right thing to do.

They’re still short about $4 million dollars for their capital and operational fund.  If you also believe in doing the right thing, perhaps you can help them out with a donation?  To donate online, please visit the HSSV website at:

SEE THE NEW FACILITIES AT THE OPEN HOUSE ON MARCH 28TH IN MILPITAS

The Human Society of Silicon Valley is celebrating the opening of their new Animal Community Center with an open house on Saturday, March 28th from 10am to 6pm.  If you’ll be in the area of Milpitas, CA, please drop by.  There’ll be animal adoptions, kid’s educational programs, family activities and even an appearance from a local canine celebrity too!  The new facilities are located at 901 Ames Avenue in Milpitas, CA.  Hope to see you there!

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Acupressure Points for Struvite Crystals, Urinary Tract and Digestive Health

I came across this article on acupuncture for pets from Health Day on Yahoo! News.  It lists some anecdotal stories about the effectiveness of acupuncture for muskuloskeletal disorders affecting animals.  It also gives a very basic overview of what acupuncture is and how it helps.

As someone working on my Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, herbs, massage) for humans, I have to say that I’ve seen acupuncture tremendously benefit people suffering from pain and mobility issues.  Shoulders, knees, backs, neck, arthritis, injuries, repetitive strain, you name it.  I’ve seen it work firsthand on dozens of people.  It’s also great for many other chronic illnesses, but people seem to try it first for pain and then as they get more familiar with it, they find it helps out for many other issues.

So, I find it really cool that acupuncture’s benefits for pets is starting to be publicized in the mainstream.  Furball, himself, hasn’t had acupuncture.  However, his vet did recommend a few acupressure points to help with his urinary and digestive systems.

He had a blocked bladder about 5 years ago, so the Holistic Vet recommended BL-23, which is the “Back Shu” point for the kidney.  Basically it helps strengthen the kidneys and promote urinary tract health for dealing with his struvite crystals.  She also strongly recommended changing his diet to minimize carbohydrates and maximize protein.

For Furball’s digestion, she recommended BL-20 which is the “Back Shu” point of the spleen.  In Chinese medicine, the spleen and stomach meridians are related and this point is excellent for strengthening digestion.  She also recommended a couple of points in depressions located around the joints of his forelegs, but those have no human equivalent and are kind of hard to describe without actually feeling them for yourself.

I usually give Furball a little acupressure massage while he’s eating.  He’s a hyper cat and not super touchy-feely, so it’s easiest for me to massage these points while he’s occupied intently on his food bowl.  He seems to really like it.  After the first time I gave him the massage, he came looking for me at his next mealtime because he wanted another one.

If you’re interested in trying acupressure for your pet, I’d really recommend visiting a Holistic Vet first.  They’re licensed veterinarians who take additional training in acupuncture.  You can find one by visiting the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association website.  Furball’s vet had one of those plastic anatomy models of a cat, which really helped me understand exactly where the points were.  She also demonstrated the correct amount of pressure and massage technique to use.

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Published: • More Like This: Cat Health

130 Cats Move to Greener Pastures Thanks to the Monmouth County SPCA

MCSPCAnew130 lucky cats recently moved into a new eco-friendly home, complete with a fantasy forest, kitty condos, and gazebos with floor to ceiling windows that let in lots of natural light. These lucky cats are under the care of the Monmouth County SPCA (MCSPCA), which recently opened a brand new adoption center.

The MCSPCA in Eatontown, New Jersey, was founded in 1945 to care for the community’s homeless animal population. Their previous facility was built in the 1960s and it fit the stereotypical image of an older animal shelter — crowded and jail-like. The old facility was designed to house animals only temporarily, but in 1999, the MCSPCA made the decision to no longer euthanize adoptable animals. This resulted in the shelter being stretched beyond its limits, housing twice as many dogs and four times as many cats as it was originally built to hold.

The overcrowded shelter inspired the MCSPCA to create a new facility that provided a healthy, safe, comfortable, and green environment for its animal occupants. The planning process took four years, construction has been ongoing for a year and the MCSPCA expects to complete the final phase of construction in May or June of this year.

The new shelter’s eco-friendly features reduce electricity and water consumption and also create a healthier and less stressful atmosphere for the animals. Here are some of the great green ideas that the MCSPCA implemented in the construction of their new shelter:

WATER AND ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION

  • Interior lighting systems were programmed to use daylight, in lieu of electrical lighting, when available and adequate. Sensors throughout the building automatically turn off lights in unoccupied areas, further reducing electricity consumption.
  • Installed a high efficiency boiler and hot water heater.
  • Selected energy efficienct dishwashers and laundry equipment to reduce water and power consumption.
  • Changed cleaning protocol from squirting kennels to using a water-efficient cleaning system that will significantly reduce water usage.

A HEALTHIER ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL

  • The MCSPCA have chosen to use The World’s Best Cat Litter, which is an eco-friendly litter made from corn that is also dust-free.  This prevents the ventilation system from becoming clogged with dust, which would normally occur with clay litter.
  • All exterior lighting addresses concerns regarding “dark sky” and glare.
  • Special insulation in the ceiling reduces noise levels to help minimize stress for the animal and human occupants.
  • The landscaping includes hundreds of new shrubs and trees that improve outdoor air quality and provide shade to the building to reduce energy consumption.
  • The HVAC is an automatically-controlled, full energy recover-designed system for climate, odor and disease control.
  • The MCSPCA built a filtration basin on-site which collects stormwater, filters it naturally and allows it to return to the aquifer, eliminating the need for drainage pipes and concrete basins.

MORE ABOUT THE MCSPCA

In addition to housing and adopting out animals, the Monmouth County SPCA provides numerous other services to the local community.  These include animal cruelty investigation, providing low cost spaying and neutering, dog obedience training, community education, disaster planning and services, animal legislation and advocacy, wildlife transport and much more.

Whew!  That’s a tall order for an organization that receives little or no federal, state or local funding, but instead relies entirely on private donations and modest fees for service.  The MCSPCA also operates independently and is not affiliated with, and receives no funding from, any other animal welfare organization, including the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, the New Jersey SPCA or the Associated Humane Societies, Inc.

PLEASE HELP THE MCSPCA HELP MORE ANIMALS

In 2008, the MCSPCA helped almost 4,000 animals, including 1,877 cats, through their animal care center.  They also performed over 5,000 low cost spay/neuter surgeries to help reduce animal overpopulation.  Times are tough for everyone these days, but this is when charities need your help the most.  If you can spare even a modest donation, it’ll go a long way to helping a needy animal.

  • $5 will feed a needy cat for one week.
  • $10 will feed a needy dog for one week.
  • $25 will provide a medically needy pet with a special weekly diet.

To make a donation to the Monmouth County SPCA, please visit their website at:

http://monmouthcountyspca.org/donations.htm

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