Cat Food

My Cat Won't Eat Solid Food

Cats sometimes have very strong preferences about their food.  Not only the taste, but the texture as well.  Julie H. writes:

My cat Mally Boo loves gravy, but he doesn’t eat the meat. Is there anywhere I can buy just the gravy?

Julie, the gravy isn't available for sale by itself because it doesn't provide complete nutrition.  No otherwise healthy cat should be on an all-liquid diet.  You may be able to fool Mally into eating more solids if you chop the whole meal up very fine in a food processor and add a little water so it's more like a thick soup.  You could also try switching him to a pâté style of food.  Just add some water to it to make it soupier than it is right out of the can.

The big question, though, is why doesn't Mally Boo want to eat solid food?  Is it just a preference - something we see every day in one of our own cats - or is it health-related?  You might want to take this opportunity to take him in for a checkup at your veterinarian.  Ask the doctor to pay special attention to Mally Boo's teeth.  

Dental pain is the number one reason for cats to choose to ignore foods that they have to chew.  Many are very good at hiding their pain.  So good that you'll need to have your vet make the determination for you.  

We feel certain that you'll be able to get Mally Boo to eat a more complete diet in no time!

Help with Hairballs

Most domestic cats vomit up hairballs from time to time.  As cats age, this problem becomes even more common.  Eva D. writes:

My 11 year old Sammy has been throwing up hairballs lately. What causes that and what is the solution? He gets groomed and is not long haired.

First, let's discuss what exactly hairballs are.  They're wads of cat hair (usually tubular in shape) that get vomited up because they can't be digested.  They usually come up with some undigested food and stomach acid.  The acid is an additional problem in that it can damage teeth if it happens often enough.  These wads of hair are even more trouble if they don't get vomited up.  Some cats have to have them surgically removed because they're blocking their digestive tract.

This is a big issue, Eva, and one that comes with some controversy when it comes to treatment options.  There are many hairball preventatives on the market, most of which do little or nothing.  Most so-called hairball remedies are sold at a huge profit because unknowing consumers will buy them.  The gels and foods and treats are all barking up the wrong tree, in our opinion.  Daily brushing can help a little but the problem will inevitably return, especially during the warmer months when more hair is shed.

The big question is whether or not cats in the wild have hairballs.  It seems that they do not.  So the question changes.  Instead of asking, "How do we prevent hairballs?" we must ask, "What is it about living with us humans that causes our cat friends to have hairballs?"  The answer appears to be very simple:  food.  Processed, store bought cat foods aren't close enough to what cats eat in the wild and they're very likely to be the root cause of this problem.

Our best recommendation is to feed Sammy a high-moisture, low-fiber, grain-free diet that consists almost entirely of meat.  We know that most people have a hard time feeding their feline friends raw diets.  We get it.  But there are some good options out there.  One of the best is Rad Cat frozen food.  This food is easy to manage at home and it fulfills all the requirements of a raw food diet. 

Freeze-dried raw food is another great option because of its convenience.  Most cats love the food when it's been re-hydrated and it nourishes them in ways most other foods don't.  If Sammy will eat it, this is one way to go.  We prefer Primal Nuggets.

 
 

A good canned food option is Ziwi Peak, but we sometimes don't recommend it due to the cost.  If you can afford it, however, Ziwi Peak canned food is one of the best canned diets out there.

 
 

Eva, please be aware that our suggested remedy is not the most conventional.  The bulk of the advice out there says to increase fiber or add a digestive enzyme supplement.  But our own experience tells us otherwise.  We've tried every remedy in the book and didn't solve our cats' problems until we changed their diets.  And we're not the only ones to have had this experience.  Dr. Fern Crist, DVM, posted an informative article on the subject over at consciouscat.net:

http://consciouscat.net/2010/04/28/some-startling-new-thoughts-on-cats-and-hairballs/

She writes:

Every day, there’s more scientific evidence that these “mere” hairballs we see so often may respond, not to grease and not to fiber, not to brushing and not to shaving, but to feeding a diet that looks like what a cat was evolved to eat.

There is one other product that we've found to be effective in conjunction with a dietary change and that's krill oil. The brand we'd recommend is Mercola.

 
 

Even though it's expensive, it only takes one "pump" of the product per day to make all the difference. That means that this little bottle will last the better part of a year. We have first hand experience with the combination of a rehydrated freeze dried raw diet and Mercola krill oil and we can honestly say that it just works. Our hairball-inclined cat hasn't had a problem since. However, you might want to avoid it if your feline friend is allergic to fish.

We feel certain that with a little bit of patience and the right choice of food, Sammy's hairball problem can be eliminated, Eva.  We wish you and Sammy all the best!

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!

Is My Cat Underweight?

How do you know if your cat is eating enough food each day in order to maintain his or her ideal weight?  Angelina H. writes:

My three-year-old tabby, Tigger, has been vet checked twice in the last month. There are no parasites and extensive blood work can’t find anything wrong, but he is not gaining any weight. I’ve tried every food known and he is still only 9 pounds and a couple of ounces. I don’t think he eats enough. What to do?

Angelina, it's hard to know what the issue might be without further information.  Does your veterinarian think Tigger should be gaining weight?  There are cats who appear very thin their entire lives.  Our spokescat, the black one you see in some of the images here on the site, only weighs nine pounds and she's a very healthy nine-year-old.

It's important to note that many different cat breeds can have what we usually refer to as a "tabby" color pattern to their coats.  Some of them are naturally skinnier looking than others because they're descendants of Abyssinians or other very thin breeds.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has published this chart to help in the evaluation of a cat's weight.  It's based on appearance as opposed to measured weights because cats can come in all shapes and sizes.  No matter the size, you should be able to feel at least some fat covering Tigger's shoulder and rib bones.

Most cats will eat enough to maintain an adequate weight if the food they're given is high in quality.  High quality cat foods are canned or raw diets with plenty of moisture, low carbohydrates, and with real meats as the main ingredients.  Dry cat food is essentially junk food for cats and it should be avoided.  See this post on cat food choices to determine if the food you've been offering Tigger has been good for him or not.  If you decide to change Tigger's diet, you need to do so slowly over a period of seven to ten days to allow his digestive system to adjust.

If you and your veterinarian decide that Tigger really should be eating more, there vare several things you can try.  Start by feeding him a food that's denser in calories, like kitten food.  You can supplement this with some boiled chicken or other 100% meat that Tigger responds to.  You can't feed him this all the time as it lacks certain nutritional elements that he needs, but it may be enticing enough to get him to eat more.  

Don't feed him made-for-human fish products because many have extra ingredients that can be harmful to cats.  Even canned tuna should be off limits, though it can be used in moderation to entice Tigger if you're desperate to get him to eat.  A tiny bit that's been thoroughly washed and mixed into his food might do the trick.  You have to be careful, though.  Cats often develop allergies to fish proteins.  In addition, some cats become addicted to the strong flavors in fishy foods and will stop eating anything else because other flavors pale in comparison.

Angelina, as in all things health-related, you need to develop a plan with the help of your veterinarian.  Most veterinarians will have seen many, many cats over the course of their careers and they'll be in a better position to judge whether or not Tigger is underweight.  If he is, then they should help you develop a workable plan.  If they don't (or won't), it's time to visit a new vet.

We wish you and Tigger the best of luck in sorting this out! 

Diagnosing Feline Diabetes

Gloria B. contacted us with an unusual question about her cat, Murphy.  Gloria writes:

He is almost 16 yrs. old. He pees like a race horse. Is that a sign of any problems?

Gloria, it depends.  If you're feeding Murphy wet food or a special urinary tract health food, you should expect him to urinate more.  If you're feeding him dry food and he's suddenly peeing (and drinking) a lot more than usual, he may have feline diabetes.  It's fairly common among older cats, especially those who've lived on high-carbohydrate diets for most of their lives.  

You should have him checked out by your veterinarian to be sure.  They'll need to perform a basic urinalysis and a complete blood count, and some may suggest a serum biochemistry profile.   Rest assured, your vet isn't trying to score a boat payment from recommending so many tests.  If the initial urinalysis goes well, they may not recommend the other two.  Just be prepared.

If Murphy is indeed diabetic, your doctor will prescribe a course of treatment based on the severity of the disease.  These days, it's easily treated.  Of course, that is if Murphy actually has the disease.  We certainly hope that's not the case, but the only way to know for sure is a vet visit.

As an aside, we recommend an all wet food diet for all pet cats.  See this post for more on the reasons why.