Is a vegetarian diet good for cats?

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Is a vegetarian diet good for cats?

I’m a vegetarian (OK, I do eat seafood) for many reasons, health being one. And I want my cats to be healthy, so is a vegetarian diet good for cats? Turns out I’m not helping them by making them eat what may be healthy for me, but isn’t for them. In fact, a vegetarian diet for cats can be detrimental. Cats like meat, probably because their bodies are designed to digest meat and have nutrional needs requiring it. In fact, not only are cats carnivores they are obligate (biologically essential for survival) carnivores.

Sources of protein in a vegetarian diet

Legumes and beans often provide adequate protein in a typical vegetarian diet for humans. That’s because beans and legumes are high in fiber, folate, iron (when eaten with a source of vitamin C), and complex carbohydrates, plus they’re low in fat.

legumes in vegetarian diet

lentils are a legume
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

A legume

is a type of food that comes from a specific type of plant that is also called a legume. Legumes come from the family Leguminosae, and a trait all legumes share is that they grow in a type of pod. Lentils, soy, peanuts, split peas and clover are all legumes. Legumes are high in protein and not very fatty, so they are generally considered healthy.

is a vegetarian diet good for cats

can of beans
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

and beans

are a seed you can eat. You might love garbanzo beans but detest large, green lima beans. When you order rice and beans at a Mexican restaurant, you get a plate full of deliciously spiced, slightly mashed pinto or black beans. You might plant beans in your garden, vine-like climbing plants that grow pods with beans inside. Coffee and chocolate are both foods that start out as beans.

 

Phytates and lectins (lectins are sticky proteins) are naturally found in legumes. For cats, this is a problem because cats lack phytase, the necessary enzyme to process phytates. Phytates are also known to bind to minerals like zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, and therefore depletes them from your cat’s body. This occurs during a meal containing phytates, not subsequent meals that do not contain legumes. But if your cat is fed a steady diet that does use legumes for protein, you should expect health risks.

A large proportion of the total protein in most cheap processed cat food is from plants, not animals. These ingredients artificially boost the total percentage of protein in cat food by manufactures.

cat food labels

cat food labels
photo by shari smith dunaif ©2016

 

Although manufacturers are required to list ingredients in order of precooked weight, you must read the labels carefully, and learn: how to interpret cat food labels.

 

Another major problem caused by using plant proteins as the protein source for cat food is that taurine, an amino acid, is missing in plants. Taurine must be consumed by cats, since their bodies can not produce it, and taurine deficiency causes cardiovascular disease and blindness.

Some cat owners believe they can feed their pet a vegetarian or vegan diet, and add a taurine supplement. In my opinion, this is the equivalent of eating nothing but iceberg lettuce and taking a synthetic multivitamin. That vitamin can’t possibly make up for all the nutrients missing from an iceberg lettuce-only diet.

Dr. Becker, DVM

Taurine is the amino acid found in animal muscle meat, especially in heart and liver.

The biological value (BV) of a protein is an important measurement, since it measures the bioavailability of its amino acid content. Proteins from animal muscle meats typically have high BVs, because it’s easier for cats to digest, absorb and use properly. Whereas proteins from snouts, beaks, feet and tails have 0 biological value (BV) because they are basically indigestible.

cat eats animal protein

Toby eats animal protein
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

So my fellow vegetarians, respect that cats are by nature meat eaters, and are designed to hunt and consume animal meat and organs. Corn, soy, rice, beans and legumes benefit the profit of cat food manufacturers, to the detriment of your cat.

Love your cat and feed your cat what is referred to as a “species appropriate” diet.
That means animal protein.
Let’s keep our cats healthy!

Can I teach my cat to be held?

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can I teach my cat to be held?

can my cat learn to be held photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

Shelter kitten likes to be held
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

Ever gone to a shelter and picked up a cat, and the cat instantly relaxes? Some do, but not all cats will – some just don’t like it. They don’t like being picked up, and certainly don’t want to be held.

What if your cat doesn’t like being held?

Have you said to yourself (and your cat) Can I teach my cat to be held? 

My cat use to hate being held. I’d scoop her up, and she’d immediately start squirming. Sometimes she’d unintenitionally scratch me as she jumped out of my arms. Her name is Marnie, and she’s a rescue. She was three when she joined our family. I don’t know how she was treated by her previous family, but she definitely was neglected: she was skittish and emaciated. And if I were to venture a guess, she may never have been held as a sign of affection. It’s likely she’s been grabbed, swatted at, but held with love? Probably not. I wondered: can I teach my cat to be held? So I thought about how to let Marnie feel comfortable being picked up and held.

can my cat learn to be held?

Can my cat learn to be held?
photo by s.dunaif ©2017

cat learning to be held

Marnie learning to be being held
photo by s.dunaif ©2017

So I started very gradually.

  • I’d simply pick her up and release her – immediately. It was important to let Marnie get use to being picked up.

I wanted her to associate being picked up as non threatening. After a few weeks, she seemed to be less nervous when I picked her up. She was ready for the next step.

 

  • I’d keep her in my arms for a few seconds, then let her go – before she became squirmy

This was to help her gain trust while being in my grasp; we did that for a few weeks. Then, once Marnie was ready to be held a little longer, we added more time.

  • I held her, releasing her as soon as she got fidgety.

This was to let Marnie feel in control of how long she wanted to be held.

Finally, she let me hold her and purrs.

  • Marnie was relaxed enough to enjoy being held – most of the time!

 

cat learns to be held - and likes it

Marnie learned to be held – and likes it
photo by s. dunaif©2017

 

 

 

After nearly 18 months, Marnie knows she is loved.

 

 

 

Why does my cat bite me?

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Cat guardians know that a purring cat usually indicates a content cat – love that sound – especially when you’re enjoying quality time petting your cat. But when I’m petting my cat –

why does my cat bite me?

petting a cat

petting a cat photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

The first thing to rule out is pain or sensitivity when your cat is touched in a particular place on his/her body.  A visit to your cat’s vet will determine that there is no skin condition, injury or internal disease making your cat understandably react not to pleasure but pain when being petted.

petting a cat body language

petting a cat photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

OK, so you’re cat is healthy – yay!  But still, why is my cat biting me?  We’re having a relaxing bonding moment, he’s purring, I’m petting him behind his ear, which he always likes – then suddenly chomp. We call them love bites, which takes us by surprise, but usually doesn’t really hurt; our cats aren’t trying to hurt us, and they know how to not break the skin. These love bites are just a way for them to communicate that they’ve had enough, it’s their way of saying “thanks, but stop NOW – it’s starting to annoy me.” Experts on cat behavior refer to these love bites as `petting induced aggression‘.
And that means your cat has been telling you that it’s time for you to stop. But you haven’t been paying attention.

petting a cat flattened ears

petting a cat – flattened ears photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

This is how your cat has been telling you:
here are body language indicators for aggressive behavior in cats

  • Stops purring
  • Tail lashing
  • Tail thumping
  • Skin twitching
  • Shifting body position
  • Meowing
  • Growling
  • Ears in airplane mode or even flattened against the head
why does my cat bite me?

cat looking at my hand photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

 

  • Cat looking towards your hand
  • Dilated pupils

 

 

 

 

 

So if you haven’t been listening to you cat, it’s love bite time!

why does my cat bite me?

status induced aggression photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

 

Another cat behaviorist term is `status induced aggression‘. This can happen when your cat needs to regain control of your petting session, meaning they are the ones who decide how long they want to be petted, not us.

This, we should all know by now, is typical cat behavior.
Cats rule!
Literally.

my cat likes junk food

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Am I feeding my cat junk food?

Most vets recommend not giving your cat only dry food. It is dessicated, plus most, if not all, dry cat foods have some type of starch in it, which is necessary as a binder. So wet food is better. But there are so many choices. And if your cat is like mine, well, my cat likes junk food.

Toby wonders about cat food
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

What is cat junk food

If wet cat food is better than dry food, what makes it junk food? Some canned cat food is cheap, and the cheaper it is, the less protein it has and the more carb based it is (and other undesirable ingredients) things that are unnatural in a cat’s diet. The proportion of protein and carbs (and other fillers like ash) shifts with the more expense cat food. Ideally, your cat’s can of wet food contains high quality protein, possibly a select variety of vegetables, in small quantities, and perhaps some minimal supplements and not much else. Read labels!
and to learn about cat food labels,  read this: how to interpret cat food labels

less healthy wet cat food

less healthy wet cat food
photo by shari smith dunaif©2017

 

 

 

My cat likes junk food

So do my cats. They happen to like Fancy Feast, which is bad, but not terrible as far as cat junk food goes. But like any junk food, it’s OK sometimes, but not as a steady diet. So I bought some expensive cans of high quality protein wet cat food, in a variety of brands.
They didn’t eat it. Any if it.

I ended up tossing the rejected food just about every time.

Then I finally figured it out – my guys needed a gradual transition.

Healthy and not so healthy wet cat food
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

I started by serving dnner that was mostly Fancy Feast with a little bit of the good quality cat food mixed in. Each week, I’d change the proportions, increasing the good stuff and decreasing the junk food, very slowly.

Now they’ll dine on just the high quality wet cat food. Most of the time.

cat likes junk food

Toby sometimes eats the good stuff photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

Then I resort back to mixing the good with the junk.

My cats still like cat junk food, but now they also dine on better quality fare.

 

What declawing does to cats

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I know someone, a big time cat lover with multiple cats, including a new rescue. The rescue cat had been abanonded, then brought to a kill shelter, a big, handsome older male cat. But he scratched and attacked everyone in his new home: the other cats and the people. Instead of giving him up, they decided to declaw him. So that got me wondering

what declawing does to cats

I realized I didn’t really know. I mean, I assumed declawing a cat was like a radical nail clipping.

But it’s more than that.

All cat owners, even people who have never owned a cat know that cats scratch. It’s instinctive, they need to do it and they like doing it. It’s a way they leave their mark, and it’s how they defend themselves. Cats also scratch to keep their claws healthy: it’s how they shed the outer sheath of the nail. So they need somewhere to scratch – your upholstery, rugs and curtains are perfect. But we humans disagree.

What the surgery does

Declawing, or the technical term onychectomy, is the cutting off of part of the toe. Since a cat’s claw grows out of bone, declawing requires cutting off the entire first joint of each of a cat’s toes – basically, it’s an amputation. The human equivalent would be amputating the first joint of a finger.

human equivalent t cat declawing

PETA shows the human equivalent to declawing

 

before and after declawed cat     The surgery removes not only the claw, but bones, nerves, the joint capsule, collateral ligaments, and the flexor tendons. Declawing also severs tendons, causing them to contract and pull the toes back. This changes the angle at which the foot connects with the ground.

 

It’s problematic for a cat, because cats walk on their toes. Normally, they carry 60 percent of their body weight on their front paws ‐ If the front paws become damaged, even temporarily, the effects are felt all the way through the cat’s wrist, elbow, and shoulder, down the spine to the tail. A declawed cat is forced to shift her weight backwards (the back paws are rarely declawed) which can lead to stress on the ankles, which can be very painful.
.what declawing does to cats

Here’s another problem with declawing… when a small piece of bone is purposely left in, a painful regrowth can occur, even as much as 15 years later. Declawing can lead to additional complications such as chronic small bone arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and neuralgia.

Cat’s behavior after declawing

Although most cats appear normal and may resume playing, climbing and jumping after being declawed, it isn’t normal because their physiology has been altered. Studies have been done about what declawing does to a cat: a 2001 study (published in a prominent veterinary journal) reported that 80 percent of declawed cats had at least one medical complication following surgery and one-third developed behavior problems, such as biting or urinating outside their litter box.

Following the surgery, owners have reported that their cat became morose, withdrawn, irritable, and even aggressive. Others describe their cat as nervous, fearful and again, aggressive. The aggression might be accounted for by the cat’s sudden loss of their primary defense, relying solely on their remaining defense, which is biting.

Another observation concerns high perches. Although many cats like high perches, declawed cats end up spending more of their time on top of fridges, or high shelves – even if they had been confident on the ground before they were declawed.

Urination outside of the litter box has also been noted. Some declawed cats, once they discover they can’t mark their territory with their claws, begin to urinate around the house instead. This can result in long-term inappropriate elimination problems.

 from avma.org

Onychectomy is an amputation and should be regarded as a major surgery. The decision to declaw a cat should be made by the owners in consultation with their veterinarian. Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents an above normal health risk for its owner(s).

    • Declawed cats should be housed indoors and allowed outside only under direct supervision.
    • Scientific data do indicate that cats that have destructive scratching behavior are more likely to be euthanatized, or more readily relinquished, released, or abandoned, thereby contributing to the homeless cat population. Where scratching behavior is an issue as to whether or not a particular cat can remain as an acceptable household pet in a particular home, surgical onychectomy may be considered.

Yet surprisingly, the AVMA (American Veternarian Medical Association) states

      • There is no scientific evidence that declawing leads to behavioral abnormalities when the behavior of declawed cats is compared with that of cats in control groups.
An opposing opinion

oocities.org is a site presenting an opposing view: that the declawing surgery isn’t so bad, and could be a good option for scratching issues. The site suggests declawing cats before cats are 2 years old.

Declawing seems like an extreme solution only for extreme situations. If the complaint is about scratching upholstery, then reconsider alternative solutions: scratching options, keeping your cat’s nails clipped, and protecting upholstery. As for the male rescue cat, he is at least as aggressive if not more so, since the surgery.

declawing.com
vetstreet.com
peta.org