Cat Food Vs. Cat Feed - What's the Difference?

Most pet "foods" on the market are really pet "feeds". What's the difference? I'm glad you asked!

A quick Google search reveals that food is defined as:

any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.

The same site defines feed as:

food for domestic animals.

The truth is that feed and food are two very different things. Both provide basic sustenance, but at very different degrees of effectiveness. To get to the heart of the matter, we have to look at the usage and connotations of each word.

Food is generally thought of as something that people eat. Our concept of food is that it is delicious and nutritious. It brings to mind family meals around a table at Thanksgiving, or at a favorite restaurant. When we think of food, we usually think of the meals that sustain us.

Feed is something that we throw down for animals to keep them alive just long enough for us to get something from them. That something is usually their very bodies. Feed is cheap. It's neither delicious nor nutritious beyond the very base needs of the species that's being fed. It's basically recycled garbage left over from human food production or other industries. I recently saw a plea for citizens to bring in palm fronds downed during a storm so that they could be used as cattle feed. Feed is roadkill. Feed is diseased waste. Feed is whatever can be forced on a starving animal to keep them alive for one more day. And feed is where the pet food industry began.

Let's look at the history of that most famous of pet food brands, Purina. According to Wikipedia:

Ralston Purina traces its roots to 1894, when founder William H. Danforth established the animal feed company Purina Mills. William H. Danforth, partnered with George Robinson and William Andrews, entered the business of feeding farm animals by founding the Robinson-Danforth Commission Company. The name was changed to Ralston Purina in 1902. Its predominant brand for each animal was generally referred to as “Chow”; hence “Purina Horse Chow”, “Purina Dog Chow”, “Purina Cat Chow”, “Purina Rabbit Chow”, “Purina Pig Chow”, and even “Purina Monkey Chow”.

The fundamental difference between human food and animal feed is reinforced throughout the article, and in my opinion, throughout the culture of Purina. Of course, Purina is just one of several big companies that own many, many different brands. Most of these big companies buy up smaller brands to own marketshare, but keep the brands on the shelf in order to create the illusion of choice in the marketplace.

The marketing of all of these substandard feeds has been so successful that many cat caregivers actually believe that they're feeding their cats great food by buying these brands. All it takes is a picture of a happy cat on the package alongside images of human food and most consumers are convinced that their choice is a good one. Unfortunately, despite the pictures of real food on the outside, what's inside those packages is still animal feed because it's more profitable.

Regardless of what you think of the meat and dairy industries, you must acknowledge that meat producers are only interested in getting cattle to live long enough to be slaughtered for processing. That's a very different agenda from us cat lovers who want our feline friends to live happily for as long as they can.

I have no doubt that the pet food industry will continue their profitable practices as long as consumers keep buying. Every time you spend a dollar, you're casting a vote, and when you spend on these substandard feeds, you're voting for this garbage and harming your pet at the same time.

If you'd like to learn how to choose better nutrition for your pet, check out the excellent resources at the following links:

http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/best-cat-food-and-treats

http://www.naturalcatcareblog.com/2010/12/the-7-best-natural-commercial-cat-foods-so-far/

https://catinfo.org/

http://truthaboutpetfood.com/

Wishing you and your feline friends all the best!

Emergency Evacuation Kit for Cats

cat-evac-kit.jpg

Most of us suffer from "it won't happen to me" syndrome. You hear it on every TV news report. "I never imagined this would happen here" or "He was such a nice cat who kept to himself." Okay, well maybe not that last one, but you get the point. After seeing wildfires jumping freeways in LA, tornadoes ripping their way across Tennessee, and hurricanes blasting Florida beaches, we're here to tell you that you're better off being prepared.

Below is the Kitty Help Desk evacuation kit - everything we think you'll need in the event you need to bug out quickly with your feline friends. We recommend that you get a plastic storage bin and have this kit ready to go at a moment's notice. You'll be glad that you did.

  • Food & Water - It may go without saying, but you need to make sure you pack at least two weeks' worth of food and water along with some stainless steel bowls. Make sure the food doesn't expire by rotating the portions you keep in your kit every few months.
  • Medications - Whatever medications you normally administer to your cats, you need to make sure you pack a two week supply in your kit. Check it frequently to make sure it doesn't expire before you use it.
  • Litter & Litter Box - While there are some small, collapsible travel litter boxes out there, we recommend bringing along a duplicate of your cat's favorite box along with the usual litter. Change will not be welcomed in the midst of the chaos of an evacuation, so anything that reminds a cat of home will be helpful in maintaining their sanity and your own. Also, don't forget a litter scoop, paper towels, and some small trash bags.
  • Carriers - You need one carrier per cat. Soft sided carriers work well and collapse so you can store them easily. Even cardboard carriers will do in a pinch.
  • Harness & Leash - This is optional, but it can be a godsend if you need to let a crying cat out of his or her carrier for a bit just to visit the litter box or blow off steam. Do harness training now and reap the rewards later.
  • Familiar Smells - Cats love their home territory and they generally dislike leaving it. Bring a little bit of home with you when you bug out by including a blanket that has familiar scents. This probably wouldn't get packed in advance, but would be something you'd grab at the last minute.
  • Nail Clippers - No matter what's going on out in the world, those cat nails will continue to grow. Make sure you're prepared to keep them trimmed.
  • Brush - All daily brushing rituals should continue. They will help to calm your cats and they'll remove excess hair that could result in hairballs.
  • Scratching Surface - Cats have to scratch in order to shed their nail sheaths. Make it easier on them (and the furniture wherever you're staying) by providing a solution. Corrugated cardboard scratchers work very well and are portable.
  • Vaccination Records - In the event you need to see a new veterinarian or have to seek refuge in an emergency shelter, you may need to provide vaccination records. Make sure you have paperwork showing your pets' most recent vaccinations and/or titers.
  • Printed Pictures - Sometimes a new situation will frighten a cat and the worst will happen - he or she will escape. Be prepared with a couple of printed pictures of your feline friends that you can show around in the event they get lost.
  • ID - Make sure every cat has a collar with a current phone number. We recommend Safe Cat collars with embroidered names and numbers. You may also want to make sure your cats are microchipped and that your own ID info is up to date.
  • Emergency Contacts - In this day of smart phones, most of us can hardly remember our own phone numbers, let alone someone else's. Be sure to print out phone numbers for your veterinarian and any other folks you might need when your phone battery dies.

These are just some ideas to get you started. You know your feline friends better than anyone. Think about what might comfort them, and you, if you had to leave your home unexpectedly. Make plans now so that when an emergency happens you don't have to cover all your bases at once. There's often a very short lead time for evacuation orders. Be ready!

REVIEW: AmazonBasics Pet Bed

IMG_20180516_130709332.jpg

We've gone through many a cat bed in our house. We've tried them all, from the flimsy doughnuts with no padding on the bottom to the expensive raised beds with cubbies underneath. None have been outright rejected, though several came in boxes that were ultimately more interesting than the beds they contained. This time, we bought four beds - one for each cat - and all four have been inhabited ever since. Pretty good for a reasonably-priced AmazonBasics product.

The bed is a generous 20" in diameter. It has polyester canvas outer sides and bottom and fleece-like upper sides and top. The padding is soft and pillowy, and there's plenty of padding on the bottom of the bed. These are plush! There are even seams on the bottom to keep the padding from moving around inside the bed.

IMG_20180511_175341782.jpg

The only negative is the fabric bottom. Many pet beds have rubberized or textured bottoms to keep them from slipping around on smooth surfaces. Not so on this bed. If you put it on a smooth surface like a hardwood floor, it can slide around pretty easily. That said, we've had no issues with ours so far. At least the cats aren't playing air hockey with them yet. Part of that is due to the size of the bed. Weighing in at a little over one pound means that it mostly stays put unless a cat launches out of it suddenly.

We appreciate that these beds can be machine washed. One of ours has already weathered a small bout of regurgitation and it came through with flying colors.

IMG_20180520_153416199.jpg

All in all, these are a great bargain and come highly recommended. Oh, and the boxes they came in were big hits too!

 

Book Review: Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats

dr-pitcairns-guide.jpg

Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn is a leader in the rising movement of veterinarians who wish to provide homeopathic alternatives to their patients. Like any profession, there are those who follow what they've been taught in programs funded by big business and there are those who think for themselves. Fortunately for our pets, the latter category is growing rapidly.

Veterinary medicine began as a way to keep farmed animals alive long enough to make a profit off of them. There was little or no concern for the core health and well being of those animals. These days, we frequently see cats who live more than 20 years - a case unheard of in the wild. These companions need more than "feed" and antibiotics in order to thrive. Just like us humans, they need a more natural approach to health care. Yes, there are times when manufactured medicines will be needed, but more often than not, maladies can be treated naturally using natural herbs and supplements from reliable sources.

Which brings us to this wonderful book. Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats is one of the go-to resources that we use here at Kitty Help Desk on a daily basis. Its 466 pages are overflowing with great information. Most animals in the western world are over-vaccinated, over-medicated and under-nourished. Dr. Pitcairn seeks to change all that with the simplest of tools - information.

The book is divided into two sections. Part one covers all of Dr. Pitcairn's recommendations for how to care for your pets on a daily basis. From food to exercise to dealing with neighbors, he's covered all of the bases for both dogs and cats.

Part two is the quick reference section that covers a full array of maladies from identification to treatment, including treatments for chronic conditions. Of course, Dr. Pitcairn is quick to indicate when professional veterinary advice is needed.  He also gives the caregiver ammunition to use when encountering less progressive vets. For example, when diagnosing bladder crystals, many vets will refuse to examine a urine sample brought in by a caregiver because it isn't sterile. They think they're looking for bacteria when, in fact, bacteria may not be the real culprit. Crystals can still be identified under the microscope and a caregiver facing this situation would do well to know that.

The entire book is very well done, written with the tone of a knowledgeable friend. Information about relevant topics is easily found, and Dr. Pitcairn usually gives multiple alternatives for treatment along with indications for their preference. It's important that the reader understand how to use the quick reference section prior to digging in to treatment suggestions, so the first chapter of the quick reference section should not be overlooked. In addition, most treatments refer to either the Schedule For Herbal Treatment chapter or the Schedule for Homeopathic Treatment chapter. These should be referenced any time these schedules are noted. 

We highly recommend this book. If you only have one book on treating the ailments of your feline friends, this is the one. We also recommend that you follow Dr. Pitcairn's blog at https://drpitcairn.blog/.  It's no exaggeration to say that the information in this book may be a lifesaver.

Feline Personalities

kittens.jpg

Whether you're choosing a new cat companion from the local rescue or introducing a new cat to others in your home, it can help to have a basic understanding of feline personality types. While every cat is unique, they do tend to fall into categories based on their valiance level (AKA courage) and their desire for social interaction with humans and other cats.

The ASPCA has a program that they call Feline-ality which categorizes cats into nine personality types. We've never seen a clearer, more accurate, or more helpful version of this. The program was developed to help rescues match cats with new adopters, but it can also help you to understand your cats and their interactions.

There's also a very good web page that explains their nine feline-ality types in a way that anyone can understand: ASPCA FELINEALITY PROGRAM. Be sure to check out the downloadable "poster" at the bottom of the page.

We don't always agree with the things the ASPCA chooses to do, but the Feline-ality program is a real winner!