Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cats And Dogs Can Save Billions In Healthcare Costs

Long-haired calico cat
wildshots4u - Fotolia.com
 Are you seeing your doctor less often than your friends are? Thank your cat! New research by a team from George Mason University in Northern Virginia shows that people who live with companion animals go to the doctor less frequently than people who have no animal family members, saving more than $11 billion in healthcare costs.

The study was done for the Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative.

Researchers compiled data from other studies to come up with their results.

Dog walkers represented the largest cost savings because people who walk their dogs at least five times a week are less likely to be obese than people who get less exercise. The researchers say they save about $419 million in related healthcare costs.

But cats figure into the cost savings, too. Several studies have shown that living with cats and dogs can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. They can also relieve depression.

Interestingly, any kind of "pet," including fish, can also reduce stress and relieve depression.

The researchers also site studies that show young children who live with cats or dogs are less likely to develop allergies as adults and one that suggests perinatal exposure to animal companions likely reduces the risk of children developing allergies in the very early years.

In looking at the economic benefits of living with an animal companion, the researchers considered just the number of physician office visits and the cost of treatment for obesity. Those two areas alone, added up to almost $11.8 billion a year in healthcare savings.

"As this research area attracts more attention and studies are initiated with specific economic variables included to capture potential health care costs savings," the researchers say, "we will gain a much deeper understanding of the greater total economic value of the human-animal bond."

Maybe. And it's an interesting concept. But it's hard to put a price on friendship, and most of us will most likely continue sharing our lives with cats because we love their companionship, not because we want to save our insurance companies money on doctor visits. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

SmartLabel Tells You What's In That Cat Food

Cat With Magnifying Glass Cressida studio - Fotolia.com
If you're one of those people who breaks out a magnifying glass so you can read the ingredients list on your cats' cans and bags of food, this should be very good news.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has developed a SmartLabel that will provide detailed information about the food you're about to purchase. All you have to do is scan the product's bar code with your phone.

More than 30 companies, including some pet food manufacturers, have already committed to using SmartLabels on their packaging.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association expects more than 30,000 products will have the new labels by the end of 2017.

Scanning the labels will take you to a web page that lists ingredients and other nutritional information, allergens and more. But the one thing the page might not list is whether the product contains GMOs. While many manufacturers will include information about genetically modified ingredients, others will not until there's a uniform national standard for GMOs.

If you don't feel like scanning labels with your phone, you can also access each product's web page on your computer. Of course, you can always use your phone to go to the manufacturer's website and check ingredients while you're in the store. That's what I do now because I got tired of carrying a magnifying glass around with me.

Cat Litter That's Really For The Birds

Cats Ask Litter Box
What's the latest scoop on cat litter? No, it's not another kind of ground corn, wheat, walnuts, pine, reclaimed wood or recycled paper. Just look out your window at the bird feeder and think safflower seeds.

They're the filler for the new Cat's Ask (say that quickly, and ask sounds like an entirely different word) litter box developed by Mark Fenwick of Halifax Nova Scotia.

With four cats, Fenwick admits he developed the new cat box out of desperation. He and his wife, Bernice, felt like they were literally sinking in clumps of yucky, smelly litter. After three years of research and testing, he launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month. So far, the project has raised $11,030 of its $48,971 goal.

The Cat's Ask is a two-tiered box with a couple of wide steps leading to the pan that contains the safflower seeds. Urine is funneled through a grate under the seeds to a container below. To clean the box, you just have to scoop the solids and lift out and empty the container holding the urine. The box comes with a container, but you can replace it with any recyclable juice or milk carton. Spritz the seeds with a combination of water and vinegar to sanitize them and get rid of the cat smell, and you're done.

Fenwick used safflower because it's an oilseed and repels moisture. Also, the seeds are the right size and shape to be easily composted. The box is made of waxed cardboard, and the pan that holds the safflower seeds is plastic. Fenwick says the safflower seeds need to  be replaced just once a month, even if several cats are using the box.

The Cat's Ask litter box should be available for sale in the spring. But I doubt that I'll be buying one. What my cats ask is to keep it simple: big boxes, unscented litter, easy in and easy out. This box sounds like it would be too much work for all of us.

Cat Ladies Go To The Dogs

cat lady cartoon John Takai Fotolia.com
Oh, no! How could this be possible? Recent research shows that more and more cat ladies are going to the dogs.

Between 2005 and 2015, 7.7 million women became dog owners, while just 0.9 million added cats to their families, David Sprinkle writes on Petfoodindustry.com. But if cat ladies are becoming a dying breed, someone else is following in their trail of cat hair. Think about the T-shirt slogan: "Real Men Love Cats."

Sprinkle, who is the publisher and research director at Packaged Facts, says cat ownership in households with just men rose from 13 percent in 2005 to 18 percent in 2015.

That's the good news. But the other bad news for cats is that people with high incomes seem to prefer dogs.

"Cat ownership is sliding somewhat down the socio-economic scale," Sprinkle says.

Between 2005 and 2015, 6.2 million additional households with an income of $100,000 or more became dog owners, he says, while just 2.4 million of these higher-earning families adopted or bought cats.

"Between 2005 and 2015, cat ownership rates have remained fairly steady among households with an income of under $75,000, and have even edged up, from 21 percent to 25 percent among households with an income of $25,000–$49,999," Sprinkle says.

"Among households with an income of $75,000–$99,999, however, cat ownership rates dropped from 30 percent to 23 percent, and among households with an income of  with an income of $100,000 or more, cat ownership went from 31 percent to 27 percent."

Over this period, dog ownership grew from 44 percent to 48 percent among among households earning $100,000 a year or more.

So what are the remaining cat ladies to do? This one will be talking up the joys of cat companionship anywhere and everywhere. Oh, and I'll be keeping my lint brush close at hand because I won't be representing my feline friends well if my black sweater is covered with orange hair!

Grumpy Cat Meets Madame Tussauds

Grumpy Cat
If she was flattered, she certainly didn't show it.

"This is truly an honor," Grumpy Cat said when she learned she'll be the first cat ever to have a wax figure at Madame Tussauds. "I hate it."

To understand why, just take a look at this
video of her working with Madame Tussauds' figure sculptors.

If you know just her face but not her back story, Grumpy Cat's real name is Tardar Sauce, and she's three years old. Her mother is a calico, and her father has tabby stripes, 

so how she turned out looking like a Ragdoll or Snowshoe is anybody's guess.

Her grumpy face is due to an underbite and feline dwarfism, not attitude. Oh, and she's not the only grumpy looking cat in her family. She has a brother named Pokey, who also has dwarfism and an underbite.

Tardar and Pokey live in Arizona with Tabatha Bundesen, who was a server at Red Lobster until her cat began producing way more income than she was. Grumpy Cat sells licensed merchandise, wrote a book, starred in a movie and stays busy appearing at events and doing commercials, including some for Friskies and Honey Nut Cheerios. She didn't like the Cheerios.

While this may seem like no life for a cat, Bundesen says most of the time, she's just a "normal kitty." She likes to play with bags and string and hide behind the curtains.

Tardar Sauce became the Queen of cat Memes soon after Bundesen's brother, Bryan, posted a picture of her stunningly grumpy-looking kitten on Reddit.  When viewers suggested no cat could possibly look that grouchy and the picture was Photoshopped, Bundesen put two videos on You Tube. The videos went viral, and within days, Grumpy Cat was an Internet star.

She'll unveil her sculpture at Madame Tussauds in San Francisco later this year. After a short stay in San Francisco, the sculpture, but maybe not the cat, will visit other Madame Tussauds' locations in Hollywood, Las Vegas, New York, Orlando and Washington, DC.

Trumped Up Cats

Trump Your Cat
If there's anything that could trump presidential politics in this primary season, it's an Instagram account featuring pictures of hundreds of cats sporting, if only briefly, The Donald's famous (or maybe infamous) comb-over.

While Donald Trump's poll numbers continue to climb, so do the number of followers of trumpyourcat. There were 17,000 as of Aug. 10. The hashtag #trumpyourcat is trending on Twitter, too.

Adam Myatt didn't mean to offend Trump by being politically incorrect when he started the Internet meme last month. His girlfriend was brushing their cat and was wondering what to do with the hair in the brush.

" 'I put it on our cat's head and thought ‘this is hilarious,’” he told the New York Daily News.

While the picture was just fun, Myatt usually takes cats very seriously. He's one of the founders of Cat Town Cafe and Adoption Center in Oakland, the nation's first cat cafe. Guests of honor at the cafe are adoptable cats from the Cat Town rescue.

When Myatt decided to trump up more cats and put their pictures online, he had lots to choose from. He paired them with some of the more astonishing quotes from the candidate himself, and soon other cat lovers were joining in. There are also a few dogs, bunnies and reptiles on the Instagram page.

My cats are not political animals but if yours would like to become Donald Trump look-alikes on Instagram and Twitter, the instructions are simple.
1. Brush your cat.
2. Form the hair you brushed into a toupee.
3. Place the toupee on the cat
4. Share and tag @trumpyourcat, DM, or #trumpyourcat

New Hope For Cats Who Won't Eat

Kitten With Empty Dish
© Tombaky | Dreamstime.com
The first appetite stimulant developed especially for cats is slowly making its way to the marketplace. If everything goes according to plan, Aratana Therapeutics expects the FDA to approve capromorelin (AT-0002) in 2018.

Currently, such human drugs as benzodiazepines, cyproheptadine and mirtazapene are used to treat inappetence in cats. But they can sometimes have undesirable side effects. And, Aratana says on its website, they can have limited effectiveness and may be contraindicated for cats with some health issues. None are approved by the FDA for veterinary use.

Capromorelin is a small molecule that mimics ghrelin, a hormone produced by the stomach that causes a feeling of hunger.

Aratana tested capromorelin on 40 cats with kidney disease and found that those treated with a daily oral dose had increased food consumption and "significant increases in body weight" after 90 days.

Capromorelin could be especially helpful to cats with kidney and other chronic diseases and cats undergoing chemotherapy, recovering from surgery or approaching end of life.

A larger study of capromorelin will begin sometime in 2016.

Could Vitamin D Help Seriously Ill Cats?

vet holding kitten
A new study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland could raise more questions than it answers. The study looked at whether cats with higher levels of vitamin D have a better chance of surviving life-threatening illness.
After looking at blood samples from nearly 100 cats hospitalized with life-threatening conditions, the researchers concluded that they do. The study found that cats with higher levels of vitamin D in their blood were more likely to be alive 30 days after being admitted to the hospital than those with the lowest levels.

But that's where the research ended, at least for now.
"At the moment, it is difficult for veterinarians to offer accurate prognostic information to the owners of sick cats," veterinarian Richard Mellanby said in a press release. "Our study demonstrates that measuring a key vitamin D metabolite in the blood predicts disease outcome with a much greater degree of accuracy than many other widely used measures of disease severity."

the director of small animal medicine at the university's School of Veterinary Studies added that further research is needed to learn whether vitamin D reduces a cat's risk of disease and if adding it to seriously ill cats' diets might improve their chances of survival.

Studies in humans have linked low vitamin D levels to a number of health problems, including infections,
multiple sclerosis and cancer.

Exposure to the sun triggers vitamin D production in people. So do such foods as oily fish, cheese and egg yolks. Humans can also take Vitamin D supplements.

Cats, however, can only get vitamin D from food.

So should you supplement your cat's food with Vitamin D? Probably not,
Mellanby says.
In the press release, he warns that "too much vitamin D can be poisonous to cats. Most cat foods contain a standard amount of vitamin D and there is no need for owners to add supplements."

The study was recently published online in the journal
PLOS One. Stay tuned to find out whether giving your seriously ill cat additional vitamin D will improve his chances of survival and lengthen his life. Wouldn't it be nice to have such a simple answer!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Merlin Purrs His Way Into The Record Books

Merlin Purring Cat
If you think your cat has a loud purr, meet Merlin, the new record-holder as the cat with the loudest purr in the world.

67.8 decibels, he even out-purred Smokey, the previous record-holder, who registered a mere 67.68 decibels on the Guinness Book of World Records' adjudicator's scale. 

For comparison's sake, most cats purr at about 25 decibels.

Merlin and Smokey both live in the UK.

So think about living with a cat whose purr is nearly as loud as a dishwasher or shower. When Merlin's really happy, he can drown out a conversation and make the television hard to hear.

Tracy Westwood and her daughter Alice adopted Merlin from a rescue when he was a kitten. Thirteen years later, he's still going strong, especially in the purr department.

“Occasionally when he’s really loud I have to repeat myself," Westwood told Guinness writer Kevin Lynch.

"When you’re watching films you have to turn the telly up or put him out of the room, if he’s eating he’ll purr loudly. I can hear him when I’m drying my hair. If the telephone rings I do get people asking me ’what’s that noise in the background?’ I tell them it’s the cat but I don’t know if they believe me."

Merlin was recently crowned King of Purrs on a British TV show and received a certificate from Guinness. But the best prize was a dish of his favorite food.. tuna.

High-Pitched Noises Can Cause Seizures In Cats

Long-Haired Tabby Face
© Ermolaev Alexandr - Fotolia.com
If you live with an older cat, you might want to think twice about crinkling tin foil or clanging a metal spoon against a ceramic bowl. These and other high-pitched sounds can cause audiogenic reflex seizures (FARS) in elderly cats.

FARS was first reported in a
recent issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.
Other sounds that can trigger
the seizures are tapping on glass, crinkling paper or plastic bags, tapping on a computer keyboard or clicking the mouse, clinking coins or keys, hammering a nail and even clicking your tongue.
Until recently, no one had even thought there might be a connection between loud noises and seizures in cats. But Cat Care International received so many inquiries from alarmed caretakers, the UK based charity asked neurologists at
Davies Veterinary Specialists, UK for help.
Mark Lowrie and Laurent Garosi of Davies Veterinary Specialists and Robert Harvey from the UCL School of Pharmacy in London designed a questionnaire that drew responses from hundreds of people worldwide. All said their cats had seizures after hearing certain sounds, but their vets had no idea why. Many of the vets found it hard to believe that a sound could trigger a seizure.

In their paper, the researchers wrote about 96 cats. They said
the average age of  onset in their study was 15 years, although some cats as young as 10 suffered from FARS. The loudness of the sound seemed to increase the severity of the seizures.

While the obvious solution to this problem is to avoid making the sounds that trigger seizures in your cat, that's not always possible. As an alternative,
Lowrie says levetiracetam "is an excellent choice of medication for managing this condition." The researchers will be publishing a second study on that soon.

Music To Yours (Cat's) Ears

cat in headphones© Andrey Kuzmin - Fotolia.com If you leave a radio on for your cats when you're not at home, they probably appreciate the "white noise." But a study by University of Wisconsin-Madison psychologist Charles Snowdon shows that whatever they're listening to isn't exactly music to their ears.

Turns out that species other than than humans can enjoy music, but it has to be in the frequency range that species uses to communicate and with tempos they would normally use.

Snowdon first tested this theory, suggested by musician
David Teie, on cotton-topped tamarin monkeys. While they showed little interest in music written for humans, Teie says they "displayed a marked increase of activity" when they heard music he composed just for them.

As he explains it on his website, "a
ll mammals are born with templates of sound in the brain that govern emotional response. Many of these templates come as 'standard equipment' and are not always learned... If someone were to scream in your presence your heart rate would increase; there is no way for you to prevent it. You would not, however, respond similarly to the alarm call of a squirrel.

"Studying the characteristics of a given species gives us a basis for music for that species," he says.

So what about cats? Since cat calls are about an
octave or more above human voices, Teie wrote pieces that use sliding notes and high pitches. He based the tempo of the music on suckling and purring sounds.

The test came when
researchers played his compositions for 47 cats in their homes. On the playlist: "Cozmo's Air" and "Rusty's Ballad." The cats also heard Gabriel Fauré's "Elegie" and Johann Sebastian Bach's "Air on a G String." The music written for humans was pretty much ignored. But when the cats heard the pieces Teie composed just for them, they were likely to wake up from their naps, turn their heads towards the music, walk towards it or even rub their heads against the speakers.

When we tried a kitty concert here, Soda woke up from a deep sleep and sat up in his favorite chair to concentrate on the music. Boccelli wandered around my office trying to figure out where it was coming from, but he seemed to like it. Honey just continued sleeping on the top perch of the cat tree.

To see how your cats react to Teie's "mewsic," try playing a sample. If they like it, you can download a collection of Cat Ballads, Kitty Ditties or Feline Airs.

Mom's Looks At Pets' Environmental Footprint

Cat Eating From Crystal Bowl
© Olga Sapegina | Dreamstime.com
Scott Nash, MOM's Organic Market founder and CEO, had never given much thought to the impact cats and dogs have on the environment until he read an article by Brian Palmer in the Washington Post. The article cites the claim by sustainable-living gurus Brenda and Robert Vale that the environmental paw print of a medium-size dog is about double that of the average SUV.

To the owner of a chain of organic grocery stores that sells high-end natural pet food and says its purpose is to protect and restore the environment, this was not good news.

That was last spring, and now MOM's is taking action to increase transparency and sustainability in the pet food industry. Working in partnership with the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition, the first step is a survey asking existing and potential vendors whether their food contains leftover animal products from the human food system, if their seafood is certified sustainable by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch or similar, and whether their packaging is recyclable, recycled, compostable, and/or responsibly sourced.

In a press release, Lisa de Lima, vice president of grocery for the Rockville, MD-based chain, says the pet food industry purchases over 16.5 billion pounds of meat, poultry, seafood and grains to produce food products just for cats and dogs.

"As the demand for high-quality pet food grows, so does the confusion about the environmental significance of the industry," she says.

Cat and dog food used to be considered inherently sustainable because it used leftovers from the human food supply chain. But then consumers began questioning the quality of the ingredients in their animal companions' food, and "byproducts" became the third rail of the pet food industry. Today, the fastest growth in the industry is in the specialty channel where retailers offer mostly "natural" food that contains no byproducts.

But Palmer, who disagrees that a medium-sized dog's environmental impact is larger than an SUV's, suggests that maybe cats and dogs don't need, or even appreciate, food made from prime cuts of beef or white meat chicken breast. After all, meat is meat, and cats who hunt aren't all that picky about the parts of their prey that they eat. And some of the leftovers from human meat processing are rich in protein and fat, the most necessary components of a cat's diet.

Most raw cat food manufacturers already include some of those leftovers in their food in the form of ground bones and organ meat.

A spokesperson for MOM's said the survey is only the beginning of the grocery store chain's research.

"We're trying to get the facts and the science straight when it comes to sustainable pet food ingredients," she said. "We value not only the sustainability quotient of the ingredients, but the health of the animal as well.

"This entire project is to get the conversation started, to get a baseline for the 'hot spots' within the pet food industry and see where we can make impactful change to better our environment and improve the health our beloved pets."

As survey results come in, MOM's and PISC plan to develop a working group of retailers, consumers and pet food suppliers to fine-tune the questionnaire for use across the industry.

"Our goal is to source brands and products that hold an optimum balance between nutrition and sustainability," de Lima says in the press release.  "We want to give our customers peace of mind, knowing they've made the best choice for their pets and the environment."

So what do your cats eat? Do they demand chicken breast, or would they be just as happy with meat from a leg or thigh? We'd love to read about their favorite foods in the comments below.

New French Law Elevates Animals' Status

Long-Haired Tortoiseshell Cat
© A Blue Kind of Black - Fotlolia.com
It's taken a couple of hundred years, but the French parliament has finally recognized what most of us have known all along: Animals are "living, sentient beings." Until now, French law gave a cat the same status as the couch it was sleeping on.

Until a recent change to the Civil Code, all animals were considered working farm beasts and were classified as goods or furniture.

The new designation means stiffer penalties for animal abuse and cruelty, including abuse of farm animals.

While most people in France probably think the change is long overdue, it does pose some issues for the country's cattle breeders who want farms to get bigger but not necessarily better.

In 2002, Germany became the first country in the European Union to grant constitutional rights to animals, according to the website rt.com. In 2006, members of the Dutch Party for the Animals (PvdD) became the first animal-rights MPs anywhere in the world.

Although animals do have some protections in the US, most jurisdictions still consider them property, much like the computer or phone you're using right now.

Lawmaker Seeks To Ban Declawing Cats

Cat Claw
Like millions of Americans, Linda Rosenthal thinks declawing is cruel. But as a state assemblywoman from Manhattan, she's in a position to do something about it.

A Democrat, she's introduced a bill that would prohibit declawing cats and other animals, except to remove a tumor or for another medical reason. If the bill passes, New York will be the first state to ban declawing. Rosenthal and the cats have some powerful allies in the Humane Society of 

New York and The Paw Project, a California-based anti-declawing group. But the American Veterinary Medical Association's reaction has been lukewarm.

The organization, which, among other things, advises vets on business practices and opportunities, says declawing cats should be done only as a "last resort." Whatever that means...

Declawing is far more than a "manicure." To declaw a cat, the veterinarian must amputate the top digit of every toe. The procedure is illegal in most countries except the US.

This is my favorite declaw website. And here's my cat's blog post listing Nine Reasons Why All Cat Paws Need Claws. Oh, and if your cat's shredding the furniture, this should help.

If you live in New York, be sure to write to your state legislators to let them know you support Rosenthal's legislation. Nationwide, this is a policy that's long overdue!

Study Offers Better Options For Cats Exposed To Rabies

A study published in the January 2015 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association provides new options for cats and dogs with outdated rabies vaccinations who are exposed to rabid animals.

Until now, the protocol was to quarantine the animals for up to 65 days or euthanize them.

Agreeing that people were faced with two very bad choices for their animal companions,
veterinarian Mike Moore said "it was really, really sad for me not to be able to help these people."

The project manager for the rabies lab at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory,  Moore was the report's lead author.

The study shows that animals who had an initial rabies vaccination but were out of date had the same response to a booster shot as animals whose rabies vaccinations were current.

"Our results show that the two groups of animals – those that are out-of-date and those that are up-to-date – respond the same, and we feel they should be treated the same," Moore says. "If animals considered out-of-date have been primed with an initial vaccine, then when they're boostered after exposure, their titer goes up really high, really fast, and that's what we want in the case of exposure to rabies."

His recommendation is for an exposed cat or dog to immediately receive a rabies booster and be observed for 45 days, most often under the family's supervision with no contact restrictions.

But that's not to say you can forgo your cats' rabies vaccinations if they go outside. Cats can't tell you when they've been bitten by a rabid animal, and the wound isn't always obvious. So the best plan is to ask for a titer test (a simple blood test that shows whether the cat still has immunity to rabies) during your cat's annual wellness exam. Or follow your state's protocol for rabies vaccinations.

If it was me, I wouldn't vaccinate an indoor cat. And I titer my indoor/outdoor cats rather than exposing them unnecessarily to the sometimes dangerous vaccine.

Moore discusses the history of rabies vaccinations and the study in this podcast. It's interesting and worth listening to.

Paleo Diet For Cats

Cat Eating Raw Fish
You've heard about the Paleo Diet? Now there's one for cats!

Following the growing trend to humanize companion animals, PetSmart plans to open specialty departments where Paleo Pet Parents can buy food similar to their own for their cats and dogs. The Paleo Diet specialty shops will open in 133 stores later this month. Some of the products will also be available on PetSmart's website.

If you're not familiar with it, the Paleo Diet mimics the way humans ate back in the day. That would be waaay back in the day, when we lived in caves and rubbed sticks together to make a fire to cook our food.

Like our distant, distant ancestors, Paleo Dieters eat only grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish and lots of veggies, fruits and nuts. ​Cavemen (and women) didn't eat grains, sugar and processed foods, and people on the Paleo Diet don't eat them either.

The desert wildcats who were our house cats' distant ancestors lived on lizards, rodents, small birds, and insects. Since water is hard to find in a desert, the cats got most of the moisture they needed from their food. Given a choice, our cats would still eat that way today, although mine would. and do, pass on the lizards.​ ​

PetSmart's Paleo Diet for cats and dogs is made by Only Natural Pet, ​an independent pet supply retailer and manufacturer based in Boulder, Col.

A press release says the food is manufactured "in small, artisanal facilities" using small-batch production processes. Ingredients include human-quality chicken, turkey, lamb and beef, as well as sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans, apples, cranberries, celery, pumpkin, broccoli and cabbage.

Sounds good, but it looks like a Paleo diet designed more for people than cats. ​ Cats need meat, not fruits and veggies. And while garbanzo beans might be good for you, they're probably not real useful for a cat. ​​

Friday, January 22, 2016

Study Finds Mold And Bacteria In Cat Food

What's in your cats' food? How about potentially harmful bacteria and  the toxic mold-related substance, mycotoxin?

That's what the labs found when they tested samples from six popular brands of cat and dog food for the Association for Truth in Pet Food's crowd-funded Pet Food Test.

The group chose foods randomly from the most popular brands. 
"We wanted to test more, but we didn’t have the funds," pet food activist Susan Thixton said.

But the results from even the small group of food tested will most likely shock and dismay most cat caretakers.

Samples of Royal Canin Veterinary Diet LP canned cat food, Wellness Complete Health Chicken, Chicken Meal & Rice dry food, Meow Mix Tender Centers Salmon and Turkey flavors dry food, and Fancy Feast Grilled Chicken wet food all contained mycotoxins, although Fancy Feast contained less than the others. All contained harmful bacteria.

The study provides just a snapshot of pet food ingredients and doesn't necessarily indict an entire brand.  "If one brand was tested, it does not mean that another variety within that brand or even another batch of the same brand will have the same issues," Thixton said. "Every batch can be different. The only thing we know for certain is on the foods we tested."

Still, the report is enough to give cat caretakers pause and confirm what some of us have suspected all along.

You can read the entire report on the Thixton's Truth About Pet Food website. There's a sample letter, too, to send to your state and federal lawmakers asking them to investigate the condition of the food your cats eat.

Cat Food Labels May Be Incorrect

Cat Eating From Crystal Dish
© Olga Sapegina | Dreamstime.com
A recent study shows that cat food might contain ingredients not listed on the label and may be missing ingredients the label says are there.

In the December issue of Petfood Industry magazine, veterinarian David A. Dzanis, a consultant on nutrition and pet food labeling and regulation, reports on a study done by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay (a form of DNA testing). The study found  "a notable percentage of pet foods contained materials from species of animals not identified in their respective ingredient declarations."

The findings, Dzanis says, are similar to those found in European study done in 2013 that used both PCR and microscopic methods of analysis. That study focused on products intended for use in elimination trials for diagnosing food allergies.

The most recent study looked at 52 products. Undeclared species, usually pork, showed up in 16. But that's not surprising, Dzanis says, considering the opportunity for cross-contact in food production facilities.

What's more concerning was that in seven of the foods tested, a listed ingredient was missing. So there may have been no beef DNA in a product that, according to the label, contains beef.

"I understand that many ingredients may look similar upon visual inspection, so mistakes can happen, but whether deliberate or not, or whether it occurs at the manufacturer or supplier level, there's really no good excuse," Dzanis writes.

He urges pet food manufacturers "to practice due diligence in ensuring that what is declared on the label is in the product, and what is not declared is not in the product. Irrespective of any true safety concern or degree of enforcement priority," he says, "it's reasonable for people to expect to get what they pay for."

I don't know about you, but I'm rethinking making my cats' food. At least I'd know what's in it!

Tax Collectors Threaten To Hold Cats

White Cat Face
© Papa1266 | Dreamstime.com
If you happen to live in Siberia and want to keep your pedigreed cat, you'd better pay your taxes on time. That seems to be the message from Interfax, a news agency that reports on Russia, China and emerging Eurasian markets.

As the story goes, a student in the city of Novosibirsk handed over the 12,000 rubles he owed in unpaid taxes after a bailiff entered his apartment and threatened to seize his British Shorthair cat and three kittens.


And his cats weren't the first to be placed "under arrest." A former business owner in Tomsk was able to reclaim her four Scottish Folds after she came up with the money she owed a company pension fund. And in Krasnoyarsk, collectors seized the British Shorthair and rabbit of a man who owed 20,000 rubles in unpaid utility bills.

Wow. Glad they don't do that in the US. The tax collectors could have my condo if they really wanted it, but not my cats!

No Tatts For Cats

Black Cat Face
No tatts for this cat
Are you thinking your cat might look cute with a mouse tattooed on his side? If you live in New York, you'd better move fast because tattooing companion animals will be illegal 120 days from now. So will unnecessary piercings.

"This is animal abuse pure and simple," said Gov. Mario
Cuomo as he signed a bill outlawing unnecessary piercing and tattooing of cats, dogs and all other pets into law earlier this week.


Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) introduced the bill in the state legislature several years ago when she heard about a woman who was selling “Gothic kittens” with piercings on their necks, ears and spines.

"Tattooing and piercing of companion animals serves no purpose other than to satisfy the aesthetic predilections of the owner," Rosenthal said. "And it inflicts unnecessary pain on the animal that they cannot understand or contextualize.”

Under the new law, piercing and tattooing will be allowed only in limited circumstances, such as ear tags on rabbits and tattoos for identification purposes.

Cats Of Disneyland Caught On Camera

Cats of Disneyland
Feral cats might stay as far from humans as possible, but they're not at all shy when it comes to social media. The Cats of Disneyland (did you even know there are cats at Disneyland?) have a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, and now they're on Instagram.

As the story goes, cats were waiting when Mickey and Minnie arrived at Disneyland in 1955. Walt Disney discovered them when he entered the building that would become Sleeping Beauty's castle. The four-legged sleeping beauties he found were adopted out to cast members. But the others on the property were trapped, neutered and returned. Generations of feral cats have been providing rodent control, with the exception of Mickey and Minnie, of course, ever since.

Feeding stations are scattered around the property, and cast members of Circle D Ranch keep the bowls full and manage the cats. Cats who become too friendly with humans are adopted to Disney employees who promise them forever homes.

Being feral, the Disneyland Cats prefer to sleep during the day and work the night shift when all the humans have left the park. But sometimes a lucky visitor spots one on the prowl during daylight hours. The Instagram account features sightings of cats as they nap in the sun, perch on a rooftop or go for a stroll during the day.

If you're fortunate enough to get a picture of a cat while you're visiting Disneyland, you can send it to
catsofdisneyland@gmail.com. It just might show up on Instagram.

Have A Chat With Your Cat

PetChatz Video Phone
As if you didn't have enough distractions, now you can chat with your cat while you're at work. PetChatz, a videophone that lets you talk with your cat from wherever you are and even send him treats, is now available online.

The PetChatz unit mounts on the wall over any electrical outlet and connects to a home WiFi network. To see and chat with your cat, just log into PetChatz.com or download the app to your smart phone. You can signal your cat to come to the unit when you want to visit and send another signal when you need to get back to work. The unit also lets you dispense a chicken- or salmon-flavored treat.

Sounds like fun for "mom" or "dad," but I wonder if it would be confusing for the cat to see your face and hear your voice when you're not there. He'd probably love the treats, though, especially if he could have several at a time.

Book Looks Into The Lives Of Community Cats

Community Cats Book
Anne Beall's husband didn't smell a rat, he felt one. Running across his foot. For the Bealls, that was a defining moment. Would they sell their Chicago Lakeview home or take on the rats that had been plaguing their neighborhood for years?

They decided to take on the rats.

While there are all kinds of ways to get rid of rats, the Bealls decided to call on Mother Nature and the Tree House Humane Society's Cats at Work program. Tree House relocated three feral cats to the Beall's property, and after a three-week confinement period, the "Rat Pack" was on the job. And that's when Anne Beall's journey into the world of feral cats began.

I expected my cat colony, lovingly dubbed the Rat Pack, would solve my rat problem, but I never expected the bond our family now shares with our wonderfully clever and hard-working outdoor cat colony," she says in a press release announcing the publication of her book,
"Community Cats: A Journey into the World of Feral Cats."
Each year, shelters kill about 1.5 million cats or about 70 percent of cats who come through their doors because they're feral, or appear feral, and are not adoptable to homes. In researching her book, Beall found that
71 percent of households have never heard of trap/neuter/return, "but when given the facts, 77 percent of Americans would support local TNR programs."

In her book, she
talks with other colony caretakers and leaders in the TNR movement and takes a look at how feral cats live and relate to each other and their caretakers.

Beall is president of Beall Research, a market research firm. But it sounds like her book is not so much about research as a labor of respect, admiration and love.
"Community Cats: A Journey into the World of Feral Cats," is available on Amazon. For a sneak preview, visit Beall's website.

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