National Holistic Pet Day

When we humans think about our health, we think of mind, body, and spirit or heart. We strive to be healthy and find fulfillment in our lives. As responsible pet owners, we can extend that kind of thinking to our pets as well. When I say “holistic”, I’m talking about the whole, as in the mind, body, and spirit or heart of your pet.

Holistic health begins with good nutrition, physical exercise, and mental stimulation. Is your pet at a healthy weight? Does your pet get enough exercise? Do you think your pet is bored? These are only three questions to consider. As a caring and responsible pet owner, having a healthy and happy pet probably means that you’re happy for your pet too. Everyone wins.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Here are some activities you can do today to celebrate National Holistic Pet Day:

  1. Have an adventure. Take your dog to a new park. Arrange a playdate with a new doggy friend. Bringing your dog to new places, combined with reinforced training, help your dog to be well-socialized and more confident.
  2. Play, play, play. Exercise can be therapeutic for pets and beneficial mentally as well as physically. By regularly playing with your pet, you strengthen pet-owner bonds, let your pet hone skills (fetching, tracking, pouncing, hunting, etc.), and reduce stress.
  3. Enrichment. Mixing things up a bit and encouraging pets to use their minds as well as their paws and noses can help pets, especially indoor ones, stave off boredom. Consider these ideas: food-dispensing puzzle toys; sensory enrichment (i.e. window perch for birdwatching, pet-directed videos); climbing posts, trees, and shelves for cats; novel objects like boxes, paper bags, pop-up tunnels, and bacon-flavored bubbles for dogs. Seriously!

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Finicky Cats: Part Two

In Part One, I discussed an array of tactics and things to consider when working with a feline fussy eater. Want more information? As I’ve worked with my three cats with their very different dietary needs and preferences, I’ve consulted a number of sources. These include:

  1. I’ve read up on the subject. I found informative picky eater articles from PetMD, Catster, and Petful, for example.
  2. I’ve discussed this issue with my fellow cat lady friends, Tracey and Christine, and learned what they’ve done with their demanding fur babies. Having cat guru friends is very helpful when you have questions or come across a challenge.
  3. I’ve spoken with serious cat-owning associates at Petco and PetSmart when comparing different brands and analyzing nutrition information. I ask them what has worked for them with their cats to assess their personal opinion about various products.
  4. I’ve had multiple conversations with Dr R and several techs about nutrition, food varieties, and how to ensure dental health. Whether you have kittens, adult cats, senior cats, or cats with allergies, dental issues, or other special needs, it’s a very good idea to have an open dialogue with your vet and keeping him or her in the loop with what’s going on with your fur people.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to do what’s right by and for your pet. If you’re unsure about what is best nutritionally, consult with those who do know so you can make informed decisions.

“AHEM. When will my staff bring me sustenance? Pets and lap time will appease me only so much, you know!” Boudicca takes meal times very seriously.

Photo courtesy of Imgflip

Seriously, memes aside, cheeseburgers are NOT for kitties!

Finicky Cats: Part One

In the last month, Garrus has made his preference for wet food quite clear and does not eat his kitten kibble much. I spoke to Dr R about it and she assured me that cats are very texture-oriented and some prefer the texture of wet food to dry food. Since he still needs to gain weight and I was worried that he was actually losing weight trying to hold out for wet food, Dr R encouraged me to give him small portions of wet food and increase it accordingly if that was all he was eating.

Yesterday Aaron gave him his dinner and tried an experiment by sprinkling some kitten kibbles on top of the wet food. Garrus ate them—hooray! Both Boudicca and Garrus need the extra calories so I replicated Aaron’s experiment and added kibbles on top of their breakfasts this morning. I was pleased to see that my cats, who had been so patient as I prepared their meal even though they were so hungry, ate everything I gave them! Charlie, in this typical squeaky fashion, was delighted when I offered him a few morsels of wet food on a spoon. (Since he is at a healthy weight, he gets a very small amount of wet food as a treat. As he is not a fussy eater and remains a very busy guy, Charlie has no problem eating most or all of his dry food every day.)

“Is it dinner time yet?” Garrus is polite and patient but most persistent when he is hungry and waiting for me to give him wet food.

Having a cat with exacting and/or mercurial eating preferences can be a challenge for any pet owner. Here are a few tips:

  1. Understand how cats choose what food they like. Texture, odor, and taste are hugely important to cats. For example, Boudicca does not like chicken or turkey-flavored wet food but loves seafood varieties. She is also particular about the texture: she likes Friskies Paté but not the Shreds or Flaked or the generic brand we bought from the grocery store. Some cats will prefer one brand over the other based on taste, texture, smell, mouth feel, or other factors. Temperature and even presentation can make a difference. Case in point, while I can spread out the food I serve for Garrus, the same tactic will not work for Queen B. I have to spoon her food into a pile and “fluff” it for her. If after she’s eaten half of it and it’s smooshed down onto the plate, she will stop eating but if I resculpt it into a fluffed pile, she will finish what I’ve given her.
  2. More protein, less carbohydrates. Cats are carnivores and they need at least 40% protein to maintain a healthy weight and muscle composition. Carefully read the nutrition label on the dry and wet food you’re offering your cat. Is it comprised of more carbohydrates and fillers or is protein-heavy?
  3. Food allergies. Cats can develop food allergies. An elimination diet may help identify any allergies. Make sure you discuss this with your vet first for more information and address concerns before you try an elimination diet.
  4. Dental issues. If a cat is experiencing dental pain, it is understandable that his or her appetite might decrease. Crunchy kibbles may further irritate inflamed gums or bad teeth. If you suspect that your cat is having a dental problem, consult your vet!
  5. Rotation. If you want to switch to a new cat food, do so slowly. Sudden changes can cause upset tummies, diarrhea, appetite loss, and other issues. Here’s a handy breakdown to utilize:
    1. 75% current food, 25% new food for a few days. Is your cat eating well? All good? Move on to the next step.
    2. 50% current food, 50% new food for another few days. Keep an eye on your cat’s behavior. Eating normally? No indication of GI troubles? You may pass go.
    3. 75% new food, 25% current food. This may take a week or, for more fastidious cats, 10 days to two weeks.
  6. Make your cat hungry. I know that sounds cruel but some cats do better when they are not free-fed.
  7. Food o’clock. Begin offering your cat two established meals a day. (See #5.)
  8. Playtime. Play and exercise can stimulate a cat’s appetite.
  9. High quality. Again, check the ingredients and nutrition content of the cat food you’re buying. Don’t feed your cat junk.
  10. Canned vs dry food. Boudicca ate dry food only most of her life but now eats both wet and dry food. Garrus had eaten only wet food at the shelter due to his dental issues before we transitioned him to kibble. Now his preference for wet food reasserted itself and we’re giving him that because he needs extra calories. Some owners hate canned food while others detest dry food, so there is a lot of information from both camps biased toward one or the other. My advice? Talk to your vet, ask questions, and carefully evaluate the information sources you come across.

Stay tuned for Part Two!