Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pain in the Teeth; Part 1

None of my pets have ever needed a dental before; at least not that I know of. But I see now how incredibly important it is to check my pet’s teeth and keep them clean. It all started with what I thought was a cute picture of Lacey yawning. I never took enough pictures of Alex and now she’s gone. So when I adopted Lacey and Finnegan I bought a good camera and have taken probably thousands by now. As you can see her teeth are covered in plaque and tartar and her gums are incredibly red and inflamed.

I knew Lacey’s teeth probably bad, her breath was horrendous. Like something crawled up in there and died. But when I saw this picture on the computer I literally cried. I realized she had to be in a lot of pain and I needed to take care of this for several reasons. Yes, pain is number one. Your pet should never be in pain and because cats hide it so well, it’s your job to know their behaviors. I noticed Lacey slowing down a lot although she was eating fine. I thought it was just her age, but couldn’t understand that as she’s only seven. Two weeks before her dental, I also noticed she didn’t groom as much as she normally did. She did not experience all of these other symptoms but bad teeth and gums can also cause them to paw at their mouths, chew on one side more over the other, bleed from the gums, over groom themselves, become lethargic and develop an infection.

Eventually your pet’s teeth will indeed cause so much pain they will probably stop eating and that’s not something you ever want to happen. A cat can develop hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease) within 48 hours of starvation. I know because my Alex had it and needed to be hospitalized, on an IV drip with antibiotics and fluids to flush out the toxins in her liver. It CAN be fatal so never let your cat get to that point. If your cat has not eaten on its own, or barely picks at their food, looks lethargic, tired, etc. please call the vet immediately and take them in as soon as possible.

There are other very important reasons to make sure they have healthy teeth and gums. Dental disease is just as hard on their health as it is on ours. Toxins can enter the blood stream through the gums and cause problems to vital organs like the heart and kidneys. I take excellent care of my pets and I want them to live a very long, happy and healthy life. This is no different than any other health issue and no less important.

Because I’d never gone through this before, I needed to do some research. So I called around to different animal hospitals and asked a lot of questions. You should know that it IS very expensive. They need to do a full check-up beforehand to make sure your pet has nothing else going on and that they are healthy enough to be put under anesthesia. Pre-op blood work is essential for this and can tell them if their organs are functioning properly, if there is any underlying conditions, infections, etc. They also check for heart disease which is again essential to know before putting them under anesthesia.

If you’re wondering why a pet needs to be put under for a dental cleaning, the answer is simple; a pet is not a human. They are already beyond terrified just going for a vet visit. There’s no way on this earth they’d lie still for someone to go poking inside their mouth and possibly even extracting teeth (which is painful). Under anesthesia the pet can have thorough dental x-rays, a complete scaling and cleaning and again, teeth pulled if necessary. Anesthesia free dental cleaning is growing in popularity but in my opinion is not nearly thorough enough and has some dangers associated with it. Here is an excellent article on why anesthetizing them is necessary:

The procedure itself doesn’t take long; usually no more than 30 to 45 minutes, but the pet must be prepped with sedation and pain medication before surgery. The time it takes for each pet to wake up is different. Lacey woke up very quickly and was tired when she came home but not at all wobbly or in a stupor. Finnegan was a different story. He woke up quickly but took a long time to come out of it once home.

What I did was call around to several veterinary hospitals, including my old vet, to see what they used specifically for anesthesia, pain meds, antibiotics, etc. I asked if they would honor my requests that certain medications not be used, what the entire dental exam and cleaning entailed and I asked for a quote. Since there are four stages of dental disease categorized it’s difficult to give a quote. But usually they will give you a range and quote on the high side the day of the procedure in order to prepare you in case they find extensive tooth and gum disease.

The hospital I ended up choosing was one that a friend had recommended to me some time ago. For all my questions and concerns I had, the vet tech stayed on the phone with me for over 30 minutes and was completely willing to answer anything and everything. They explained everything to me in great detail and because my kitties were new patients (or potential new patients) they offered me a free tour of the entire facility; the exam rooms, surgical area, in house lab, feline recovery area (which was kept in the opposite part of the building from the recovery area for dogs), etc. During the tour they again went over every aspect of the procedure and if I had any questions I could easily ask. I beat them over the head with questions to be honest and it didn’t faze them one bit, they were courteous and extremely helpful.

It just so happened that both my cats needed their rabies vaccinations and as it’s the strict law here in my state I had to make the choice, even though they are indoor only. If they were to bite anyone there, including the vet, the law requires them to be quarantined for 10 days in the pound if they are not vaccinated and I cannot put my cats or myself through that hell. During Lacey’s exam they did her blood work and rabies vaccine (rabies only, nothing else) and examined her teeth. She was surprisingly good about it. But since she’d just had her rabies vaccine that day, we had to schedule her dental for a month out to give her immune system time to rest and recoup. If your pet gets a vaccination of any kind, surgery or any kind of invasive procedure should not be done for at least a month out for that reason.

It also happened that her blood work results showed her liver enzymes were up slightly, which can be a sign of infection. She seemed to be fighting it off on her own so we did not give antibiotics at that time. We kept the schedule and decided to do blood work in house right before the dental and I would wait for the results to make sure they’d gone down. A month went by and the morning of the procedure was a disaster as the waiting room was filled dogs barking loudly and nervously. The good news from her blood work was that her liver enzymes were normal, however she spiked a fever. At the urging of the vet, I left her there for several hours to see if her fever would come down on its own. But it fluctuated. The vet felt it was due to the stress of the dogs and told me to bring her home and see how she does. We had to reschedule the dental for the next week. I was not at all happy, very stressed out myself and began to wonder if I’d made the right choice.

However, the next morning they called me to say they had made a plan that would accommodate Lacey better. We were to go in at 8 am instead of 7 (when the waiting room was full). We would wait in the car and I’d call when we got there and they would wave us directly into the exam room. They’d check her temperature again, and get her into surgery immediately, no waiting; in and out as quickly as possible to alleviate her stress level. This pleased me tremendously and I felt they really cared about my pets and as the vet had said “the goal is to take care of them but put as little stress on them as possible.” And I do know from being at other vet hospitals in the area, no one has separate waiting areas for dogs and cats. But for sure none of the others would have made these accommodations; I’ve been to some of them so I know this.

The day finally came and everything went smoothly and according to plan. Her temp was still slightly up but they felt it was still due to stress and she needed her teeth done badly, so we went ahead with it. In the end, three teeth were pulled and one canine has to be watched as it showed signs of some “potential” issues. She was sent home with amoxicillin (antibiotic) and Buprenex (for pain). She ate some soft food within the hour of being home and did well with her medications. Within a week and a half after surgery I began to see my little girl coming back to life again. No more tooth pain meant feeling good enough to play, groom and act as silly and loving as she used to. I was instructed on how to brush my cat’s teeth and will be discussing this and Finnegan’s dental experience in part 2.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Safe Cleaning for You and Your Pets

I’m on a mission; not only for my cats’ health but for my own. I’m using as many homemade, safe and non toxic items as I can as opposed to chemicals to clean.

I stopped using sprays like Fantastic or 409 for my counter tops and Windex for my mirrors and windows. I now use a 50/50 solution of white distilled vinegar and water and if I need to disinfect something more than that, I use straight hydrogen peroxide. Because of it's acidic nature, vinegar cannot be used on natural stone counters, floors and tiles. I also don't use any dish detergents with phosphates, dyes or fragrances. But vinegar and baking soda is great to use on baked on pots and pans.

Usually I use a stove top cleaner called, Cerama Bryte cook top cleaner for my ceramic flat top stove. It says its eco friendly and biodegradable and it does not contain phosphates. However its main base is citric acid together with some other oil based liquids. I don’t know what those liquids are and citric acid can burn the skin. Seeing as how I don’t know if my cats jump on top of that surface at night when I’m asleep, (I can only imagine they do), I chose to stop using it and tried simple baking soda and vinegar. 

I sprinkled a little bit of baking soda on my stove top and sprayed it with the vinegar and water solution. I then took the same special scrub sponge I normally use with it, made especially for ceramic stove tops and voila! Clean as a whistle! I had to rinse really well though to make sure I got all the baking soda off just to be sure. But it worked like a charm, there’s no residue and it’s now safer for them. 

Next I switched from using Lysol toilet bowl cleaner to adding some baking soda and pouring a bit of straight white vinegar in the bowl. It fizzes and also works to unclog anything stopped up in the drain. I used my regular toilet brush (no chemicals on it) and it worked great! (No my cats don’t drink out of the toilet bowl but I still want to use safer cleaning items for myself).

I then took that same spray bottle with the vinegar and water solution and cleaned the rest of the toilet. For a great disinfectant fill another spray bottle with pure hydrogen peroxide and spray on the toilet seat and wipe. I also used the vinegar/water and baking soda to clean my sink and again, it worked really well; shiny, now safe for kitties to walk on it, and no toxins for me either. I did the same thing for the shower, used the baking soda and vinegar/water solution. And gone is the Scrubbing Bubbles spray bathroom cleaner.

For cleaning my floors, I use a Bissell Steam Mop but will not use the chemical laced cleaner pads that you can buy to go with them. I should have bought a Shark steam mop instead as it has a washable pad that comes with it but after spending $50 on the steam mop and liking the way it works, I’m keeping it. So instead I use some thick Swiffer dry pads and fill the tank with another 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. Even works well on my laminate hardwood floors. Apparently though vinegar should never be used on natural stone of any kind whether it's the floor, counter tops or bathroom. Here is a great alternative to vinegar:

Next is the furniture. Furniture polish contains petroleum distillates, which are highly flammable and can cause skin and lung cancer. They contain nitrobenzene, which is easily absorbed through the skin and extremely toxic. Since cats absorb everything through their skin very easily and lick it off, this was bothering me a great deal. I researched for days and found something about coconut oil. I tried it but it smears and doesn’t absorb into the wood. Then I found a recipe, non toxic, easy to make and shines like the dickens! I went the extra step and used organic apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Be aware that the organic ACV smells much stronger than regular but the smell does fade. Please do not use any fragrances, natural or not, as things like citrus of any kind and essential oils are toxic to cats. If you can, dust and polish when you’re able to open some windows for a few minutes to air the place out. Otherwise, just wait it out, the smell fades.
Mix 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar with 2 tsp. of olive oil. The vinegar removes dirt from furniture and the olive oil shines without greasing. This homemade polish is safe for homes with kids and pets, and it's gentle enough to be used on most any surface that needs polishing. As you can see, my wood looks amazing! In fact, it hasn’t shined like this since I bought it years ago.
I no longer have carpets anywhere in my house but I did find these instructions and I know these ingredients are safe. Again, follow only the pet stain formula and don’t use any fragrances or essential oils:
Basic Pet Stain Formula

Try this on stains that have already set. Caution: test first on a hidden area
to be sure the peroxide won't change the color of the carpet.
to be sure the peroxide won't change the color of the carpet.
Note: You may be tempted to use a scrub brush for this treatment, but you risk splitting the carpet fibers if you work it too vigorously.

Baking Soda
White Vinegar
Liquid glycerin soap (or dish soap)
Hydrogen Peroxide
Mix equal parts of vinegar and water, and work the mixture well into the stain using a clean white towel. Blot well, and let dry. Once the area is dry, sprinkle baking soda generously over the spot. Mix together 1/4 cup peroxide with 1/2 tsp liquid soap then pour the soap mixture over the baking soda to dissolve it into the nap of the carpet. Work the paste down deep into the fibers. Blot again, and let dry. Vacuum to remove the residue. You may have to repeat this treatment on persistent stains. 
Last year we started using straight white vinegar as bug repellent around the house and yard. I couldn’t believe how well it works. You have to reapply it every so often, maybe once every couple of weeks to a month, but it does the job and you don’t have to worry about fumes or anything. We had these awful red bugs infesting our tree in the yard. They took over and multiplied like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life. One year they were swarming the house and coming in everywhere. They don’t bite or anything but were an awful nuisance. I got desperate and sprayed chemicals on that tree for three straight years but it didn’t work that well and I hated handling that stuff. I decided last year to try the vinegar and I couldn’t believe how well it worked. I just dumped half a gallon jug of straight white vinegar on the tree and they were completely gone, the tree was fine.
I also take a spray bottle and go around the foundation on a nice day to get rid of anything like ants, crickets, etc. trying to get in. You can even spray it indoors as well, especially if you get ants in the kitchen area.
Vinegar is simply amazing and although it's not the greatest smell there is, the smell does wears off fast and I am very pleased with how well it cleans and how safe it is. My advice if you want to go green, get yourself a couple of gallon jugs of white distilled vinegar, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. The uses are endless.

Monday, October 14, 2013

My Resolve

I wish I’d had Alex since she was a kitten. She traveled far and changed hands many times before coming to me. She never had a proper diet and maybe she still wouldn’t have had one even if she was with me. I didn’t learn what I did about pet food until it was too late for her.  I’d like to think maybe I would have learned about it sooner and maybe she would have had a healthier and longer life. I can do the “what ifs” all I want but it won’t change anything. I can’t get her back and I can’t erase her illnesses and how she died.

By the time she came to me she was obese. I put her on a diet and fed her Iams and Science Diet. I thought I was doing better by her than her previous owners did. She did start to lose weight but she also got very sick. She began throwing up all the time which eventually led to her anorexia and fatty liver disease. No doubt she was sick before I switched foods. I certainly don’t blame it solely on the foods I gave her; but they didn’t help the situation. (These particular foods contain a large amount of grains and by-products). While she was sick I did an enormous amount of research and I found groups and vets online that explained how cats don’t eat grains in the wild; how they’re obligate carnivores. Grains can cause everything in a cat’s system from diabetes, obesity, allergies, food intolerance, to the dreaded IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). Things started to make sense to me but back then it was extremely hard to find grain free cat food.

I embarked on a mission to feed her a grain free diet. She was very sickly at this point but I had to try. Unfortunately the diet change was too little too late. Her system was destroyed and she left me regardless of my efforts. In the seven years since she first got sick I’ve done more research, started my website, and more grain free products have become available. Many kitties with GI disorders have since been stabilized on a grain free and/or raw food diet and educating others on this subject has become second nature to me. I’ve got two cats that are now five years old and have always eaten grain free since the day I adopted them. After what I went through with Alex, I wanted to start them off right.

If there ever came a day that either one of them were so sick they needed prescription food, or they refuse profusely to eat anything else but food with grains in them; of course I’ll always do what’s best for my kids. But for as long as I can and with a lot of resolve, I’ll feed them a grain free diet. Why? Because I’ve never once seen a cat run into a field to eat the corn; they run into the field to eat the mouse that ate the corn. This is my preference based on what I’ve learned, what I’ve experienced and what I see in front of me. My cats have shiny coats, lots of energy, are a good weight and so far (knock on wood) are very healthy. Will this kind of a diet completely stop illnesses? No. Will it cure any illnesses? No. But next to raw food (which is the ultimate species appropriate feline diet) a grain free diet helps keep them at a proper weight, is low carbohydrate (cats don’t need and all those carbs) and higher in protein (which is what they should be getting).

Why don’t I feed a raw food diet? I’m still trying to. I should have started them on it when they were kittens and they tore into their food. Again, I’m still learning like everyone else. Now, they are much more stubborn. And this must be done slowly and with patience. NEVER let a cat starve because they won’t eat what you want them to. You risk hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease) in less than 48 hours of them not getting the proper nutrition; and its life threatening. I don’t know that my cats will ever eat a full raw diet but either way, I’ll continue to try, and in the meantime to feed them grain free. My goal is to keep their digestive tracts working properly, for them to stay at a healthy weight, and to stick around their mom for a very long time.

Aflatoxin: The Single Pet Food Ingredient to Be Especially Vigilant About

The Truth About Grains

Do Dogs and Cats Need Grains?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Good Vets, Bad Vets

Do you have a good relationship with your vet? Do you trust them to take good care of your furry family member? Too many times I’ve heard from people ready to give up because their vet has prematurely given up on their pet. One person told me that their vet felt just because her kitty was elderly and had IBD, she should be put to sleep. Without trying any treatments or proper diagnostics, this vet felt the cat should be euthanized. Luckily the parent didn’t listen and the kitty is now getting the proper treatment for her condition. But this didn’t stop her in the meantime from thinking that it may be the end!

Another person I know lost her kitty because the vet out and out refused to try a different medication with her and there were no other vets around for over 100 miles. The medication is used frequently for cats with IBD and could have potentially saved her life. Maybe not, but it’s always worth trying if there's still a possible chance of recovery. He wouldn’t even consider it and there was no good explanation given as to why. This poor woman eventually lost her best friend. There are more stories like these unfortunately. But thankfully there are plenty of stories of good and even great vets as well.

I know many people with vets that truly care about them and their pets. Some have more experience with IBD and certain medications than others. But here’s the kicker; the ones who don’t…are willing to learn! They take their oaths as healers seriously and put aside any egos to actually listen to the pet parents and possibly even try new things. If you have a vet like this, you’ve won half the IBD battle. You need a vet that will be on the same side of the battle-lines with you and your sick little baby and do what it takes…together.

If you are unhappy with your current vet or you need to find another one for whatever reason, here are some things to look for:

Find a vet that has experience with IBD (or any other disease that may apply) and is willing to learn more about it. They can always do consultations with other vets and/or hospitals and consult with you in the process. They can also take a look at my website and view the case studies to see what’s working and what isn’t for different kitties.

Make sure your vet listens to your concerns about medication side effects, long term dosing and different medication options. Arm yourself with knowledge so you know what questions to ask.

Keep a diary for yourself and your vet so they know exactly what’s happening with your pet and what they’re looking for. Mention any vomiting, soft stools, diarrhea, blood in stools, inappetance and so on. It’s much easier to remember everything that’s happening and give the vet what they need to make a diagnosis. 

Make sure your vet has flexible hours and can squeeze you and your pet in if you feel something is not right. You know your pet better than anyone. If you feel something is very off or they’re sick, don’t wait to call for an appointment. Otherwise you may end up taking your kitty to the emergency.

Ask your vet’s office for a copy of your pet’s records or at the very least, an itemized receipt. This way you know exactly what they gave your pet, how much, what tests were done, etc. If you do have to take kitty to the ER for something like an adverse drug reaction, you’ll know exactly what was given to them.

Just as in your own medical care or that of your human child, be involved and ask questions. It’s you’re right as a pet parent. Any good vet won’t have a problem with that as long as you aren’t bombarding and overwhelming them.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Kitty Caretakers

I often speak about how stressful it is to care for an ailing pet; how difficult it is and how draining. But also that there is a connection made that can’t be broken. Anyone who’s has a sick kitty knows how deep this runs. But what happens when the kitties become the caretakers?

This has been a very difficult summer for me. My father became very ill quickly and we almost lost him a couple of times. I’ve spent a lot of my time going back and forth to the hospital and taking care of my elderly mom as well. I wore myself out and my kitties knew it. They could tell something was wrong and different and did all they could to show me how much they love me.

There was no time or energy for playing. I came home and took naps, ate something, then went back out. I came back home, did my nightly rituals, tried to keep it together and went to bed. In between all of that I did laundry, dishes, housework, etc. etc. But something else happened that was wonderful. I got extra cuddles, extra kisses and extra love from my furry kids.

It was just what the doctor ordered as I was very scared and stressed. Finnegan and Lacey love my mom and dad and oftentimes go downstairs to their house with me to visit them. When they couldn’t go for awhile they knew something was wrong. So they gave me extra meows of comfort, they kneaded the bed longer and more often and they looked at me with eyes that said “we’re here for you mom, whenever you need us”. I don’t know what I’d do without my two nursemaids. But I’m so grateful for them.

They were so patient and understanding during this hard time, as if they knew that I needed their love more than ever. And I got it. I’m lucky to have such smart kitties, because for once I needed them more than they needed me. And honestly when we think about why we have pets in the first place, isn’t this the very reason? They are unconditional love and support during good times and bad. And there’s nothing better in this world than when your kitty kisses your tears away and purrs next to your heartbeat. That’s the best medicine there is. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ready or Not, Here I Come!

I can honestly say my babies are my life. I’d do anything for them, they’re my priority. I go without many things so my kitties can have what they need to be happy and healthy. I will admit that when I first took them in, it was no walk in the park. I had lost Alex in a very traumatic way and had convinced myself I would never again give my heart to another fur child. It was though, extremely difficult. I soon found out it was too quiet and too lonely. Although I did enjoy not having to clean so much and I was able to have things like plants again…it just wasn’t the same.

But taking in one new baby, never mind two, was a shock to my grieving process and admittedly it took a lot for me to let go of the anger, resentment and pain of losing my soul kitty. I know I felt pushed by a lot of people to get another fur child. And even though it all worked out in the end, at the time, I just wasn’t ready. But I wouldn’t trade this time with my two scampers for anything.

Finnegan came to me first and he was a handful! He climbed my curtains and wanted my attention 24/7, which is why I got Lacey. Both of them fell in love with each other immediately. However, it took me a little time to reach that point with them, I hadn’t finished grieving yet. But they tugged and tugged on my heartstrings until I couldn’t resist anymore and I gave in. I let my heart open to its full capacity and realized that Alex had sent them to me.

The shock of losing Alex the way I did though scared me to pieces. I realized there was always the chance of one of these two getting sick. After all, there are never any guarantees and eventually they will get old and get sick, and yes, die of something. It took me a good year to relax and just enjoy them. I was so scared they would develop some life threatening illness like Alex had.

Losing a fur child is without a doubt one of the hardest things we as pet lovers will ever go through. It can really mess us up! For me, I was thrust back into momma hood very quickly but it turned out to be just what I needed. I don’t think I could have done my website had I not learned to laugh again and have something to look forward to everyday. But everyone is different and we all know when it’s time to be alone and heal, or when it’s time to open our arms and hearts again.

If you’re in that position right now and aren’t sure what to do…don’t rush into anything because others are telling you to. Do it because you’re ready, you feel the situation is right and/or because you’ve fallen in love with the right little furry face.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Goodnight Midnight

It’s amazing how one small animal can make such a huge impact on your life. It’s true…I’m in mourning. This past weekend we lost a precious fur child to complications from inflammatory bowel disease. Midnight was one of the sweetest babies I’ve ever had the privilege of being owned by. She loved everyone and everyone loved her. It was impossible not to. She is the third fur child in five years in our family to succumb to feline IBD. After Alex, I didn’t think I’d have to deal with it again so soon. I was hoping not at all. But it was not meant to be. 

After my sister lost her husband, she moved in with us and brought her two cats, Moufasa and Midnight. Moufasa was sickly and it was not long before I recognized the symptoms of the dreaded disease I’d come to hate so much. Luckily his case was easier to handle than Midnight’s, but he did not live as long. I changed his diet to strictly raw food (Stella & Chewy’s) and it put an end to his uncontrollable diarrhea. He did very well for a long time. Sadly after almost two years, he developed a mass in his stomach and eventually we had to let him go. But with raw food, B12 injections and plenty of love, he lived a lot longer than we thought he would. 

After he passed, Midnight did very well for a few months and then began developing symptoms of her own. I was so upset and I couldn’t believe it was happening yet again. Because of all I’d learned between Alex and Moufasa, I was able to give Midnight an extra four years with us. Medications, B12, fluid therapy and diet all played a role and again, I learned so much I didn’t know before. In the end I know that’s a good thing and my knowledge can now continue to help others, as I did when Alex passed. But when it comes down to it, seeing yet another creature I love suffer is just unacceptable.

This disease is robbing us of way too many years worth of love and happiness. Yes, kitties with IBD can lead a very good quality of life but I defy you to find one pet parent that is accepting of what their babies have to go through, even in its mildest form. For me I’m left yet again to sift through the happy memories I have and try hard to remove the ones of how sick Midnight was at the end. Unfortunately it’s impossible to do completely and it hurts me terribly that she had to go through this at all. We need to push universities to further their research and make advancements into better treatments and hopefully a cure. The loss I experienced recently is one that’s happening every single day somewhere in this world and it’s leaving pet parents everywhere alone and traumatized. It has to end.

In the meantime, I’ll force the bad memories to the back of my mind and concentrate on how completely loving and affectionate she was; how she adored us and showed us every single day how big her heart was for such a little girl. She loved belly rubs, couldn’t get enough kisses and was the best patient for a sick kitty that ever lived. In all the years I had to give her pills, injections, fluids and occasionally syringe feed her, she never once fought me or made a fuss. She’d never even flinch. Until the very end where she was hurting so badly she couldn’t stand to be touched anymore and actually hid behind the bed for the first time.

Well Midnight, my sweetheart, there is no more medicine! No more poking with needles and no more losing weight and feeling lousy. You are free from all of that now and as much as it hurts us and we miss you, I can only hope you are running around and playing, having shed your old, broken body. I hope we meet again someday my sweet girl and until then I’ll see you in my dreams.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Risks of Feeding Your Pet

Feeding your pet these days is a dangerous task. Never mind all the disgusting ingredients in their food but all the recalls and notices are making it very difficult to know what’s safe! The 2007 melamine pet food scare killed thousands upon thousands of pets. I can’t even be sure I didn’t feed some of it to my Alex when she was sick. I’m assuming if she did eat it, her organs would have shut down immediately and she would have died within hours. Oh wait…that’s exactly what happened! I don’t know that the food had anything to do with it in all honesty since I was at the point of feeding her ten different brands, just to make sure she ate. Her kidneys were not failing as was the case with so many of the pets that died. She was eating something grain free, but I can’t be sure there was no rice in it, which could have contained melamine. It was not one of the better brands, that’s for sure and she did go downhill extremely fast and out of the blue.

The truth is we’ll never know. I didn’t have the money for a necropsy, nor was I even given that option. I wasn’t told much of anything really and once I found out I could have done that, she had already been cremated. Also by the time I'd even heard of melamine, the food I'd fed her was gone. Thrown out or given away. I’ve always wondered if it had anything to do with the food she ate. In fact I do know a few people who have lost their kitties to possibly tainted food; one as recently as a few months ago. Come to find out in this recent instance that the food she was feeding could possibly have been mislabeled and counterfeited as the real thing. Again, this may not be the case and there’s no way to know for sure but it’s currently being investigated. It’s beyond devastating to think that something you think you’re doing right for your pet could actually harm or kill them. And although it’s not the pet parent's fault in any way, there isn’t a one of us that wouldn’t feel like it was indeed something we did wrong.

There was a time when it was mainly dry food that had recalls. Then it was wet food and in the past year it’s expanded to premade frozen raw food. Feeding a home prepared raw food diet is the healthiest for your cat but how can you be sure the food you’re getting at the grocery store is safe when there are plenty of recalls there as well? Admittedly it’s mostly prepackaged, ground meat that’s the problem but chicken is not far behind. And the U.S. government is debating importing chicken from China which I think is the most preposterous idea ever! China is where most of the problems stem from, although the U.S. does have issues of its own. But given all the food issues we have with them, the recent bird flu deaths and all the dogs dying from chicken jerky, I see this as nothing short of catastrophic.

So what are we supposed to do? What on earth do we feed our pets? Every time we think a brand of pet food is safe, there’s a problem or a recall. Not everyone has the time to make their own pet food but I think it’s coming to that. Even without all the hidden dangers I have been questioning some pet food ingredients for years now; carrageenan, spinach, avocados, corn, corn and wheat gluten, etc. etc. etc. Not to mention the chemicals found in them such as BPAs. The way I see it, pretty soon it will in fact come down to most of us making our own food. I see that as the only option if things continue this way and I see no end to the corruption in the industry. Cutting corners, using cheap fillers and raking in the money are what it’s all about. In pet food, as well as people food.

In any event, whatever way you are feeding a homemade diet, whether it’s a cooked meal or a raw food diet, the safest bet would be to go to a local or holistic market to get your ingredients. I do this for myself anyways so why wouldn’t I do it for my pets? There’s one here that I go to called Fresh Market that sells fresh, organic and locally obtained meats and other foods. I absolutely love this place! They cut the meat fresh right in front of you and you can tell the difference between that and the supermarket brands or prepackaged meats. Most everything there is locally and organically grown and obtained. This is what I prefer to do, it’s probably the safest available, and it’s only a few dollars more than the grocery brands. And of course there's always ordering from reputable companies that cater specifically to raw pet food. 

If you can’t feed a homemade diet for whatever reason I suggest researching pet food companies extensively and even calling them and talking to someone in charge to get a handle on what and where they manufacture, distribute, etc. A good company will not make excuses but will understand your concerns and work with you. Staying vigilant and taking as much control of what we feed them as much as possible is what it’s going to take to keep them healthy. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Allergy Season…Not Just for People Anymore

Allergy season is upon us again and I’m already feeling the effect of the trees blooming. I know pretty soon my kitties will also. Plus any kitty with a chronic illness can have allergy symptoms due to a suppressed immune system. Your pet is just as susceptible to pollen allergies as we humans are. Here are some simple tips to help curb those allergy attacks from your furbabies. Keep your window sills clean. Wipe them down with soap and water or a mixture of vinegar and water. Give your kitty a good wipe down with kitty wipes (I use Tropiclean allergy wipes, they have no chemicals or bad ingredients: (, or even just a soft cloth with water a couple of times a week during high allergy days to get that pollen off their fur! Try using an electrostatic dust cloth like Swiffer since it will pick up pollen and dust and it has no chemicals or scents in it. It works great and you can see the yellow pollen on the cloth afterwards. I use those often to wipe down my furniture in between cleanings and can really see the pollen on them so I know they work.

Keep their ears clean and free of pollen and mites and if their eyes get red and irritated you can use pure saline to give them a little moisturizing rinse. Use a furminator to get the extra layer of fur off and brush them OFTEN. There’s a PetAlive product called the Furball Dr. that’s also on the grooming page but I don’t know how well that works I haven’t had to try it. Give them L-lysine daily in their food or at least 3-4 times per week for respiratory and eye issues. You can subscribe to a daily email of your local area’s pollen count and they’ll tell you the numbers and specifically what pollen is active at that time: Don’t forget this is only March and seasonal allergies last well into November! I’m suffering already so that automatically puts me into kitty pollen mode.

If respiratory/allergies and/or terrible itching of the skin are uncontrollable, ask your vet about Zyrtec. I’ve seen a lot of good things about it being used in cats, and some have managed to lower their prednisone doses because of it. The following articles are really worth reading, especially if your pet has symptoms of eosinophilic diseases. The more I read about this condition, the more I think in IBD kitties, it can be a side effect of inflammation in their intestines.

Why I Love Zyrtec for Cats

Eosinophilic diseases; Skin Diseases from Allergies in Cats

For insect bites or stings you could use fractionally distilled clear aloe vera liquid, (I have some on the digestion page of my site). It MUST be fractionally distilled and clear. It works great as a wound cleaner and healing agent. You can also try the Flying Bassett Organics Aloe Vera Extract on the grooming page. It’s a powder that can be made into a paste for wounds as well as used internally for digestion.

PLEASE remember that if you have to use pesticides for any reason, remove clothing and shoes immediately when entering the house, wash yourself up very well (showering would be best, also washing your hair) and wash your clothing in the laundry. Pesticides are sometimes a necessary evil, especially when you have a horrible pest infestation that’s doing some major damage. Remember to close your windows before you spray or apply anything on your property as the wind can bring it in the house. I know I sound like a crazy, paranoid pet parent but I have learned so much about pet safety and health. They are just like our kids and their systems need protecting as much as possible. Chemicals can cause cancer and we need to be extremely careful. Don’t forget that so many of your kitties already have compromised immune systems and it doesn’t take much with a cat to tip the scales and develop additional conditions and being on steroids can help that along. It’s a good idea when you’re mowing the lawn to shut the windows until you’re completely done and again, remove your shoes, shower and wash your hair. I have to do that anyway otherwise I’m very sick afterwards, I’m severely allergic.

Think about removing the cover from your cat’s litter box as ANY cat litter contains dust, some more than others. And all that does is contribute to their allergies and respiratory problems. Since I’ve started using Dr. Elsey’s Respiratory Relief cat litter I’ve noticed that Finnegan no longer wheezes and he hardly snores anymore either. And Lacey doesn't sneeze as much also. But they do still sneeze during pollen outbreaks so it's best I keep the house as clear of it as I can. I hope these tips will help you and your little ones have a more healthy allergy season. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What's In Your Water?

Did you know that prescription medication flushed down toilets is ending up in our water supply? It’s extremely concerning and why we now have a national “take back day” issued by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. The Office of Diversion Control states that, “In the four previous Take-Back events, DEA in conjunction with our state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners have collected more than 2 million pounds (1,018 tons) of prescription medications that were removed from circulation.”

The old advice of flushing your prescription medication is not only out of date but dangerous. Waste treatment centers cannot filter out medications completely which leaves a whole lot of dangerous meds left in our water supply. Even in trace amounts these are extremely dangerous and can over time do damage to our organs. Anti-convulsants, anti-psychotics, cancer drugs, hormones, etc. are all ending up not only in our drinking water, but rivers, streams and lakes as well. Flushed medications can kill helpful bacteria in septic systems and do damage to our eco system. Some waste treatment plants test for more pharmaceuticals than others but currently there is no regulatory requirements for testing and limits of these contaminants. A cat's liver does not have the mechanism to properly filter out these contaminants and can absorb them better than a human’s. 

This could be a big reason that life threatening illnesses have been on the rise in our pets in the last 10-20 years. Now of course this is not the only possible reason, I know that. Other things factor in like bacteria (which can be acquired through tap water), genetics, age, and a proper diet still have a lot to do with it. But even those who have always fed them an organic and/or raw diet have had pets with these diseases in recent years. Something has to be contributing to it and our environment plays a huge part. Another factor in our water is hexavalent chromium. 

Chromium-6, Widespread in US Tap Water - Cancer-causing chemical found in 89 percent of cities sampled: The National Toxicology Program has concluded that hexavalent chromium (also called chromium-6) in drinking water shows “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity” in laboratory animals, increasing the risk of gastrointestinal tumors. In September 2010, a draft toxicological review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) similarly found that hexavalent chromium in tap water is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” For those of you who saw the movie Erin Brokovich, you’ll understand why this is so important. Ms. Brokovich fought a very long time to get hexavalent chromium removed from water supplies in California and many people there died from cancer because of that chemical. It seems the public has been duped into believing the battle was won. 

On that note, please consider using an over the counter or under the counter water filter in your house. Brittas and other low cost filters do NOT remove these chemicals. Nor do they remove parasites and other chemicals such a chlorine, fluoride, lead, mercury, arsenic, etc. Bottled water is not filtered for medications, it's best to use a water filtration system of either reverse osmosis or a carbon filter system.

This is the filter that we use:
The initial investment is a little costly but the cartridge replacements are very inexpensive (around $20) and last at least 6 months or longer depending on your water type. This one removes cryptosporidium, giardia, lead, chlorine, among many other things and works really well. There are plenty out there so do some research and see what you can find but make sure they can remove many particles & chemicals and these particular bacteria. Again, I make no money or receive anything for mentioning this company, this is just an example.

If you’d like to read more about what’s in your water please visit this page of my site:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Little Known Bad Ingredients

Would you purposely add hormones to your pets’ food? Would you purposely add something that’s known to cause dangerous and life threatening crystals and urinary blockages? Would you purposely add an ingredient that’s scientifically proven to instigate inflammatory bowel disease? If you’re a good pet parent, of course not! But unfortunately being a good pet parent isn’t enough anymore, we need to be educated parents and we need to get good and mad; because these very things are in your pets food right now!

Soy contains compounds called phytoestrogens, which are basically estrogen hormone-like chemicals found in plants that can act like the hormone estrogen. Phytoestrogens may negatively affect cats by interfering with nutrient absorption, normal growth, thyroid function, and hormonal development. Although weaker than normal estrogen hormones, we have no idea whatsoever how these hormones will affect cats and since hyperthyroidism is extremely common in cats, soy should not be in cat food even in small amounts.

Spinach has one of the highest calcium oxalate levels of any food and cooking does NOT diminish the oxalates much at all, very minimally. The oxalates in spinach are sturdy and binding at around 600-750 content milligrams per 100 gram serving. You’d have to boil or blanch it to reduce it even 5-15% (not much) and then you’ve lost all the nutrients in it. If your cat suffers from kidney, gallbladder or thyroid issues, they should NEVER be fed any foods with high oxalate levels as it can do severe damage. Spinach can cause crystal formation in the urinary tract and kidneys in cats. Calcium oxalate stones are EXTREMELY painful and once formed in the kidneys, cannot be removed. Whether cooked or raw, spinach should be completely avoided in cats and has been shown to cause such major damage it can result in hospitalization and in some circumstances (when fed raw), death. And although it’s cooked in pet foods, as I’ve already stated it doesn’t matter.

Despite my efforts to get spinach removed from various pet foods, it remains an ingredient that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. I’ve provided pet food companies with information regarding the dangers of including spinach in their foods and got pooh-poohed and ignored. One company said they understood but still wouldn’t change the recipe and one company did promise to remove it but that was well over a year ago and it still remains in the food. I’ve even gotten help from Dr. Lisa Pierson of with explaining the dangers to pet food companies and still there's no consideration as to what this is doing to them. NEVER feed raw spinach to your pet, whether they are ill or healthy!

Carrageenan has been known for awhile to be a problem. Used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in foods, carrageenans are highly flexible molecules produced by different types of seaweed. The thickness of the agent depends on which seaweed is used to make the finished product. Scientific studies have shown that carrageenan can induce inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in both humans and animals. Unfortunately carrageenan is used in just about every commercial pet food available.

We have to start thinking about our pets’ long term health, just like we do with ourselves and our human kids. Toxins accumulate in the body and a cat’s liver is not equipped to filter some of the things that a human liver can. Educate yourself as a pet parent, read labels and if you can, voice your concerns to the pet food companies. It took many years to get grain free foods to the point where it is now, a top priority on many pet food shelves. We’ll hear many “no’s” before we get a yes to remove certain ingredients but it can be done. We have to keep trying, for our furchildrens’ sakes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Perils of Cat Litter

The views stated in this blog entry are just opinions based on my research. 

Last summer my friend Judy picked up a bag of lavender scented World’s Best Cat Litter. I expressed my concern with how they apply the scent so she called the company and this is what Judy told me: “I called World's Best Cat Litter in Iowa and had a nice conversation with a gal there named Debbie. She said the company has done extensive research and that the lavender oil is mixed with several other natural oils with a vegetable oil base and is perfectly safe in the amounts combined. I thought it smelled a bit strong when I first opened the bag.” 

Apparently Debbie doesn’t realize that essential oils are toxic even in very tiny amounts! We also don’t know what the other “natural oils” are. This information about essential oils is everywhere on the internet and if aromatherapist know better than to use them with cats, then shouldn’t WBCL or any other pet product company? Also I will no longer use any corn or wheat based cat litter as they have the potential to contain alfatoxins. I realize the risk is very low but I’m not willing to take that chance. Especially with them breathing it in. Speaking of essential oils; any cat litter such as cedar will also have oils in it which is also toxic. It’s too bad because I do love the smell but it’s no safer than the lavender oil is.

Purr & Simple All-Natural Kwik Klump Cat Litter was brought to my attention by Kelli and what I don’t like about this is that it’s made from nutshells. Nuts of any kind are harmful but walnuts and macadamia nuts are especially toxic. Pets can start to develop symptoms such as an inability to stand or walk, vomiting, hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), weakness, and an elevated heart rate within 12 hours of eating nuts. So what kinds of nuts are specifically used for this product? It doesn’t say…only that they are from northern California and the level of nut protein is small, 14 ppm, (parts per million). But again, when licked off of their paws and body, over time how does this affect their health? Long term use plays a part in everything! And btw, nuts can also contain alfatoxins! There are now all kinds of new cat litters with nuts in them including the new Blue Naturally Fresh Cat Litter. These nut shell cat litters are extremely dusty and your cat is breathing in tons of dust and possible alfatoxins every time they go in their box and scratch the litter!

Aflatoxins are common and widespread in nature. They can colonize and contaminate grain (such as corn and wheat) before harvest or during storage. The native habitat of Aspergillus is in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains; undergoing microbiological deterioration and it invades all types of organic substrates whenever conditions are favorable for its growth. Favorable conditions include high moisture content (at least 7%) and high temperature.

Aflatoxins are extremely durable under most conditions of storage, handling and processing of seeds or in foods or feeds made from contaminated seeds. It is very heat stable and will withstand temperatures up to boiling. Toxin levels in corn may decline in storage, but may still be present after 7 years.

I will repeat the statement I’ve made over and over in the past couple of years. Just because a company says their product is safe, it doesn’t mean squat. We’ve all learned this by now and some of us the hard way. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS read every single ingredient in a product and not just the active ingredients but the INACTIVE ingredients as well. If you can’t find the ingredients on the website you’re buying the product from, Google that product and include “ingredients for…” and you’ll find it. A company that makes it extremely hard to find their ingredients worries me. A company with mystery ingredients frightens me.

In my quest to find a good cat litter I’ve tried many different ones. I tried Cat’s Pride and holy moly what a mess! It’s mainly sand, sticks to them like paste and my cats left huge paw prints of wet cat litter all over the floor. Judy introduced me to Green Tea Leaves cat litter. Some sites are selling it for a ridiculous price but if you Google it you can find it for under $10 a bag. I added a quarter of the bag to their regular litter and although I love the absorbency and the smell is great…it is chunky, makes a mess as it tracks everywhere and Finnegan loves the taste! He thinks it’s a treat when it’s on the floor. So that one is a no go for us. Yes, I’ve tried the bigger brands like Arm & Hammer, Tidy Cat, Fresh Step, etc. and all were extremely dusty and strong scented. They also contain sodium bentonite clay - also toxic. I can’t try the paper ones as Finney loves to eat paper and I’m worried about the ink as well. I worked for newspapers for a very long time and ink comes off easy!

I finally settled on Dr. Elsey’s Respiratory Relief. It has safe herbs in it, not oils. My cats like it; it doesn’t leave any funky smell or stick to their butts and lasts a long time! Two and a half bags will last me a month, even with twice daily scooping. And they’ve stopped sneezing! With other litters they sneezed up a storm and were covered in dust. Whereas this one does not kick up dust and yes, it tracks but not as bad as some others. I defy anyone to find a litter that doesn’t track, it’s impossible. This litter is my preference, and I have absolutely no ties to the company at all. Mainly I feel this is the safest and best litter brand out there. As I stated, this is just my 
opinion. Please don't take offense if you use any of these products, I wanted to re-address some of the issues I’ve seen lately with cat litters and keep your cat as healthy as possible. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Winter Blahs

Freezing temperatures, gray days, no wildlife outside to watch; does your cat have the winter blahs? If you live in an area that gets snow, ice, freezing rain, etc. chances are they do. It’s tough keeping them entertained when you can’t open the windows, there aren’t many birds outside at the feeders, and all anybody wants to do is hibernate. When they’re kittens it’s so much easier because it doesn’t take much to get them going. They’ll play with anything, anytime, anywhere. But as they get older it can be a challenge to get them off their butts, just like with us.

Lately we’ve bounced between having a snowstorm of 21 inches to temps in the mid to high 40’s where everything is melting. I’ve been able to open the windows and let some fresh air inside. This has jump started the nut brigade of running from window to window, room to room. Nothing fills me with more pleasure than seeing the furs flying past me at warp speed. When they’re bored, I’m bored and vice versa. It seems to rub off. I’ve tried to get them to chase some of their toys, such as “da bird”, to no avail. They just stare at me and are probably laughing inside for all I know. I think sometimes they’d much rather see me playing with their toys and be content to watch me run around like a nut with a feather toy trying to get them to move even an inch. Their eyes say so much. “Look at mom! What a dope!” LOL.

Then there are the times when I’m doing nothing at all and somehow, some way, BAM! The sliding across the floor starts and I can hear them smashing into the furniture sideways. From downstairs it sounds as if they’re actually rearranging my furniture. Perhaps that’s what they’re trying to do. Who knows how they really feel about my set-up. Is it conducive to their “flight path”? What is their trajectory? Do they like the rooms the way they are or would they love it better if I just moved everything out of their way? I wouldn’t go that far but sometimes I feel like I need to do whatever it takes to get them moving and as fellow pet parents I’m sure you have done just as much. I do have these little nylon tunnels I set up in each room and they seem to love to go flying inside them (or into them) as they’re chasing each other. I’ve even put paper bags in the kitchen as a sort of obstacle path.

I’ve had to anchor their towers to the walls in fear of them falling over when they go up one side and down the other. Finney is a big boy and I think it wouldn’t take much, no matter how sturdy the towers are. As I type this it’s 49 degrees and the sun is shining bright. Still not many birds outside just yet and I’m looking forward to the day when they all come back and taunt my kits at the windows. The birds have a habit of sitting on the back stairwell right in front of the window where the kitties sit watching them. They seem to know there’s a plate of glass there separating them and there are no worries of any teeth coming closer. So they take that opportunity to sit on the railings right smack in front of the windows and preen themselves. Drives my cats nuts! 

Such a simple thing can get a cat’s engine revved up for at least 30 minutes of horseplay. Those are the days I love, when it doesn’t take much for them to get their exercise. I guess it sort of pushes me also to go out and get mine. Spring is near! The birds will be back, the windows will be open more often and I’ll see flashes of fur flying by me again in no time. Until then, I’ll have to put up with the long stares, the pathetic looks of “Mom! I’m bored!” just like a human child. And with another snowstorm coming this weekend, I’m guessing that’ll be a constant.

Tell me how you entertain your pets during the long winter months!