If My Cats Had a Bucket List

Ocean and Christy watching the bird feeder - environmental enrichmentI recently read a post on GoPetFriendly.com that really got me thinking. The author mentioned the stories you may have seen recently about people who took their dogs on great adventures after learning their dogs were terminally ill. The post was really about living life to the fullest every moment–starting right NOW. After dealing with a life-threatening illness, surgery and chemo therapy, this post really struck a chord with me.

As part of my healing, I retired early and moved to a beautiful place with few pressures left in my life. I’m doing what I love, spending time with animals, my own and my pet sitting clients’ pets.

What that post really got me thinking about was my cats. Are their lives as full and rich as they could be? Dogs, to me, are easy. They are gregarious animals that love going on adventures with their humans. But what about cats? If my cats had a bucket list, what would be on it?

So I started thinking about what cats like: eating, sleeping, hunting, climbing, and hiding. These were the main things that came to mind. I started assessing how I am doing in each area and how I could improve it — what I could add to their bucket list.

Eating

I feed a homemade raw diet. I am constantly researching to make sure I’m feeding a nutritionally balanced diet that is the best it can be. I rotate the proteins I feed. They eat better and more exotic than I do! I know they would like me to add more treats to their list. OK, maybe.

Sleeping

There’s lots of sleeping going on here and there are beds all over the house. I think we are good there. In spite of all the beds, they prefer to cuddle with me, at least when it is cold, so there will continue to be lots of that.

Environmental Enrichment

The things that are left, hunting, climbing and hiding, all fall in the category of environmental enrichment and where I feel I fall a little short. Here’s where I could add some great things to their bucket list.

I rarely make New Year’s resolutions because I don’t like setting myself up for failure. One thing I did decide at the beginning of the year, though, was that I would play with my cats more. I know they don’t get enough exercise. They rarely play on their own but come to life when the wand or laser toys are brought out. I’m already falling down on that since the first of the year so I need to work harder at it.

They have a lot of small toys for play on their own but there are things I could do to make them more fun. I could put toys in a box with a small hole or in a bag to shake around. There are lots of great toys on the market aimed at this play drive.

They have multiple cat trees and window shelves, including one that is heated. I have put a couple of shelves on the wall to give them even more vertical space. I have two more shelves that have been sitting around since last summer and a remodel I want to do on a large cat tree. Sounds like a good project for this rainy weather we’ve been having.

I’ve put bird feeders at several windows and hummingbird feeders on the deck. I find it interesting that these feeders don’t see much action in the winter. When the birds are scarce, I could try one of the cat entertainment DVDs that showcase prey.

They have boxes and cubes that they can hide in and there’s always the furniture to hide under in a pinch or for an ambush. Mine aren’t into hiding that much. I’ll usually find them in one of the boxes when it is chilly and they are trying to keep warm while they are sleeping. I do want to cover and decorate one of their boxes that is just a cardboard box they love.

I think one of the best things I can do for my cats is to get them outdoors. I have big plans for a catio in the spring and I hope they love it. In the meantime, I bring the outdoors in by growing grass (not often enough) and occasionally giving them leaves to play with.

Ocean eating grass, Echo watching - environmental enrichment

Keeping cats mentally stimulated reduces stress, depression and aggression. Click To Tweet

My Cats’ Bucket List

So here’s what I think my cats would like to see on their bucket list. I’ll evaluate it periodically to see how I’m doing and what else I can add to it.

My Cats' Bucket List with lots of things for environmental enrichment

 

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3 Reasons to Rotate Proteins in Your Pet’s Diet

How many of us have found a food our pets like and eat well so we stick with that? We feed them the same thing at every meal, day in and day out. How would that go over with you? How healthy do you think your diet would be if you ate like that? I doubt we would choose that for ourselves, yet we choose it for our pets.

3 reasons to Rotate Proteins

3 Reasons to Rotate Proteins

Alleviate Boredom

I think this one is pretty obvious once you think about it. We would find eating the same food every day pretty boring, at least eventually. I realize we are not dogs or cats, but in the wild, our pets’ ancestors did not eat the same thing every day. They are designed to eat multiple sources of protein to meet their nutritional needs. Different tastes and textures will make mealtime more exciting for your pet and reduce the chance of them becoming a picky eater. Once they are used to the same thing over and over they are less likely to want to try new foods.

More Complete Nutrition The 3 Reasons to rotate proteins in your pet's diet

Just like we need a variety of foods for complete nutrition, so do our pets. All pet food on the market must meet the standards set by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials); however, it is unlikely that any one formula is the ideal food for the life of your pet. No matter how complete and balanced a food claims to be, it is unlikely it contains everything all dogs or cats need for their entire lifetime. If a formula is low in a particular nutrient, your pet could become dangerously deficient. Nutrients like amino acids, fatty acids and minerals all vary from protein to protein. Varying what your pet eats means they will get a better balance of nutrients.

Prevent or Heal Food Allergies and Intolerances

Pet food allergies develop due to overexposure. For decades, pet food has been made from chicken and beef which, by no coincidence, are the most common pet allergens. In order to make pet food cheaper, animal protein was partially replaced with plant protein from corn and wheat, the two most common grain allergens. By rotating proteins and feeding foods that are grain-free you will reduce the risk of your pet developing a food allergy or intolerance and can likely heal an existing one.

 

You can rotate proteins in your pet’s diet using a combination of canned, freeze dried, and raw. I don’t recommend dry food but at least dogs don’t have the hydration issue with dry that cats do. Rotate brands as well as protein sources.

Remember to change food gradually if your pet has a sensitive stomach and is used to one food. I feed my cats homemade raw food and change their protein with every batch I make — about every 10 days. They are used to eating a variety and don’t require a gradual change.

Rotating proteins will help your pet live a longer, healthier life.

Are you already feeding your pet a rotation diet? How does it work for you? If not, have you considered it?


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Pine Pellet Litter and a DIY Litter Box

As a pet sitter, I see and experience lots of different pet products, from food and treats to toys and even litter. Yes, litter.

I try to go green whenever possible so I prefer biodegradable litter which is available in pine pellets, recycled newspaper pellets, and litter based on corn, wheat, walnut shells and safflower seeds. The litter I personally have been using for almost a year is corn based and you can buy it here. A 9-pound bag easily lasts as long as 30-pounds of clay litter and, in my opinion, controls odor much better.

Biodegradable Litter

  • Comes from a renewable, sustainable source
  • Virtually dust free
  • Weighs about half as much as clumping clay litter
  • Superior odor control
  • No silica dust so healthier for your cat
  • Safe if ingested during grooming

Biodegradable litters can be composted if you are so inclined. I wrote about that, well, actually my cat wrote about that, here. Even if you use biodegradable litter, it still stays in the landfill pretty much forever if you dispose of it in a plastic bag.

Clay Litter

  • Strip-mined
  • Non-renewable
  • Non-biodegradable (it sits in a landfill forever)
  • Heavy
  • Contains silica dust which can cause health problems for your cat when inhaled
  • Dust gets all over everything
  • Doesn’t control odor very well
  • Can build up in your cat’s digestive system

Pine Pellet Litter

Recently, I began caring for some cats who use pine pellet litter. I am always glad when I find a client using biodegradable litter.

While I was cleaning the litter box, I remembered that I had tried pine pellet litter once many years ago and quit using it because it is so hard to scoop. Unlike other types of litter where you scoop out the clumps, the pine litter falls apart as it absorbs liquids. The litter needs to be sifted rather than scooped and this is very time consuming in a traditional litter box.

Special sifting litter boxes are intended to remedy this. These double boxes allow the wet litter to fall through an insert which holds the intact pellets. I tried one of these, too, many years ago and found them somewhat unsatisfactory. Mostly, they were just plain too small and the sides were too low, which is the case with litter boxes in general.

DIY Pine Pellet Litter Box

What actually prompted me to write this post is a pin I saw on Pinterest. The blogger at Meow Lifestyle created her own wood pellet litter box. She used plastic storage boxes, similar to the ones I’ve used for my litter boxes for years, so I really like the project. The boxes are large and the sides are high which gives your cat plenty of room and keeps more litter in the box. Click on the link for complete instructions.

Pine Pellet Litter and a DIY Wood Pellet Litter Box

Photo courtesy Meow Lifestyle

 

What type of litter do you use? If you use biodegradable, do you compost it? If you try this project, let me know how it works for you.

If you are not up for making your own box, here are a few suggestions.

 

This post contains Amazon Associate links which means we will receive a small commission if you click from our site and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

Homemade Dog Treat Recipe Roundup

Dog Treat Recipe Roundup photoI love cooking but I’m the only human in the house and can consume only so much food. As a result, my cats and my client’s and friend’s cats and dogs sometimes become the guinea pigs for my pet recipe creations when I feel the need to cook.

I don’t make treats very often but when I do, I like for them to be as healthy as possible but, after all, they ARE treats!

Here are a few recipes I found recently that I want to give a try so I put them in this dog treat recipe roundup. They sound yummy. Pop some of these treats in a homemade treat jar and you have an inexpensive gift for a four-legged pal.

If you try, or have tried, any of these recipes, be sure to let me know what you thought in the comments.

Homemade Dog Treat Recipe Roundup–

Just in Time for Holiday Giving

 

Gingerbread Cookies For Dogs – Easy and Yummy!

 

DIY Homemade Peanut Butter Pumpkin Dog Treats

 

DIY Dog Treats: Mutt Mojito from Pretty Fluffy

 

Dog and sweet potato

Make Your Own Homemade Sweet Potato Dog Treats in the Microwave (Recipe)

 

treats in hand

The Secret to Quick Non-Crumbly Homemade Dog Treats

 

HomemadeDogTreats

Homemade Dog Treats from A Cozy Kitchen

And you know how you you’re supposed to give guests, like, a little gift bag or something? Well, I’d want to give the animals gifts too.  I’d probably give the pigs the leftovers from the reception, the miniature horses would get some sweet apples, I’d give the cats some private time…and the dogs, well, I’d make them these homemade treats.  I bet they’d really like them because I gave them a try and they’re not half bad. Sooo if your dog is peering over your shoulder as you’re reading this blog post, you can tell them this: these treats have… continue reading.

 

Turkey-Dog-Biscuit-1

Turkey Dog Biscuit Recipe from Budget Earth

After spending hours online, I couldn’t find a recipe that did exactly what I wanted. In the end, I took about five recipes, picked the things I liked most from them, modified that mix with the ingredients we had in the house, and got to work. In the end, I had a recipe unlike anything else I could find, and… continue reading.

 

Coconut-Sunbutter-Dog-Treat-Recipe

Coconut Sunbutter Dog Treat Recipe from Budget Earth

While I do buy them sometimes when we travel, I am not a huge fan of buying dog treats. Many of the dog treats on the market contain ingredients I couldn’t even imagine feeding to my dog. To me, dogs deserve to have treats that contain not only healthy ingredients, but are made to be yummy to humans as well. Let’s face it, dogs love table scraps because they taste good and aren’t boring like their own dog food. Since it’s hard to find treats that meet our criteria for… continue reading.

 

Kohl's Leftover Love

Tasty Tuesday: Leftover Love from Kol’s Notes

Leftovers, done right, can easily be made into delicious, wholesome and healthy treats. Take last night’s meal, as an example: Mom made roast chicken, baked sweet potato, green beans and a salad. With almost no extra work, these leftovers can easily become SNACKS FOR ME ~and there is NOTHING, I love more than snacks for me~… continue reading.

 

Remember to let me know in the comments if you’ve tried any of the recipes in this dog treat recipe roundup. Do you have a favorite treat recipe for your dog?

The 2 Most Dangerous Things About Dry Food

Tabby cat - 2 most dangerous things about dry foodIf you feed your cats dry food, the best thing you can do for their health is to STOP. I know it is convenient. I know it is less expensive. I know your cat loves it. But it is not good for your cat. Here are, in my opinion, the two most dangerous things about dry food.

Too Little Moisture

The ancestors of our domestic house cats were desert-dwelling wild cats of the Middle East. These ancestors passed down to our pets super-efficient kidneys designed to extract the maximum amount of water possible from their prey. Cats have a low thirst drive and usually don’t drink until they are about 3% dehydrated. This may not sound that bad but it is a level at which many veterinarians would consider giving supplemental fluids.

A cat’s natural prey, the mouse, is about 65-75% water. Dry food is less than 10% water. When all sources of fluid intake are added together, what’s in their food and what they drink, cats eating a dry food diet consume less than half the water of a cat on a canned or raw diet. On a dry food diet, minerals from the kibble and metabolism build up in the bladder because of the reduced frequency of urination, producing hyper-concentrated, over-saturated urine leading finally to blockage. In addition to urinary crystals and stones, this chronic dehydration is responsible for or contributes to many other health issues including bladder infections, constipation, and kidney disease.

Too Many Carbohydrates

Dry foods, no matter how premium or even prescription, are mostly grain-based (or now, other inappropriate carbohydrate sources like potato and pea flour) and contain about 25 to 50% carbohydrates. Cats have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates and feeding them a diet high in carbohydrates is detrimental to their health.

Pet manufacturers may tell you their pet food contains carbohydrates for energy. Humans use carbohydrates for energy but cats use protein and fat and have little ability to digest carbohydrates. When cats process carbohydrates, they are turned directly to fat which promotes obesity. Obesity leads to many other health issues like high blood pressure, pancreatitis, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and so much more.

Carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels higher and faster than other nutrients and trigger the release of insulin. When cats have dry food available all the time, they nibble multiple times a day causing multiple sharp swings in blood sugar and the release of insulin. Over secretion of insulin causes cells to become insulin resistant. That’s just one reason dry food is a major contributor to feline diabetes.

Give Your Cat the Gift of Health

So, no matter how healthy your cat may seem on a dry food diet, consider what it may doing in the long term. If your cat is a dry food addict, there are many articles on the internet to help you transition your cat to a wet or raw food diet. It might take a good amount of time but don’t give up. Your cat’s health depends on it.

 

Additional reading:

Live Science: House Cats’ Wild Ancestor Found

Little Big Cat: 10 Reasons Why Dry Food is Bad for Cats & Dogs

Feline Nutrition Foundation: What Dry Food Does to Your Cat’s Pee

 

Keep your pets hydrated and active!

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Homemade Grain-free Dog Treats

I haven’t had dogs of my own for a while now but I have friends and clients who do. Most of them are pretty savvy and try to do the best for their dogs by feeding them healthy food. These grain-free dog treats are a perfect gift for them.

Healathy, homemade, grain-free dog treats in DIY treat jar

At the holidays, I am better at giving gifts to the pets I know than their human caretakers. When I make treats, I want them to be as healthy as possible so, this year, I developed these grain-free treats.

The dough can be a little tricky to work with but all my taste testers unanimously give paws up for the finished product.

Just 5 healthy ingredients: coconut flour, applesauce, nut butter, eggs and coconut oil

Just 5 healthy ingredients and a few supplies is all it takes.

Mixing ingredients

Stir all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl.

Ball of dough

Form the dough into a ball and chill for about 10 minutes.

Patted out dough

I pat the dough out quite a bit before I start rolling

Rolled out dough

Dust with coconut flour and roll out the dough. I do half of it at a time. That usually fills one cookie sheet.

Dough cut with dog bone shaped cutter

Cut out the dough with your favorite shape cutter.

The finished grain-free dog treats on a cookie sheet

Bake until golden brown and thoroughly dry.

Healthy, Grain-Free Dog Treats

Nutty Biscuits

Ingredients

1½ cups coconut flour
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup peanut butter (or any nut butter of your choice)
4 eggsJust 5 healthy ingredients in these grain-free dog treats
½ cup coconut oil

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Combine all ingredients and form into a ball. Dough will be soft but not sticky.

3. Roll out between parchment or on a silicon mat to about ¼ inch or a less. Thickness will determine baking time.

4. Add a little coconut flour as needed to prevent sticking. Chilling for about 10 minutes will also help prevent sticking. I roll out half at a time and leave the other half in the fridge.

5. Cut in desired shape(s) with cookie cutter(s).

6. If you are lucky, they will stick in the cutter and you can pick them up like that. If not, lift up bottom paper or mat and let cutout fall into your hand one at a time.

7. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicon mat.

8. Bake 30-45 minutes or until hard. Gently press the center with your finger to test. Adjust your temperature if necessary. Better to cook them long and low rather than over-brown them before they are dry.

9. Turn every 15 minutes or so for even browning. They should be very lightly browned. Dough is still very fragile so turn carefully. I use my hands.

I like to turn off the oven and leave them in until they are completely cool. The drier the treats are, the longer they will keep at room temperature. If they are not completely dry, they should be stored in the refrigerator. Remember, these treats contain no preservatives.

This recipe made about 50 pieces using a 3″ bone cutter plus a dozen 1″ pieces.

Put these yummy, grain-free dog treats in a homemade treat jar and you have a fun gift for a special pet.


This post contains Amazon Associate links which means we will receive a small commission if you click from our site and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

DIY Pet Treat Jar — Repurposed Plastic Container

DIY Pet Treat Jar finishedI try to be green whenever possible. I recycle, compost and try to reuse whatever I can. When I have an especially cool and useful-seeming plastic or glass container, it makes me crazy to put it in the recycle bin. So I have a collection of glass and plastic containers that I try to find ways to reuse. This DIY pet treat jar is a fun way to use them.

I like to give my clients a little something at this time of year and many of my saved containers are perfect for holding healthy, homemade pet treats. If you aren’t into making treats, you can always fill them with store bought treats for the pets in your Flourworld.

This square plastic container is one of my favorites. The ones I have came from Costco with shredded cheese in them. I use them to hold things like partial bags of baking chips, small amounts of flour, etc. They are also a good size for treats for a medium to large dog or cat treats for a multiple cat household.

DIY Pet Treat Jar Instructions

1. Remove the label from the container by running it under hot water for a few minutes then gently pulling it off. If you are going to cover the entire area with another label like in this project, you don’t even need to worry about getting the residual glue off. If you are going to decorate in another manner, you can get the glue off by rubbing it with cooking oil. It may take a little while, but it should all come off. Wash and dry your container.

2. Measure the area for your label. This container’s label is 7½ inches by 3¼ inches. I created a document in Photoshop with those dimensions. I always take a lot of pictures of my clients’ pets so I had plenty of photos to choose from. I laid out the design and added the text. If you are artsy, you can simply draw your design on the label which would probably be even more appreciated by the human recipient. I’m not an artist so I stick with Photoshop!DIY Pet Treat Jar project laid out

3. I printed out a test on regular paper and cut it out to see how the placement worked. I made a few adjustment to the layout and printed on a full sheet of label paper.

4. I used a rotary cutter to cut it out so the edges would be nice and smooth but scissors will work just as well.

5. Carefully place the label and smooth out any air bubbles.DIY Pet Treat Jar lid

6. The lid also has a label that you can leave on if you are going to cover it up or remove as above if you are going to embellish the lid in some other manner. I cut out a circle the size of the lid and used a rubber stamp and embossing powder to decorate it.

7. You can continue embellishing with raffia, ribbon, stickers, tags or whatever else strikes your fancy. A gift tag will be my finishing touch on this DIY pet treat jar once it is full of homemade treats.

Left side of pet treat jar
Right side of pet treat jar

Now I’m off to the kitchen to make those treats. Look for the recipe next time along with a roundup of my favorite treats on the internet.

Cat Whiskers — 12 Interesting Facts

When you marvel at a blind cat whizzing around the room, Cat Whiskers 12 Interesting Facts avoiding all obstacles, you can give the cat’s whiskers the credit. Some people mistakenly think that whiskers are like human hair but this is not the case. Here are 12 interesting facts about whiskers.

Facts About Cat Whiskers

1. Whiskers are very sensitive
Have you ever noticed your cat quickly moving away from your hand if you bump its whiskers or turn its head if you try to stroke them? Whiskers, which are two to three times thicker than hair, are actually touch receptors. The follicles that hold these long, stiff hairs, called vibrissae, are deep with lots of nerve endings that send information to the cat’s brain.

2. There are whiskers on the muzzle
The whiskers found in horizontal rows on either side of the muzzle are called mystacial whiskers. There are usually 12 on each side but the number can vary. These whiskers are connected to muscles that allow the cat to move them.

Muzzle, eyebrow, chin3. They are not just on the muzzle
Most often, we think of whiskers on the muzzle, but that’s not the only place you’ll find them. Cats also have whiskers above the eyes, on the jaw and behind the front legs near the feet.

4. The whiskers on the legs
The whiskers on the front legs help cats when climbing and to position their prey for the killing bite.

5. Whiskers help the cat “see” in the dark
At the tips of the whiskers is an organ called a proprioceptor which sends signals to the brain and nervous system. This helps the cat know where every part of its body is. It can sense even small changes in air current, which is very helpful in the dark (feeling air flow change around furniture) or when chasing prey.

6. Whiskers let the cat know if it will fit
Do you ever cringe, like me, when you see a cat go into a tiny space, wondering if it will be able to get out? A cat’s whiskers are about as long as the cat is wide. This helps the cat know if it can fit through a narrow space. You might see a cat put its head through an opening several times before entering as it judges the size. Cats don’t have a true collar bone so they can twist around and fit in small spaces. 

7. Whiskers help cats measure distance
Whiskers help a cat visually measure distance. This is how they are able to jump so gracefully on to a high ledge or precisely leap on prey.

8. They are an indicator of your cat’s mood
When a cat is angry or defensive, they will pull their whisker straight back against their face. When a cat is curious or on the hunt, they will be pushed slightly forward. Whiskers that are still and sticking straight out mean your cat is happy and relaxed.

Curious cat whiskers slightly forward

9. The longest cat whiskers
The title for the longest whiskers in the world is currently held by Missi, a Maine coon from Finland who boasts 19 cm (7.5 ins) long whiskers and has held the record since 2005.

10. Unusual whiskers
Not all cats have long, straight whiskers. Some have long whiskers that curl in all directions. Some breeds, like the Devon Rex and the Cornish Rex, have very short, curly whiskers.

11. Don’t cut or trim your cat’s whiskers
No matter what your cat’s whiskers look like, don’t ever cut or trim them. They will fall out and grow back naturally, but cutting them will confuse and disorient your cat. It would be like blindfolding us or taking away our sense of touch.

12. Whisker stress or fatigue
Does your cat pull food out of its dish to eat? Does it only eat part of the food and still act hungry? It could be whisker stress. Since cats’ whiskers are so sensitive, it can be uncomfortable for them to eat from narrow dishes. The easy solution is to feed your cat from a wide, shallow dish.

Eating from small dish with cat whiskers touching side

Sources:

How Stuff Works: Why do cats have whiskers?
WebMD: Why do cats have whiskers?
mnn (Mother Nature Network): 13 things you didn’t know about cat whiskers
LiveScience: Why Do Cats Have Whiskers?
PetMD: Why Do Cats Have Whiskers?
PetMeds.com: Help your cat avoid “whisker stress”
Guinness World Records: Longest cat whiskers

Dangers of Dry Food – Part 2 – How It’s Made

In Part 1 of Dangers of Dry Food, I told you about some of the main ingredients in dry food — the “meals.” They might be a named meat meal like chicken or turkey, a by-product meal or the hodge-podge of ingredients in meat and bone meal, each one less desirable than the one before.

In addition to the meat meals, there are various grain and soybean meals used in making dry food. Generally speaking, the lower the price of the finished product the more likely it is that it is high in grain products and lower quality meat meals. Although price is not a guarantee, you can see that a manufacturer could not afford to sell a product for a low price and make it with a high-quality, more expensive protein.

The most common process for making dry cat and dog food is through extrusion. The machines used for this were adapted from machines originally used to make puffed breakfast cereal.

The manufacturers “recipe,” which usually contains a mixture of meat and grain meals as well as antioxidants (preservatives), is made into a wet dough. It is pre-heated then goes into the extruder where it is cooked at extreme heat and pressure. At the open end of the extruder, the dough passes through a shaping die and is cut off by a knife into small pieces. These pieces rapidly expand into kibble once they are exposed to normal air pressure.

Kibble is then dried in an oven until its moisture content is low Dangers of Dry Food - Part 2 - How It's Made - Kibbleenough to make it shelf stable. Once dry and cool, the kibble goes into a drum where it is sprayed with fats and a “flavor enhancer,” without which, your pet would probably not touch the kibble. This enhancer is “animal digest,” another rendered product. Due to these additives, kibble only has a shelf life of 10-12 months, even less if the manufacturer used natural preservatives like vitamin E and C. These enhancers can easily become contaminated with salmonella as many recalls and human illnesses have proven.

To make pet food nutritious, manufacturers must “fortify” it with vitamins and minerals because the quality of the ingredients they are using are often extremely variable and the harsh manufacturing processes destroy many of the nutrients the food had in the first place.

Proteins are especially vulnerable to heat, and become damaged, or “denatured,” when cooked. Because dry foods ingredients are cooked twice — first during rendering and again in the extruder — problems are much more common than with canned or homemade foods. Altered proteins may contribute to food intolerances, food allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease.¹

Enzymes are special proteins that aid in thousands of chemical reactions in the body. They are especially fragile to heat and are destroyed at even relatively low temperatures. The normal food enzymes that would help digest the food are destroyed by the heat processing that dry food undergoes. This forces the pancreas to make up for those lost enzymes. Over time, the pancreas can become stressed and enlarged, and even get pushed into life-threatening pancreatitis.²

Dangers of Dry Food - Part 2 - How It's Made - pet food label - Do you think this is a low or high-quality dry food?

Do you think this is a low or high-quality dry food?

What You Can Do

  1. Read your labels carefully
  2. If you must feed dry, be sure to use it before the expiration date
  3. Practice safe food handling
  4. Try feeding canned, homemade or raw

Read More

Dangers of Dry Food – Part 1 – Ingredients

Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care

As a cat parent and animal lover who wants the best for all pets, I am passionate about sharing the importance of a species appropriate diet. Dogs and cats are both carnivores and require high amounts of protein in their diets. Dogs can eat some vegetables and fruits in their diets but cats lack the enzyme required to properly digest and use carbohydrates.

I feed my cats raw but realize this is not practical for everyone. Even for me, this sometimes presents a challenge, so I am always looking for substitutes for my homemade raw food, meaning raw meat suppliers, packaged raw food and high-quality canned food for emergencies. I’ll let you know about these in the future.

I hope with this series on the Dangers of Dry Food I can at least convince you to stop feeding your cats dry food even if you don’t move all the way to raw. Although this article is aimed at cats, the ingredients information applies to dry dog food as well.

Rendered Ingredients

Take a look at the ingredients label on your favorite bag of dry food. Does it contain chicken meal, poultry byproduct meal, or meat and bone meal (MBM)? Chances are good that it contains at least one. Do you know what this means or how it becomes “meal?”

These meals are rendered ingredients that are made by first putting animal-source proteins through a large grinder to chunk them up. These chunks are boiled until they turn to mush. After the fat is skimmed off, the remainder is dried to a powder. These meals are used as a cheap source of animal protein.

Chicken meal is potentially the least contaminated as it is made in a plant that is usually associated with a slaughterhouse that processes only chickens. Chicken meal, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), is the dry rendered product from a combination of clean chicken flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from whole carcasses of chicken, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails.

By definition, chicken by-product meal is made from grinding clean, rendered parts of chicken carcasses and can contain bones, offal and undeveloped eggs, but only contains feathers that are unavoidable in the processing of the poultry parts. FDA regulations for rendering plants are fairly loose, using phrases like “as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.”

At the far end of the spectrum is MBM — meat and bone meal. The raw ingredients in this “dumping ground” may include:

  • non-meat parts of cattle, sheep, swine and poultry that are not suitable for human consumption (including diseased parts)
  • restaurant waste and out of date supermarket meat (including the packaging!)
  • animals that died on the farm, in zoos, roadkill, were euthenized, etc and may be decaying
  • animals too sick to walk into the slaughterhouse

Ann Martin, in her book Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food says,The most objectionable source of protein for pet food is euthanized cats and dogs. It is a common practice for thousands of euthanized dogs and cats to be delivered to rendering plants, daily, and thrown into rendering vats–along with pet collars, I.D. tags, and plastic bags–to become part of an ingredient called ‘meat meal.’ If you see the term ‘meat meal’ listed as an ingredient, there is no guarantee that the pet food does not contain euthanized cats and dogs.” The drug used to euthanize animals does not degrade with rendering!

MBM is no longer allowed to be fed to cattle (ruminants). It is believed to be the cause of the spread of mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the 90s. Cattle can get the disease by eating less than one gram of diseased meat and bone meal fed to them as a protein source, yet this meal is allowed in our pet food in the US.

Most inexpensive dry foods contain poultry by-product meal or meat and bone meal. Even these are sometimes too expensive for manufacturers to make the necessary profit so they use vegetable proteins such as corn gluten meal, soybean meal, and plant protein concentrates to get the protein up to minimum acceptable levels.

Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care
Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care
Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care
Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care

Click on the photos to enlarge so you can read the ingredients.

Carbohydrates

A cat’s natural prey is about 9-10% carbohydrates, mostly from the liver and some from the undigested contents of the prey’s stomach. There is a wide range of carbohydrates in dry cat food, but they average about 30%. Often, when carbohydrate levels are lower, they have been replaced by fat rather than protein.

Carbohydrates in pet food come from grains or starchy vegetables. The simplest form of carbohydrates is sugar and all carbohydrates are a configuration of sugar. Carbohydrates equal calories.

Pet food manufacturers will tell you they add carbohydrates to food for energy. Cats use protein and fat for energy, and although they can digest and absorb carbohydrates, most of them are turned to fat and stored. Carbs do not satisfy a cat’s need for protein so they do not get the “signal” to stop eating. Dry food is a leading cause of obesity in cats.

The high carbohydrate levels cause spikes in blood sugar in the bloodstream. This continual stress on the metabolic system is a major contributor to feline diabetes.

Preservatives

Canned food is preserved by the act of canning and is sealed, but dry foods need preservatives (antioxidants) to ensure a long shelf life. Preservatives can be “natural” or synthetic. Commonly used natural antioxidants include tocopherols (vitamin E), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), citric acid, and rosemary. Synthetic preservatives include butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), propyl gallate, propylene glycol (also used as a less-toxic version of automotive antifreeze), and ethoxyquin.

There is a lot of controversy over the safety of synthetic preservatives. BHA and BHT have been suspected of being carcinogens and ethoxyquin has been associated with a myriad of medical problems in dogs. Further investigation is needed to determine the full health impact of these preservatives.

Keep in mind, if you purchase dry food with natural preservatives, they don’t have as long a shelf life as foods preserved with synthetics.

What it doesn’t contain – Moisture

Cats are engineered to derive their fluids from their prey. They don’t have a big thirst drive and, in fact, don’t usually start drinking water until they are about 3% dehydrated. This contributes to many serious health issues.

Choices

When you go to a pet store that carries a wide variety of pet food, the choices are almost overwhelming. If a cat only needs meat, do they really need a different formula for every breed or scenario, like hairball, indoor, etc? The answer, of course, is no. The truth is that the more formulas a brand has, the more shelf space it gets.

Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care
Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care

And, oh my, reading all those labels! My suggestion, obviously, is to stop feeding dry, then you won’t have to read them. I truly believe that the cheapest wet food is better than the most expensive dry food.

Have I convinced you of the dangers of dry food and to stop feeding dry food to your cats?

If this post hasn’t convinced you to stop feeding dry, come back for future posts on the Dangers of Dry Food. In the meantime, if you must feed dry, please be sure your dry food meets these minimum standards:

  • Uses named meat protein sources such as chicken, turkey, lamb, beef — not vague descriptions like poultry or meat
  • Contains no by-products
  • Contains no fillers such as corn, wheat or soy
  • Contains no artificial ingredients or preservatives

Protein is the most expensive ingredient in dry food and carbohydrates are the cheapest, but don’t let the price of your food fool you. A higher price does not guarantee better quality. Check the ingredients.

Be sure your cat has access to fresh water at all times.

Further reading:

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