Monday, May 30, 2011

New Feature: Cat Advice Column

Dear Fellow Cat Fans,

We all have questions, observations, and comments about cats and their behavior. Starting now, Cat Lady Kate will feature a weekly Cat Advice Column.

Please send your questions about anything and everything cat related to Cat Lady Kate. I will help you untangle those feline mysteries! Post your questions in the comments or send them via email at the "Contact Us" link on this page.

Here's to cats!

Cat Lady Kate

Quote of the Day

"As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat."  ~Ellen Perry Berkeley

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cat Health: Nutrition

We all know that it's important to feed our feline friends good food to keep them healthy, right? I'd like to take a look at what cats' nutrition needs are and why they are that way. Today I'll focus on wet food.

First, cats are obligate carnivores. That means that they evolved such that their bodies can't process nutrients from plants. They can't, for example, eat carrots and turn the beta carotene into vitamin A like humans can. Cats' can only get plant nutrients from their prey. They need the prey's body to process the nutrients into forms that they, the cats, can use. That's why cat advice books (columns, articles, websites, etc.) always say not to feed your cat a vegetarian diet. The easiest way to be sure that your cat is getting the nutrients she needs is to feed her an AAFCO-approved commercial food.

There are some problems with commercial foods, though. First, we don't know what conditions the animals used in the food live under. As an animal lover, I want to be sure my cats get the right nutrients, but I don't want to do that at the expense of cruelty to other animals! A second problem is that AAFCO allows pet-food manufacturers to use ingredients that might not be wholesome for our cats. As I mentioned above, cats are obligate carnivores. They don't need (nor can their bodies use) grains. Grains (corn and wheat, primarily) are typically the second or third ingredient in cat foods. These grains are fillers. They bulk up the food so it costs less to manufacture (and in turn costs less for us to buy). Corn costs much less than meat, after all!

Another problem with most manufactured cat foods (and many dog foods) is that they contain animal by-products. "By-products" aren't necessarily evil, but they don't include muscle meat, and are therefore not high quality proteins. Another name for animal by-products or by-product meal is "animal digest".

A final problem with commercial food: remember the pet food recalls of 2007 (and several times since)? Many beloved pets died because of contaminated food. None of us want to face that!

So, what can you do if you want to avoid these problems? Well, there are a couple of options. First, you can buy a high-quality cat food. This will mean reading the label, learning about the company, and doing some research. There are a number of pet food brands that use no animal by-products or grains. If you learn about the company and check product reviews, recall news, etc. frequently, you can be comfortable that your pet food is safe and healthy. Simply googling the name of the food will typically get you plenty of information. Check the company's website as well as consumer reviews and FDA recall lists. You should be able to find out where a food is made, who owns the company, what's in it, whether there are any recalls, etc. I've had good experiences with Taste of the Wild, Instinct, Harmony Farms, and Blue Buffalo, among others. (Please note: I am not in any way affiliated with these companies, and I receive no compensation for mentioning them. As far as I know, they don't even know I exist.)

The problem? Higher-quality pet food costs more! How I've solved this (I'm way too cheap to pay for the expensive pet food!) is to make my own. I use a recipe by Dr. Michael Fox, a veterinarian who writes syndicated pet-care columns in a bunch of newspapers. It's not difficult to make, and one batch lasts about a month for my two cats. Click here for the recipe. I feed Hide and Seek about a tablespoon a piece two to three times a day. One batch usually lasts me at least a month, so it's worth the time & effort to make it. I also give them high quality dry food (usually Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Venison formula. Again, no affiliation.) to "graze" on throughout the day.

It can also be difficult to find the higher quality foods; I get my high quality stuff at a small local pet store called Whole Pet; I haven't been able to find most of them in regular pet stores. I have found some (Harmony Farms, for example) at the grocery store.

Between the home-made wet food and the store-bought dry food, I think I spend about $30 a month on cat food. I do occasionally supplement Hide & Seek's wet food with a little bit of canned food (see the brands I listed above) as a treat. I add a little bit of the canned food to their regular portion of home made food, and they love it!

What to do if you can't afford the high-quality manufactured stuff, but don't have the time to make your own? Compromise, of course! Try making a batch of cat food (it takes about the same amount of time & effort as a batch of chicken soup) and mixing that with your kitty's regular canned food. Try buying some of the high-quality stuff and mix that with the regular food. Find coupons & sales. Partner up with a friend & split the cost & effort.

If none of that works, just feel good about the fact that you love your cat.

The Cat's Meow

The meow is, of course, a cat's best-known communication tool. How many meows does your cat use? Among Hide and Seek's regulars are:

-The "feed me!"  meow
-The "pet me" meow
-The "hug me" meow
-The "there's something wrong in my world, and I expect you to fix it" meow
-The "hey! You interrupted me!" meow
-The "midnight crazies" meow

What about your cat(s)?

Quote of the Day

"I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult.  It's not.  Mine had me trained in two days."  ~Bill Dana

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Meet Hide and Seek

As I mentioned in my first post here, I have two cats; brothers named Hide and Seek. I'd like for you to get to know them, so here are the introductions!

Hide is a gray tabby. His favorite activities are sleeping, pouncing on Seek, attacking anything that moves, and tearing anything tear-able to shreds. He has a fabulously loud purr!

Seek is a gray-and-white tuxedo. He loves sleeping, chasing the laser, wrestling with Hide (usually after Hide has pounced on him), and staring out the window. He also has a wonderful purr, but it's much quieter than Hide's. Seek is very talkative!

I got Hide and Seek as four-month-old kittens. I started out fostering them, but quickly fell in love. These two are rescue cats. A woman (Sarah) living in a townhouse neighborhood discovered that a neighbor had abandoned their cat. The neighbor put the cat out in their shed (!) when they discovered that she was pregnant. They stopped providing any food and/or veterinary care. (How can humans be so horrible?) When Sarah realized that the mama cat was foraging in neighborhood trash cans to feed her kittens--and that she was teaching her kittens to forage in the garbage, too--she (Sarah) started putting out cat food for them. Sarah wasn't able to take the mother & babies into her own home, as she already had two cats and a dog. To be sure that they found loving homes, Sarah sent out an email to her coworkers. The email was forwarded to a friend of my sister Kara's, who forwarded it to Kara, who in turn forwarded it to me. I immediately arranged to take the kittens. (Sarah had managed to find a home for the mama cat by the time I contacted her.)

Less than a week later, I brought the two tiny, frightened kittens into my home. They were terrified and skittish. It took them several days to get confident enough to let me see them. A few days after that, they would let me pet them, and even pick them up sometimes! With the help of the SPCA of Northern Virginia and Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, I got Hide and Seek examined, vaccinated, tested, and neutered. The rest is, as they say, history!

How did you meet your furry friend(s)? How many do you have?

Crazy Cat Lady?

You'll notice that I call myself a "cat lady" in this blog. I want to talk about Cat Lady-ism briefly. First, yes--I'm crazy about cats (I'm actually crazy about all animals, but cats in particular). However, I am NOT a cat hoarder, and I don't approve of hoarding cats. In fact, I believe that cat hoarding is bad for the cats and humans involved. It is a sickness and needs serious treatment. If you know anyone who hoards cats, please try to get them help! Here's some info on pet hoarding, the psychology behind it, and how to help.

So, I am a crazy cat lady, but I'm not a cat hoarder!

Hello and Welcome!

Hello and welcome! Thank you for stopping by Cat Lady Kate's blog. I'd like to introduce myself and tell you why this blog is a great resource.

My name is Kate. I live in Northern Virginia, and I have two cats. Their names are Hide and Seek. Hide and Seek are brothers; they started out as my foster kittens when they were four months old. Despite my best intentions to just be a foster, I quickly fell in love with these two and realized I couldn't part with them. They became my cats (or maybe I became their human). They're now two years old, and they consistently entertain me and make my life more enjoyable.

My family has had pets since before I was born. Dogs, cats, fish, hamsters--you name it, they've been part of our lives! We got our first cat when I was 6, and I've been hooked ever since. I currently pet sit professionally. I've studied cats, their behavior, their needs, and their health extensively. I spend a great deal of time making sure that all the animals in my life--from Hide and Seek to my pet sitting clients--get my absolute best. I'm constantly researching and reading to stay on top of all things cat. 

In this blog, I'll share information, tips, facts, ideas, questions, and stories about cats. Please leave your comments and questions in the comments section after each post.

Will you introduce your fuzzy friends in the comments?