Main Course:

Welcome to my blog. This is just my little spot in CyberSpace to share who I am, what I like, what I don't like and all the crazy things that go on in my world. Feel free to visit anytime. My drive-in is open 24/7. xoxo

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Today's Special: The Cat Food Conundrum

As many of you know, recently Wellness had a voluntary recall for less than adequate amounts of thiamine in some of their canned foods.  This was very upsetting to peeps b/c Wellness is a highly respected food and is one of the foods we ate. We had many cans in our pantry with the "bad dates" on them. Thankfully none of us got sick.  Peeps (and our vet) think it's because we eat a variety of canned foods at each meal, not just one type.  While we were eating Wellness, we were also eating two other brands so they probably provided us the thiamine the Wellness was lacking.  Peeps are more determined than ever now, to never feed us just one brand of food.

With the recall of Wellness, peeps were on the hunt for some new canned food for us.  In the past, peeps have always fed whatever foods the vet recommended...never really knowing why certain brands were considered better than others.  When the Wellness recall happened, peeps went out on their own and researched exactly what makes a certain cat food a chomp above the rest. They thought maybe I'd want to share their findings here with you and I said sure.  If there's one thing I enjoy writing about, it's food!  

First and foremost, the information I'm giving here is information peeps found during their research. They are not veterinarians or cat food experts. As they researched, they felt that they learned a lot and wanted to share some of that knowledge with other cat lovers.  

Secondly, all the information they're sharing is about canned (moist) cat food. Dry cat food is another beast all together. Basically, the overall consensus is that it should be kept to a low percentage of the overall diet.  Most dry foods are very high in carbs and very low in moisture which means they aren't really good for us kitties.  Try to think of what a kitty would eat if it were out in the wild.  Ultimately, something as close as possible to that should show up in the bowl come meal time.  Last time I checked, you won't find a cat chasing down a herd of kibble on the African savanna! ;) Personally, we all love dry food in my house and we do get it sometimes. Just like with canned food, peeps try to make an informed decision and pick a brand that they feel is as healthy as possible. 

And finally, peeps believe that as long as a pet owner gives their pet the very best that they can, then that's all anyone can ask.  Generally, the more you spend, the better quality, healthier food you'll get, but that doesn't mean that you can't make informed decisions with lesser-priced brands.  Here are some basic rules to follow when choosing a canned food:

1. Make sure some form of meat-based protein is listed first in the list of ingredients.  When choosing a meat, look for a muscle meat (chicken, turkey, duck, rabbit, etc) as the first ingredient rather than a by-product, liver, fish, or beef.

2. Keep moisture high...although not so high that there's no room left for the important ingredients.  Most good brands will have ~78% moisture.  

3. Keeps carbs and fat low.  

So...overall you want to keep protein high (make sure it's from animals, not plants), water high and carbs/fats low. Try to stay away from foods having corn (maize), wheat and/or soy if you can.  These grains have absolutely no logical place in your cat's diet and high quantities can even be detrimental to their health.  And let's not forget that the huge pet food recall in 2007 was due to contaminated wheat gluten - something that shouldn't even be in cat food to begin with!

The first thing that peeps learned on their journey was that a "raw diet" was the very best thing.  Some people make their own, but after peeps learned more about this, they didn't think it was for them. Trying to get all the vitamins and minerals just right so that we would all have a nutritionally complete diet scared them.  So next they checked out the commercially available raw diets. Peeps really didn't do a lot of research on these because financially, this just wasn't a feasible choice for us. we move on to the canned cat foods. The "meat" of this blog so to speak. ;)  Peeps found that there were basically three categories of canned food. Ultra-Premium, Premium and Supermarket.  If you look at the labels and follow the basic rules above, you should be able to tell which category a specific brand best fits into. Sometimes it's not black and white though. There are shades of grey...

For example, some of the grain-free brands end up being pretty high in fat.  Is it better to have grains or better to have higher fat?  Based on all the research peeps have done, higher fat would be the choice. Fat is normally a much better source of calories for a cat than carbs.  But, for someone like me (of the rotund variety), peeps want to be careful of too much fat in my diet so...that particular brand might not be the best choice for me all the time.  I need something without carbs/low in carbs but also lower in fat.  It's a cat food conundrum!  It goes without saying that peeps are still researching and trying to come up with just the right combination for all of us.  

Dinner time at my house

Ultra-Premium Foods
These brands can be found at specialty pet stores in your area and online and they provide the highest quality, healthiest, and most nutritious ingredients. They contain nutrient-rich ingredients such as real meat as the primary protein source, whole, fresh fruits and vegetables, and (if not grain-free) fiber-rich whole grains like brown rice. They don't contain artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors. They also don't contain wheat, corn or soy. They are usually fortified with additional vitamins and minerals and will use the best natural sources for fatty acids to support the immune system and help build healthy skin and a beautiful coat. You should expect to pay a little more for these brands than you would for other types of pet food, but remember, with healthier foods you can often feed less since they are more nutrient-dense.

Premium Foods
These brands are often found in high-end grocery stores, pet stores, and veterinarian offices and they contain higher-grade ingredients.  They contain real meat as the primary protein source, but may still include some elements of "supermarket" foods, such as artificial colors, artificial flavors, and chemical preservatives. They will also normally included a higher level of carbohydrates than "ultra-premium" foods with grains.  It's especially important to read the label when buying this category of canned cat food because there is a lot of variation.  These foods are usually more expensive than "supermarket" foods because their ingredients are of a higher quality.

Supermarket Foods
These brands are found in grocery stores and mass-market retailers and are typically made with lower-quality, less-digestible, inexpensive ingredients and, therefore, are a cheaper alternative. While easy on the pocketbook, these foods normally do not provide your cat with the healthiest, most nutrient-dense ingredients.

So there you have it.  I didn't feel comfortable throwing out brand names for each category because as I stated above...this is all just based on some research peeps did for us. If you follow the basic rules as much as possible then you'll find a good cat food that works for you.  I don't think there's any brand out there that is 100% perfect in every way.  If there is, peeps haven't found it yet!  Right now we're eating 3 different brands and peeps will probably be adding a 4th sometime soon.  Most of us will eat just about anything, but Louie and Max can make changing foods very challenging. Louie is just a picky eater, but before Max came to live with us, he ate one of the "supermarket" foods that tasted great, but offered little in nutritional value. Changing this diet was akin to feeding a child fast food for awhile and then trying to convince them that broccoli tastes just as good! ;) Mmm hmmm.  Not easy!! So...trying to find something more healthy that Max actually's always been a challenge and it probably always will be. And when you add in the big sad eyes that Max gives peeps when his food bowl isn't to his's scary stuff!  But so far, so good. He's slowly but surely starting to clean his bowl again with our new foods. :) 

And, just one last note...if you decide to change your cat's food, make sure to do it slowly - mixing in a little of the new food with a lot of the old food at first.  Then, sloooooowly, over time, give more new food and less old food until the old food is gone from the diet completely.  Obviously, in our case, we couldn't do this as slowly as peeps would have liked because of the recall, but we've all survived the injustice!  I don't mean to tattle on my siblings (ok...fine...I love doing it), but Polly's tail had to be...ummm...washed a few times, but that's the worst there was. She's a diva though, so what do you expect? ;)

Until next time...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Today's Special: Nothing But Trouble

Last night my extra fav peep put on an old shirt and noticed there was a jagged hole in the side.  After looking at it for a moment, the light bulb went off and they remembered where they'd gotten that hole...

The Joy of a Good Window
It was, for all intents and purposes, a normal Friday morning in August. The year was 2009.  Peeps were getting ready to eat breakfast and my sibs and I were all lying around the family room waiting for morsels.  It was hazy and rainy, but a bit cooler than normal. Peeps had even opened a window for us to enjoy a little fresh air (not really possible in August, but I digress) before the oppressive heat and humidity returned.  I, being a bit of a bully, had pushed everyone else out of the way so that I could actually sit in the window.  It was sublime.

As the daily activity went on around me, I was mesmerized by what was going on in the tree directly in front of me.  There was a birdie.  A pretty birdie. Hopping around in the tree. I knew I could reach out and touch it...if it weren't for the window screen.  But then the birdie started flitting around. Flit. Flitflit. Flit. Flitflitflit.  Little wings flapping. Chirping. It was more than any self-respecting cat could stand for! I decided then and there that I wanted to get up close and personal with the birdie.  You know...just to say "Hi. How ya doin'?"...that sort of thing.  Well, the next several seconds are all a blur to me, but here's what I remember:

I lunged for flitting birdie.
I heard a very strange sound - like a loud rip.
I was in the tree with the birdie.
I was sliding down the tree and the birdie had flown away.
I heard a scream.
I hit the ground.

The ground. Not the floor. Not the safe family room carpet. But the wet ground of...OUTSIDE.  I heard footsteps rushing down the front steps and got really scared so I ran. Ran fast. Very fast. Faster than peeps thought I could.  Thankfully I ran around to the back of the house, but I was out of sight before peeps even knew what hit them.  I was gone and peeps had no idea where I was. They were frantic!  As they ran around looking for me in the pouring rain, extra fav peep got in a fight with a fence (and from the look of things, the fence won), got a big scratch on their side and a jagged hole in their shirt.  They didn't even realize it at the time.

Naturally, I knew I was hiding under a bush several houses away, but peeps didn't.  I could hear them yelling for me. "Heeeeerbie. Heeeeerbie where are you?"  I was too scared to go out and find them so I just started meowing. I was soaking wet from the rain and absolutely miserable. I was thinking many things as I lay there.  My home that I loved so much was gone. I was on my own before I lived at the shelter.  Was there somewhere out here that I could get my whipped cream?  What about my canned dinner at 6pm?  Would someone deliver my bedtime snacks?  And where did I line up for hugs and kisses and warm blankets?  And what if...wait...hands.  There were hands coming thru the bush I was hiding under.  Familiar hands.  And a familiar voice was saying "Come here Herbie. It's ok. Come on."  And then I was out from under the bush.  And I was getting hugs and kisses and all sorts of good things.  And peeps were quickly carrying me back to my house. Oh boy! My house!  I didn't move a muscle while they carried me.  And if you know me, you know that I don't like to be picked up so this wasn't normal behavior for me.  I was so glad to be found. And when we got inside, peeps dried me off, all my sibs welcomed me home and I guessed it...a little dish of whipped cream!  All was right with the world.

"The Window" (you can see the rip where I fell thru in the bottom right corner above Max)
And so you see...that's what peep was thinking about last night when they saw the jagged hole in their shirt. They looked at me and said "Herbie, you're nothing but trouble" and they're right...but they love me anyway.

Until next time...