Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Would you kill for your cat?

Would you be willing to raise rodents or small birds for your cat and kill them prior to feeding them? I have done so in the past, and it's hard. Sure, it is the absolute perfect food you can feed your cat, especially if you feed the animals you raise a species-appropriate diet, but killing animals can be difficult for most people. Of course, everything you buy in the grocery store or butcher has been killed by someone, but it's easy to forget about that when you see it in the display case all nicely cut up and packaged.

I get whole rabbits from a breeder that I clean and feed to my cats and dogs. Handling rabbits who have been killed by a blow to the head can be gruesome, to say the least. I am not sure I could do the killing myself. I have raised and killed chickens in the past and refuse to do it now. It isn't worth it. I hate to see my cats bring in live animals and torture them to death, but that's what cats do and I usually do not interfere.

The reason for this post is due to an e-mail I got from a woman in Canada. She was throwing out ideas for raising food for her single cat such as chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs. I wrote back asking if she was really going to be able to kill guinea pigs. She got extremely upset with me for asking. Guinea pigs are rodents like rabbits and the general public has no problem with killing and eating rabbits, but guinea pigs are, in this country, usually thought of as pets.

It is unfortunate that sourcing meat from animals who are raised in a humane manner and fed species-appropriate food is so difficult for many people, myself included. I am glad I have the supplier of rabbits. I get a lot of venison during hunting season. This year I'll have a steady supply of lamb to feed my animals. I'll have to process the lamb, but I won't have to kill them. I don't care to feed my cats and dogs meat from factory-farmed animals, but sometimes, I have no choice. It's still far superior to anything they'd get in a can or bag.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Feline Fitness

I am periodically hired to write articles for Animal Wellness Magazine. Recently I was asked to write an article for their specialty publication due out in April, Feline Wellness. The topic is "Feline Fitness." I cannot talk in any depth about diet, toys, clicker training or feline agility. That sort of limits my options. Let's see, the best way to keep your cat in shape is to let a couple of live mice loose in your house on a daily basis and make him hunt for his food. We know that won't fly. Ted would vote for letting birds loose in the house, he's much more into hunting birds these days.

There are several companies that make specialty cat fencing and enclosures. One such company is called Cat Fence-in and I'm sure their product works quite well, but darned, it's expensive. There's a house on a busy road that I go by on my way to agility that has much of their property fenced in with Cat Fence-in. I can only imagine what it cost. My cats are lucky that they can go outside in relative safety. I can talk about cat containment systems in my article.

I know that when I eat food that is inappropriate for me (i.e. Big Macs or the like) I feel like crap and don't want to exercise. I can imagine cats on kibble feel the same way. Even though my cats are a bit on the chunky side these days, they are all quite active. Sometimes too active! They are all rotten beasts!

So, I need to get my butt in gear and write that darned article and get it over with. Wish they'd let me write on something that would be more fun for me.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Little Chunky Monkeys

We got some snow yesterday, about 4". It was beautiful! It's been a long time since I've seen any accumulation of snow. We are due to get some more tonight into tomorrow as well. Hopefully I'll be able to get out and take some photographs.

After it stopped raining (the snow went to sleet and then freezing rain) several of the cats went outside. This is the first time many of them have seen snow. They seemed to enjoy it as much as the dogs. What I did notice, perhaps because of seeing the cats on a white background, is that several of them are a bit chunky.

I never thought a cat would get fat on a raw meat diet, but all of my cats are spayed and neutered. In a wild environment, they would not be altered and they'd have to hunt for their food. While most of my cats get a lot of exercise, the lack of sexual hormones likely contributes to chunkiness if they are consuming more calories than they are burning. Time to cut back on their food intake a bit.

I was just reading through the December/January issue of Animal Wellness. There were lots and lots of natural pet food advertisements: Look Mom, no grain; extra meat; bla, bla, bla. I saw that Feline Future had two such advertisements. At one time, Feline Future was just that, Feline Future. Now it's "Feline Future Cat Food Company." Like all the other companies advertising in Animal Wellness and everywhere else, they are making food for your cat.

There was a time where you bought the Instincts powder and added it to raw meat (muscle meat, liver and heart), raw egg yolks, water and salmon oil from capsules. Then Feline Future started to add egg yolk powder (read: processed), then they added extra taurine so you wouldn't have to source heart, then they added liver powder (processed!) as a separate item to add if you couldn't source raw liver. Because kittens and adult cats have different nutritional needs (not!) Feline Future now offers a kitten formula (suitable for adult cats too though) which does contain powdered liver.

Most recently, to make it even easier for consumers, Feline Future has excluded salmon oil capsules (because it's so hard to poke and squeeze them into the mixture) and are adding instead "micro-encapsulated Omega-3 powder."

Powder, powder, powder, what's next, powdered raw meat?

Feline Future's Instincts powder is a good place to start if you want to feed a raw meat diet to your cat, but feeding it long-term is not ideal.

There was a time when I thought Feline Future was in it for the cats. Now, they are a pet food manufacturer and like all of them: interested in the bottom dollar.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cat won't eat meat

My description of the Bombay cat at cats.about.com often brings people to me asking if their cat is a Bombay or part Bombay. Yesterday I received an e-mail from a woman who has a Bombay who is scratching his hair off. Her veterinarian has given him numerous steroid shots, done allergy testing (he's allergic to rice, oats and, this is a new one on me, human dander, the cat is allergic to the caregiver). The woman has tried the numerous "special forumlas" such as duck and pea, which helped for a while, then the itching startd again. She wondered if this was a problem common in Bombay cats.

I suggested that she try Wysong all-meat canned food for a few weeks and see if that makes a difference.

She wrote back saying her cat won't eat meat. She also told me that her vet is suggesting a dermatologist vet and asked if there any real answer or just trial and error. I wrote back and told her yes, there was a real answer: her cat is an obligate carnivore and is not designed to eat plant matter. If she continues on the path that she is now with him, the dry food, steriods, etc. will ultimately kill him.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bloody pet food companies!

I'm helping a woman from the UK with a cat who is experiencing irritable bowel disease symptoms. When I asked what she was feeding the cat, she told me Nature's Menu, 70% meat. I thought to myself, hmmmm, never heard of it, but it may be something that I can suggest to other people.

Nature's Menu is a UK company. Their cat food comes in pouches (warning bells going off at that). I had to do a lot of digging to find the ingredients which are: "Chicken min 43% turkey min 28% minerals, derivatives of veg, origin various sugars." Okay, that tells me a lot, "derivatives of veg?" "origin various sugars?" What the heck does that mean? That the cat, while eating this food, still has diarrhea tells me there's something in the cat food that is not agreeing with him, but with such a cryptic list of ingredients, I can't tell what. I also can't tell whether it's raw food or cooked food given the web site states the food comes from "naturally balanced raw materials."

Real food does not come in pouches.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Crazy Cats!

This morning I was in the back pastures with a friend of mine working our Border Collies on sheep. Now, you'd think certain cats would know enough to stay out of the way of sheep moving off Border Collies. Not Ted and Nettie. Both of them were out there with us. You've heard of running with the bulls? Well Nettie and Ted run with sheep. Ding bats! The sheep are quite curious about the cats and when they are out grazing and come upon a cat, they check out the strange creature who isn't a sheep. One day, that would make for some very nice photographs.

One of the dogs we were working was dragging a long line and that provided a great source of entertainment for both Ted and Nettie. I wish I could have got a video of it, dog chasing (well, not really chasing, but you get the idea) sheep and cat chasing dog (well, not really chasing the dog, chasing the line attached to the dog). It was quite amusing!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Puppy Growth Patterns

I was just reading my friend Helene's Blog wherein she writes about puppy growth patterns. Helene has Finn who is a sibling to Fern. Like Helene, I have been very happy with how Fern is growing. She's remained extremely balanced and coordinated her whole life. Like Finn, she hasn't had any growth spurts and still looks like a puppy. When I compare her to her sister Pyro who is kibble fed, I see a huge difference in their movement and how they have grown. Pyro is almost as tall as Gel (who is almost 23" tall). Pyro's caregiver has told me on numerous occasions he thinks she no longer looks like a puppy, which I agree with.

I noticed a similar pattern in my purebred cats when I was breeding and showing them. As kittens, my raw-weaned cats did very well in the show ring. Once they hit was the age the Cat Fanciers' Association considered "adult": eight months old, they lost ground to their kibble-fed competition. My cats still looked like kittens at eight months old (which I think they should have). While I know they weighed more than the cats of the same age, they didn't look as full, they were much, much leaner, which hurt them. If I was working with a breed that was supposed to be lean and sleak, like an Oriental Shorthair, I'd probably do very well, but American Shorthairs are supposed to be fuller.

When I was showing cats I used to brag that I didn't need to bathe my cats prior to a show and I didn't. I could just clip their nails, put them in a carrier and off I'd go. It's the same with my dogs, I rarely have to bathe them, their coats are soft, shiny and they smell good. Pyro is going to stay with me for the weekend next week. It will be interesting to see if I notice an odor to her given that she's fed kibble. While she's with me, I won't feed her kibble, her caregivers know that. Luckily, she's able to continue to digest raw meat even though she's fed kibble on a regular basis.


Ted is one of the flea market kitties and while there are times he really aggravates me, in general, he's terribly entertaining. This morning I went out into the back fields with the two dogs and the sheep to work Gel for a bit before I went to work. Ted went along with us. Those poor sheep, not only do they have to move when Gel asks them to, they need to avoid the puppy (who is more afraid of them than they are of her) and whatever cat chooses to get in their way. Yes, the sheep will run from a cat.

One of Ted's favorite hang-out places is in the duck pen. I imagine he samples their food (carbo junky!) but he's also there in an attempt to catch one of the birds who fly in for the duck food. I don't know if he's been successful or not, but he tries. He also will sometimes chase the ducks. Ted is a terror, no doubt about that.

Last night, Fern (the puppy) learned a new trick: take a flying leap and land on Mom's lap while she's sitting on the couch. This is not a trick that I'm going to support as dogs are not allowed on the furniture unless invited. The first time she jumped in my lap, I let her stay up there for a while. Ted was lying next to me at the time. Fern will not let the opportunity to mess with a cat pass her by, so she started in on Ted. Of all the cats, Ted can handle Fern the best. When he's had enough of her, he grabs hold of her head with his two paws and bites her nose or ears until she cries uncle.

Poor Fern, Gel rarely plays with her so she's forced to play cat games. She's going to grow up into a very confused creature: am I a dog or a cat?

I don't know how anyone lives without the marvelous entertainment I receive on a daily basis.

I broke down and put Raising Cats Naturally back up on Amazon. The book gets good exposure on Amazon so I guess it's worth the fee that Amazon takes off every sale. I offer it for sale as a reseller rather than allowing it to be sold directly through Amazon because Amazon had the bad habit of loosing any books I shipped to them.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I was thinking this morning, early, before I even got out of bed, that I've been skinning, gutting, cutting up and grinding whole rabbits for about ten years now. Agh! I must be some kind of nut to be doing this ... well, maybe not, but it is a lot of work.

I've become very good at it. A while ago, the man who supplies my rabbits came to my house for a rabbit cleaning session. He had some rabbits that he wanted to clean, debone and then grind (with my grinder) for himself. He started to clean his rabbits and I cleaned mine. He did his in the conventional manner: hanging them up by the rear feet and removing the skin using a skinning knife.

Me, I do it much quicker. He was still cleaning his first rabbit when I already had two done. He quickly learned my method.

At least I am no longer picking up dead deer on the side of the road. I connected with the owner of a local game processing outfit and for a couple of cases of Coors Light, I get tons (and tons!) of venison scraps and all the bones I could ever want.

It sure beats grocery-store-bought meat, which I rarely feed to my cats these days.

It's all for the love of my cats (and dogs) that I do this.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Old NRN Posts

I tried to pull my old NRN posts into Blogger, but it was just too much work. If you want to read old NRN posts, go to the NRN Section of my Blakkatz web site and just keep going backwards.

Coming Soon

I wrote Raising Cats Naturally using a Dell Inspiron 3800 notebook computer. At that time, at about six or seven pounds, it was one of the lightest notebook computers available. It came loaded with Windows 98 so that gives you an idea of how long ago I bought it. I also had another Inspiron which was very heavy that I used as a desktop computer. I carried the lighter notebook around with me to and from work and to libraries on the weekends while I was writing Raising Cats Naturally.

When I moved to North Carolina, that notebook was stolen. Luckily, the contents of my book were contained on the 3800 so I didn't loose it. Unluckily, a lot of the artwork that I planned to use for the book were on the other Inspiron.

I digress here.

I recently sold the 3800 as a Christmas present for a thirteen-year-old girl. I hope she gets as much use out of it as I did. Prior to selling it, I took all the old files and e-mail off the computer. I recently bought a Dell Latitude D400 which weighs about four pounds. I carry that with me to and from work: why? Just because I guess. There was a lot of old e-mails on the 3800 from back when I moderated the Natural Cat List which I put on to the D400 for safekeeping. I thought, in my free time (ha!) I might post some of those old e-mails as the questions asked, discussions, etc. were interesting.

Off to shower, iron my monkey clothes and head to work.

Vegetarians and feeding a raw diet

I got an e-mail this morning from a woman who has been a vegetarian for 30 years. She went from feeding commercial crap food (Science Diet, etc.) to her cat to Wellness canned. She see a difference in the cat's energy and appearance, but she noticed that his stool smelled very strong.

While I usually recommend Wellness canned food to people who cannot or will not for whatever reason feed a raw diet. It doesn't surprise me, however, that the stool of a cat consuming this food has a strong odor. There's a lot of ingredients in Wellness canned which are unnecessary for an obligate carnivore. Unfortunate, but true.

Wysong makes an all-meat canned food which may be a better option, but it needs to be supplemented. Wysong recommends their Call of the Wild powdered supplement, but with that, you add back in a lot of extra crap.

There are not a lot of options. I won't recommend a commercially prepared raw meat product. I feel that feeding a raw meat diet that was prepared by a company has the potential to cause illness. You just don't know what's in it. Cooking destroys most of the potential contaminants in meat.

I can understand, however, if a vegetarian cannot bring herself to prepare a raw meat diet. There was a time I could not, but I've become much more relaxed in my views and opinions. At least I think I have.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Compliments and Good Reports

I get e-mails from people quite frequently asking questions about their cats, well really, asking for help with their cats' health problems. Sometimes I can help, unfortunately, often, I cannot. I love it when my advice helps the caregiver and the cat and when they e-mail me back and let me know of the good ending.

I received this e-mail today:

Hi Michelle,

You emailed me to answer some questions awhile back about my cat who had had 2 blocked urinary episodes. He's been on canned food plus a little added water since then (late Oct) and knock on wood is doing OK so far. A lot more pee which is good.

I had some time to really sit down and read through your book over the holidays (I have 4 young kids so reading doesn't always happen when I want it to!) and I just wanted to tell you it is EXCELLENT. It's straightforward, to the point, full of relevant information, and you obviously really know your stuff.

My sister, who raises grass fed beef, was amazed you knew the difference in makeup between conventionally raised beef and grass fed - not too many people are up on that.

Anyway, my copy is going back to the library to day so I ordered your book, this is a reference I will always want on my bookshelf. I will keep you posted on how my cat does - keep your fingers crossed!

Karen Pedersen

I was pleasantly surprised to discover my book made it to the shelves of a public library! I was concerned in October and November when my book sales seemed off. It isn't about the royalty payments, although the extra money helps feed my cats, I was concerned that people were no longer interested in natural cat care. Right after the pet food scare, my sales went way up. I wonder how many people are actually following the diet or still feeding a raw diet to their cats. I hope all of them.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Belated Happy New Year

This is the first time I've posted to NRN in quite a few months. Sorry about that. I hope you are reading my Spellcast Border Collie
Blog which I do update almost daily. I believe if there was something you go do with purebred cats other than conformation showing, I might still be breeding cats, but I believe breeding for a particular look (a "standard") is to the detriment of the animal.

All of the cats are doing well. As I write this, I'm home sick with the flu. It's quite cold outside, about 30 degrees with a wind chill. I have a kerosene heater going and a pile of cats next to me on the couch. Very, very cozy.

A friend asked me if I was going to rewrite Raising Cats Naturally. I've thought about it, but in general, the information contained in the book is still solid and accurate. I'd like to expand on the vaccination section, but other than that, I don't know how much I change about the book.

This past weekend I got two separate e-mails from people with older cats who were quite ill asking for my help. One had already started administering homeopathic remedies and herbs based on Pitcairn's book. I used to try to help these people, but for the most part, I don't any more. I don't know that they can be helped. It is unfortunate that a raw diet and homeopathy are considered when all else has failed: as a last resort. A properly balanced raw diet is a wonderful tool, but it is not a cure-all. Nothing is. I felt bad saying I couldn't help, but I can't.