C.G., Hendersonville, NC
Jun 17, 2013
I am a cat owner/lover, and I read your column regularly. You give excellent advice, and I have learned many things from you. I have one problem with your advice, however: I am concerned that your descriptions of ideal cat care, especially diet, may discourage some folks from adopting a shelter cat.
The home preparation of some foods and the purchase of specialized and expensive prepared foods may be more than many people want to take on. My own cats have lived long, healthy lives with supermarket foods.
As you well know, thousands of cats are put to death in shelters because there are no homes for them. Wouldn''t you choose life for a cat in a comfortable, loving home with a less-than-ideal diet rather than euthanasia?
Your advice is good, but I''d like to see you do more to encourage adoption by people like me.
C.G., Hendersonville, NC Jun 18, 2013
I appreciate your comments, and I must stress that pet food manufacturers often provide free cat and dog food to shelters, which is better than nothing -- or whatever might be rounded up from local butchers, bakers and grocers, as was done in the old days. Also in the old days -- I am talking about 20 to 30 years ago -- pet food manufacturers, while having less nutritional science knowledge, often had better ingredients from U.S. family farms with minimal pesticide use and no GMOs (genetically modified foods). Today, manufacturers rely on food and beverage industry byproducts and imported ingredients, like those from China that have sickened and killed thousands of dogs and cats. Certainly, adopting a pet with a pack of free food from the shelter is good salesmanship when it comes to pet food manufacturers marketing their products.
I agree with you that cats and dogs can adapt to the kinds of diets that I do not endorse because they are not biologically appropriate -- too high in soy and cereals with poor-quality animal protein and fats. But many do not, and they develop costly chronic diseases, as documented in this column on a near-weekly basis.
I constantly beat the drum for good nutrition for humans and animals. It is not simply a matter of food costs, but of what manufacturers are putting into pet foods and prepared human foods that contribute to the obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome epidemics and a host of other physical and behavioral maladies plaguing the Earth.
Tags: cat diet food
Jun 17, 2013
Snoopy, my brother and sister-in-law''s 11-year-old beagle, is ailing. A year ago, they were told he had an inoperable tumor on his heart. But after a lot of TLC, he revived, recovered energy and became like his old self. It appeared his tumor had shrunk.
But now he is lethargic again. He hardly has the energy to go outside or walk to his pillow bed on the floor. He sleeps a lot, will eat when fed directly and occasionally drinks a small quantity of water. Family members pet him gently for long periods, and this puts him to sleep. When he wakes up, he is perkier.
I am writing to ask if there are some foods (or better still, liquids) you recommend to make him as comfortable as possible. Since his tumor shrank before, I wonder if it could shrink again.
Jun 18, 2013
Strange things can happen with various cancers when the immune system kicks in and is supported by good genetics and good nutrition.
There is a movement gaining momentum for human and animal cancer patients that recommends going on a high-animal protein (meat, eggs, poultry, fish), high-fat (fish, flax and coconut oils) diet with lots of variously colored fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants, all blended together and fed raw or lightly cooked. Always transition gradually onto any new diet, therapeutic or otherwise, and provide probiotics and digestive enzymes. In addition, supplements such as canine resveratrol; vitamins A, E and C; coenzyme Q10; magnesium; and selenium may also be of benefit. Some holistic practitioners also prescribe the amino acid L-arginine and various anti-cancer mushroom formulations.
To find a holistic veterinarian in your area, a searchable list can be found at ahvma.org. Veterinarians wishing to learn more are encouraged to become members of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. The winter 2013 issue of the journal Integrative Veterinary Care has an excellent article on nutrition and cancer.
Jun 06, 2013
In Dr. Fox's column yesterday he talked about Pets passing from broken hearts. Typically an owner passing and asked if anyone had similar stories. I do and thought I'd share.
I had a wonderful Cat (Original Stray) named Kitty. She lived 19 very happy years. Throughout her life Kitty had only been sick one time with a UTI. That was it. I was diagnosed with stage IIIB cancer in 2004. Kitty was 17. I had to take extensive chemo and was very ill. I would lay on the couch and Kitty would lay, not on me as usual, but on the floor, right next too me. I noticed she wasn't really moving around or eating, like me, and became concerned.
I had been having trouble with my red blood count and needed injections. Well, I took Kitty to the Vet, and she had the exact same problem, her red blood count. They were astounded that at her age that was the only problem with Kitty. NO other ailments. We gave her a bit of medication but she actually got better with me.
She was a wonderful kitty and lived 2 more years after my treatment. I believe she developed my symptoms as sympathy.
Just a little story, but perhaps Dr. is interested.
I now have a new Kitty (5 years) taken actually from an ASPCA, all infected, bronchial, eyes, spade before she was even 4lbs...they were going to leave her to die.
She was with 2 other kitties. One, also spayed, what I believed too young, that poor kitty just stayed in place and swayed, obviously very sick, and one a bit more active. No Mother Cat. The conditions were a freezing January day and they were in a cold cage on the concrete floor away from light lined only with light newspaper. It was awful. McFaddy, as she is now known, actually, without me even seeing her, climbed into armpit of my coat and went into my sleeve. She was so tiny she was at my elbow. I was able to take her next day and get her to Vet and treated. She remains skittish to this day. Unfortunately she won't sit with my, but she does sit next to me, and is learning to play and see people more and more without fear. It's been a slow process, but a rewarding one. She has a terrible fear of leaving my small apartment, even to go in the hallway, but, again, slowly, she is coming around. I wonder if she was actually Feral.
And, FYI, that ASPCA was investigated and I believe the people who were running it, if you could call it that, were fired.
Thank you for your column, I enjoy it very much, and all you do!
Jun 07, 2013
Dear Peggy, I appreciate your account of your cat developing the same symptoms as you, I have written about this phenomenon of an apparent sympathetic resonance between emotionally connected animals and humans. It may be one of the hazards/ burdens of empathy, but in many instances it could be pure coincidence.
As for the account of the neglected kittens at the shelter, this is a problem when there are no inspectors or trained and responsible supervisors of such facilities. There is a municipal shelter in the St. Louis MO area where visitors are never allowed inside, nor are volunteer dog walkers, which is outrageous. I know from first hand experience how personnel can become emotionally disconnected from the animals that they have to handle and care for day in and day out as a defense mechanism, or because the burden of empathy leads to 'burn out'. Such staff need appropriate counseling. Yet others have no feeling for fellow creatures and should never be employed in the first place.
For the animals,
Michael W. Fox
Tags: cat litter
Jun 02, 2013
I have two 10-year-old Cornish rex brothers. After I returned from a 10-day vacation, which I take two times a year, I noticed that they both started urinating on chairs, counters and tables as well as using the litter box. I used my regular cat sitter while I was gone.
They don't have any physical problems. I've tried using different litters, and I've used the Feliway pheromone dispensers. They're on antidepressants. I'm trying Royal Canin Calm cat food now. I clean the boxes daily. I've moved litter boxes into the areas they are marking, but they use them and then go to another part of the house and spray. There are three open boxes and one covered.
It seems strange that they are both doing this. Is one copying the other? They are very close and only fight now and then. They are extremely affectionate cats, and I love them dearly. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Jun 03, 2013
I sympathize with your difficulties. Whatever insecurity made your cats feel the need to mark around the house, they have developed the equivalent of a habit-fixation, continuing to soil after your return even though everything is the same as before you went on vacation.
There is a remote chance that there is an outdoor cat prowling, spraying and yowling, which may have set off your cats while you were away.
You need to confine the cats to one room to break the cycle. Spend as much time with them as you can for seven to 10 days. Get them back onto their regular cat food and off the antidepressant. Offer them a little dried catnip every other day. Clean all soiled areas with a liquid enzymatic cleaner like Nature's Miracle. Do not put litter boxes out except in the places they went before the problem started. When you let them out after their de-conditioning isolation, be very calm and go about your normal daily routine. A little lightly cooked turkey, which contains the calming amino acid tryptophan, would be as good as anything to help calm them down. Tie a cotton strip with a few drops of lavender oil around their necks, and hang a similarly prepared strip in the room, which you can replenish every 24 hours.
B.N., Potomac, Md
Tags: cat Potomac MD
May 27, 2013
My 17-year-old cat has a neoplasm at the site of a rabies vaccination on his mid-back that he got about four or five years ago. It has increased in size. I raised objections to the injection site (having heard that it was better to give the shot in the leg), but the holistic vet said that's no longer true. My homeopathic vet has begun treating it and wants to refer me to another holistic vet to consider escharotic injection. I understand it's very messy and possibly traumatic for the cat (and owner).
We haven't done a biopsy. He is in no apparent pain, it doesn't hurt when I touch it gently, he is eating well, he loves his twice-daily walks with me and his eyes are bright -- he's in good spirits.
My vet is also treating him homeopathically and with Standard Process Feline Renal Support for serious renal issues, further compounding my aversion to surgery for the neoplasm. I've had him on homemade cat food, high quality raw food and high quality canned food all his life, with about 10 nongrain kibbles as a bedtime treat.
Do you have any further suggestions for these issues? Many thanks.
B.N., Potomac, Md May 28, 2013
An escharotic injection is an injection of a caustic chemical like silver nitrate. Such a caustic material would not differentiate between the cat's healthy tissue and the cancer, essentially destroying both and possibly stimulating surviving tumorous cells to proliferate and probably causing the cat great discomfort. I think the veterinarians need to focus more on your cat's age and quality of life than on treatment options.
I am not aware of clinical studies demonstrating effective escharotic treatment of feline fibrosarcomas. Nor am I aware that there has been any change in the protocol for vaccinating cats as far down on their legs as possible, where amputation of the limb above any injection-site turmors is a more reliable way of getting rid of the cancer than extensive surgery.
If this were my cat, I would give him supplements of fish oil; Resveratrol for cats; and put one part each of essential oils of frankincense, lavender and myrrh in 40 parts organic almond oil. Apply this mixture twice daily for seven days, stop for seven days and apply again for another seven days. If there is no sign of shrinking, stop further treatment since essential oils are risky for cats.
While grapes and raisins can cause renal failure in dogs, the toxins involved have not been identified. Resveratrol for dogs and cats is, by all accounts, safe, even though it is extracted from grapes. Its anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and other beneficial qualities have made this a popular human supplement. For details, visit resvantagefeline.com. I have no financial interests in any company producing this supplement.
May 26, 2013
I've lived with cats all my life and thought I understood most of their behaviors, but there's one thing that my two cats do that has me stumped. Right as they begin to drink, they scratch the ground eight to 10 times right next to the bowl. They may take a drink or two as they do this, then they quit scratching and settle down in earnest to drink. I don't remember any of my other cats doing this. My two kitties are females, 11 and 13 years old.
Thanks for any insight you can give about this strange behavior.
May 27, 2013
My book, "Understanding Your Cat" (available now as an e-book at DrFoxVet.com), has helped thousands of people decipher feline behavior. Cats are copycats, and that explains why both your cats engage in a behavior you have never seen before. Being littermates makes them more likely to be copycats, and I advocate always adopting two littermates for the cats' sake -- they really need each other's company.
When cats paw around water and food bowls before drinking and eating I interpret it as a ritualistic, superstitious behavior, linked in the wild to uncovering and checking whatever they are going to ingest. Our two formerly feral cats routinely paw around their food bowls after eating and often cover them completely with the short throw rugs placed under their bowls.
May 19, 2013
I need some advice for my nearly 5-year-old cat. He is constantly scratching himself. He seems to be especially sensitive from about his mid-back to the base of his tail. He does not have fleas.
He is a somewhat large cat, so it is difficult for him to reach his lower back area. When he tries to do this, he loses his balance and tumbles over. He is also very insistent on someone petting him in this area. He will purr, mew, turn his head all around, and then he will start trying to bite at something on his leg. I've noticed that he's now managed to scratch a bald patch on his back.
We took him to the vet a couple of weeks ago, and he was diagnosed with dry skin. The vet had an oil product that could be placed on his food. My cat will not eat anything that is put into his food. How would you get a cat to consume something like this? The vet also recommended trying a humidifier.
He was given a steroid shot, which seemed to help for about a week. The vet did not think this problem was food-related. He eats Pro Plan Indoor Care Salmon and Rice. He is free fed and has five-eighths of a cup a day and never eats the entire bowl. I am not sure why he is so large.
May 20, 2013
One of my cats had the same problem, and after considering hyperesthesia syndrome (hyperthyroidism and food allergy/intolerance), he greatly improved after I removed salmon from his diet. For other cats it could be corn, beef, dairy products, eggs or even rice -- you have to do some detective work.
Check the archives of my column on my website, DrFoxVet.com for more insights. Let me know the outcome.
Tags: cat euthanization
May 19, 2013
Thank you so much for your answer to the reader who asked how animals feel about being euthanized. I read it the day before my 17-year-old cat Oliver died, and your vision of animals in an afterlife helped me through the next days.
I adopted Oliver from the Humane Society as an 8-month-old kitten as my husband was dealing with alcoholism. Oliver and my three other cats slept with me, keeping me warm and comforted through a very long winter. Oliver stoically accepted my new husband and his two brother cats with only a few disagreements. Oliver was the king of the household, and even in such a lively environment, the house seems strangely empty without him.
I knew he was dying when I read your column. The next day, he hid in the basement and I couldn't find him, though he called out a few times. When my husband and sons came home, they did a more careful search and found him. We brought him upstairs, put him on a soft blanket on a warm radiator. We all had a chance to pet him and talk to him before he died 15 minutes later. When my husband petted him, Oliver's back legs pumped a little and we told the boys he was already in another world chasing mice.
Thank you for letting me write about my cat. The day after he died, I talked to my pastor, who had recently lost his beloved dog, and we agreed that God certainly brings our animals into that "life after life" that you mentioned in your column.
May 20, 2013
Thanks for sharing your story about your beloved Oliver. Animals often go off to hide when they are close to dying. That is why it is important to keep an eye on dogs and cats who are terminally ill and might slip outdoors, since I have received a few letters from people whose aged animals have "disappeared," leaving the family to wonder about their fate and to have no real closure. It is a comfort to pets, I believe, to spend their last breath surrounded by their loved ones.
Tags: cat diet food
May 13, 2013
I took my cat to an animal behaviorist because of inappropriate marking. We went through all the causes, and I have changed a few things.
The cat is neutered. The vet recommended Royal Canin Calm. I purchased the dry cat food, and noticed it has corn and wheat products. I also feed my cats canned food, which I believe is better for them. I have also been feeding them Merrick Before Grain dry food.
Do you have any suggestions for a dry cat food that would be similar to the Royal Canin, but with better ingredients? What about giving cats milk? Does milk have a calming effect?
I have five cats, all fixed, and I do animal rescue. I do not intend to foster any more cats. Right now my cats just tolerate each other.
May 14, 2013
These specially formulated, prescription-only (i.e. available at a marked-up price from a veterinarian) diets are part of the new wave of adding various supplements to manufactured pet foods and deleting other ingredients. The formulations are marketed as holistic veterinary medicine and nutritional therapy.
While some of these special diets can provide some benefits, many are a moneymaking scam.
The special diet to which you refer, which is also formulated for dogs, has added tryptophan, vitamin B3 and hydrolyzed milk protein as claimed calming ingredients. Tryptophan is what makes people drowsy after a meal of turkey. A glass of warm milk before bed can help people sleep better. I would opt for a healthy raw food diet for your cat, or use turkey as the single protein in my cat food recipe posted on my website, DrFoxVet.com.
There are many reasons why dogs and cats can become anxious/fearful, and these kinds of remedial diets do not address the root cause unless a nutritional deficiency in the regular food has been proven. Catnip can be a great feline calmer, and Feliway spray can work wonders for some cases.
For many dogs, a bandanna with a few drops of lavender oil on it tied around the neck can be calming, especially when riding in the car.
J.M., Poughkeepsie, NY
Tags: cat Poughkeepsie NY diet food
May 12, 2013
A year ago, I decided to take care of a stray cat in my backyard. When I saw him running around with a piece of bread I had thrown out for the birds, I knew there was a problem.
I would put food down in my garage, and it would be gone the next day. This went on for several days until I finally got to meet him. I call him Jack.
He's a very handsome rogue with beautiful tortoiseshell coloring. After weeks of working with him, I was able to get him close enough to me to sniff the fingers of my outstretched hand. All I wanted to do was to help the little fellow make it through the winter, and I did.
Jack has been with me ever since. But there are two problems:
- He's a feral cat who has pretty much reverted back to the wild.
- He has worms. I've observed this from his insatiable appetite and his hyperactive behavior. I also saw a worm he passed.
I've called several local animal clinics, and they all want me to bring Jack in for tests and the works. I can't afford to do this. Also, I could never get Jack into a pet carrier, and I am afraid of how he would react around strangers. Have I any other alternatives? I'd like to be able to make him well by adding something to his food.
J.M., Poughkeepsie, NY May 13, 2013
You do not give enough details in your letter as to what kind of worm you saw Jack pass. If it was long and thin, it could be a Toxocara roundworm. If it was a white, oblong, rice-grain-sized wiggly thing, it's a tapeworm segment. If that's the case, he'll need to be treated for fleas, which carry tapeworm eggs.
While it may seem shocking that no veterinary hospital will give you some worming medicine to put in his food, without a stool sample and/or a sample of the worm you saw, the proper treatment cannot be determined. Get these samples and you won't need to take Jack in unless it turns out he requires flea treatment. Not having had a rabies vaccination may make these animal clinics worry about dealing with Jack, and I urge you to rent a humane trap and get someone to help you catch him and take him in. He may need to be neutered, which will make him easier to handle. If you have a spare room, put him in there when he's given a clean bill of health, and he may soon become sociable.