Tag Archive for cat

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

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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


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Dangers of Dry Food – Part 1 – Ingredients

Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care
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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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Jackson Galaxy on Spay/Neuter

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This is an excellent, short video by Jackson Galaxy on spaying and neutering your pets.

He answers all the basic questions:

  • Will my cat gain weight if spayed/neutered?
  • What are the health risks of NOT spaying/neutering?
  • Isn’t the surgery too invasive?
  • But I want my cat to have just one litter. Is that OK?
  • But I want my kids to see the miracle of birth. Is that OK?

 

A recap of the statistics:

* 6-8 million animals are booked into shelters yearly
* 70,000 cats and dogs are born daily 
* 3-4 million adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized yearly.
* In the US, 1 healthy adoptable cat and dog is euthanized every 11 seconds
— Source: The Humane Society of The United Statesspay and neuter

* 3-4 million animals are adopted yearly 
— Source: http://www.animalsheltering.org

* It costs over 1 billion dollars of taxpayers money to round up, house, euthanize and dispose of homeless animals yearly (MANY other sites state it is about 2 billion) 
— Source: http://www.bestfriends.org

To find a low-cost program near you, search the ASPCA Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Provider Database by simply entering your zip code. They are constantly adding to the database so if you don’t find anything in your zip code now, check back. Many low cost clinics offer services for as little as $30-$50 for cats and $40-$75 for dogs.

Spay/neuter

 


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Therapy Cats

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I have followed Sparkle the Designer Cat for some time now and was so sad to hear that she was so very sick. I fear that as of this writing, she is no longer with us. She wrote a couple of posts in anticipation of this, including one introducing her “replacement” gift for her human, Summer.

love on a leash therapy catSparkle’s human had been looking for some time for a cat that could be a therapy cat. Now this intrigued me. Of course, I have heard of therapy dogs and I am involved in equine therapy. I have even thought about raising puppies for the blind but fear I would have such a hard time letting them go. But a therapy cat? Although it is no surprise to me that cats make wonderful therapy pets, I had never really thought about it. So, I did some research.

Research shows that felines can relieve stress and lower blood pressure, and studies have found that the hormone oxytocin is released when we’re around pets, triggering feelings of happiness.

What are the Requirements to become a Therapy Cat?

Right off the bat, I learned that my cats would not qualify as I feed them a raw diet. Somehow, the thing that is best for them is not good for the humans. A raw diet puts people — especially those with compromised immune systems — at a higher risk for infection. Hmm… I’m on chemotherapy. Should I not be making raw food for my cats? I know I am not supposed to be eating anything raw myself. A definite question for my oncology team!

Other than the diet requirement and a few age and time requirements, it all seems to boil down to the cat’s temperament. The cat needs to be laid back and friendly, non-aggressive, and comfortable with loud noises and unpredictable situations. The cat must walk on a leash. 

A variety of organizations give training and certify pet therapy teams both in person and online. Pet Partners and Love On A Leash are two of the largest, but some areas also have local organizations. 

So what do you think? Do you know a therapy cat? Do you have a cat that you think would do an awesome job? Tell us in the comments.

More info on therapy cats and getting therapy cats certified:

Cats As Therapy Animals? Here’s How To Get Your Feline Certified
How to Get Your Cat Certified as a Therapy Cat
ASPCA Animal Assisted Therapy Programs
Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program • Frequently Asked Questions

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Raw Diet for Cats: How a raw diet can affect behavior

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I haven’t been able to make raw food for several months and I have been paying the price. All kitties in the household acted like they were starving to death at meal times, no matter how much I fed them. Two, including Christy, got raging diarrhea (again!). The diarrhea continued for both, even on grain-free food.

Finally, a couple of days ago, I made a batch. Everyone but Echo was quite excited by the idea. I had a very difficult time transitioning Echo to raw food in the beginning and it looks like Mr. Picky is going to try me again. All the other kitties, however, snarfed it down without hesitation. I could see them thinking, “It’s about time!”

Feeding a Raw Diet can affect Behavior

The most interesting thing to me is the change in their behavior. As I mentioned,Patiently waiting - how a raw diet can affect behavior they were acting like they were starving to death. They would mill around while I was getting their food ready, meowing and fussing with one another. My most Siamesey mix was driving me crazy with her yowling. Even before meal time, she would go to the area where she is fed and start up. Oh my gosh, please shut up! After only two days back on raw food, they patiently wait while I get their food ready then they race to their designated area to eat. No more meowing, yowling or fussing.

I had one cat that had taken to living in a bedroom upstairs, except at meal time, because she would get chased as soon as meal time was over. No more. She is now back down stairs and content. No one seems to feel the need to chase her.

I am actually feeding them less raw food than they were getting of commercially canned food. They get about two ounces twice a day of raw versus the three ounces twice a day of commercial. Their appetites are more easily satisfied with higher quality protein with no grain or vegetables as filler. 

Benefits of a raw diet

  • Improved digestion
  • Greatly reduced stool odor and volume
  • Healthy coat, less shedding, fewer hairballs
  • Increased energy
  • Weight loss is easily achieved if overweight
  • Better dental health
  • Better urinary health

A raw diet has so many benefits but this change in behavior is one of the most welcome. Oh, and the diarrhea has already cleared up.


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Wordless Wednesday: Think Adoption First!

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Think Adoption First!


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Buyer Beware

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About three years ago, MeoowzResQ was turned onto a discount pet medication website by another rescue. I do some of the buying for MeoowzResQ so I was asked to research this potential opportunity. Vaccination Services (their website is fleastuff.com) has a membership program and once you pay a reasonable fee, you receive a 20% additional discount on the already discounted products they sell. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, as they say, let the buyer beware.

When I first contacted this company, our main interest was for Advantage II. Their representative explained to me that Advantage and Advantage II are the same–they just updated their packaging. Trusting that the “expert” new what he was talking about, I let him sell me Advantage.

Over the next two years, we kept getting complaints from fosters that they buyer beware - all flea treatments are not the samecouldn’t get rid of fleas. I kept telling them that if they were using the Advantage as directed and vacuuming regularly, this should not be happening.

When we kept getting complaints, I started doing some research. I discovered that Advantage and Advantage II are NOT the same. Advantage II contains a growth regulator that plain Advantage does not have. This keeps hatching eggs from growing into adult fleas thus breaking the life cycle.

So, several months ago, when I placed our order, I very specifically ordered Advantage II and said, “Do not send us regular Advantage,” and have reminded them of that with every order. I had had a flea infestation and certainly did not want to have another!

Well, about three months ago, I started seeing the telltale signs. My cats were scratching. They started running across the carpet and eventually refused to be on the carpet. They would move across rooms on the furniture. They preferred to lay on the kitchen floor or other hard surfaces like the kitchen counters. Ugh!

I had been using the regular Advantage that we had been getting in the past so I went to the rescue to get some of the new Advantage II they had been getting. When I was handed a tube, it said “Advantage” on it, not Advantage II. The only ingredient listed was the pesticide. I figured this must have been an old tube but was suspicious. It was time to reorder so I asked them to keep all the packaging when the new order arrived. 

When the order arrived, I was shocked! Twelve tubes of Advantage were packaged in an Advantage II box for six tubes with a sticker placed on it that said 12 tubes. The tubes said Advantage, with the single ingredient, while the box said Advantage II with the two ingredients. 

Of course, I called the company. The gentleman again began to try to tell me they are the same. When I confronted him on the ingredients, he said, “Return it to me and I’ll give you a full refund.” When I wanted it replaced with Advantage II, he finally admitted that they don’t actually have Advantage II, only what they shipped.

So, I have been fighting another flea infestation! At least this one is fairly mild compared to the last one as I recognized the signs early. I still have not actually seen any fleas in the carpet, etc., only on the cats. During my last infestation, they were jumping all over the place, including on me!

Needless to say, we have found another, reliable source for our Advantage II. Here is an article about some other online scams to avoid: 

Seven Dog Scams to Avoid Online


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Save Money Treating Fleas with Revolution

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save money treating fleas with RevolutionIn our last post I told you how to save money on flea treatment by splitting large tubes of Advantage, made by Bayer, and Frontline, made by Merial. You can do the same thing and save money treating fleas with Revolution but there are a couple of differences. 

Advantage and Frontline are regulated by the EPA and are now available over the counter. Revolution, made by Zoetis, still requires a prescription and is regulated by the FDA rather than the EPA.

Although it is a little more expensive than Advantage and Frontline, Revolution helps protect your pet against a wider variety of parasites. The active ingredient in Revolution is selamectin. It works by penetrating the skin and entering your pet’s bloodstream. Concentrations of selamectin in the tissue and bloodstream prevent heartworm disease. Selamectin also redistributes into the skin from the bloodstream and kills adult fleas, American dog ticks, and ear mites, and prevents flea eggs from hatching. It is also an anthelmintic, which means it fights to expel parasitic worms. Parasites ingest the drug when they feed on the animal’s blood. Revolution is safe for pregnant and lactating pets. Revolution doesn’t have a growth regulator in it but the active ingredient in it does prevent flea eggs from hatching.

The thing I really like about Revolution is that it is quick-drying and non-greasy. If you are splitting tubes, it is imperative that you leave it in the tube it comes in and draw it from the tube with a needle as described in our previous post. The ingredient that makes it quick-drying also makes it very volatile. Once out of the tube and in a larger container, it can totally evaporate! Make sure the tube is tightly capped. I have read that it is advisable to store it in the refrigerator once opened.

The largest packet of Revolution is PLUM colored (for Extra Large Dogs) and is labeled for dogs 85.1 – 130 lbs. The volume of each dose of topical solution is 3 mL and the concentration of the drug is 120 mg/ml. THUS, each dose of PLUM Revolution for Extra Large Dogs (360 mg) can treat 24 kittens or 8 cats!

Revolution dosage chart

Please note: Veterinarians and drug manufacturers warn against tube splitting and doing so may void their liability. Some dog-only products, such as Advantix, can kill a cat. Do your own research and if you decide to split tubes be sure to:

  • Handle safely – wash your hands thoroughly after use
  • Store properly – in a cool, dark place
  • Use the appropriate dose

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Save Money on Flea Treatment

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save money on flea treatmentDid you know you can save money on flea treatment for your cats and small dogs by purchasing the largest size package of Advantage II (Extra Large Dog – over 55 lbs.) or Frontline Plus (89-132 lbs.) for dogs and using a portion of a tube at a time? You can also use plain Advantage and Frontline the same way but these products do not contain the second ingredient that the II and Plus versions have which is a growth regulator and I cannot stress how important this is in avoiding a flea infestation.

The plain versions of these products kill adult fleas but do not stop the eggs that fall to the floor or furniture from hatching and becoming adult, biting fleas. Yes, once back on your pet the adults die, but that doesn’t stop the cycle and an adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day! That’s where the growth regulator comes in. It interferes with the normal growth cycle of the fleas and prevents them from becoming mature adults.

The drugs in Advantage II for Dogs and Advantage II for Cats are exactly the same drugs (Imidacloprid 9.1% and Pyriproxyfen 0.46%) at the exact same concentrations. 

Advantage II Application Guidelines:
Cats up to 9 pounds – 0.4ml

Cats 10+ pounds – 0.8ml
Dogs 11-20 pounds – 1.0ml
Dogs 21-55 pounds – 2.5ml
Dogs 55+ pounds – 4.0ml

Frontline Plus for cats contains 9.8% fipronil and 11.8% (S)-methoprene (and 78.4% inert ingredients). Frontline Plus for dogs contains 9.8% fipronil and 8.8% (S)-methoprene (and 81.4% inert ingredients). The amount of growth regulator in the dog version is LESS than in the cat version so certainly should be safe for your cat. Don’t use the cat version on your dog.

Frontline Application Guidelines:
Cats 0.5ml

Dogs 11-22 pounds – 0.67ml
Dogs 23-44 pounds – 1.34ml
Dogs 45-88 pounds – 2.68ml
Dogs 89-132 pounds – 4.0ml

Here’s How to Save Money on Flea TreatmentSave money on flea treatment. What to use and how much. Photo of bottle, syringe and flea medication.

Using the dog versions of Advantage and Frontline on cats is nothing new. You will find uninformed people on the internet saying don’t do it, but shelters and rescues have been doing it for years. That doesn’t in and of itself make it right, but it is vet approved, including by my vet.

I have found the easiest way to portion out the product if you are treating multiple animals is to empty a tube into a small (1/2 oz.) bottle with a dropper tip. You can cut off the tip to accommodate a syringe and draw up the proper amount. I prefer to draw it out this way rather than wasting what sticks to the outside of the syringe if you just stick it down into the bottle. You can then just squeeze out the syringe onto your pet. I highly recommend using a syringe for accurate measurement–this is not something you want to eyeball!

A second method, especially if you are treating only one or two pets, is to use a syringe with a needle and draw what you need directly from the tube. Remove the needle and apply to your pet.

Please note: The above information is for Advantage and Frontline only. Veterinarians and drug manufacturers warn against tube splitting and doing so may void their liability. Some dog-only products, such as Advantix, can kill a cat. Do your own research and if you decide to split tubes be sure to:

  • Handle safely – wash your hands thoroughly after use
  • Store properly – in a cool, dark place
  • Use the appropriate dose

Advantage II Extra Large Dog 6-Pack (Misc.)


List Price: $60.21 USD
New From: $57.40 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

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Paper or Plastic?

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Cats and Boxes

Cats are so fun to watch playing in boxes. Which do you think they prefer, paper or plastic?

 

cats and boxes

sunny box

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Cats love small spaces. Boxes are like little dens where they can curl up and feel safe from predators. They can also hide and stalk the world around them.

Check out Why Do Cats Love Boxes? for more insight and fun videos.


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