Finally a Conclusion

I see that it’s been exactly ten months since I last posted. And to think that I promised to keep you posted on my extremely fascinating raw cat food dilemma. (Come on, I know you think it’s fascinating. Don’t act like you don’t care.)

So here’s a nutshell version of the past ten months or so – regarding the cat food, of course. I’m not going to go through every little detail of my whole life in the past ten months. Now that would be boring indeed.

I’ve decided against raw food as their sole means of nourishment. If I had to pinpoint one event that led me to the decision, it would be the time that the white one had a rabbit bone stuck in her throat for a couple of hours. That freaked me out, I have to say, especially since she couldn’t get it out on her own. We ended up getting the bone out very easily that time, but I had to wonder what would have happened if it got stuck somewhere else?

To go along with the rabbit bone incident, I had a couple minor misgivings. First was the sanitary concern. Both of my cats loved to drag the raw meat across the floor, sometimes even to the carpet. So that meant I was doing a lot of spot cleaning every day. That wasn’t going to work long-term.

Second was the practical concern. These raw pellets are frozen. You have to move them from the freezer to the refrigerator, and eventually to the counter top for about half an hour before feeding (you know cats can’t eat cold food). So each day you have to move the right number of pellets from the freezer to the refrigerator. Let’s just say that wasn’t happening like it should have been.

So I researched and chose a canned food. I chose Nature’s Logic, which I order online. I settled on that brand because it has no preservatives or fillers. It also contains no by-products of anything. I’m not thrilled about the fruits, vegetables and cottage cheese, but that stuff has got to be better than grains and mysterious things. And I ran Nature’s Logic by two vets and they both approved with exclamation points.

It comes in rabbit, chicken and duck with salmon. The rabbit is the best, or so I assume by their reactions. The chicken is fine, but the duck/salmon mix took some getting used to.

So there you have it.

The End

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Raw Advice

I talked to three professionals regarding feeding raw meat to cats. Here are the results, in three little nutshells:

Colorado State Vet School—Dr. M.

I talked with Dr. M., the vet who currently sees our ancient, ailing cat Slim (who will play no part of this raw food experiment, by the way). He is basically against raw diets and the main reason he gave was the possibility of bacteria and/or parasite contamination. However, he was happy to answer my many questions and even suggested that I speak with a nutritionist at the UC Davis vet school (see below). He even offered to help me come up with a recipe if I decided to go that route.

 UC Davis Vet School

Well, this was interesting. As suggested by the trusted vet from Colorado State, I called the nutritionists’ office at UC Davis to schedule a phone consultation. The person who eventually answered the phone informed me that UC Davis does not promote raw diets. When I asked if I could at least talk to someone who could answer some questions, the tart reply was, “The answer to any question you ask will be that UC Davis doesn’t promote raw diets.”

Well then.

I won’t use the “information” I got from this phone call in my decision-making since they refused to even tell me why they think raw is bad. The person I talked to was clearly just regurgitating some meaningless words someone else had told her. She obviously hasn’t read my Meaningful Quote 3.

Local Vet—Dr. B.

So finally I called my local vet, the one who actually has examined Oscar and Tara. I was fully expecting a firm “no” from her as well. But to my surprise, Dr. B. promotes raw diets, as long as the owner (that’s me) knows that there’s a delicate balance of protein, vitamins, nutrients, etc. If this balance is even a little off, then the raw diet is not only useless but also very harmful.

 Of course, I already knew this, having read everything under the sun about raw cat food.

Dr. B. was very knowledgeable and even seemed excited about it. She recommends using a pre-made raw food since it will have the proper nutritional balance. And interestingly, the brand she recommends, Nature’s Variety, is the same brand of the tasty rabbit I bought recently (see my previous two posts on this matter, Of Mice and Kibble and Rabbit Eaters).

Regarding bacteria and parasites, she had two things to say. First, like people, cats are all different. Some can tolerate the bacteria and some can’t. So watch the litter box! Second, parasites are found mostly in pork muscle meat. So that’s easy—don’t feed pork. Parasites can be found elsewhere too, but she didn’t seem too concerned about this, especially since I take my cats in for a physical every year.

Since Dr. B. reviewed Oscar and Tara’s latest blood work before making her recommendation, I feel confident switching them to raw. I really believe her professional opinion was based on the current health of my two cats. She also told me that there are some cats that she would absolutely recommend against feeding raw, so hopefully anyone who is thinking about this consults their vet before jumping in.

I think I’m ready to take the plunge. My next step is to purchase a second plastic mat for mealtime since Tara has recently developed a fondness for dragging her food onto the floor before eating it. Maybe she thinks she’s killing it. That’s a new thing.

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Rabbit Eaters

I conducted an experiment this weekend: I fed raw rabbit to my two healthy cats.

I just wanted to see if they would even like a raw diet. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m leaning toward buying a premixed supplement which I will add to store bought ground meat. But before placing an order and waiting for the powder to come in the mail (my impatience won’t tolerate that sort of thing), I decided to buy frozen raw cat food just to see what would happen.

My sister pointed me to a place nearby where I bought a bag of 48 raw rabbit medallions. They’re about mouse sized—perfect!

The Experiment

I took them home and popped a few in the refrigerator to thaw (microwaving them would have totally defeated the purpose, of course). Several hours later, the time had finally arrived to conduct my experiment! I cut a medallion in half and smashed the meat onto two separate plates and set them on the kitchen floor.

I then shouted “Treat!” which is a magical word in our house. Out of nowhere bolt two big middle-aged cats, sliding on the wood floor, anxious to see what wonderful snacks the two plates held in store for them.

The Results

Tara dug right in without even thinking twice. She ate almost all the contents of one plate—even chewing the big pieces—walked over to Oscar, lay down in front of him and rolled around on the ground in some sort of ecstasy. Or maybe she was just showing off—who knows, I can’t read cat’s minds. After a while she got up and ate some of Oscar’s rabbit, then proceeded to the living room for some serious post-treat bathing. All of this is very un-Tara-like.

Oscar would have nothing to do with it. True, he thoroughly sniffed it, desperately searching for the deliciousness he was certainly missing—this plated mush was called a “treat” after all. But eventually he looked up at me and said with his green eyes, “For real, lady? This is what you call a treat?”

Summary

Over the weekend I learned three things. First, Oscar will gladly forgo two meals if it means he doesn’t have to eat raw rabbit. Second, Oscar will reluctantly allow himself to be tricked into eating raw rabbit, but only if it is mixed generously with Fancy Feast. And finally, I learned that Tara really loves raw rabbit, chicken and ground beef. She’s the real cat in the house.

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Of Mice and Kibble

I’m thinking about switching my cats to a raw food diet. After all, cats have evolved into carnivorous predators, and who am I to fight nature? Just because I, for my own self interest, have chosen to enclose animals between walls doesn’t mean I have any right to drastically alter their natural diet.

When I think about Oscar, I sometimes feel pretty bad. He could have stayed on the farm, catching his own fresh mice and birds and who knows what else. Sure, I’ve almost certainly extended his years; his ninth life most likely would have expired long ago in some fight over a pretty girl cat or in a deadly bout with a moving vehicle.

But what’s the point of an extended life when it’s not a quality life?

I don’t feel bad about Tara. She was born an indoor kitten (the cutest little white kitten in the world), so I didn’t steal any joys away from her. It’s pretty safe to say that my Tara has never seen a real mouse, let alone tasted one. The birds she has known have always fluttered safely on the other side of the window. She doesn’t know any better.

But these cats are at my mercy, 100% dependent on me.

I spend a lot of time (a whole lot of time) coming up with ways to improve my own diet. I read studies, I read ingredients lists (makes for some long grocery shopping trips), I find recipes, I prepare in advance, I prepare in quantity, etc. But the whole time I’ve been focusing on keeping my husband and myself healthy, I’ve been neglecting my bewhiskered friends.

While discovering, pinpointing, and removing from our human diet all the horrors that are passed off as “food” in the grocery store, it never occurred to me to even consider what non-foods were actually in the dry kibble and canned food I provide to my cats.

The wet and dry foods I currently give them contain preservatives, flavorings and “chicken by-products”—I don’t even want to know what that means. Also, they contain corn gluten meal (a lawn fertilizer and weed suppressant), vegetables, rice, oil and other things carnivores just aren’t built to digest. Can you imagine a cat in the wild crunching carrots and nibbling juicy blueberries? I can’t either.

For the past eleven years, I’ve failed to fulfill my cats’ dietary needs. But now I have the knowledge and determination to do a complete U-turn. I owe it to them to not only provide another ten or more years of life, but to provide them a quality second half of life.

Of course, it wouldn’t work for me to feed my feline friends live mice, birds and bugs in my house. That’s just gross. So I need to find the next best thing. There are quite a few raw cat food recipes out there, most featuring chicken or rabbit to replace the mice and birds cats have evolved to devour.

No problem. I can do chicken or rabbit, as long as they’re not alive and running around my house.

There are a variety of paths I can choose for my cats’ new diet and I haven’t quite decided on one yet. Choices range from buying quality canned (though cooked) cat food to grinding my own whole chickens—bones and all. And there are several middle ground options to choose from, too. I will probably choose one of these middle-of-the-road options, at least to get started.

Right now I’m leaning toward buying a premixed supplement and mixing it into store bought ground meat.

I know you’re just sitting on the edge of your seat right now, eagerly awaiting my ultimate decision and the final outcome.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Icy Treat

I found a recipe for a quick, single serving of homemade vanilla ice cream that takes me back to the hot summer days when I was about four feet tall.

I recommend using real vanilla extract for a great flavor.

You will need:
1 small sealable plastic bag
1 large sealable plastic bag
½ c. milk
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. ice cubes
6 Tbsp. salt

• Put the milk, sugar and vanilla into the small plastic bag and seal it tightly. Shake the bag to mix the ingredients.
• Put the ice and salt into the large plastic bag.
• Put the small bag into the large bag and seal tightly.
• Shake the bags until ice cream forms, about 5 minutes.
• Remove the small bag and wipe well with a damp cloth (otherwise you will have very salty ice cream).
• Scoop into a bowl and enjoy!

Cleanup:
After you have enjoyed your icy treat, turn the plastic bags inside out and wash with soapy water. Stand the inside out bags on your counter top to dry. Reuse them later!

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Meaningful Quote 3

“Re-examine all you have been told…”
Walt Whitman

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Unleaded Please

I am in the habit of reading the ingredients of everything I buy in the grocery store. It makes for some long shopping trips, but to me it’s worth the extra time to be sure I’m avoiding all the corn syrups, preservatives, and blue #2s out there. I’ve learned a lot about food and “food” by doing this, but the other day I found something very disturbing and surprising.

I’m a big fan of balsamic vinegar. I make my own salad dressing with it and I douse lots of cooked veggies with it. I think I could just drink it. I don’t mind spending money on good balsamic vinegar, either. With balsamic you get what you pay for. The cheap stuff just doesn’t cut it.

Last week was the first time since we’ve moved to Colorado that I needed to buy a bottle, and the store here carries brands I’m unfamiliar with. So I read the lables. I wasn’t surprised to find that most have preservatives, but what I was shocked to see was that many brands–even the expensive ones–actually have lead in them. And it says so right on the label.

Seriously? Lead? Amazing. I couldn’t help but pity all the other shoppers out there–the ones who don’t read lables–buying this vinegar, completely clueless that they are buying something toxic.

The first thing I did when I got home was look at my almost empty of Iowa balsamic and was releived to find a proud announcement that it does not contain lead.

In the end I bought a cheap bottle of organic balsamic vinegar because it was the only brand that lacked both preservatives and lead.

I wonder what lead tastes like…

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