My husband and I just had to say good-bye to our one-year old kitten, Ramone. Yep. He was just barely one. My heart so goes to all of you who have been through this. Not that it is any easier when they’ve been by your side for 5, 15 or 25 years. It’s never easy. Never. In fact, I call it the black hole of sucking. It is an indescribable pain, a hurt like no other. But at one, we were literally blind-sided by the words “kidney failure.” Of course, at one, everyone – rightfully – expects to have many happy years with our kitties or puppies ahead of us, and any pet taken from us so young feels particularly devastating.
The truly tragic irony of this situation is that we had to let Ramone go on the one-year anniversary of the day we brought him home. That exact day. One year before. Kidney failure. In a one-year old cat.
My husband and I were at the vet. Gary is a very outgoing, very … exuberant person. Gary’s not good at sitting down and waiting. So I’m in the exam room. The cat we brought in and the vet are in the back. I hear Gary bellowing as he walks past the door, headed for the crowded reception area “OMG THAT IS THE CUTEST KITTEN I’VE EVER SEEN! WE HAVE TO ADOPT THAT CAT!!!!” That little voice in my head immediately screams “NOOOOOOOOO! NOT KITTENS!!!!” (We have twelve older cats at home!) I pop out of the exam room to run interference. (Don’t worry, we know everyone that works in the clinic, and they already know we’re crazy. It’s a source of amusement for them).
“Gary, we can’t just adopt someone’s cat!” “I DON’T CARE WHOSE KITTEN THAT IS, WE HAVE TO ADOPT THAT CAT!”
Linda (one of the receptionists) says “Actually, I think Gary’s talking about one of the kittens just brought in from the hoarding rescue.” The little voice: “Oh GREAT. There’s no getting out of this one!”
The cogs in my head have flown into high gear. What was I going to do? Gary just got out of the hospital two weeks ago. He almost died. He “should” have died. He had a less than 10% chance of surviving the multiple organ failure (caused by a damaged heart valve from numerous tick bite infections) combined with his “I’ll just walk it off” attitude to illness (Little voice in my head: “MEN!”). Tick bites … from trapping feral cats all over Northern New Jersey dating back almost 20 years. I wanted Gary to get a service dog to motivate him through what will be a long recovery. But he wanted this kitten. Gary is smitten. Gary is determined. This is GOING to happen. I turn to Gary, “You cannot adopt just one kitten.” I turn to Linda, “Are there any other kittens?”
And thus it was we came to adopt the cats we named Maxzee and Ramone.
OK. So now it’s a done deal. Our new-to-us seven-week old boys were so riddled with infections and parasites, they needed to be isolated at the vet at least their first few days (especially as we have immune compromised cats at home). Having accepted the situation – Gary needed these kittens – it was exciting – KITTENS!!!!! We’d fostered years before (we suck at it; we get far too emotionally invested. Trap-Neuter-Return was our thing). But we’d never kept baby kittens. We got them healthy, we adopted them out. But these boys we were going to get healthy – for us! And HOW thrilling for me? I get to apply all I’ve learned about diet and supplements for health over the past decade since beginning our raw feeding journey. I was so hopeful we could avoid the chronic illnesses we’ve had to manage in our older clowder.
I prepared food for them (with EZComplete, of course!) and took it to the vet. In isolation, we couldn’t visit with them. Gary is not a particularly patient person. By day three, we’d already prepared our home for the kittens. We had an introduction cage set up in our bedroom. We stopped by the clinic to drop off more food and to ask if we could just SEE them. We understood we’d have to stay outside the glassed-in isolation area. And WOW were we shocked at what we saw: one kitten per cage. The little orange kitten – officially Ramone – was on his back feet, his front legs looked like windmills on the bars of the cage, and he was screaming! The little black & white kitten – Maxzee – was balled up in a corner of his cage, staring the wall.
Gary FLIPPED out. I WANT TO SEE A VET. RIGHT NOW. (Our vet wasn’t on duty). The tech that took us back says “Gary, they’re all in with patients.” THE BLACK & WHITE CAT IS DYING. LOOK AT HIM! HE’S LOSING HIS WILL TO LIVE LIKE THIS. THEY HAVE TO BE TOGETHER! WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING???!!!! (Gary is a deeply caring person, but not the most tactful. If he thinks it, he says it). Clearly out of the “danger” zone by now, we decided they weren’t doing anything there we couldn’t do at home. We waited while they crated the kittens – together – and gathered their things. Ramone and Maxz were COMING HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Together, our baby boys thrived. Home, in our care, Maxz and Ramone healed rapidly. Consuming what seemed an incredible amount of food, they quickly grew into handsome, healthy young cats. And yes, Gary did need those kittens. Their impact on his health and well-being was immeasurable. My heart sang. Nothing like kitty nurses to purr him to sleep despite his discomfort. And nothing like kittens to impart the innocent joys of just being alive. And, perhaps most important of all, Gary did more laughing that first month with the kittens than in the previous two or three years. Gary was healing, too.
Eleven months after bringing the boys home, Ramone seemed a bit off. Skipping a meal here or there isn’t unusual for kittens, but his behavior was subdued. That isn’t normal. Concerned, off to the vet we went. Alarm bells went off in my head when I saw it was the vet calling first thing the next morning. We were NOT prepared for the news: “Laurie, Ramone is in kidney failure. He needs to be admitted to the hospital for IV fluids. You need to bring him as soon as possible.” My head was buzzing. The room started spinning. I heard nothing after that. Ramone was in kidney failure. Kidney. Failure. He was just one! At this age, the most likely cause is ingestion of something that damages the kidneys. But we’re well aware of toxins to cats, have no plants, and all of our cats are indoor-only. I dropped off Ramone for the four days of IV fluids. I called Carolina with the devastating news. I took her advice and got down on the floor and searched the house. I could find nothing to explain it.
Even stranger? His kidney-related blood values on day four of IV fluids were the same as when tested after 36 hours. If this were an acute problem, his kidney values should have continued to improve. An abdominal ultrasound showed no congenital problem with his kidneys, and the vets began to suspect a genetic problem at the “microcellular level.” The little voice in my head: “NOOOOOOO NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” We brought our Ramone-y Pony home (nick-named during a growth spurt when his legs REALLY shot up!). Instructions were to give him daily sub-q fluids, and I use a form of vitamin B3, niacinamide, to lower phosphorus. Recheck was in one week. I needed to assist feed him the first day home despite cerenia and an appetite stimulant. But that was it. He needed the nausea and appetite support for only a few days, and he seemed back to 100%. THANK GOD. Blood work on recheck confirmed our observation. I was to continue giving him daily sub-q fluids. The next recheck was scheduled one month out. Life went back to normal, adjusted for the new routine of fluids and niacinamide. We were comforted that this might have been an acute episode after all.
The evening before his one-month recheck, Ramone vomited violently. He hunched up, like a very nauseous cat, or a cat in pain. He had zero interest in the last meal of the day. I thought maybe he had a blockage. Rather than wait for his appointment, we took him in first thing. …and I can barely get the words out, because once again, we were completely unprepared: Ramone was in kidney failure. Again. My panic level went through the roof. They wanted to do another ultrasound. OF COURSE. The moment I heard the very somber tone of the vet's voice when he called with the results my heart sank. “Laurie…” was all it took. That was followed with “It’s not good.” I had to choke back the sobs. The ultrasound showed complete lack of structure in his kidneys. This was genetic. The vet wasn’t sure how much time we’d have with him, it could be just a few days. His kidneys were not capable of supporting life. The little voice wasn't little, it was screaming. "NOOOOOOO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Is it time for heroics?
We faced the problem of every pet parent at a time like this: what do we do? How do we handle this? We are willing to go to the ends of the earth for our cats, money (almost) no object. We will do ANYTHING for our cats.
We seriously struggled to decide how much to do for Ramone. He's so young, should we consider getting him a kidney transplant? Or … What if sub-q fluids and cerenia and ondansetron made him feel better? Could we buy more time? What if I kept pilling him with niacinamide – could bringing down his phosphorus again enable him to spend more time with us? What if the vet was right about the kidney failure, but wrong about the timing, and Ramone potentially had months, not days? What if I assist fed him to get him through a few days – would that get him over a hump, giving time for sub-q fluids and meds to kick in? What if…. WHAT IF? WHAT IF? WHAT IF???????????
And this is when we need to turn to friends who understand our desire, but who can provide a more rational outlook. A dear online friend to Carolina and I, Amy, put a beautiful voice to end-of-life decision-making at times like this. She coined it “Love and Cheese Danish.” And Carolina – and others on Facebook, also familiar with Amy’s gift to those of us going through this incredibly painful process – reminded me of the very basic principle of Love and Cheese Danish. The message is simple: make decisions based on what is best for your pet, not for you. It is 100% about their quality of life. That is ALL that matters. Make their last days, weeks, or months an absolute heaven on earth. Worry only about their happiness and comfort and spoil them rotten. Feed them those human foods they love (so long as they aren’t actually toxic, of course!) Shower them with love and happiness and make being here FUN.
Of course our time with our pets is always too short. Of course we want to do everything we can to make them feel better so we have more time with them. In fact, as I talked through how far to go with Ramone with Carolina, it became clear I had to fight EVERY instinct I had to “DO” something. It is so much easier to act than to not try; to not fight for more time together. Doing NOTHING to prolong life is damn near impossible.
Carolina helped keep me on point. The ultrasound was definitive: Ramone’s kidneys cannot support life. Any time would be temporary. A kidney transplant is an extreme process – and it certainly isn’t best for the donor cat that must also be adopted. Ramone would be put through hell, especially as he was not a kitty with a calm personality who loved to travel. As a cat, Ramone may anticipate a meal, but he does not hope he’ll feel better tomorrow. He knows today, right now. One of the (oh so many) beautiful things about cats and dogs is that they live in the here and now. This knowledge must inform our decisions at times like this. One of the last, most difficult things we can do for our fur babies once diagnosed with a terminal illness is give them peace and joy while they are still here with us. Decision-making when our pet has a chronic disease that can be managed should not be the basis of decision-making when they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. To prevent our cats or dogs from suffering, we need to acknowledge the difference. Carolina gently helped me refocus on Ramone, not Ramone’s length of life with us. Not what we want. Not more time. No matter how much I didn’t want to hear it – no matter how much I didn’t want to do it – no matter how hard I had to fight with my desire to act – my heart knew Carolina was right. And what was best for Ramone was NOT SUFFERING. It was time for Love and Cheese Danish. Ramone had saved Maxzee. Ramone had helped save Gary. It was time to just love our little boy. It was time to stop trying to save him. It was time to make what time he had left with us glorious.
Ramone received fluids and shots of cerenia, famotidine and B12 before being sent home with us. He strutted on those long legs, tail up, head-butting us and his kitty friends. He arrived home just prior to mealtime. He was excited for the meal, standing on his hind legs as he always did, pawing the edge of the counter, meeping, waiting for me to “accidentally” drop a piece of meat, a special treat no one else got. I already knew his “cheese danish:” playing with the feather wand toy. Ramoney Pony LOVED to “play feather,” so of course that’s what we did after dinner. He didn’t play with his usual verve – so I slowed it down for him. He growled contentedly each time he caught it (so freaking cute he never lost that!), and I laughed and cried at the same time. He tired quickly – but he was so happy!!!!!
At bedtime, I asked him if he’d sleep with me as he had been this past month. I carried him to bed. He curled up into my chest and neck for what turned out to be one last time.
When I woke up the next morning, he was under the bed, hunched up. He’d never done that before, the hiding. He had no interest in eating, only drinking water. He was totally uninterested in feather. It was already time.
Ramone left this life peacefully, at home, on the day of his one-year anniversary of coming home to us with Maxzee. He’d been our angel. He’d performed his miracles. It was time to let him move on. We gave Ramone the hardest gift to give, the last gift any of us can give our beloved. We didn’t let him suffer for us. And I thank Carolina and all of my friends for helping me – us – make the right choices for Ramone.
Sometimes, all the “cheese danish” in the world can’t get them past whatever it is that is taking them from us. But this approach will always guide us to what is best for our babies. As Amy writes, with this approach our pets “knew nothing but love without the stress before saying good-bye.” It may hurt us the most, and it IS unquestionably he most difficult path – but knowing we’ve done what is best for THEM helps us adjust to our tremendous loss.
Love & Cheese Danish
Written by Amy Lindemann Cichowski and published here with her permission.
“Many years ago, our dog Ellie Mae started to bleed from her mouth. The vet found a tumor on the roof of her mouth and the biopsy showed that she had a highly malignant form of cancer. He removed what he could, but gave her a 30-day prognosis, due to the fast growing nature of this type of cancer.
Ellie Mae was our heart dog and we wanted her as comfortable as possible for the last days of her life. We bought her canned food (which she absolutely loved), DH slept on the floor with her (and would often wake up to find her up on the sofa and he on the floor), and everything we did with her was things that she wanted to do. One morning we had some cheese danishes that we bought from a bakery and decided to break one up, put it on a plate and feed it to her while she lounged on the sofa. Ellie Mae was a smart girl, and quickly realized that with all this special treatment, she didn’t want to leave us for a while. She got cheese danish a lot from us, and lived another 18 months before she died from a massive stroke at age 14 (old for her size). The ‘Love and Cheese Danish’ treatment was born.
I’ve used this for every one of my babies when they have been given a terminal prognosis. When Bob Marley and Eightball were diagnosed with cancer in 2010, Bob lived another 7 months with a lung cancer diagnosis (they gave him 2 months), and Eightball lived for a year.
I know we all spoil our babies, but there are some things that I do differently during their treatment. I found that Eightball loved to be fed on the kitchen counter, and while he loved to sit on my lap, was often crowded out by the other cats. He immediately got top lap priority and was grateful for it. The vet prescribed medications which didn’t settle well with him – first of all he hated to be medicated and secondly they appeared to upset his stomach. He freaked out with every trip to the vet so I stopped forcing it on him. Sometimes the treatment causes so much stress that it adds to their fragile condition more so than helps them. I would never suggest to anyone to stop what the vet prescribed, but realize that I talked to the vet before I made any changes.
He thought it was fun to drink out of our water glasses, and even more fun when he thought he was getting away with it (we used to scold him for it), so I’d leave glasses of water around the house so that he could “get away with it” and drink from them. If he was settled in my lap and I needed to do something, well, that something had to wait (if it could). He thrived.
Finding their “cheese danish” isn’t always easy, particularly if they are spoiled in the first place. But I always work to find what makes them happiest, and it’s almost as if they start to enjoy life so much that they put in the extra energy to live longer. No restrictions on what they want to do (unless it truly harms them) and give them things they least expect. Give them what they want, and love, love, love on them the entire time.”
Obviously, if kitty is on medications that will do harm if just stopped, discuss any change in treatment with your vet. But when nothing seems to help, consider ‘Love and Cheese Danish.’ And maybe you’ll find the end isn’t as near as you feared. If it is? Kitty knew nothing but love without the stress before saying good-bye.
Fly free, Ramone. Thank you for joining us as a stop on your way....
~ Laurie (& Gary, my hubby)
Dear friends, this is a different blog post…. We usually write articles about nutrition and health, but this one is personal – this is the story of my own journey against this horrible disease.
Only those who have a cat with PICA know how devastating this disease is. Unlike any other, there is nothing you can do to prevent or foresee it – it can happen anytime, with horrible consequences.
I decided to write this post as up to now, I really hadn’t heard of a permanent solution, a “cure” for feline PICA… But then a small miracle happened – or was it? We beat it! And I feel I must share our experience as if we can help even one kitty out there…. All she went through might make sense…. Might have been worth it.
Without further ado, here is our story –
Blanket was found on the streets, either abandoned by her mom, or someone, but either way – she came to me as a malnourished soon to be bottle baby – itty bitty, and full of spunk!
It didn’t take much to get her going though – aside from tiny, she wasn’t ill, and good food would bring her to great health. She was quickly transitioned to EZComplete and had a voracious appetite. She grew into a gorgeous, healthy little kitty!
One day, when she was a little over one year old, I went out of town and upon my return I noticed that my blanket (how’s that for “well” chosen name?!) had holes in it! LOTS of holes! I didn’t know what had happened, and started watching all my cats like a hawk.
That’s when I caught Blanket eating my couch – yep – the couch. She had already made a huge hole in it and was already munching on the stuffing!
Little by little she started to eat everything – her favorites were cloth items – blankets, sheets, couch, towels, pants, shirts…. But she also ate my wall, the wooden cat tree, my mattress... There wasn’t a way to “keep things away from her” – because that meant not having a bed, a couch, clothes, mats, or even walls.
Vet trips were done, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with her – she was the picture of health… Which was both good and bad news…. Good because of course you want a healthy baby! Bad because medically there wasn’t anything I could do.
There were theories about how kitties that are abandoned by their moms can develop PICA…. Some people found help by adding lanolin oil to their food, as in some cats this seems to be what is called “Wool suckling pica”, and by replacing this component of the wool – lanolin, you might be able to help to curb the craving... I did that, and I thought it was helping…. If it was, it wasn’t enough.
I also did the best I could to redirect her chewing to Lamb Ears chews – while she DID love that, I wasn’t able to make her chew on that 24x7.
Blanket’s first hospital stay with a blockage was on 10/21/2016 – she was 16 moths old. She started hacking and threw up what I came to call a “thing-ball” (Thing-balls were much like hairballs, but made up of things instead of hair). From that point on, she wouldn’t keep food down anymore, and would just keep vomiting.
Off to the vet we go – X-rays are done, which show a pattern of gas, but are somewhat inconclusive. Since she went to the vet very early, she spent all day on fluids and getting X-rays to see the progression of the blockage – she finally passed it, and we dodged a major bullet.
Three months later, on 01/07/2017, Blanket passes another thing-ball and starts throwing up. I immediately take her to the ER, who tells me she isn’t blocked, and has gastritis – they want to keep her IV and antibiotics. I ask them to see the X-Rays. There it was, her stomach and intestinal tract all full of gas – when I brought that up, the vet said that nope – that wasn’t a blockage. No one in the ER would do anything other than leave her on fluids/antibiotics.
I took her home with me, as I KNEW that was a misdiagnosis, to wait for my vet on Monday (This was Saturday).
On Monday, at 7am I was on my way to my vet. There was no doubt that was a blockage when my vet saw the x-rays, and the radiology report confirmed the location for the exploratory surgery.
Blanket had ingested a piece of my exercise pants made of Dri-fit, and it had absolutely devasted her gut tract – it was as though she had ingested acid – her gut was paper thin, totally corroded.
A few days later, while Blanket was still in the hospital, my other cat Bugsy started having very similar symptoms…. Which was strange, since Bugsy doesn’t have PICA.
Misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis, to make a long story short, it turns out that Blanket had eaten my pants, thrown up half of it, and since she eats raw meat, Bugsy thought it was a nice lunch – yuck! Ate the meat, along with the other half of the pants that she had thrown up, and ended up blocked too. Now I had her on my vet, and him going through Emergency exploratory surgery at the ER, at the same time (I only foud what happened after Bugsy's surgery, when the ER vet scooped up the other half of the cloth).
Fast forward to August 2017, seven months later. Blanket again tosses out a thing-ball, and I immediately go off looking for what it could be – I find my shorts, with a huge hole she had eaten (picture on the right). She starts again, throwing up violently. Luckily a day at the vet on fluids made her pass that one – another bullet dodged!
November 01, Blanket hacks and violently throws up dinner. I immediately knew that was bad. Decided to fast her and leave a message to my vet saying we were coming first thing in the morning with a blockage.
Sure enough – Blanket was blocked, and another exploratory surgery was in order. This time she had eaten the tip of my winter glove. It took me weeks to realize that she had fished this glove through a 1” opening on my dresser and eaten the tip of it. That-is-how-bad-she-was.
Anyways, as she is recovering from surgery at home, not even a week later, I catch her eating a bath towel.
I immediately picked up the phone and made the call to her vet that would forever change our lives.
First, I explained to him that I had just caught Blanket eating a towel, and that I was afraid for her life – it was much too soon to have another surgery. Then I said I needed him to keep a very open mind, as that had not been done before – but I had my reasons to think it would work.
He met with all the vets in his practice, and all but one agreed with me and him. We scheduled the surgery for as soon as possible, and that day couldn’t come soon enough!
The days leading up to that surgery were excruciating – walking on eggshells doesn’t quite explain what I was feeling. Every day she didn’t hack, every day she didn’t block, was a victory…. And then finally, the day arrived!
I had all these feelings within me – guilt, sadness and relief. Guilt and sadness because I knew I was putting her through pain, and couldn’t explain to her why she was going through that yet again <3…. Relief because if that worked, she would never go through that again! I was finally looking forward to sleeping a full night without the fear of her eating something that could potentially kill her….
Blanket did great through surgery, and the 4 large molars and 4 large pre-molars were removed.
We came home, she ate a meal, and few hours later, something very interesting, very telling, happened:
Blanket jumped on the coffee table and incessantly started to look for something to chew. She was completely OCD – desperate. She finally found a dried lamb ear that I had hidden from her, as I was scared of being too rough on her stitches…. Since she was so desperate, I gave it to her and she ran away to chew on it. My instincts kicked in, and I decided to give her a dose of buprenex – that was just too strange... She was just too desperate to chew on something. As soon as the bupe kicked in, she stopped chewing. And that was the last time she chewed on something – the last time.
Folks, Blanket’s PICA wasn’t OCD – it was PAIN.
Even though there was nothing that could be seen through X-rays, and she had no teeth/gum disease, she was in pain, and she chewed to relieve that pain. That became SO clear when I gave her Buprenex and she stopped chewing! And of course as clear as day now, that her teeth are gone, and so is the behavior.
I wasn’t expecting this – I was expecting her not to be able to rip and tear the cloth material…. But the behavior itself is gone.
In hindsight, it all makes sense…. Babies chew to relieve the pain of teething…. Kids with braces chew gum for pain relief…. Why wouldn’t cats?
The issue with cats is that as obligate carnivores, their teeth are made to rip and tear – unlike us that chew in and up and down motion, they chew back and forth – and when they rip, their tongue hooks complete the job in aiding them swallowing whatever they are chewing. The damage is done.
Friends, I don’t know if this is a solution for someone else other than us…. But after going through what we have gone through, I can’t imagine why it’s not possible to think that this might be a physical problem, instead of purely a behavior problem – honestly.
My Blanket is not, by any means, a stressed out kitty – she isn’t OCD in anything else – she has no reason to be. She displays no signs of any OCD behavior – why PICA? Why are all these cats suffering from PICA? Why is no one out there considering the possibility of pain?
I know this might be seen as a radical solution – trust me, I was well judged when I shared this idea in an online group, and I might be judged now – but to me, it was far more radical to know that she would be going through a life of one exploratory surgery after another – she simply wouldn’t survive.
It might be too soon…. But this is the longest she has been without chewing on something…. Her recovery was very quick, and she didn't skip a beat. As for me? I am finally able to sleep through the night knowing that when I wake up she won’t be blocked. Walking on eggshells is finally behind me.
Egg yolk, a true nutritional powerhouse, is rich in choline and vitamin E, and brings almost every nutrient our pets need. New Zealand green-lipped mussels provide a unique combination of anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory omega 3s, and are rich in glucosamine and chondroitin, important in joint health. Digestive enzymes bring many benefits, reducing organ stress, improving digestion, and increasing nutrient utilization. These are an important inclusions especially for those that opt to cook the meat, as cooking destroys the naturally occurring enzymes in the meat. Tragically, one out of every two dogs will be diagnosed with cancer sometime in their life. Thus, we view the addition of kale, brussels sprouts, carrots and blueberries a valuable inclusion to the diet, important in helping to reduce their cancer risk. Finally, a few vitamins and minerals are included to account for what is missing by not feeding whole prey.
With EZComplete fur Dogs, dog moms and dads will be able to control the main ingredient, the meat, their pups able to enjoy fresh, truly human grade meat, so easy to make complete & balanced with EZComplete!
We look forward to helping puppies and adult dogs thrive as EZComplete has done for kittens and cats!
We are proud to announce that human grade – no additives, no flow agents – powdered EGG YOLK is joining our product line-up!
Are you tired of Hairballs? Did you know that egg yolk is one of the best natural hairball Preventatives?
As discussed in our article - Hairballs - How Best to Manage Them, Egg yolks provide many nutritional benefits, but what concerns us as far as hairballs, are specifically the choline and lecithin.
Choline. A component of choline is acetylcholine. Acetylcholine acts as a major neurotransmitter for the autonomic nervous system (which includes the GI tract). The stomach and the intestines contain a muscular layer that allows for wave-like contraction of the organs, known as peristalsis. This process propels food through the digest tract. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse states that acetylcholine increases the contractions seen in the muscular layer, thus improving peristalsis and pushing food efficiently through the digestive tract. Choline (and its component acetylcholine) improves GI motility, which is what propels hair through so it comes out the proper end.
Lecithin. Fat is what binds the hair in the stomach, creating that sticky, often stinky, gooey mess that is a hairball. Lecithin is a fat emulsifier: it emulsifies the fat binding the hairball(s), enabling kitty to pass the ingested hair.
An species appropriate diet, brushing regularly, and adding egg yolk to your kitty's diet are great natural ways to prevent the oh-so-dreaded hairball problems.
But wait! There is much more! “What's so special about egg yolk?” you ask?
Eggs are a nearly perfect food, and the yolk contains the bulk of that nutrition. Discussed as “nature’s multivitamin” in many articles, eggs are truly a powerhouse of nutrition as one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. With almost every essential vitamin and mineral our pets’ bodies need, egg yolk is the perfect superfood complement to any diet – and essential in a homemade diet, most notably for choline which almost always come up short without the addition of egg yolk (or whole egg).
There is no source of choline richer than egg yolks, with 820mg of choline per 100 grams. Not even beef kidney (the food with the next-highest choline content) rivals that of yolk - egg yolk contains 60% more choline per 100 grams. (!!)
Egg yolks are also one of nature’s richest sources of biotin. Biotin supports healthy metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids, and glucose. It is essential for healthy thyroid and adrenal function, a healthy cardiovascular system – it also protects brain function and fights cognitive decline. However, biotin is probably most renowned for its role in healthy, beautiful skin, hair and nails. In our pets, this means egg yolk will contribute to soft, silky, shiny fur; aiding in resolving dandruff; and helping to prevent cracked dry nails and fungal infections.
To learn more about the benefits of egg yolk, we discuss each ingredient in the EZComplete premixes, including egg yolk, here.
Of course, the EZComplete fur Cats and EZComplete fur Dogs premixes already contain the egg yolk needed to provide a balanced diet. But if your dog, cat or ferret has a health issue that would benefit from a multivitamin - consider egg yolk! Or if your dog has dandruff, or your cat or ferret is suffering hairballs, consider supplementing with egg yolk. And as fats moisten stool and increase transit time, if your pet is prone to constipation, reach for the egg yolk. It is a terrific tool for managing chronic constipation. Some pets may also need an osmotic laxative like lactulose, or a bit of fiber. But for our carnivores, this is the species-appropriate place to start.
For those that have pets that do not enjoy natural, raw yolk, or for those of you that need to cook too many eggs to be practical, we've done the work for you. EZ Egg Yolk is a very easy-to-measure and use alternative!
Please Welcome Dogs to Our Furry Family! It’s official – Dogs are finally a part of the Food Fur Life family!
Since we opened for business, we have been asked time and again why we have a dog in the logo, but no product for dogs? As many self-funded small companies, we had to make choices, to prioritize. It isn’t because we don’t love doggies just as much! The dog in our logo is Carolina’s Bruce Wayne! We felt strongly that cats are under-served and in higher need of a premix to balance homemade diets, and we launched EZComplete fur Cats first. But we worked hard to make EZComplete fur Dogs become a reality – and here we are!
We are THRILLED to introduce EZComplete fur Dogs, officially welcoming our woof, tail-wagging friends to our Food Fur Life Family. Featuring a similar formula to that for cats, EZComplete fur Dogs premix contains liver and pancreas as the nutrient and enzyme-packed organs; combines freeze dried bone (calcium hydroxyapatite) and eggshell as sources of calcium. Dogs thrive with a higher bone content than cats, having a higher requirement for many minerals. And by substituting a percentage of the bone for eggshell calcium, EZComplete Fur Dogs meets the needs of puppies, pregnant dogs, and nursing moms – while keeping a lower overall phosphorus content for senior dogs. Egg yolk, a true nutritional powerhouse, is rich in choline and vitamin E, and brings almost every nutrient our pets need. New Zealand green-lipped mussels provide a unique combination of anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory omega 3s, and are rich in glucosamine and chondroitin, important in joint health. Digestive enzymes bring many benefits, reducing organ stress, improving digestion, and increasing nutrient utilization. These are an important inclusions especially for those that opt to cook the meat, as cooking destroys the naturally occurring enzymes in the meat. Tragically, one out of every two dogs will be diagnosed with cancer sometime in their life. Thus, we view the addition of kale, brussels sprouts, carrots and blueberries a valuable inclusion to the diet, important in helping to reduce their cancer risk. Finally, a few vitamins and minerals are included to account for what is missing by not feeding whole prey.
With EZComplete fur Dogs, dog moms and dads will be able to control the main ingredient, the meat, their pups able to enjoy fresh, truly human grade meat, so easy to make complete & balanced with EZComplete!
EZComplete Fur Dogs will be launched at the SuperZoo, Las Vegas, July 25-27th, and will start shipping 1st week of August. Mark your Calendars!!!
We look forward to helping puppies and adult dogs thrive as EZComplete has done for kittens and cats!
PS. Look for our ad on Dogster Magazine!
Dear Food Fur Life Family, you will soon start receiving our brand new "Stop Light" EZComplete Bags!
Based on the feedback we accumulated since we opened our Company, combined with the advent of the upcoming launch of our EZComplete Fur Dogs, our packaging has been redesigned, featuring several GREAT updates.
The bags are the same, made of the same FDA approved Mylar BPA free material. There were no changes to the formula.
For those who see the Catster ad below, please note - We will start to ship the new bags as we phase out of the current inventory - Large bags sooner, and small bags a little later.... Probably mid-June the East Coast and International customers will start receiving the large new bags. If you receive the current (Black) bag, please be advised that the product is the exact same - including the material of the bags. The only change is the bag design.
As always, thank you for your loyalty!
Carolina and Laurie
At Food Fur Life, we advocate for and encourage the feeding of raw food. That said, a (properly balanced) home prepared food made with all human grade ingredients, even if cooked, will always – in our opinion – be a superior choice to any commercial canned or kibble. This is why we formulated EZComplete fur Cats to properly balance food whether the meat used with the premix is cooked or raw. The premix powder includes both pancreas and digestive enzymes so all kitties fed food made with our premix are consuming those needed digestive enzymes. We understand there may be personal reasons to cook. With that in mind, we share the information in this article to help you make informed choices: whether or not to cook, and if cooking, which method will both suit your lifestyle and be most healthful for your kitty.
When we first entertain the idea of homemade food for our pets, it’s quite common to have questions, if not concerns, about raw feeding and bacteria. Unless we are lucky enough to have a veterinarian that is knowledgeable about raw feeding, these questions often grow into fears once we chat about the diet change (if the notion of homemade food is not completely discouraged). The only consideration when it comes to cooking for our pets, typically, is the fear-based potential for bacterial contamination. We treat the question "to cook or not to cook?" as if cooking is benign, and has no impact apart from making food “safer.” Sure, we all know we need to account for nutrient loss. But the decision to cook for our pets is not so straightforward. There are other important factors to consider – especially if it is cancer or an inflammatory disease that prompted us to explore making food for our furry family members.
Having eaten cooked food for anywhere from 400,000 to 1.8 million years, humans have adapted to eating cooked food. Our pets, naturally hunters and scavengers, have not. In their evolutionary timeline, commercial foods only became a part of their diet full time within the last few decades. Cooking their food may have unintended health consequences, as they are perfectly designed for eating not just raw meat and organ, but what we would consider contaminated raw meat and organ.
Of course WE would likely get sick if we ate raw meat contaminated with bacteria. But this an instance where we should not humanize our pets. Veterinarians are quick – and rightly so – to point out the nutritional needs of our pets are quite different than our own. Of course those differences extend to the defense systems of our bodies versus those of our pets. Of course our pets are well adapted to their natural evolutionary diets of hunting and scavenging. And of course our pets have biological mechanisms in place to protect them from this risk that we do not. We address this in our article “Why You SHOULD Feed Your Immune Compromised Cat Raw Food.”
So what is the real difference between raw and cooked?
Why are enzymes so important to our pets?
Enzymes are present in all living animal (and plant) cells: they are the catalysts of all naturally occurring biochemical processes that take place in our (and our pets’) bodies. Without enzymes, we cannot utilize the nutrition we eat, and neither can our pets. The processes that enzymes catalyze would take so long without them, we couldn’t survive. As we have discussed in numerous articles, cats are not “just” carnivores, cats are metabolically inflexible hypercarnivores. Biologically, cats have made no adaptations to eating anything other than their natural diet. And that diet is raw.
As Dr. Jean Hofve explains in the Spring 2012 issue of IVC Journal in her article, “Enzymes,”
“The thousands of enzymes produced by the body aid in a wide variety of chemical reactions. There are two major classes of enzymes: metabolic and digestive. Digestive enzymes are produced primarily in the pancreas and released into the duodenum to help digest food coming from the stomach. The intestines themselves also secrete amylase and other digestive enzymes.” Dr. Hofve goes on to note that “Research in animals has shown that the production of digestive enzymes is independent of diet. That is, animals are biologically programmed to produce specific types and amounts of digestive enzymes in response to food ingestion, regardless of what food they actually eat. Only major evolutionary shifts, such as changing from omnivorous to insectivorous lifestyles, affect these systems. Our carnivorous pets have not, and cannot, adapt their digestive functions to processed diets, which, after all, have only been widely used for a few decades.” [Bold, our emphasis]
In the wild, cats eat the entire animal. Their digestive and metabolic systems are designed to benefit from the supplemental enzymes consumed. When we feed our pets cooked food, we are providing food that is devoid enzymes. While cooking is a form of "predigestion" in that it alters the structure of the proteins in any food making it easier to break down, humans have had, as discussed above, at least four hundred thousand years to adapt to cooked food. So it is that our organs, especially our pancreas, are much larger relative to body size compared to that ratio in other animals. Dr. Hofve also addresses this in her IVC Journal article on enzymes for pets. The bottom line is that we have had hundreds of thousands of years to adapt to this change in food eating. It is only within the last 20 years or so that many cats were brought indoors 100% of the time, becoming 100% dependent on our cooked, literally processed to death foods, requiring long lists of vitamins and minerals be added back. We see the impact of this change to a diet lacking any fresh raw food or any hunted or scavenged prey in the top health issues and diseases cats suffer.
As Dr. Hofve points out,
“Evidence … strongly suggests that eating foods devoid of enzymes as a result of cooking, food irradiation, and microwaving causes an enlargement of the pancreas and also stresses associated endocrine glands… In all of nature, the human pancreas is three times larger, as compared to total body weight, than that of any other animal. What is interesting is that when mice are fed cooked foods, the ratio of their pancreas weight to total body weight becomes approximately that of a human’s. When they are switched back to a raw-food diet, their pancreas shrinks back to normal size. The most obvious conclusion is that the pancreas becomes hypertrophied, or enlarged, because it is forced to keep up a high digestive enzyme output.” [Bold, our emphasis]
It would seem this process is happening to our cats. In a 2008 review article on pancreatitis by researchers at Texas A&M, it was noted that necropsy examination of the pancreas of 115 cats (both sick and healthy) discovered findings consistent with pancreatitis in 67% of cases (including 45% of “apparently healthy cats”). Let that sink in a moment. Two-thirds of cats had an enlarged pancreas consistent with chronic pancreatitis. We do not know that lack of enzymes in the diet is a cause of or even contributor to pancreatitis. But as the incidence of pancreatitis causing illness in our cats has risen to the point of ranking in the top 10 reasons for a vet visit in 2015 (according to Nationwide (formerly VPI) Pet Insurance), we should be mindful of their need for additional enzymes if eating cooked foods.
It is a true testament to the resilience of our cats that so many do as well as they are, having had zero time in the scale of the species to adapt to any of the dietary changes we have forced them to make. The lack of enzymes is just one of many.
Is cooked food ever appropriate for my pet?
Older pets being transitioned to homemade, or pets with very damaged or sensitive GI tracts, may only be able to eat cooked food comfortably until their GI tracts have had time to heal.
When your pet has a bout of diarrhea or vomiting, or if your pet has inflammatory bowel disease and/or pancreatitis and is in a flare, feeding a bland diet of plain cooked meat for a short period of time is often recommended to help settle the GI tract.
Am I harming my cat if I feed cooked meat?
There are no studies of the impact of Malliard reaction compounds or Advanced Glycation End products in cats. But if we suspect those compounds may present similar health problems to our cats as to ourselves, it is best to be mindful of the problem and make informed cooking choices. Low temperatures and moisture minimize AGEs and do not produce Maillard reaction compounds like heterocyclic amines. A slow cooker on low, the stove top in simmering water, or our baking instructions using moist heat (adding water to the pan and covering the pan with foil) are the best choices. With high heat, dry cooking (typically grilling, frying or roasting), the food will contain these compounds. Of course, as with everything, moderation is advised. You can provide your cat a tasty treat, but don't feed them something cooked via such high heat all the time.
In addition to cooking at lower temperatures and with moisture, you can further minimize the impact of cooking by adjusting the "doneness" of the meat. If you are not convinced our pets are safe eating raw meat, consider lightly cooking the meat instead of cooking it to well done. The surface of the meat is the only area that may have been exposed to bacteria, so it is only the outside of the meat that needs to be cooked. There is no need to cook the meat all the way through. Importantly, this approach offers kitty the opportunity to benefit from some primarily raw food with most of its structure, nutrition, and enzymes intact.
Getting medication and sometimes food into our cats are important skills. Even if our veterinarians show us how in the office, they often make it seem so easy - but once we get home it's a completely different experience. Here Carolina and I (Laurie) share important information about medicating and assist feeding your cats, and the methods we use to accomplish those feats. It wasn't all roses, and it usually results in some emotional trauma (more for us than our cats!), perhaps a mess to clean up, or a wasted, soggy pill. We all have to start somewhere. Hopefully these tips will make it easier.
Let's get started -
Obviously, the easiest method is to get your cat to eat the pill. For tablets and small capsules, this is the raw feeding equivalent of a pill pocket. Thank you, Carolina, for this tip!
Cut a small piece of meat that is small enough to be bite-sized, but big enough to snip a “pocket” into it with shears (or use a knife if you’re handy with them, I am not). Put pill in pocket, feed to cat - not as part of the meal, you need to ensure kitty eats it. If this method doesn't work, you may need to pill your cat.
Medicating with Liquids
For liquids, use the same techniques as for pilling. It is still best to follow the medication with water.
Never pill a plain pill. I always put tablets into a #3 size empty gel cap (example: NOW size 3 empty gelatin capsules), and though it makes it a little slippery, I coat the pill with something, usually a bit of butter. Wet capsules can get stuck in the throat.
Pills should NEVER be given alone and dry. Think of your own experience swallowing a pill. It is not just uncomfortable, it can cause physical damage. Strictures are usually not reparable in cats, and over time dry pilling can cause scarring and restriction of the esophagus (to the point a cat must be put on a liquid diet).
If you are using your finger or a piller that doesn’t have a water chaser, to prep for giving the pill, have a little dish ready with a bit of something for them to lap up. Bone broth, meat broth (made for the cats with nothing added, just plain broth), “meat juice” if they like that (what separates from meat during thaw), a little tuna water… whatever works for your cat. Once you’ve gotten the pill down, they need to drink something to wash it down!
Use praise. LOTS of praise. Before, during, and after. Praise your kitty, tell her what you’re doing and why. Tell her WHAT a good girl she is, how much you love her, and don’t stop talking. Calm, sweet, loving, dotted with lots and lots of praise.
The main ingredient is confidence. It takes practice, but it won’t be long before you can approach your kitty wherever she is, hold her head, pop the pill in, and it’s over and done with before she realizes it happened. Take a big deep breath, or a few of them. Think “I can do this!” And just go for it. Worst case, your cat spits the pill out and you must try again. But this does NOT hurt your cat, and you will NOT harm your cat.
If you are still nervous, sing, even if you don’t sing. It calms both of you down. Just pick a tune you know, kitty doesn’t care if you sing in key. And sing the stuff you’d talk to her, if you don’t know the words to a song. Kitty doesn’t care if it rhymes or even makes sense. I no longer need to sing to pill, but I do need to sing trying to get a few of them to do other things (like scuffing them into a crate to go to the vet. I have quite a few still semi-feral cats). I usually sing to the Monty Python Lumberjack song. “You’re a kitty cat and you’re ok! You need this pill so you can play and play…”
Pilling a Cat - Video demonstration by Carolina
Pilling a Cat - Laurie's Method
Important notes before we begin:
I am right-handed. If your dominant hand is the left, the point is to use your dominant hand for the work (getting the pill in, using the syringe, or swiping the food) and the other hand to control the cat’s movement.
You can use a piller rather than your finger. Unlike Carolina who is comfortable with a piller, I’m a spaz with one. I use what I feel in the cat’s mouth wtih my finger to know where the pill is. Yes, the cat usually chomps my finger, but rarely do they break skin. If you use a piller, best to use one with a water chaser as demonstrated by Carolina in the video, above.
When putting something in a cat’s mouth, it is their natural reaction to back away. Use this to your advantage. Sit behind your kitty, knees bent, butt on your heels, legs in a V shape. Use this position to “hold” kitty in place. There’s nowhere to back up, and your legs help hold the cat in place.
I use my left hand (my non-dominant hand) to hold the head, thumb on top of head, the rest of my hand under the chin, head “cupped” in my hand. You are not hurting your cat: hold firmly! I can manipulate where the head is this way. I have the pill (or if you prefer, a piller) in my right hand (holding the pill with my thumb and index finger). I push the mouth open with my left index finger. Locate the back of the mouth, where the upper and lower jaws hinge together. With your other hand (holding the pill), locate the back of the mouth with your middle finger, so you’re ready with the pill.
Hold the head tilted up with your left hand, it makes this easier.
I push at the hinge of the jaw, into the mouth, with my left (non-dominant hand) index finger. Push firmly. The mouth will open. (I’m already holding the pill in my right hand in the correct position, at the back of the mouth, ready-to-go). I push the pill in from the right side at the back of the mouth with my right (dominant hand) index finger. I stick my finger in the mouth, guiding the pill ALL the way to the back of the mouth, over the hump of the tongue. I push quickly. Just get it over that hump, you'll feel it. Remove finger immediately. Yes, my finger usually gets chomped. It doesn’t hurt much, skin is rarely broken. I have been using my left hand to prevent the cat from thrashing the head around, and my body and legs hold the cat in position, though there may be some wiggling.
As soon as I’ve removed my finger, I hold the mouth closed, and keep the head tilted up (and now your dominant hand is available to help). If you let the head down while pilling, tilt it up again. Holding the mouth closed prevents them from spitting it out, and tilting it up has gravity helping do the work. I hold the mouth closed until they swallow. If they resist swallowing, just stroke the throat gently with your right hand while still holding the head firm with your left. Or you can tilt the head all the way up and blow a gentle puff of air on the nose. As soon as they swallow, you’re done! Praise the heck out of her, and offer the liquid to drink.
IF YOUR CAT IS NOT EATING, IT IS UP TO YOU TO GET ALL THE NUTRITION SHE NEEDS INTO HER. Cats' livers are NOT designed to deal with processing fat stores. Without food, your cat starts to release fat and “eat” her own muscles. This fat can flood the liver causing a liver disease called hepatic lipidosis, or “fatty liver” and this IS life-threatening. It also makes your cat not want to eat, and the primary resolution is food. This is not treatable with a medicine. Food IS the medicine.
Assist feeding notes:
When to assist feed. As discussed above, a cat not eating can cause liver disease. Overweight cats are particularly at risk. When a cat has not eaten for 24 hours, or only "picked" at food over a 24 hour period, you need to begin assist feeding. Of course, a vet visit is warranted to discover the cause of the problem. Walking away from food is a sign of nausea in cats, and needs to be addressed and managed. But getting the nutrition your kitty needs into her will help support her best health, no matter the cause. It's important to note that without food, cats often develop acidic tummies, and the cycle of nausea perpetuates itself without food.
What to assist feed. If you need to assist feed your cat, as your cat is already in distress, it is best to continue to use the food you are currently feeding to minimize GI upset. The exception is kibble. Then we recommend using baby food or plain poached chicken breast. Thus, if you feed raw, continue to use that - though if you feed ground with bone, you will have to make a batch substituting eggshell for bone so you can put the food through the syringe. To use eggshell as the source of calcium, use 1/2 teaspoon (3.1 grams) of very finely ground eggshell powder for each one pound (450g) of meat/organs. If using commercial raw, in the U.S. there may be a Rad Cat distributor near you. This is the only commercial raw that is ideal for a syringe as it uses eggshell, not ground bone. If you want a very plain diet, you can use ground meat balanced with eggshell and taurine (1/32nd tsp of very finely ground eggshell powder per ounce (28.35g); for larger batches, one-half teaspoon per pound (450g), and to one of the syringes each day add 250mg of taurine). This can be done with raw or cooked meat. If you feed homecooked, we recommend you assist feed your homecooked food.
Many vets will tell you or encourage you to use prescription food designed to be used in a feeding tube, this makes it easy to use in a syringe. But if your cat has not been on a commercial diet recently, this is likely to cause GI upset, and there really is no need for this. For those new to raw and concerned about using raw when kitty is sick, please read our article Why You SHOULD Feed Your Immune Compromised Cat Raw Food. Having your kitty feel unwell from food simply because it was designed to be used in a syringe makes no sense. The vets that are not anti-raw tell you to keep feeding your cat raw. If YOU feel more comfortable feeding cooked, that's fine. Then cook the food you would feed, just make sure to use eggshell calcium instead of bone. Of course, food made with EZComplete fur Cats works very well in a syringe once prepared for it. When my cats are ill and need to stay at the vet, I take prefilled syringes with raw food, and they assist feed those rather than the canned Rx they would use. And thus my cats don’t get stomach upset from food they are not used to eating. If your vet won’t do that, fill them with baby food. Or poach chicken thigh. By including some fat, this is just as high calorie as the a/d. The a/d has 183 calories per 5.5 ounces, it isn’t a particularly "high calorie" food.
Prepare the food for the syringe. If assist feeding raw or homecooked, you’ll have to run it through the blender with some water. If you feed raw with bone, you will have to make food using eggshell as a substitute for ground bone. See above.
I use a knife to load the syringe from the top. Carolina uses a spoon. We both prepare as many syringes as we're going to feed in one sitting before we start.
How Much Food?
For the feeding, start by giving a small amount per plunger push: 1ML to 2ML are good amounts to start with until you get the hang of it. I usually give 3ML in one squirt.
For the day. One of the biggest assist feeding mistakes is not getting enough food into your cat. You need to get all of the daily nutrition your cat needs into her. It is best to work up to the full daily quantity by starting with at least half of her daily need on day one. Day two, target three-quarters. On day three, you should start getting her full daily need. If you are unable to get ALL the food your cat needs into her, please get a feeding tube. Feeding tubes save lives and are completely underutilized in cats. They are a quick procedure with a light anesthetic, and usually very well tolerated by cats, and even most sick cats can manage the procedure. You vet is the best judge of how your cat will handle the procedure. Whether for three days or three weeks, feeding tubes reduce the stress on both of you and ensure your cat gets the nutrition she needs.
Determining the daily food requirement. As to how much to feed of the course of a day, the math is straightforward. 5ML is one teaspoon of food. Three teaspoons are a tablespoon. So each 15ML syringe is one tablespoon, and that is approximately one half-ounce of food. If your kitty eats 4.5 ounces a day, that means over the course of a day, your cat will need to be fed nine 15ML syringes of food. You can feed one every hour to hour-and-a-half. You can feed two every few hours, and one at the end of the day. You can feed three meals a day of three syringes. Whatever works best with your schedule.
Where to Feed. I assist feed in a bathroom. It’s closed, warm, and easy to clean up. And if for some reason the cat gets away from me, I can more easily corral them again.
Assist feeding is messy – more so when you’re still new to it. Have lots of paper towels handy!
Assist Feeding - Carolina's Method
Please note, this video was made before Carolina transitioned her cats to raw food. Now when any of them need assistance eating, Carolina prepares their regular raw food (raw meat + EZComplete fur Cats) to use in the syringe. (I use the same). She uses her Magic Bullet to blend with water into a consistency easy to use in the syringe. I use my small food processor. As food made with EZComplete fur Cats is moist, it doesn't require much water using the Four Paws Easy Feeder syringes featured in the video and discussed here, as you control the width of the tip by where you cut it to create the opening in the cone on the feeder syringe.
Carolina found the BEST syringes: Four Paws Easy Feeder. No rubber, so they never stick. Easy to clean. They’re large enough to be useful, but not so large you can’t handle them – and we both have small hands. Best, you cut the syringe tip to the width you want it, which makes syringing raw food SO much easier. The pack comes with one food syringe with a cone shaped feeding tip and one liquid syringe. I cut the long thin part off the liquid one, and thus I get two food syringes. Carolina finds the tip on that to be too thick - and it is a wide opening, so best to use the cone syringe as a beginner. The syringes are 15ML each. That is half an ounce of food. When assist feeding, it is often best to feed more frequent smaller amounts. But it sure is helpful to be able to feed an ounce at a time (two 15ML syringes). The syringes the vet gives you are meant to be used with a feeding tube, and are very limiting both in terms of how much food you can feed (they're usually 10ML at most) at one time, and the opening is very small, so it's difficult to get food through it.
In this video, Carolina demonstrates how to assist feed using a cat bag. This works to settle and calm the cats, reducing the stress of assist feeding. It also restrains the cat, so you are free to use both hands. It is stressful to assist feed a struggling cat. ...Though as we've found, you may find that after a few meals, your cat realizes she feels better, and settles down (often after initially objecting just on principle). But this is Carolina's first time assist feeding Lucky (though Carolina was already experienced with assist feeding when this video was made). My Lazlo was the first cat I ever had to assist feed, and at first, of course, he hated it and fought it. But as I got better at it, and he realized he felt better with food in his tummy, he quickly became cooperative and purred throughout - as you can see Lucky is almost enjoying her food, here. Carolina and I think it's important to note: while this is the first time Lucky was assist fed, she is calm and not struggling. Our cats are so sensitive to us, if we approach it with fear and trepidation, we can expect them to object. Approaching it calmly, with love, gentleness and confidence, they respond, as Lucky does.
Assist Feeding - Laurie's Method
The instructions for assist feeding are exactly the same as pilling, only you’re not putting a pill in the mouth, you’re putting the tip of a feeding syringe. And instead of aiming for the throat, tilt the head up with your left hand, so it’s easy to point the tip of the syringe at the roof of the mouth. By pointing at the roof of the mouth, you can be sure you’re not going to make your cat accidentally inhale food.
This can be used for small amounts of food, but it isn’t very efficient. I use this to get slippery elm bark powder “paste” into my CKD cat. I used to use the slippery elm “syrup,” which seems to work much better for nausea than straight slippery elm bark powder. But now I’ve a CKD cat that needs this basically daily, I find it easier to just finger swipe a paste into his mouth – and by replacing water with the George’s Distilled Aloe Vera Juice (now labeled “drink”), he needs less of the paste to be as effective as 3ML to 5ML of the syrup. The usual directions for the paste are one-quarter teaspoon of slippery elm bark powder and one-half teaspoon of water. Stir and let thicken. But now I replace the water with George’s Aloe – and he doesn’t need all of it. I’ve reduced it to 1/8th tsp slippery elm bark powder and one-quarter teaspoon of George’s aloe vera.
Have the paste handy. Follow the instructions for pilling, only rather than holding a pill to put in the mouth, you’re putting a blob of aloe paste on the end of your dominant hand finger. Rather than push a pill all the way into the back of the mouth, you're just “wiping” the paste into the back of the mouth. Open her mouth with the index finger of the hand holding the head as instructed in the pilling section above, and quickly wipe that blob of paste (or food) that's on your other finger into the back of the mouth. No need to push it anywhere. Close the mouth with the left hand, hold the head tilted up, wait for kitty to swallow. Repeat as necessary to get most (or even all) of it in. If you only need the smaller amount paste to help your kitty’s nausea, you should be able to get it done in one or two swipes.
Does your cat frustrate you with loving her food one day – and hating it the next? You might be surprised to learn that the problem could be the nutritional profile of the food you are offering her to eat, not the taste. Of course, cats experience nausea when ill. But a recent study indicates our apparently healthy kitties may have a sound reason for being finicky felines after all. “Balancing macronutrient intake in a mammalian carnivore: disentangling the influences of flavour and nutrition” found that – after a period of introduction to the food textures and flavors – aroma, taste and texture of food was not as important to cats as the macronutrient content of the food.
“Macronutrient” content refers to the basic composition of the diet: protein, fats and carbohydrates. As we have discussed before, cats naturally consume a diet that is over 60% protein, about 20% fat, and has almost no carbohydrates (on a dry matter basis). As fat provides almost twice as many calories as protein, this equates to cats obtaining about 52% and 46% of their energy needs from protein and fat, respectively. (The diet they naturally consume provides just 2% of their energy from carbohydrates).
In this study, cats were introduced to three basic new foods. These were wet foods with the texture of porridge. The flavors were fish, rabbit and orange. (!!!) Each food was initially formulated with a similar protein-to-fat ratio. The cats showed a strong preference for the fish-flavored food: rabbit was “neutral,” and orange flavored food disliked. No surprise there, right?
The three different flavors of food were then formulated with three different ratios of protein and fat. On an energy basis, the three different food formulations were
When fed with those three different protein-to-fat options but offered just one flavor at a time, the protein-to-fat ratio of 70%/30% won as the favorite food, paws down.
Then the cats were offered the varying protein-to-fat ratios with a mix of flavors such that the cats would have to eat orange flavored food in order to increase the protein in their diet. The cats ate a mix that averaged out to about 50% energy from protein and about 50% from fat, in line with the profile of their natural diet and the results of the 2011 study that eliminated taste preferences – even though that meant the cats had to choose to eat orange flavored food to achieve that mix of protein and fat.
Adrien Hewson-Hughes, who led the study, told the Discovery News site, Seeker, “Cats initially selected food based on flavor preferences, but after 'learning' (due to prior exposure) about the nutritional composition of the foods, cats [subsequently] selected foods to reach a particular target balance of protein and fat regardless of added flavors.”
Take a moment to absorb that. Cats chose a nutritional composition over taste and smell.
As noted in the study discussion, “What is remarkable given the unusual nature and properties of the foods offered in these experiments — ‘porridge-like’ consistency, added flavours/aromas, different P : F [protein and fat] compositions and animal- or plant-derived protein sources — is the extent to which the balance and amounts of protein and fat intakes do converge... This indicates that macronutrient balancing is a powerful driver of food selection in cats and points to the ability to detect and respond to post-ingestive macronutrient signals that are distinct from sensory aspects contributing to the apparent palatability of foods.” (Our emphasis)
In plain English, this means cats respond not just to taste, smell or texture – their bodies prompt them to eat what they need from a nutritional standpoint! It bears repeating: cats actually ate orange-flavored food (after learning it was, in fact, food) in order to consume a diet that (from the perspective of the ratio of meat and fat in the foods) resembles their evolutionary diet. As we have discussed before, cats are a metabolically inflexible hypercarnivore, and it really should come as no surprise that the diet they naturally strive to eat is what they need. It may be surprising to some that THEY know they need this. The mechanism responsible for this is not yet known. But what is most likely surprising to most (if not all) of us is the response of their bodies to diet is so strong, in order to get the nutrition they need, cats will eat food a food with a flavor they would most likely never – under normal circumstances – elect to eat on a taste/aroma basis. The qualifier there? They need to have been introduced to the foods and learn that they ARE food.
Cats NEED to Be Introduced to New Foods
If given the opportunity – and, importantly – when properly introduced to the food – cats will choose the diet that best suits their needs. As Dr. Hewson-Hughes told Discovery News, cats display an eating characteristic called neophobia. "This means they are unwilling to try a food that is new or different to their normal food, which may make them appear fussy." If we offer our kitty new food, especially a new food format such as wet from kibble or homemade from kibble or canned, we can’t expect them to like it right away – and we may meet with quite a bit of resistance. Cats are naturally cautious eaters and when a new food looks, smells, and feels so different, it is a part of their life-saving instinct to be distrustful. This is why we have several files dedicated to assisting with the process that results in a successful transition. Cats may instinctively know what they need – but most need to go through the learning process to understand that even healthy, tasty food IS food.
Another interesting aspect of this study explains why cats, when they do take to a food if based just on taste, can so often appear to change their minds. This study indicates that every time you feed your cat, her body tells her whether she needs more or less of the nutrients in the food you’re offering her. If it has the same mid- or low-level of protein as what you were feeding; or if it has a similar carb content- she may well refuse the new food after a meal or two, despite liking the taste at first. So rather than commit to that new case of canned food, consider making your own cat food. A homemade balanced and complete cat food based on the prey model is what your cat needs – and your cat’s body knows it. With balanced and complete assurances (and the ability to use boneless raw or cooked meats) when you make your feline friend food with EZComplete fur Cats, you control the types AND cuts of meat you feed your cat. You control the mix of meat and fat. You control the texture (and temperature). If your cat doesn’t want ground food, you can feed it chunked. If your cat doesn't like gravy, add less water. Food Fur Life provides the tools you need to feed your cat the food her body wants and needs.
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