Opinion

Just Say NO to Animal Psychics

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There are so many shysters out there trying to take your money with false promises. Recently, we've become aware of an uptick in new age "animal communicators". These are people who claim to have a special gift of understanding the thoughts and feelings of your precious pets. These people are the lowest of the low, preying on people's love for their pets with lies masquerading as pseudo-science. This should be illegal, but if you can get people to pay for something in this country, there's no stopping you.

Let's be clear - There is no such thing as mind-reading between humans or between humans and animals. These people are using the age old tricks of the palm reader to tell their customers what they want to hear. They're performing what's called a "cold reading" in the palmistry biz - a series of guesses based on the limited information presented. Vague statements that can then be narrowed down in a sort of warmer-colder word game.

If anyone offers to help you to understand your pet's behavior using anything other than their knowledge of the species and observational skills, run as far away as you can. YOU will always be the ultimate source of info on your pet, because only YOU have the opportunity to observe him or her daily. You'll never have a need for these fake "animal communicators" if you just pay attention.

Dental Care for Cats Is a Necessity

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Dental care for cats is on my mind lately because one of our precious feline friends has a heart condition. What does that have to do with her dental care? Read on.

Mina, the black cat you see in many of our posts, is a 12 year old rescue cat with a pronounced heart murmur. Due to her heart defect, most vets refuse to offer her nonessential treatment (i.e. - treatment for anything that's not life threatening) if the treatment requires she be put under general anesthesia. The trouble with anesthetizing her is that it affects her blood pressure in unpredictable ways and the anesthesia could actually result in her death. Due to this, she's lived for over 12 years with only the routine, at-home dental treatments we could get her to accept from us.

Recently, she began exhibiting some excessive drooling as well as bad breath - classic symptoms of dental issues. She didn't seem to be in pain, but cats are very good at hiding physical discomfort. Her teeth were a mess, with many of her issues hidden under tartar buildup. It was clear that she was going to need extractions in addition to other dental procedures in order to live a happier life.

We consulted a verterinary cardiologist who administered an echo-cardiogram and prescribed a beta blocker to help manage Mina's heart health. Only then did he accept the risk of putting her under for the dental work she so desperately needed.

We had to wait for three weeks to get an appointment with the vet we wanted to do the work, and during that time, the vet researched her options for Mina's oral surgery. She chose to create an anesthetic protocol specifically for cats with heart problems like Mina's.

We had Mina's surgery yesterday and were consulted throughout regarding Mina's ups and downs. Seven of Mina's teeth were extracted or partially extracted and her remaining teeth were cleaned. Thanks to the diligence of Dr. Porter and the team at A Cat Clinic, Mina's surgery was successful and she's now resting at home as well as can be expected.

Dental care for our cats is necessary care. It should not be optional. Regular dental care from a qualified veterinarian will not only help them avoid future pain, it will help you to avoid the high financial cost of treatment as well as the price of watching your feline friend suffer. It can be easy to brush this need off (no pun intended) because cats hide their pain so well, but it's imperative. It isn't a veterinary sales ploy. It's a necessity for a healthy, happy cat.

Cat Rescues Vs. Breeders

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There are those who think that cat breed A, B or C is just the best because that’s the kind of cat they identify with. Maybe those Siamese cats in Lady & the Tramp just made a big impression or maybe or it’s how they’d like others to think of them. Well, I’m here to tell you that they’d be better off adopting. Breeders are the bane of rescue groups everywhere.

The biggest issue is simply that the world has enough cats without breeders making more. Statistics from the ASPCA state that 1.4 million cats are euthanized in the US shelter system each and every year. Approximately 70% of the cats who enter shelters are euthanized. This number is changing with no-kill facilities, but it is still alarming.

For every cat purchased from a breeder, a perfectly suitable cat could have been adopted from a rescue or a shelter. And don’t tell me you couldn’t find a suitable cat! I’ve worked at one of the finest Humane Societies in the country and I can tell you we saw every size shape, color, and disposition you could ever imagine, including some cats who were very likely purebreds.

It’s important that we not support the work of breeders. Even though some are well-intentioned, they are still making their living off the exploitation of cats. It’s a business that the breeder relies upon for their income, and that income is much more important to them than the well being of the animals in their care. Many will claim to be in love with the breed that they sell, but their queens (the mothers they use like kitten factories) aren’t given the benefit of happy lives in loving homes.

In addition, animals who are bred for a particular appearance also become victim of a litany of maladies as they’re inbred again and again. Genetic defects are the rule, not the exception in purebred animals of any sort. It’s a fact that most mixed breeds live happier, healthier lives than their purebred cousins.

It’s also important to note that most breeders don’t require the kittens they sell to be spayed or neutered. Most rescues and shelters do require their cats to be “fixed” prior to adoption because their goal is to reduce the overall population of cats. In fact, most rescue and shelter workers would be quite happy to be out of a job tomorrow if that were possible.

Please don’t add to the cat overpopulation problem by buying a pet from a breeder. There are many wonderful rescues and shelters throughout the world who would be very happy to help you find your feline soulmate. In the end, you’ll have helped not only the cat you adopt but also the species as a whole.

-Tom

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!

The Economics of Pet Products

I go to the local Petco store from time to time just to check out what's on the shelves. And do you know what I find on almost every aisle? Misdirection, misrepresentation, and sometimes outright deception. Most of the products in the cat care aisles are simply not appropriate for cats. When a well-intentioned person buys one of these products, they may be disappointed that their cat doesn't take to it at all. Or the product may help to create behavior issues that the cat will be blamed for.

Is this Petco's fault? No. Petco is a retailer. Their job is to stock the pet supplies that people want and to sell them in an attractive and convenient way. The marketing spin and poor product designs come from the companies who produce many of the products stocked there, and at Petsmart, Amazon, Chewy, Pet Food Direct, etc. The responsibility for what's stocked is ultimately in your hands and mine.

As I walk down the aisles of cat products I see many (MANY) products that simply are more appropriate for humans than they are for cats. For example, cats don't like hooded litter boxes but there are a dozen different versions of them here at Petco. Why? Because cats have no wallets. We've basically trained our pet supply vendors and retailers to appeal to us instead of to our cats and it's time we retrained them.

If you know anything about working with animals, even human animals, you know that it's much easier to train than to re-train, but that's exactly what we have to do. Every dollar we spend on pet supplies should be a conscious choice. Think, "Is this what my feline friend would choose?" or "Will this appeal to my cat's instincts?" instead of "Oooo, isn't that cute?" or "That package sure is pretty." Marketing experts have many people in the palm of their hands. We have to step back and think about our choices and how they'll affect the well-being of our cats. We need to see the products, not the packaging. Imagine them in our homes and imagine how our cats will truly respond.

Yes, that means retraining ourselves first and foremost to view pet supplies from the perspective of our furry friends. Then we need to convince other, less cat-savvy individuals to do the same. If we can do so, slowly, but surely, we'll see pet supply stores carry better and more species-appropriate products. Better for us and better for our cats. We just have to lead the way.