Cat Products

Cat Food and Water Bowl Recommendations

We continue our series of recommendations for new cat owners. See the entire new cat shopping list here.

Cat Food & Water Bowls

You can never go wrong with high-quality, glass or stainless steel bowls. Shallow, round or oval dishes are better because your little friend may be put off by the way their whiskers rub the edges of the dish. Avoid plastic and ceramics as they can harbor bacteria. This is especially important if you feed your cat a raw food diet.

Our favorite feeding station is the CatIt Diner set. It includes two glass bowls that lock into an elevated plastic base. The bowls are very thick and sturdy and they tilt slightly to one side to allow for easier access. We actually buy several extras so we can wash the bowls. Now if we could just convince CatIt to get rid of the kibble in their product pics.

We've also had great luck with DuraPet bowls. These are great because they have rubber bases that keep them from sliding around. They're also available in several sizes so you can get a larger water bowl and a smaller food dish.

Every cat should have fresh, clean water available 24/7. A bowl just like the food bowl but filled with water is adequate. Just like the food dish, the water bowl should be cleaned and refilled daily. It also helps if the water is at least a few feet away from your cat’s food dish. Cats are fastidious about their water preferences. They often will not drink water near their food for fear that it may be contaminated. That’s also why they prefer moving water. In the wild, moving water in a stream would always be safer than stagnant water.

Most fountains made for cats and dogs are made from plastic or ceramic, both of which can harbor bacteria. We prefer this all-stainless model despite the fact that it still has a few plastic parts inside. Sadly, plastic is hard to completely avoid in modern manufacturing of an item like this. Still, of all the pet fountains out there, this one is our top recommendation for size, ease of use, and price.

It's important to be aware that any water pump will need regular maintenance. Pioneer Pet has a brief video that outlines how to clean out the pump. They also offer additional filters, though their recommendation of changing filters monthly seems like a bit much. Most filters can easily be rinsed every week, especially if filtered water is used in the fountain to begin with.

Our cats also like the CatIt Flower Fountain. Yes, it’s made of plastic, but it has a unique feature. The white and yellow parts of the flower can be removed to create different flowing water patterns. This allows you to adapt the fountain to the flow your cat most responds to.

Finally, a brief word about automated feeders. Unless it's an emergency where your cat won't get fed otherwise, don't do it. Feeding time is an opportunity to bond with your cat daily. Just think--there are only a few things your cat looks forward to each day. Meal times are high on the list. Your cat will develop rituals and expectations around meals. You really should choose to be a part of them.

Food Recommendations for Cats with Diabetes

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One of the most effective tools for managing feline diabetes is diet.  But what happens when your cat friend tires of the food you've been feeding him?  Teri H. writes:

My cat, Salem, has diabetes. He’s been on a low carb wet cat food. I’m looking for other options (he is getting bored). What brands do you recommend?

Teri, you sound like you're managing Salem's diabetes very well.  Navigating the maze of information and misinformation about cat food is difficult in the best of circumstances.  We'll try our best to help you sort out your options.

All cats need a high-protein, low-carb diet.  All cats.  Not just those with diabetes.  We're seeing an increase in diabetes in cats partially because so many cats are being fed carb-heavy dry cat foods. If you can afford it, you really shouldn't feed your feline friend any dry cat food.

It's important to be aware that the information published by cat food producers about their products is often incorrect.  The information isn't updated as the production lines roll on and on with new sources of ingredients.  Each batch can differ greatly from the ones before.  No third parties are involved, so pet food manufacturers often spin their information in ways that make their products seem better for cats than they actually are.  Nutritional content labels are especially suspect.  Carbohydrate content can be as much as double what the label says.  We can only hope that one day we'll get better information.  In the meantime, we have to go by the information we have and base our decisions solely on the list of ingredients.

The ingredients should be mostly meat.  There should be absolutely no cereals, grains, or other plant-derived fillers.  This includes potatoes, corn, rice, wheat, soy, carrots, and all sorts of berries.  Many of these have become popular fillers because they allow pet food manufacturers to enthusiastically claim that their food is "grain-free".   While it's acceptable for a few plant-derived ingredients to be consumed by most cats, diabetic cats need to avoid these.

By far, the best diet for any cat is a raw food diet.  If you can afford the cost and the time, a raw diet will absolutely be the best thing for Salem.  It's important to note that the better cat foods cost a lot more than the junk.  This is a surprise to some people, but I don't know of any product where higher quality doesn't mean a higher price.  It's really up to you to decide how much you're willing to spend.  We're making our recommendations based on quality alone.

Our number one commercial "raw" food recommendation is for Radcat Raw Frozen food.  This food is easy to manage at home and it fulfills all the requirements of a raw food diet.  Rad Cat has had a recent voluntary recall because of an FDA finding of listeria and salmonella.  In our minds, this is a good thing because it means their products are closely monitored.  If this concerns you, please note that most cats will not touch tainted food.  If your cat turns down a batch of food, there's usually a good reason.

RAD CAT WEBSITE

Our number one freeze-dried raw diet (add warm water to hydrate and feed) is Primal Freeze-Dried Nuggets in Turkey or Venison flavors.  We don't recommend the other varieties because they contain fish and/or pork.  These do contain some plant-derived ingredients that the manufacturer claims are there to provide vitamins.  This may be true, but we feel it's best to be skeptical.  If you choose to try this food, you'll need to be careful to add extra water to it.  For some reason, the recommended amount is terribly low in our opinion.  No cat ever suffered from having too much moisture in his or her diet.

 
 

Our number one canned food recommendation is Ziwi Peak.  This is the only canned food that's almost as good for your cat as a raw diet.  Unfortunately, it's made in New Zealand and that adds to the cost for those of us who don't live down under.

 
 

A close second in the canned category is Nature's Variety Instinct line of canned foods. By far, our favorite, and our cats' favorite too, is their Ultimate Protein chicken formula. The first four ingredients are chicken, turkey, chicken liver, and chicken broth. This food also has the advantage of being available in both 3.5 oz. and 5.5 oz. sizes, unlike Ziwi Peak. Instinct also has the advantage of being widely available at a reasonable price.

 
 

You can also mix up your own raw diet with meat you purchase from the grocery store.  Just know that the meat alone doesn't include sufficient nutrition.  You need to add a feline supplement like Wysong's Call of the Wild powder.  The Amazon listing refers to this as a supplement for dogs, but rest assured that it's designed for cats as well.  They even picture a cat on the label.

 
 

For further reading, we recommend the Natural Cat Care Blog's cat food lists.  We've found their recommendations to be spot-on across the board.  If you feed Salem based on his cat needs, his food will be naturally low in carbs and he won't require foods that are made for diabetic cats.  His food will be naturally low in carbs to begin with. 

We wish you and Salem all the best, Teri!

Cat-Safe Cleaning Products

Let's face it - cats are clean freaks.  They clean themselves throughout the day to keep their coats shiny and their scents in check.  But what about the house the cats live in?  We humans are stuck with those cleaning duties, and some of the things we might use to get the job done are potentially harmful to cats.  Anthony K. writes:

We have stopped using store-bought cleaners and clean our surfaces and floors with a mixture of water, Seventh Generation dish soap, vinegar and tea tree oil. Is this safe for our cats? Are there any store-bought surface/floor cleaners that you could recommend as safe for cats? Thanks!

Anthony, most common household cleaners are unsafe because most of them include phenols and/or bleach, both of which are deadly to cats.  Since cats walk on the surfaces we clean and then lick their paws, it's extremely likely that they'll pick up what we're putting down, so we only want to put down products that are 100% safe.  Even after completely dried, a freshly cleaned floor will have some residue left from the cleaning products used.

Phenols are particularly destructive to cats' nervous systems.  They show up in lots of household products, most notably in Pine-sol and Lysol.  Note that both have "sol" in their names because of this active ingredient.  Some products are sneakier, so it could take a little bit of digging on the ingredients list.  It's worth the effort to avoid this killer toxin.

 
 

At the top of our safe list are Mr. Clean's Magic Erasers.  These little "sponges" often do a better job than the toxic stuff.  The Magic Eraser is an abrasive, melamime foam "sponge" that works well on tile, sinks, tubs, counter tops, walls...virtually all hard surfaces.  Just be sure to rinse away any of the foam left behind.  It's worth noting that there were some internet rumors about the toxicity of the material in Magic Erasers, but that was debunked by Snopes.

 
 

Another great product is the dry Swiffer Sweeper.  These miracle dusting cloths pick up cat hair like a magnet and leave nothing behind in their wake.  Take note that we don't approve of the wet version of the Swiffer.  Only the dry version of the sweeper is safe for cats.

The absolute best all-around safe cleaner for everything in your home from windows to floors is a solution of one part water and one part vinegar.  You can even use this solution in a steam cleaner for carpets.  We won't guarantee that your cats will approve of the smell, but at least it won't harm them, and it will get your home as clean as those toxic cleaners do; possibly even cleaner, since you won't be leaving behind a trail of chemical residues.

Tea tree oil is a problem because it's been shown to be toxic to cats and dogs.  In a recent study of the ASPCA's Poison Control Center's database, it was revealed that 77% percent of the cats and dogs who were reported to have come into contact with 100% tea tree oil had an adverse reaction.  You're probably using it diluted, but it would be better not to use it at all.

Seventh Generation products are probably okay in small doses but they do contain some synthetic ingredients.  The second ingredient in their dish soap is sodium lauryl sulfate.  They list it parenthetically as a "plant-derived cleaning agent".  It may come from plants but it's a common chemical detergent found in many soaps and shampoos.  There's currently a debate over whether or not this chemical causes cancer.  We may be being overly cautious, but we'd recommend against Seventh Generation because of the way they spin their marketing to make their products seem more natural than they actually are.  Their dish soap is really no safer than Dawn, which should be okay to use as long as you're not bathing your cats in it.

There are other good alternatives.  A great replacement for bathroom mildew removers is plain old lemon juice.  Just be sure to rinse it away thoroughly as most cats really hate citrus.  Lemon juice also works wonders on grease stains in the kitchen.

Furniture polish is awful for cats.  A good alternative is plain olive oil.  When you're done polishing you can cook up some pasta!

 
 

As long as you're cleaning, you might want to do a little pest control.  Almost all pesticides are a no-no.  The only one we've found that's completely safe for cats is Cedarcide.  It's cedar based and it kills most insects on contact.  We've used this product for years and can give it our full endorsement.

Anthony, simpler is always better when it comes to cleaning products.  Many of the so-called natural cleaners on the market contain a plethora of chemical ingredients.  Don't buy the hype (or the higher prices). 

Cleaning Cat Spray Smells

Clair S. writes in with a question about getting rid of the smell from a cat's marking spray.  Clair writes:

Bought a lovely cat kennel from pets at home for my 12 month old tom, Ozzy, to go in outdoors when we are not home and it’s raining. The kennel was indoors for two days and he loved it, slept in it etc. I put it out and monitored it from a window whilst he was out one night . A strange cat was in there so I went and got the box and it smelt of tom spray (Oz is not spraying yet as he’s quite contented). Horrified, I brought the box in and gave it household antibac spray then put it under a shower for ages. I dried it and put it back indoors. It’s been a week now and Oz won’t go near it, even though the other cat’s spray is gone from it. What do I do? Please help.

Clair, it's important to note that Ozzy's sense of smell is roughly 40 times that of the average human.  That means he can smell things that you or I would never notice.  In order to completely eliminate the marking scent on your kennel, you're going to have to go beyond standard cleaners and water.

 
 

To get rid of the odor completely, you'll need to wash the kennel down with an enzymatic cleaner.  Be sure to choose one that doesn't contain any extra ingredients that might harm Ozzy.  There are several of these sorts of cleaners on the market and most pet stores stock at least one.  Do not use ammonia or vinegar as they will not effectively remove the odor and they could actually set it so that you'll never get it out completely.

 
 

It may also help to clean the area outside where the interloper sprayed the kennel.  Chances are, he also sprayed the area around it.  The only way to know for sure is to examine the area with a black light.  Cat spray will glow under black light so that you can see if other areas, like the side of your house or a doorway, might also need cleaning.

We know that every situation is different, but the fact remains that Ozzy will face more conflicts with the strange cat and potential predators if he's allowed outside.  No doubt the spraying cat will return to spray in Ozzy's territory again and again.  You obviously care for Ozzy.  We just ask that you consider how much safer he'd be if he were kept indoors.

Cat Carrier Recommendations

We continue our series of recommendations for new cat owners.  See the entire new cat shopping list here.

Many rescues will let you take your newly adopted cat home in a cardboard carrier that they provide.  Even though they're just trying to be helpful, we feel that this is a mistake.  It's always best to require prospective guardians to bring their own carriers in order to determine just how serious they are about caring for their new friend.  Sure, there are budgetary constraints, but even the most budget-conscious family can afford a modest carrier.  If they can't or won't, then they shouldn't adopt a cat.

As to which carriers are best, we prefer soft-sided carriers.  Our cats do too!  There are several advantages that they have over the hard plastic carriers.  They're much more comfy for your cat, they're easier to store, and they can be small enough for air travel too!  The Bergan Comfort Carrier line is our current favorite.  They come in several sizes, have access at both ends as well as the top, and have removable fleece beds.

 
 

When travelling by car, be sure to buckle your cat carrier in place just like you would a child in a car seat.  Many soft-sided carriers are designed to accommodate a seat belt.  If yours doesn't it might be time to buy a new one.  If you're in an accident with your cat in a carrier, the carrier can be flung about the cabin or even ejected from the car.  The safest place to be in a car accident is strapped into a seat!