Melanie: November 2008 Archives

WildlifeChristianTheLion.jpg I blogged about Christian the Lion and now the story is available on DVD. A heartwarming Holiday gift for anyone. Cat lover or not, everyone will be touched by this remarkable story. Buy the Christian the Lion DVD: Christian The Lion at World's End directly at the Born Free Website.

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The film was originally made on 16 mm film in 1972. It made a brief appearance in U.K. movie theatres and was released on VHS in 80's and on DVD in 2006. The DVD is coded Region 0 so it can be played anywhere in the world.

All proceeds and royalties go directly to the Born Free Foundation so not only are you getting a wonderful story about how this lion was raised from a cub by two very kind men and how they helped him make the transfer to the wilds of Africa, but you are helping to save wild cats and other animals all over the world.

WildlifeLionsAreFree.jpgHollywood might even make this documentary in to a full length feature film! And I've heard rumors that the book, "A Lion Called Christian" will be reprinted in March 2009 - but for now you can download the e-book and find out more about Christian at A Lion Called Christian. and visit the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust to learn about the man, George Adamson and his great work to preserve animals in Africa.

You can also get the Born Free DVD that documents the life of George Adamason and his work with lions to retrain them to take care of themselves in the wild, and it's sequel, The Lions Are Free "In this film Bill Travers travels back to remote Kenya to find the legendary George Adamson, some of the lions from Born Free and to witness Adamson's struggle to return his man-made pride to a free and natural life."

Click here for our past posts, our archives have hundreds of helpful cat information posts for cat lovers.  Please subscribe to our RSS feed if you're a cat person that likes cat related information, cat care advice and news.

 

Other posts I think you might like:

The true story of Christian the lion...

12 cats that will be extinct by 2020

The European Cave Lion was the largest cat that ever lived...

A cat's daily diary vs a dog's daily diary...

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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picture_of_black_cat_lounging.jpegWhen you say hairballs, pet owners who do not know better will probably think of fluffy balls that cats love to play with; or if ever they have an idea that it is a condition, they would not really think that it is something serious. That’s where they are wrong. Hairballs is serious and not to mention disgusting and quite alarming.

Hairballs are developed when cats groom themselves and they accidentally swallow their own hair. As you well know, hair cannot be digested and if ever cats can do it, they would not be able to digest hair strands that easily. Swallowed hair can pose danger as it can block the passage of oxygen to the lungs and the passage of food through the stomach and the intestines. In fact, cats who have hairballs will tend to cough severely because they find it hard to breathe while others will develop impactions in the intestines and the gastro-intestinal tract. These impactions is so serious that a surgery may be advised in order to remove the hairballs inside. In less serious cases, the hairballs can just cause constipation or problems with the stomach.

Symptoms of Hairballs

Masses of hair on the carpet or on the floor. The hairballs are frequently circular or cylindrical in shape.

Stools that contain hair

Difficult time excreting

Coat of fur that is matted and dry

Coughing especially dry coughing especially after every meal

Choking sounds.

Loss of energy and vibe; lethargy

No appetite or interest on their food

Depression and inactivity

It is not good to wait around for hairballs to attack and make your life and house a mess. Hairballs can actually be prevented with just one simple tool— brushing! Most cats will even enjoy frequent brushing. And what is more the bond that will develop between you and your cat during these kinds of activities will strengthen your relationship. You won’t even have to do much because your cat will do almost everything. Most cats will be the ones brushing their faces on to the brush. All the owners have to do is to just hold the brushes still while the cats do the task. Some cats will also love vacuuming. Once they realize that it will not harm them, cats will love the feel of having their hair pulled on.pictures_cat_hairballs.jpg

Another way of ensuring that hairballs will not develop is to help cats with their digestion. Give them foods that will help them digest and to also make the passage of food easier. There are special hairball formula foods that are available in the market. This will help them with their food. There are also different remedies that your cat can take in order to relieve himself with the unwanted hair. These remedies often contain mineral oil, which provides lubrication on the food during meal times. Taken in quantities, the mineral can also cause problems in the body as it can deplete the body’s stored vitamin A. It is important that before you have your cat take in these medications, you have already consulted a veterinarian.

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Pictures_of_cat_lion_cut.jpgIf you're new here, please consider subscribing to my feed. If you love cats, you'll enjoy the posts we place online every day.  Thanks for visiting!

Grooming sessions are the perfect time to check your cat for potential health problems. After all, the sooner you catch a problem, the better chance that your veterinarian has to fix it.

So, while grooming, look for the following symptoms:

- lumps, sores, or tender areas anywhere on her body or changes in her fur or skin

- excess discharge from her eyes, signs of squinting, or other abnormal eye appearance.Pictures_of_cats_combing.jpg

- excess discharge from her nose

- excess discharge or sore or red areas in her ears>

- cuts or other abnormalities on her feet

- redness or sores on her gums, loose teeth, lumps in the mouth or drooling

Proper grooming is important throughout your cat's life but especially so in her senior years. As your cat ages, stiffening joints and waning energy may make it difficult for your old friend to groom herself.

The infamous hairball is formed when your cat ingests hair while licking herself. Her stomach cannot digest the hairs, and they gloom together into a ball. As owners know all too well, most cats cough up their hairballs.

cat.jpgSometimes, though, hairballs cause vomiting, constipation, and loss of appetite, and in severe cases they must be surgically removed. You can protect your cat from these problems by brushing her frequently, especially when she is shedding, and by feeding food designed to prevent hairballs. If the problem is frequent or severe, talk to your vet.

When humidity is low, especially in winter with the heat on in the house, you can get quite a charge out of your cat, a charge of static electricity. To reduce the chock, try rubbing a small amount of no rinse conditioner for cats into her fur. You also might consider adding moisture to your home with a humidifier.

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white_cat.jpgNo matter what type of fur your cat has, they all shed. Outdoor cats shed in the spring before they get their summer coat and in the fall before they get their winter coat. Indoor cats tend to shed year round but also shed a bit more during the spring and the fall.

Cat's fur grows in cycles, as the new hair pushes its way up through the hair follicle, the old hair falls out. The fur grows really fast at first then slows down and even stops growing during a resting period. Cats shed their old dead fur when the new hair begins to grow.

Yesterday, I talked about picking the right brush for your cat's fur. Different lengths of fur require different types of brushes or combs. But these 5 tips work for all types of cats.

girl_grooming_cat.jpg1. Find a time to groom your cat when he is relaxed or if he likes to be groomed find a time when you want to reward him. Start brushing with slow, gentle strokes and follow his lead, he'll know which parts of his body need grooming the most.

2. Brush against the natural direction of the growth at first to remove dead hair. This will pull out dandruff, dead skin cells, dead fur, and dust and all sorts of nasty things, but better out than in, so keep brushing against the grain until everything is out or until your cat starts getting restless.

3. Brush with the natural direction of the hair growth to complete the grooming. You'll be able to see the difference, your cat's fur will be much sleeker and even shinier.

Pictures_cats_lint_roller.jpg4. Here's the best tip... don't laugh... use a sticky roller lint remover - you know the ones with the sticky sheets you can roll over your clothes? and then remove the old furry sheet so you have a clean one for the next time? Yeah, roll that over your cat! I'm serious! It gets out all the remaining fur and dust that the brush and comb didn't pick up. If you don't have a lint roller, you can always use a soft damp cloth, but the lint roller is a good investment if you don't already have one.

5. For homes with more than one cat, use a different comb/brush for each cat. Sharing a comb or brush can spread skin diseases, fleas and other itch causing irritants. Besides, cats are a little finicky and if they smell another cat's dandruff on the brush, they may be less inclined to cooperate when it comes time for grooming.

The important this is that you make it fun and relaxing for both of you. Use the time to bond with your cat. Talk to him, pet him in between brushing and even give him treats to reward him.

pictures_cats_groomed.jpgOh and if your cat isn't really excited about grooming, make sure you trim his nails first so you don't end up bleeding. But really, if you are gentle with your cat and careful to follow his lead, you won't have a problem.

If you sense that your cat is getting irritated or frustrated, stop and wait for another time to groom him. But sometimes, cats get into the grooming and they start grabbing at the brush, biting and meowing because they are enjoying it. You have to kind of see what your cat wants. Read more about grooming cats Top 5 tips for a healthy coat.

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pictures_of_cat_breed_of_cats_Abyssinian.jpgI've blogged before about grooming cats: top five tips for a healthy coat and the reasons why groom your cat I've even written about how to groom an unwilling cat. But I've never explained what types of brushes or combs to use. A friend of mine brought this to my attention when she asked about her cat Mattie.

So there is a basic rule to follow when choosing a grooming tool:

For Short-Haired Cats, use a soft brush or rubber toothed brush once or twice a week. Make sure the brush you choose has soft bristles so they don't scratch your cats skin. There are several ones that have rubber bristles that many cats love. They work really well because they act like a magnet. The loose fur sticks to them.

pictures_cat_brush.jpgFor Medium and Long-Haired Cats, the rules are a little different. While the rubber ones work well to get out loose fur, a long haired cat really needs a wide toothed and a narrow toothed comb. Use the wide one first to get out any mats, burrs, and loose fur, then follow up with the narrow toothed comb. A comb works better for longer haired cats because it picks up the hair close to the scalp and you can get right down to the root. A brush goes over the surface of the fur and makes the top of the coat look good, but underneath their can be knots and loose fur.

pictures_cat_comb.jpgJust a side note on mats, check for matted fur under your cat's arms and between his legs. Cats usually don't get matted fur on their backs, but many times will be matted where their bodies rub with daily walking and moving.

If your cat has matted fur, try to comb it out with a wide toothed comb. Start and the tip of the fur and taking small sections work your way back to the root or scalp. Don't try to comb out a mat from root to tip - you'll just rip at the scalp and hurt your cat. And never cut the mat out with scissors. Cats have such loose skin so you can't be sure you won't catch it in the scissors, resulting in a painful injury to your cat.pictures_cat_rubber_comb.jpg

If the matted fur can't be combed out with just a comb, take your cat to a groomer or ask your vet for assistance. They have special trimmers that can get out matted fur without hurting your cat.

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well_groomed_siamese_picture.jpgFor some people it's easy to tell the sex of a cat just by taking a quick glance. I'm pretty good at telling a boy cat from a girl cat when I can see their faces.

To me, boy cats have fuller, rounder faces with broad features. That criteria works for me most of the time, but when I can't tell just from looking at the face, I'll look at the body. The body of a male cat is usually longer and huskier with bigger paws and legs.

Having said all that, I took the Cat Photo Quiz - Boy Cat Girl Cat Quiz and I scored 15 out of 20 - not bad, but I have to admit that some of them were really tricky so I had to guess. But here's a hint, look closely at the cat, even if the collar or surroundings make it look like one sex or another, don't be fooled by a pink collar! That's all I'm saying!

Take the quiz and then come back here and post your results and while you're at it, take a guess at the sex of the cat is this picture. Post your score and your answer in the comments below.

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Pictures_cats_servel_pumkin.jpgIf you want to make kitty a treat for Thanksgiving, I posted a homemade cat food thanksgiving turkey recipe that is always a hit with Neo.

The ASPCA is always looking out for animals. Here are their latest tips for a safe thanksgiving.

Is it bad that Thanksgiving isn’t for another couple of weeks and we can’t get food off the brain? But.friends, family and feasts—the main ingredients for holiday fun—can actually result in distress for pets. Not only can too many table scraps set furry tummies a-rumble, but many animals get anxious at the change in household routine. Says the ASPCA’s Dr. Steven Hansen, Senior Vice President, Animal Health Services, which includes the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, IL, “As you begin to prepare for a festive season, remember to be wary of activities that can be potentially dangerous to pets.”

The following safety tips will help to ensure a safe and fulfilling (key syllables being “filling”) Thanksgiving for you and your pets:pictures_wild_cat_lion_pumpkin.jpg

Talkin’ Turkey: Giving your pets a little nibble of turkey is okay, just be sure that it’s boneless and fully cooked. Raw or undercooked turkey may contain salmonella bacteria, and dogs can choke on bones, which splinter easily.

A Feast Fit for a Kong: While the humans are chowing down, give your cat and dog their own little feast. Stuff their usual dinner—with a few added bits of turkey, dribbles of gravy or vegetables like sweet potato and green beans—inside a Kong toy. They’ll be happily occupied trying to get their meal out, and way too busy to come begging for table scraps.

Sage Advice: This peppery herb makes stuffing taste delish, but sage also contains essential oils and resins that can cause pets to suffer stomach upset and possible depression of the central nervous system.

Battery Power: The holiday season means lots of cameras, radios and other battery-operated electronics. Please don’t leave batteries lying around. If swallowed, they can cause choking or obstruction; if punctured, the chemicals in alkaline batteries can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus.

Cat_ID_Halloween.jpgIf you suspect your pet has ingested a harmful substance, on Thanksgiving or at any time, please call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

*If you have specific questions about what’s safe for Thanksgiving or the winter holidays, ask our toxicology experts next Friday in a live chat on the ASPCA Online Community.

Have fun including your pets in your holiday celebrations, and thanks for caring about their safety! After all, pets are family, and no one knows that better than you.

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Fact: People usually don't try to train them. Here is an example of a cat doing dog tricks. He sits, gives high fives and shakes a paw and more.

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There is a common misconception that cats are untrainable. But it's not the cat who can't be trained, the problem is with the human. Humans often don't spend time teaching their cats anything, and many times humans just don't know how to communicate with their cat so training is completely impossible.

Most of the time cats will do anything for extra attention and extra food or treats. So giving them both of those things while training, will make your training session very successful.

If you want your cat to do tricks, make it fun and rewarding for the cat. Use treats and a calm gentle vice to reward your cat. Work on one command at a time, and be consistent, don't leave long gaps of time between training sessions (like a week or more) and always reward him enthudisasically. And always end with a final treat and lots of petting and even some grooming. Read about Cat training tips, the best techniques

Try this trick:

Shake hands

This one might be the easiest trick to teach because many cats move when you touch their paws. Use your cat's natural reaction. Touch his paw, and say, "Shake." as soon as he lifts his paw, shake it. Then give him a treat and say something like, "Good boy" in a very enthusiastic and happy voice so he know he did something right.

Remember to be consistent, so that means repeating the command and reward exactly the same way each time. Do this until your cat looks like he's had enough or until you're done, maybe 4 or 5 repitions. Then groom him and praise him. He'll remember that extra attention next time and be willing to try the trick again later.

Let me know how this training session goes, and I'll post new tricks to try.

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I've never seen a tortoise move so fast! He chases after the cat and snaps at him, and the cat gets him back with bites and batting. But it's sure funny to watch. watch out for the part when the cat is biting the tortoise's head but he somehow manages to snap at the cat and the cat runs away at .35 seconds. This is one determined little guy, even after the cat loses interest, the tortoise is still after him.

I hope the tortoise is okay after all of this. What do you think?

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Leslie sent me this picture of her cat Mattie who was best friends with Leslie's dog, Poo until Poo passed away earlier this year. Now Leslie and Mattie are trying to develop a friendship so Leslie has a few questions. Read what she has to say and if you have any suggestions, please comment below.

mattiebaby.jpg

Leslie writes "A little over 3 years ago my dog Poo lost her best friend...my hubs cat, called Midnight, from old age. Two years ago at the vet's office Poo was getting her toenails clipped and a kitten came over to wrap herself around the legs of my tall lab dog. The kitten had been found on the vet's doorstep with the eyes not even open and he nursed it back to health turning it  into an office cat. The problem was that the cat was wild from being teased by kids coming into the office, and biting, hissing at anyone.

Midnight.jpg"But Poo loved that little kitten and the vet finally talked me into taking her home because he feared nobody would take it because it had a broken tail since birth. Now I don't have hubs to 'teach' me and Poo is gone but I don't want to give up on Mattie!

 

Long story shortened, Mattie Cat never took to me but would follow Poo around, sleep with her, play with her, etc. Mattie never let me pet her, touch her, etc. Now she is 2 years old and Poo passed away this year and she has had a rough time of it but has started coming around more, ie, sleeping on the bed with me (after I go to sleep & gets up as soon as I move out of bed), every once in awhile laying on my lap for no more than 5 minutes on a rare evening for petting. Growls at anyone that enters the house and threatens them, and in general is not very nice. Because I know little about cats I have read everything I can online but can't find solutions to the main one:

 

"How do I get her to like me more? How do I get her to let me brush her since this was not started as a kitten? Is it possible to help Mattie & I, please???"

Poo.labmix.jpg"Leslie, I am so sorry for your loss. Poo and Midnight were two unique and loving fur-children. But you can take comfort knowing that you gave them both a good home and they lived happy lives while they were with you. It is obvious from their shiny coats and healthy bodies that you took excellent care of them. With the commitment that you've shown, I've no doubt that Mattie and you will develop a long and happy relationship.

baby steps, Leslie, baby steps

It will take some patience on your part, but you will make progress in your relationship with her. Mattie has a history of hurt and mistrust of humans, her behavior sounds to me like she's afraid or anxious. There are ways to make her feel more comfortable and to win her over, but it will take some time. Cats are very different from dogs in the way the develop relationships. At the beginning, you will have to take her lead on this, but if you make a few changes in your reactions and responses to her, I'm sure you'll see some positive changes.

The best thing you can do is give Mattie attention when she wants it. Those brief moments when she sits on your lap, cherish them and use them to reinforce trust. One thing you can do to build trust is to give her "cat kisses" Cat kisses are long blinks when you look at her. In the cat world, closing your eyes says to a cat, "hey, I'm not a threat, you can trust me" and it works. You might even notice her blinking her eyes at you too.

That brings me to my next point, because cats are predators, (more so than dogs - dogs have a longer history with humans and are not true carnivores - but more on that another time) making eye contact with a cat, actually challenges the cat into aggressive or unfriendly behavior.

In your case, making eye contact with her could actually be scaring her or making her anxious (because of her history of being teased). If Mattie starts doing things that are aggressive catch her eyes and blink, or simply walk away from her. If you change the way you look at her and respond to her, you will go a long to way to making her more comfortable around you. Speak to her in a quiet, gentle voice too, that will help.

mattie.jpgAs for grooming her, this is what I suggest, wait until you've established a stronger relationship, then leave the brush out so she can smell it and chew it and get to know it. When you do try to brush her, brush her only on the parts of her body that you are allowed to pet. if that is just her head, or just behind the ears, or only on one side, then do it. Start slow, brushing only once or twice and give her treats, make it a rewarding experience. Cats are like kids and need positive reinforcement, she'll soon learn that when you brush her, there's a treat at the end.

Getting Mattie to like you will rely on the eye contact thing, but another thing you can do is give her some play time with you, get toys that are interactive and devote 10 or 15 minutes to play time with her every day. I don't know what she likes but a string on the end of stick that you shake around is usually a popular toy. Praise her and give her treats and always, always, remember the eye contact thing.

Let me know how this goes, I have more ideas but I think this will get you started in the right direction.

Take care,

Melanie

P.S. Post your ideas and comments below so we can all help Mattie and Leslie become closer.

The pictures in this post are from LesliePoobear.jpg

The big one at the top is Mattie at 3 months old. Second one is of Midnight, the hubs cat. that made Poo dog so lonesome when he passed. Third one is Poo. Fourth one is Mattie hiding under Poo's bed after Poo passed. Fifth one is Poo taking Mattie's toy & trying to run off w/it.

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This video made me laugh. This chubby cat is playing with a diet drink box. Which is funny already, but he gets right into his playtime. He pounces and dives into the box and all you see are these chubby legs and tail sticking out. And then at one point he gets stuck in the box. Very cute. Enjoy.

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The ASPCA awarded the prestigious Cat of the Year Award to Libby a seeing eye cat for her friend, Cashew the dog.

Picture_cat_Year_ASPCA_2008.jpegCashew gradually went blind and deaf due to old age. As it became more difficult for Cashew to get around, Libby the cat started to help Cashew out more and more. Libby would lead Cashew to the food dish, guide the dog around obstacles and tag along on walks to keep her friend safe. The two would sleep together and Libby would watch over Cashew.

Love knows no bounds. Libby took care of her friend, who has been deceased since 2005. Apparently, it took a long time for Libby to get over the death of Cashew and to this day, she is not interested in making friends with the new dogs. She was loyal to Cashew and still is.

The ASPCA decided to honor Libby as Cat of the Year at this year's Humane Awards Luncheon in New York City. but Libby's owners Terry and Deb Burns say that she won't make the trip to New York.

Read more about An unlikely friendship in Snyder County.

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Catherine sent me this picture of Toots. She writes, "Here is Toots, (aka. Toes, Roll, Rolly-toes, La, Lovebug). She is my 5yr old furry child who LOVES to eat, snuggle, fetch her toy mice, and generally follow me around everywhere. She is the light of my life :)... She really is a sweetheart, if I could have 10 of her I would! "

toots.jpg

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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.

Click here for our past posts, our archives have hundreds of helpful cat information posts for cat lovers.  Please subscribe to our RSS feed if you're a cat person that likes cat related information, cat care advice and news. 

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