Cat Food: November 2008 Archives

Have you ever wondered what are you going to do with the turkey giblets? okay, maybe you haven't wondered that, but when you prepare your turkey for your family and friends this Thanksgiving, don't forget about Kitty.

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can_you_feed_cats_too_much_milk.jpgThat little package of organ meats and the neck can become the most deliscious Thanksgiving meal for your cat. Never throw them away, if you don't have time to cook it now, freeze it for later when you have a bit more time to make a special meal for your cat. These recipes make a delicious homemade cat food Thanksgiving Soup.

There are a lot of weird recipes out there for cats that contain all sorts of ingredients that a cat would never touch in a million years if it wasn't ground up and put in a can or kibble. This recipe doesn't contain grains or dairy and can be served raw or cooked. If you want to try another recipe that contains brown rice, try this Thanksgiving homemade cat food recipe.

I caution you about serving your cat raw meat if he has been eating a dry kibble or canned cat food diet. As weird as it sounds, the transition to a raw diet takes careful planning and a slow transition so you don't make your cat sick. I'll be blogging about that in the new year as I make the transition to homemade raw cat food for Neo.

Thanksgiving Cat Food Recipe - Turkey Soup:

1 cup water (or enough water to cover the turkey neck)

1 turkey neck

1 turkey giblet

1 turkey liver

1 turkey heart

1/2 cup fresh uncooked pumpkin (if using canned pumpkin, add it in at the end)

cat_food_prey.jpgPut the turkey neck in a pot with the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 - 60 minutes to cook the meat through and to leach some nutrients from the bones.

Add in the giblet, liver, heart and pumpkin and continue to simmer for 10 15 minutes or until the organ meats are cooked through and the pumpkin is soft and mashable.

Cool the mixture to room temperature and debone the neck, making sure to remove all the bones. Then chop or blend the meat and pumpkin. Turkey bones splinter easily and can choke your cat so an alternative is to put the meat and bones into a heavy duty blender (like the Vitamix or Blendtec blenders) and blend until the mixture is smooth.

Add in your supplements if you cook for your cat regularly and have them on hand, but if you cook for your cat only occasionally, supplements are not required. But a little fish oil is always nice for a shiny coat and to make the dish more palatable.

If your cat is not used homemade food, you may want to mix this Turkey soup with their canned or dry food to prevent vomiting, or other digestive upset. Try a 1/4 cup Raw Turkey Soup with 1/4 cup canned or dry food.

Raw Turkey Soup - Thanksgiving Cat Food Recipe:

1 turkey neckcats-eating.jpg

1 turkey giblet

1 turkey liver

1 turkey heart

1/4 cup fresh uncooked pumpkin

1 cup water for blending or grinding

Place all ingredients, bones and all in a meat grinder, food processor or heavy duty blender (like the Vitamix or Blendtec blenders). Process until the bones, organs and pumpkin are liquified and there are no large pieces.

Add in your supplements like taurine, fish oil and vitamins if you give them to your cat and serve. If your cat is not used to raw food, you may want to mix this raw soup with their canned or dry food to prevent vomiting, or other digestive upset. Try a 1/4 cup Raw Turkey Soup with 1/4 cup canned or dry food.

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I've been getting emails from confused cat owners who are alarmed to find out about the six diseases caused by dry cat food and who want to know if dry cat food helps keep their cat's teeth clean. Dr. Jean Hofve, a prominent feline veterinarian who specializes in cat nutrition at Little Big Cat wrote this excellent article about cats and teeth cleaning that answers the question:

DOES DRY FOOD CLEAN THE TEETH?

cat-brushing.jpgLet's get this one straight once and for all: dry food does not clean your cat's teeth! In fact, dry food really has no benefits for the cat. It is merely a convenience for the guardian. If you haven't already read "Why Cats Need Canned Food", that's a good place to start in your quest for accurate, up-to-date information on feeding cats.

Most cats don't consistently chew dry food; they swallow it whole. Obviously, without contacting the teeth, there is zero effect on tartar accumulation. For cats who do chew dry food, whether consistently or occasionally, there is still little or no benefit. The kibbles shatter, so contact between the kibble and the teeth occurs only at the tips of the teeth. This is certainly not enough to make a difference in the formation of tartar and plaque, which most commonly builds up along (and underneath) the gumline at the base of the teeth.

brushing-2.jpgKeeping your cat's (or dog's) teeth and gums healthy requires a commitment on your part. Daily toothbrushing and regular veterinary cleanings are still important. The labels on even the special "tartar control" diets like Hill's t/d and Friskies dental diet recommend these additional steps. (Of course, brushing daily with periodic cleaning by the vet are sufficient to keep the teeth healthy by themselves, without using a special diet at all!) Dental diets are very different from all other dry foods. The kibbles are very large, and have a different texture than regular dry food.

In my experience as a feline veterinarian, I've probably examined at least 13,000 cats' mouths. There was no real pattern to the dental and periodontal disease I saw. If anything, tartar and gum disease seemed to be more attributable to genetics or concurrent disease (such as feline leukemia or feline AIDS) than to any particular diet. I saw beautiful and horrible mouths in cats eating wet food, dry food, raw food, and every possible combination. Many of my patients initially ate mostly or exclusively dry food; yet these cats had some of the most infected, decayed, foul-smelling mouths I saw. If there was any dietary influence at all, I'd say that raw-fed cats had better oral health than cats on any type of commercial food. However, the overall effect of diet on dental health appeared to be minimal at most.

If your vet still believes the myth of dry food and dental health (which is still actively promoted by the pet food companies despite the utter lack of scientific support for the theory), here are a few references that refute the idea:

- Logan, et al., Dental Disease, in: Hand et al., eds., Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, Fourth Edition. Topeka, KS: Mark Morris Institute, 2000, p. 487. "Although consumption of soft foods may promote plaque accumulation, the general belief that dry foods provide significant oral cleansing should be regarded with skepticism. A moist food may perform similarly to a typical dry food in affecting plaque, stain and calculus accumulation...Typical dry dog and cat foods contribute little dental cleansing. As a tooth penetrates a kibble or treat the initial contact causes the food to shatter and crumble with contact only at the coronal tip of the tooth surface...The kibble crumbles...providing little or no mechanical cleansing...." The author also reviewed two studies on cat "dental" treats which showed "no significant difference in plaque or calculus accumulation with the addition of dental treats to either a dry or a moist cat food." Of course, this book was produced by Hill's, so it heavily promotes t/d. However, although t/d provided a "statistically significant" improvement, when you look at the actual graphs, the difference between Dog Chow and t/d is not impressive.finger-toothbrush.jpg

- "...When comparing dry food only and non-dry food only fed dogs...there is no pattern to the trends (some teeth show an apparent protective effect from feeding dry food only, and others show the opposite -- for calculus index, the trend is protective for all five teeth in dogs feed dry food only, whereas for gingival index it is the opposite, and it is mixed for attachment loss). All maxillary teeth are significantly less likely to be mobile in the dry food only group, yet the mandibular first molar tooth showed the opposite effect." Harvey et al., Correlation of diet, other chewing activities and periodontal disease in North American client-owned dogs. J Vet Dent. 1996 Sept;13(3):101-105. Logan (above) assessed this study as follows: "In a large epidemiologic survey, dogs consuming dry food alone did not consistently demonstrate improved periodontal health when compared with dogs eating moist foods."

- There is an excellent review of the literature by A. Watson (Diet and periodontal disease in dogs and cats. Aust Vet J. 1994;71:313-318). This study is fully of interesting historical items. For instance, one study of cat skulls found evidence of severe periodontal disease in 25% of 80 cats; 75 of the skulls dated from 1841 to 1958, and 2 were from Egypt during the time of the Pharoahs!

- According to the above review, many of the early studies showed less tartar formation with hard dry food vs the same food mixed with water, and similar results were reported in a study with canned vs dry cat foods. In 1965 a study compared feeding raw whole bovine trachea, esophagus, and attached muscle and fat, vs the same food minced. Plaque and gingival inflammation were increased with the minced diet. Even more fascinating, they tube-fed the minced food and found that plaque and gingivitis did not decrease, "showing food did not need to be present in the mouth to induce these changes." In fact, gingivitis tended to increase when cats were tube-fed, "suggesting that even the minimal chewing required with minced food had some cleansing or protective effect." Minced food is similar in texture to canned food.cat-toothbrush.jpg

- A couple of studies showed that *large* dry food biscuits (not kibble) actually removed tartar, which is probably the theory underlying t/d's oversized chunks. Feeding of half an oxtail accomplished the same thing when fed weekly in another study. (I can just see it now, "Brand X's Tartar Control Oxtails.") The study also noted that "No harmful effects were observed from feeding oxtails to > 200 dogs for > 6 years."

- Gorrel and Rawlings (The role of tooth-brushing and diet in the maintenance of periodontal health in dogs. J Vet Dent. 1996 Dec;13(4):139-143) state that: "In a previous study, we showed that the daily addition of an appropriately designed chew to a dry food diet is effective in reducing accumulation of dental deposits...the addition of the chew to the dry food diet also reduced the severity of gingivitis that developed, compared with the regimen of dry food diet alone." This points out that dry food does not prevent tartar/gingivitis without additional treatment.

- Interestingly, Gorrel states in another article that "The consensus is that supragingival calculus per se is not directly involved in the etiology or pathogenesis of [periodontal] disease, and is mainly of cosmetic significance if plaque removal is adequate." (Periodontal disease and diet; J Nutr. 1998;128:2712S-2714S.)

- A more recent review (DuPont G. Prevention of periodontal disease. Vet Clin N Amer. 1998 Sept;28(5):1129-1145) says, "In some dogs, dry kibble or fibrous diet helps slow plaque accumulation more than does soft or canned food...Other chewing behaviors may be even more important for reducing plaque than is feeding dry food." Not exactly a ringing endorsement of dry food! He cites 2 studies showing Hill's t/d to be effective for "decreasing plaque and calculus accumulation."

- A review of feline neck lesions found no significant influence of diet. (Johnson N, Acquired feline oral cavity disease, Part 2: feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions. In Practice. 2000 Apr:188-197).

cat-brushing-teeth.jpgThese studies show that dry food does not clean a cat's teeth any better than eating pretzels cleans ours! At best, we can say that dry food tends to produce slightly less tartar than canned food. For cats, the benefits of feeding canned food far outweigh any possible dental problems that may result. After all, it is much easier for your vet to clean your cat's teeth once a year than to treat diabetes, urinary tract problems, and other diseases that are either directly caused or aggravated by feeding dry food.

Regular home and veterinary dental care are real keys to keeping your cat's teeth and gums healthy for life.

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