Have you been following my advice to feed only the highest quality canned food to your cats? Have you chosen a food high in good quality protein and low in carbohydrates? Good for you! But wait! Have you been “cheating” on your cat by picking up kitty junk food in the supermarket and then feeding her addictive cat treats made of god-knows-what ingredients?! Uh-oh.
Kathleen in Carson, California wrote to say that “After listening to your shows we feed grain-free canned food. But we still have health issues!”
Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, my co-host on CAT CHAT, has been helping me get kitties like Kathleen’s to kick the dry food habit and embrace good canned food for their cats. But somehow we never made it clear that the treats they might be sneaking to their pussycats do just as much harm as poor food choices. Kathleen went on, “We now have a serious problem because my cat’s urinary pH is too high and the vet says she needs more acidity to minimize or eliminate crystals in her bladder and urinary tract and wants her to eat the dry prescription food he sells.”
“My cat’s doctor questions my parenting because I don’t want to feed her the dry prescription food that has both grain and by-products,” Kathleen added.
“How do I increase the acidity in her urine? What food or supplement will do this? Please help, I love my baby, and I’m tempted to feed her what the doctor is pushing just so she won’t hurt.”
Dr. Elizabeth was a real Sherlock Holmes when she asked the $ 64,000 question: what else is Kathleen feeding her kitty besides the canned food? Dr. Hodgkins said, “A meat based diet will produce a normal urine pH. Sometimes owners are feeding highly processed carbohydrate snack foods that are engineered to be very addictive. The owner sees the cat’s positive reaction and keeps giving snack food treats to a cat like this, not realizing that those can contribute to the health issues, too. Freeze dried meat treats like Halo Liv-a-Littles or small pieces of actual meat, chicken or cheese are the only treats a cat should be getting besides their canned diet.”
Kathleen replied, “I am eternally grateful for the advice, and now am a bit sheepish because my Valentine goes crazy for those soft, chewy, brightly colored treats from the supermarket.”
“My Val has us trained: I take my vitamins in the morning and she gets a treat. Bed time? I take a pill – Val? yep she wants her ‘pills’ too.” We’re leaving the house for the day? Oh yeah, treat time, You see where I’m going with this. Meanwhile, I’ll switch my sweet Val to healthy Liv-a-Little freeze dried meat snacks, even though she was more interested in the junk food commercial treats. Tracie, this is an important message to your listeners: if you’re doing the right thing with their food, you can sabotage and undermine it with “just a little treat, ” that has been crafted to get a cat hooked.”
Dr. Elizabeth recommended, “Encourage Kathleen to crumble a freeze dried treat on the canned food at first to get her kitties accustomed to the differences in odor and texture between a natural meat treat and a highly processed one.”
“This will, I would bet money, get them switched to the better treats in a short time. And she could try several of the meat types since some cats show definite preferences for chicken over beef, or salmon. Of course, if they don’t warm up to them right away, they really won’t suffer by not having treats. Sure, we like to show love through food, for our pets and our human loved ones, but that does not mean they are necessary for good health. Feeding a very low carb all meat diet is the best “treat” you can give your kitty for a long, healthy life.”
Tracie Hotchner is the author of THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is also a renowned pet radio host and producer, having spent 7 years on the Martha Stewart Channel of Sirius/XM with CAT CHAT® and even longer with her award-winning NPR radio show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) that continues to broadcast in the Hamptons and the Berkshires. Her most recent accomplishment is the pet talk radio network she has created on the Internet called The Radio Pet Lady Network.