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Ring in the New Year with Tips From a Cat Expert

Ring in the New Year with Tips From a Cat Expert


The tradition of New Year’s Resolutions goes back through history in both the western and eastern hemisphere and is found in religious origins dating back to the time of the Babylonians vowing to change to please their Gods. I believe making New Year’s resolutions is a great tradition! The New Year is a good time to wipe the slate clean and encourage ourselves to be better and to explore new ways to do things.

Did you know that people having the greatest success with resolutions are those that make them? Everyone is filled with such extraordinary potential and yet most of us just need a little push from time to time; using a deadline, encouragement from a coach, the discipline learned from a parent, or a brisk encounter from the boss to motivate an action.

Over the last twenty years living with hundreds and hundreds of rescued cats, I have needed to find solutions for many problem behaviors. I have learned what makes cats happy and healthy, and learned to make choices that have allowed for Community Animal Network’s donor dollars to be used more efficiently.

Allow me to share with you cat lovers some ideas that can make your cat happy, healthy, and save you money throughout this New Year, too.

Individual Kitty Plates for Canned Food

If you have a multi-cat household and feed canned food in addition to dry kibble on one plate to share, individual pet dishes could be a welcomed change for your kitty family members. I shop at thrift stores for ceramic saucers missing their coffee cup mates. I believe each kitty should have their own individual plate for a canned food meal. 

Feeding canned food on individual plates can help calm “frantic” eaters that may tend to over eat in the presence of other kitties. A kitty having its own plate need not worry there won’t be enough of the good stuff!

It is possible that a kitty that eats too fast and throws up may just need to “de-stress” the eating experience. Feeding a seemingly always hungry cat away from others may encourage a slower pace of eating, or another idea is to offer more frequent smaller meals.  

If your kitty still exhibits “frantic” eating habits after changing feeding protocols to feed canned food on separate plates and destressing the eating experience by feeding the cat separately. Your cat may need to be seen by a veterinarian for a blood test and to rule out symptoms of disease.

Food and Grumpy Cats

I have consulted with the pet-parents of many “grumpy” kitties living in multi-cat households that have reacted negatively to other kitty family members and just don’t seem to mingle happily. 

One consideration is that the current diet isn’t providing enough protein; similar to humans “snapping” at a friend or a loved one when we haven’t had enough sleep, or a meal.

Because cats are known predators and meat eaters, increasing the protein in the diet may help a cat feel more satisfied from its meal. I suggest you compare your kibble brands protein level with other brands and consider changing to the brand that has the higher protein. However, feeding canned food to a “grumpy” cat sometimes can be the solution for a cat feeling satisfied.  

Image titleDry Kibble Diet

While kibble is convenient, economical, and may meet the nutritional needs of our pets, most are higher in grain carbohydrates. If kibble is not proportioned a cat can gain weight and be at risk for diabetes.  

To learn about better cat nutrition, I recommend that you take a tour of the products at a specialty pet food store in person, or on-line. If then, you consider changing brands, mix the old with the new food and slowly increase the percentage of the new product over several weeks to avoid upsetting a kitty tummy.  In general, grocery store brands have less protein than premium and specialty brand foods and therefore changing the protein level and the brand abruptly can cause diarrhea, and or vomiting that could lead to an unnecessary vet visit.

Canned Food Diet

A well-balanced diet for a healthy cat of protein & fat is found in a meat based diet which is recommended by most experts on cat nutrition. On paper, dry kibble can offer healthy percentages of what a cat needs, but in general offers more carbs.

In my opinion, fat cats that have no medical basis for being obese should not eat dry kibble and be allowed to graze. I prefer to feed what I jokingly call the “Catkins” diet, in other words, canned food only.

Finding a canned food meal these days without a mixture of several meats that also include seafood is disappointing to me. The pet-parenting classes I teach have become more complicated since corporations have purchased up almost all of the companies that I used to recommend.

It had been common for me to share in my feline pet-parenting classes that when buying canned food to stick to purchasing cat food specific to the bird family, (chicken, turkey and duck), and avoid buying seafood flavors. Everyone always wanted to know why I suggested not buying cat food with fish? This is why; the term referring to fish in cat food by nutritional experts is “dead protein”. Adding fish to any cat food makes pet food more profitable for the companies that manufacture the foods. The parts of the fish used in pet food you may not recognize as the quality you would choose to pay the price for.

Older cats and those with age related diseases such as kidney disease have an inability to digest fat and protein, thus may need a diet recommended by a veterinarian.   

Make a Vet Appointment with a Feline Specialist 

Community Animal Network rescue cats have been seeing a board certified feline specialist since 2001.  I highly recommend you experience a feline only practice this year and I believe you will discover they have a better knowledge of handling cats and enhanced diagnostic abilities.

Feline specialty vet hospitals are popping up all over the United States. To find a board certified feline practitioner in your area log on to www.catvets.com.

Odor Repellent Cat Litter

There are many choices of cat litters today. Some types of cat litter can be costly, dusty, track a mess, or just make the whole house smell!

Some cat-people seek to find an effective odor repellent brand simply because they don’t have time to keep up with scooping the waste. What the television commercials don’t tell you about buying pungent smelling cat litter that covers odor is that many cats will avoid strong scents and will eliminate far away from their box.

If you are spending a lot of your waking hours commuting to work, what could be your answer is to have several litter boxes for your cat to choose from.  
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Litterbox Etiquette – Ideas to Help You Keep a Clean Litter Box

No person would want to use a bathroom where the plumbing was backed up! I could describe it in cinematic detail, but I believe you readers get the picture.

If a box is deemed to be disgusting by a fastidious feline some cats will potty elsewhere and it can be very difficult to stop them once it begins. To help avoid inappropriate elimination, never change litter brands abruptly and always keep the litter box clean. Here’s how…

There are both, “Yeahs And Ney’s” on a product called “LitterMaid”; a self-cleaning litter box available at stores everywhere. However, it isn’t the product of choice for those that have a cat with soft stools I’m told by those that gifted LitterMaid’s to Community Animal Network.

For those in need of an extra set of hands with the unpleasantries of the litterbox, help is just a click away with Nextdoor. It’s a great way to connect with those in your neighborhood who are looking for odd jobs. The site was founded in 2011 and promotes itself as a free private social network.  You can connect with the neighbors in your immediate area, register in your community, and post an ad.

The Rise of Natural Cat Litters

All-natural cat litters over the years have been gaining momentum in the marketplace. Cat litters are more eco-friendly and bio-degradable than ever when made from corn, wheat, grass, walnut shells, and pine. Corn clumps naturally from the starches, wheat clumps mildly with its’ enzymes and better with the help from some potato starch. Natural kitty litters are also safe for use with baby kittens.  

Isn’t it surprising the costs of some of the natural clumping cat litters? What is a cat lover, or an animal organization to do?

Why Choose a Top Premium Brand Litter When There’s a Better Choice 

 “World's Best Cat Litter” in my opinion is named appropriately, but, is “World's Best Cat Litter” worth its premium cost? The brand is biodegradable and clumps on contact with urine and the box is easier to clean than with manufactured litters that are sold with a clumping additive. Although, what is “Worlds’ Best Cat Litter”? It is in fact ground corn and it is also used and sold as chicken food!

Wouldn’t you want to know why ground corn sold as a cat litter is so costly? Hmm…ground corn found at a feed store isn’t expensive at all! In my pet-parenting classes for felines I recommend ground corn “known to be chicken food” to be used as cat litter! The industry term for the product is called, “Lay Crumble”. It is sold in 25 and 50lb bags. Fifty pounds of the stuff is just $22.99 in my coastal California town and it may be much less in inland rural areas!

The visible difference is that the brand is finer and the corn product looks more like the brand of cereal Grapenuts. Both can be flushed or composted. The only drawback I see to the corn product “Lay Crumble” is if not stored properly in a cool place, rising temperatures could cause grain weevils to appear.

Just like kitchen grain products, if products for baking are not stored properly over time bugs will appear.  Many of you may wish you never knew this, but, larvae lay inside grain kernels and feed. The brand must use a process to kill the weevil larvae; freezing or a microwave would do the trick. But, proper storage in an air tight container in a cool room will also work.  

To avoid weevils birthing in the feed store product known as “Lay Crumble”, I suggest bringing the natural food product indoors and pouring the whole bag in a large container with an air tight lid. In my bedroom I hide fifty pounds inside a white tub that fits inside a huge basket and on top I place a comfy pet bed.    

Buying the product rather than the brand will give you the qualities of a premium brand at the cost of an economy litter.

Economy Cat Litters

Clay litters have been cat approved since 1948 and are the cheapest and available even at grocery stores. The problem is they smell!

In my opinion, pine pellet cat litter is the most cost effective. It controls odors well, it’s affordable, and needs less scooping than a clumping litter, and is pretty much dust free of all the biodegradable chemical free litters. I highly recommend it to rescue people who cage cats upon arrival.

Rescue people with lots of free-roaming cats that use pine pellet litter have been known to use food service gloves and a bucket to hand-pick the feces from the box and toss the buckets remains in the toilet. All that is left is the urine soaked sawdust to dump in the trash another time.

With some people more sensitive to the smell of the used pine’s sawdust, I recommend in Community Animal Network’s multi-cat rescue houses to use a six inch kitchen frying tool called a skimmer. It works well to sift to separate the unused pine pellets from the urine soaked sawdust to toss out to keep a home from selling like a cattery.   

Now, some cats can resist the strange feel of the pine pellets on their pads in the beginning. People choosing a pine litter should slowly transition the animal over to use it exclusively by placing a few cups of the dirty used cat litter with the animals’ scent on top of the pellets and gradually increase the pine pellets. Another idea is to have two litterboxes next to each other and give cats a choice.

Roomy Jumbo Litter Boxes Needed 

Did you know that every kitty has a little different posture in a litter box? Some cats prefer to have their front paws on the edge and rear down and some kitties get creative in a small box and straddle the box with their front paws outside. Oppositely, some bottoms just go right to the edge and the urine can splash over the side!

To accommodate all sizes of cats and their comfort keep an eye out for large roomy litter boxes. What I see in common with cats that inappropriately eliminate in a home is that the box is too small and not scooped regularly. So, why not search for a roomy new kitty box this year? But, don’t forget to scoop!

Don’t have a place for a large box you say? Consider angling a piece of furniture in a corner and hiding the litterbox behind, under a side table, or purchase a pretty room divider and hide the visually ghastly thing. 

Protecting Your Pet

Last but not least, microchipping is a simple and permanent identification system. A microchip is the size of a tiny pencil lead and is implanted under the skin between the shoulders of an animal. If your cat ever goes missing and is taken to an animal shelter, is found injured or sick by a Good Samaritan and is admitted to a vet hospital, or rescued off the street, a scan for a microchip can help your pet find its way back home to you!

To prove the point, just recently a kitty adopted from Community Animal Network in 2005 was found after having been missing for three years. It found its way back to us when the owners’ phone numbers were found to be disconnected.  A life was saved by this life-saving implant!  

According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, less than 2% of the cats gone missing are returned to their owners as compared to 15- 20 percent of dogs because they lack identification.

Microchipping is for both dogs and cats and even for “indoor only” cats, too! Why not make an appointment today with a veterinarian to get all of your pet family member’s microchipped, because life is full of uncertainties!

But, don’t just walk out of the vets office with all the microchip papers and file them away, there’s one more step that too many people forget…. There’s a fee to register your contact information with the chip’s national recovery database. Make sure you remember to keep the chip numbers with your veterinarians’ records and keep the registry contact information current.  

In Closing..

Coming home to a pet is like having an unopened gift so don’t forget to take the time to pet and play with your kitty!

I wish you a very Happy “Mew” Year!

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DiAnna Pfaff-Martin began her journey helping animals in 1996 by writing “The Community Animal Report” for her local homeowner’s association newsletter. It quickly grew into a city-wide publication that was delivered to local vet offices.

Her publication helped raise awareness for animals searching for new homes and raise funds to help shelter dogs and cats that needed expensive veterinary procedures. DiAnna’s philanthropic efforts developed into the charity known as Community Animal Network, a veterinary medical rescue.

The needs of her community combined with her passion were recognized by the local newspaper which published her weekly column, “The Pet Of The Week”, for eighteen years.

Currently, she teaches pet-parenting classes, consults on feline behavior and about cat care; how to administer pills and other medications. Her charity offers hands-on veterinary medical internships to aspiring veterinarians and she still is the director of the rescue Community Animal Network.



 



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