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!