A colleague recently asked me to look after his cat while he was on holiday for five weeks. I want to state firmly at the outset that he and his wife are caring people. They care about their cat and they give him the best to their way of thinking.
But it isn’t my way of thinking. So I want to share with you the journey we are taking together – Thomas and I. My colleague trusts me and is fine with any changes I make.
I do understand that making changes with cats can be difficult. Cats do tend to like routine. And to ask a cat to change while we are still unsure does not bode well for the outcome. So I hope my experience helps you. This is in a diary form, so you will need to scroll down for any fresh updates.
Please follow and share my updates on what is happening.
Days Pre Move
I asked my colleague to talk to Thomas, telling him what was happening, why he was being moved and that it was only temporary, they would be back. Animals hear us loud and clear (a bit too loud sometimes). It is us who have the problem in hearing them.
Day of Move
I asked that Thomas’ bed and an unwashed article of clothing was brought with him. Familiar smells help an animal adapt to the change.
They also brought all Thomas’ food, dishes and litter tray.
It’s really important not to make any unnecessary changes while an animal settles in. The change is a big enough challenge to manage on its own. So, even though I was concerned about many things, I didn’t change anything.
Thomas is 21 years old, a placid, an even tempered cat. He wasn’t frightened by the move. He is confined to my spare bedroom until I feel he is safe to be free. He greets me every time I go in to see him and he purrs when cuddled.
So he is settling in just fine. So now I can make some small changes.
First Few Days
I had forgotton just how bad dried cat food smells. The smell of it in a confined space was disgusting. So I was delighted that he wasn’t eating them. He normally only had a few in the morning or evening, but they were often left out until he had eaten them.
This is very harmful to a cat’s digestive system. Cats are hunters, so they eat everything at once. Then there is a lull before the next meal, giving their digestive tract a rest. Allowing them to free feed means that their digestive system is always on the go. In later, if not earlier life, they will develop stomach or other digestive problems.
So the dried food was banished! And the room smelled far healthier.
Update 1 – feeding bowls
Thomas came with his dishes. Stainless steel dishes. Metals tend to have an electromagnetic charge, however small. Cats, being far more sensitive than us humans, can detect this and it can make them feel uncomfortable. So, alongside his stainless steel water bowl, I placed a ceramic one. For the moment, I kept his food in his dish.
Over the next couple of days, I noticed that the water in the ceramic dish was going down, but it wasn’t in the stainless steel dish, confirming my suspicions. So I put his dishes aside and kept the ceramic ones.
Update 2 – dry food part 1
Why am I so against dry pet food? There are many reasons, but I will deal with a couple of the most important, today. And another soon.
For a start, cats come from arid areas of the world, so they have perfected the concept of saving water. This means they rely on the moisture in their prey for most of their liquid needs. They also extract the maximum possible water from the stool before excretion. So their need for water is much less than most animals. Perfect if you live in an arid region of the world.
Cats who eat dried food will always drink more than normal, but will never drink enough to make up the difference.
Another reason is that dried food (hopefully) contains meat. If you want meat to stay on the shelf indefinitely, as dried pet food does, you need some really strong preservatives. Animal food laws are nothing like human food laws, if they exist at all. So the really strong preservatives tend to be used – formaldehyde (or formalin) and ethoxyquin. Formaldehyde is known to cause kidney problems (common in cats) which can lead to cancer.
Ethoxyquin is a pesticide and is not allowed in human food. It too can lead to kidney issues and cancer.
Update 3 – dry food part 2
The ingredients on the packet of dried cat food (an expensive looking one found in many vet clinics) left for me to feed Thomas are:
vegetable protein isolate, precooked wheat flour, animal fats, rice, dehydrated poultry meat, vegetable fibres, hydrolysed animal protein, maize, chicory pulp, soya oil, fish oil, minerals, tomato, psyllium husk and seeds, fructo-oligo saccharides, green tea extracts, hydrolysed yeast, hydrolysed crustaceans, borage oil, marigold extract, hydrolysed cartilage
various synthetic vitamins and minerals
Did you know that cats are carnivores and so find eating plant based food difficult to digest? They do cause harm. Yet in this ingredient list of 21 ‘food’ ingredients, only 6 were from animal based sources. The most important ingredients, the bulk, were plant based.
What is vegetable protein isolate?
Isolates are parts of the whole extracted by chemical reactions. Parts of food are difficult to digest even for those who do well on that food. The whole is needed for the body to utilise. Chemical reactions will always leave a residue. What vegetables are used? Soy and maize are common and mostly GM now. Pea is also common. As is wheat.
What is hydrolysation?
Hydrolysis is a chemical digestion where the substance is put into a vat of sulfuric acid and boiled for several hours to break down the protein. Then lye is added to raise the pH. Lye is the caustic additive in making soap.
What are fructo-oligo saccharides or FOS?
They are indigestible carbohydrates mostly made from fructose, which are sugars. Diabetes anyone? In humans, they can cause bloating, cramps, flatulence, diarrhoea. That’s in people who can digest saccharides. What about cats, who can’t?
Hydrolysed yeast is MSG.
Synthetic vitamins and minerals
Anything synthetic has long term effects on the health of the consumer. Short term use can be effective. However, isolated nutrients are not dealt with effectively by the body. Whole food, with the complex interaction of various nutrients are how we all evolved. Synthesising has inherent and toxic problems. For example vitamin D3 is made by irradiating cow and pig (and maybe others) cholesterol.
Synthetic antioxidants include BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), Ethoxyquin, Proply gallate, Propylene glycol, Sodium Nitrate. All these are dangerous chemicals that are linked to organ destruction and cancer, yet they are still permitted in pet food.
Here is a good summary of what these preservatives can cause.
Update 4 – drinking
Even though Thomas had stopped eating the dry food several days ago, his water intake was far too great. He was likewise peeing far more than was healthy for a cat. This shows a kidney disturbance. His stool was also too moist.
So I started him on a kidney organ homeopathic remedy. These are quite slow to act, but they gradually restore health to the organ.
What is normal drinking and peeing for a cat? Well, that depends. A cat eating dry food will drink more than normal, but shouldn’t pee more than normal. In the summertime, a healthy outside cat will normally drink a bit more than in winter time.
There are many variables depends on the local conditions, diet and stress.
However a healthy cat, fed natural food, which is quite wet (simulating the prey they eat in the wild) in clement weather conditions, will drink nothing to one drink a day and will pee once a day. This would be normal.
Cats come from arid regions of the world and have adapted water saving strategies. They differ from other species in this regard and most people, including vets, are not aware of this.
Update 5 – venturing outside
Thomas is an inside/outside cat at home, so he needed to be able to go outside here. He can stand up for himself, but is not aggressive. After about five days, his manner showed me that I could leave his door open. If one of my cats ventured into his room, he swore, hissed or growled at them, but didn’t attack. So they mostly left him alone.
He didn’t venture out for a couple of days, but then found the outside cat flap. It was a little worrying when he ventured out initially as he was gone for over an hour and I couldn’t find him. But I trusted my instincts to let him out, and sure enough he came back when he was ready.
It’s always a worry, letting a cat out for the first time in a new home. The more frightened they are, the longer they need time to adjust. Thomas didn’t show any fear from the word go, so by keeping him shut in so long was more for my benefit than his. I certainly didn’t want to lose him!
You need to gauge each cat on how they are coping with the new situation. It’s better to allow them time to get used to one thing at a time. Don’t rush them. Let them do it their way.
Now he strolls in and out as if he’s always been here. He particularly likes the duck pond where he can get a really cold drink of water (it’s winter at the moment).
Update 6 – canned wet food
The wet food I had been left to feed Thomas came in those expensive little one-meal cans. No expense spared, but who was benefitting? Certainly not Thomas.
The ingredients on one of them (although all were similar) are:
water, chicken, liver, egg white, wheat flour, wheat gluten, dextrose, modified rice starch, oat fibre, soybean oil, chicken liver flavour, titanium dioxide, dicalcium phosphate, fish oil, potassium chloride, choline chloride, calcium carbonate, L-lysine, iodised salt, taurine, guar gum, vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, ascorbic acid, niacin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, calcium pantothenate, vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin supplement, biotin, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, calcium chloride, zinc oxide, ferrous sulphate, copper sulphate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, caramel, beta-carotene
I’m not going to examine all the questionable ingredients as there are rather a lot.
Chicken liver flavour will not have seen a chicken liver. It is a synthetic flavour.
Titanium oxide is used as a whitening agents and to resist discolouration. It can be in nanoparticles which have been found to cause breakdown in chromosomes, cause DNA damage, inflammation, cancer and genetic disorders. It can accumulate in the brain causing negative effects on brain cells.
Dicalcium phosphate is a synthetic inorganic compound also known as caltrex. Some say it an inert substance to bind ingredients. Others say it is a source of calcium and phosphate. No synthetic substance can be a source of nutrients as food needs to be in natural balance to feed the body. Some side effects include gastro-intestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, stomach pain, thirst, dry mouth, increased urination. There can be complications from interaction with drugs. They can cause osteoporosis.
Common side effects of potassium chloride are diarrhoea, gas, nausea, stomach discomfort, vomiting. Severe side effects include allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); black, tarry stools; chest pain; irregular heartbeat; listlessness; numbness or tingling in your skin, lips, hands, or feet; severe nausea or vomiting; stomach pain or swelling; unusual confusion or anxiety; unusual muscle weakness or paralysis; vomit that looks like coffee grounds; weak or heavy legs.
Taurine is found in fresh meat, so never needs to be added when there is sufficient fresh meat.
Thiamine is one of the naturally occurring vitamin Bs (B1), common in fresh meat. It is water soluble so excess can be easily excreted. Thiamine mononitrate is a synthetic substance which is fat soluble, so excess is much more difficult to expel. Allergic reactions are generally experienced as the side effects, from mild to severe. They include difficulty breathing, or an itchy skin.
Pyridoxine is anther one of the B vitamins, B6. Pyridoxine hydrochloride is the synthetic version of it. Synthetic versions of nutrients are nearly useless if you are lucky, and cause harm if you aren’t.
Vitamin B12 is found in fresh meat so supplementing a healthy cats diet is not necessary.
Folate is the natural nutrient. Folic acid the synthetic.
Zinc oxide is normally used topically. So what is it doing in your cat food? Another name for it is benzyl benzoate. It is used as a preservative and an insecticide. It is used to treat scabies.
Common side effects of ferrous sulfate include constipation, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, nausea, stomach cramps, pain, vomiting. Severe side effects include allergic reactions (rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue), black, tarry stools; blood or streaks of blood in the stool, fever, severe or persistent nausea, stomach pain, or vomiting, vomit that looks like blood or coffee grounds.
Copper sulphate is a poison. It can result in kidney damage and death. Less serious effects are diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, fever, stomach pain, anaemia, heart problems. It is used as a pesticide and fungicide.
Generally any nutrients that are referred to as supplements are the synthetic form, so will mostly not be digested easily or used, and can cause harm especially over a prolonged period.
Beta carotene is the human equivalent of vitamin A, the precurser to it. Vitamin A is found in meat, so cats don’t need beta-carotene and can’t use it.
No-one knows the combined effects of any more than two drugs, if that. This means no-one knows what the combined effect of these chemicals are. They may inter-act with each other. They may modify the effect of each other. They may interfere with each other. They may nullify the effect of each other. They may enhance the effect of each other.
You may have a sensitive cat (although all cats are sensitive) who is exhibiting symptoms from these chemicals. If so, how can any therapist worthy of their name diagnose a condition, rather than suspect the food? Yet this happens all the time at vet clinics around the world.
Update 7 – converting the diet – part 1
Once I understood Thomas’ feeding pattern, I started to make changes. He ate well, but took a while to finish. Normally, a healthy cat will eat quickly, making sure no-one can come and steal their catch. As Thomas is an elderly cat, allowances had to be made.
You can leave commercial cat food out a long time. Leaving fresh food out is not a good idea, especially in summer. Luckily, we are in winter. So I cleared away his food after about an hour, so he got used to it. He had mostly finished it in that time. If he hadn’t, I made sure his next meal had extra in, if he needed it.
He was on two meals a day, perfectly sufficient for any healthy cat.
Then I started to add a teaspoonful of fresh raw minced/ground muscle meat into his canned food. Initially he left it, so the dogs got an extra treat. But after a few days, he started to eat it. So I gradually increased the amount. When half his meal was real food, I stopped the canned food altogether, the whole meal being real food.
He ate everything, so then I started to bring in some organ meat. Some he left, some he ate happily, but after about a week he was eating everything I presented him with.
It probably took about 10 days to get him eating real food. Some of that time was him adapting to a new situation. Some was me adapting to him.
When converting a cat to real food, patience is essential, as is the ability to read the situation. Each situation is different. You also need to understand how cats are in the wild and to be committed. Obviously, you also need to know what to feed them!
I believe this gradual conversion is the best way to convert a cat to eating real food. They can adapt in their own time and generally any severe detox elimination is avoided.
Update 8 – health problems
After Thomas had been happily eating all I gave him for about a week, he suddenly hit a couple of problems. He started limping quite badly. As he slept most of the time, I assumed that he may have hurt himself jumping down from the chest of drawers where his bed was situated.
He responded well and rapidly to the homeopathic treatment. I put his bed on the floor, so he couldn’t do it again. He seemed to prefer the dogs hammock bed, minus dogs, most of the time.
Then he stopped eating altogether. I couldn’t work out why and nothing seemed to be an obvious problem – gums looked healthy, glands were normal size, he couldn’t have ingested anything poisonous as he didn’t venture out very far. I was stumped. And very worried after this had gone on for a few days. So I contacted Thomas’s human. I was told that he did this periodically and would soon come right.
It’s always good to know what’s normal when looking after a cat you know little about.
In the meantime, I had noticed that he made a grating sound when he moved his jaw and that he did this occasionally. Looking at his teeth, they did have some tartar on them, but it wasn’t enough to inflame his gums. But it may have been enough to make eating painful.
So I had two treatments going: one to help rid his teeth of the tartar and one to help him get his appetite back.
Again, he responded quickly to one of the treatments in that he started eating again. But we had back pedalled as he would only eat his canned food. After four days, he went back to his natural diet happily.
In the early days, it can be a dance.
Update 9 – Packets and packaging
I was also left a small packet of food which was supposed to be for cats with digestive sensitivity. The ingredients listed include:
meat and animal derivatives, cereals, vegetable protein extracts, derivatives of vegetable origin, synthetic minerals and vitamins , various sugars
Sugars? For cats? For cats with sensitive digestion?
Again, far too much plant based food.
As is normal, no preservatives are listed, but must be present for meat to last indefinitely on the shelf.
Are any brands better than others? I suggest they are all much the same, with slight variations.
An additional factor is the small packaging that goes into individual cat meals. These are detrimental to the environment.
Update 10 – Converting His Diet – Part 2
Although I hadn’t heard any teeth grating, he was slow to get into his boney meal. This was the next, and final, stage of his diet conversion. Boney meals are so good for the health of cats mouths. The gums remain healthy and the teeth become glistening white. Never again do you have to worry about mouth health again.
He started to eat some of the cut up chicken wing I offered him. But the process was slow. This is normal. It takes time for cats to adjust to new things. It takes time for the health of the mouth to improve to the point that boney food is eaten easily. He was eating a few pieces, but to make sure he had enough, I added in some cut up chicken meat, cut off the bone. My cats scrambled over the extra boney bits as welcome treats.
A Week Later.
Thomas is due to go home this week. He is eating all the cut up pieces of boney chicken wing now. It would take about another couple of weeks to gradually increase the size of the boney pieces, eventually to a whole piece.
All in all, he had made excellent progress in five weeks, when you consider he had had a health challenge which lasted the best part of a week. And he is an elderly cat. And he was in a strange environment.
Take your time. Be patient. Know what you are doing. Be determined. Consider each individual cat and work with them. Don’t try to control or be dogmatic. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The results are well worth the effort. Appreciate the wisdom of Nature and that all animals have access to this.