Warning: This is LENGTHY post. If you do not have a passion for animals and their health and well being (specifically cats) you will probably grow insanely bored...or possibly think I'm more insane than you already perceived.
As some of you know, I am in a quest to find a better cat food. I was going to mention it in my last post, but this will be long enough to be it's own post. We used to feed out cats Friskies dry food. That's all they got, aside from the random table scrap here and there. Our older cat, Tango, has feline allergies. At the time of his appointment ('07) the vet never said WHAT he was allergic to or how we could find out...just that he has chronic allergies that cause his lip to swell. She told us that the only treatment was a steroid shot that could alleviate symptoms, but this could also cause heart failure in young male cats. We decided that since he still ate and drank without problem that we wouldn't take the risk unless he got so uncomfortable that he couldn't maintain quality of life. She mentioned that we could give him children's Benedryl, but have you ever tried giving a cat Benedryl? I had to tackle him like a football player to keep from getting my face scratched off. So not worth it. He functions fine so we have no reason to mini sedate him just because of some swelling.
Some seasons his lip is fine, others it gets swollen and slightly infected, during which I make sure to vacuum and change the central a/c air filter more often. We usually have allergy flare ups at the same time. It's pathetic. He's usually less active and sleeps more during these flare ups. It's just something we've always dealt with. His fur used to get greasy because his lip causes him to drool a little more and though he still cleans quite often, it doesn't get healthy looking.
I started thinking about their health last year. I've spent so much time and energy (still am) into making myself the healthiest I can be, starting with my diet. While thinking about it, the cats ran by...Tango with his swollen lip and greasy fur...something we always thought normal for him. Then it occurred to me (because my parents are uneducated in *actual* animal care and health) that the cats deserve the best care and diet we can afford them also. Food is the best medicine.
I Googled something like "best brand of food for cats" which brought up pages and pages of information, none of which I expected to find. The first website I came across had stated within the first paragraph that cats should NEVER have dry food. She was obviously very passionate about it so I took her as an extremist and searched other sources. Everywhere you look in regards to a close to natural diet for cats states the same. Cats are not to eat dry food. This is completely contrary to what I grew up knowing. It makes sense. They haven't evolved so much that we can disregard their heritage and primal diet. They are obligate carnivores. Even though they thrive on our poison, they don't really LIVE as such. Then food allergies started popping up. Apparently a great number of felines have grain allergies...mostly corn. They do okay at first, but their bodies start to revolt and develop allergies...just like people with peanuts, etc., then they end up with skin conditions and health problems.
I looked at our Friskies that we've been feeding them for years. Corn is the FIRST ingredient. I immediately felt horrible for not thinking about them sooner. I almost cried...in fact, I may have done just that. It never once occurred to me that we could be poisoning the two creatures we loved so unconditionally. Unfortunately, that's what commercialism does. It promotes products that are profit to them, no matter who it negatively affects. The pet food industry is also self regulated. Absolutely ridiculous. I'm not going to go into too much more detail about that. Research it yourself. Information is everywhere.
It all boiled down to choices. Most sites say that the worst quality canned food is better than the best quality wet food. This is because canned food does not require grain fillers, making their carb percentage already much much lower than dry food counterparts. It's also better because in nature, cats eat moisture with their food, not drink water separately. Canned food tackles both. Some canned foods do have some wheat and grain, but for the most part, they are still lower in the essential percentage.
I still wasn't convinced so we started switching their dry food to an all natural, grain free brand. We also introduced canned food as part of their daily food in the evenings. The dry food had chicken and whole foods in the ingredient list, far superior to the corn based Friskies. We began noticing differences in the cats. They eat less, and their fur is looking much better! Tango's lip doesn't stay swollen near as much, but mostly importantly, if it IS swollen, it isn't gross and infected looking. It was a great turning point.
However, it's been a slow process. Now I'm looking at the fact that grain free doesn't mean much in terms of allergies (if food is even the problem) because the canned food we can afford right now has wheat in it. The dry food also has a pretty high carbohydrate percentage, though not near as much as other brands. Also, just because a food is "grain free" doesn't mean it's low carb. They still include hypoallergenic starches like potatoes to hold the food together.
This goes into last night's task. I'm just going to copy and paste what I was originally going to put in my earlier post :)
I weighed the cats last night. This involved stepping on the scale, finding a cat, getting back on the scale, and taking the difference. My scale is really consistent, meaning I can step on the scale 10 times and it will read the same thing it did the first 9 times, so I feel the cat weights are accurate. Kurumi, the most practical of the two cats, had a complete fit. I don't think she liked what she saw on the scale ;) In preparation for Tango's flailing refusal, I scruffed him and supported him underneath with my other hand (Rumi is hard to efficiently scruff...Tango is apparently used to it). He walked away calm as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. No attempts to flail. Kurumi refused treats and Tango devoured them. It was weird and completely opposite of what I expected. Kurumi began to suck up an hour or so later. She loves me too much to stay away. So cute.
Anyway, I weighed the cats because I'm hoping to put them on an all wet food/raw diet. They're supposed to eat 3/4 to 1oz of food per pound of body weight so I'm trying to figure out how much damage this decision will make financially. I may be stuck feeding them how we are currently feeding them with 1/2 wet, 1/2 dry. While I was initially happy with the profile of our current dry food, I no longer think it's a good decision. Upon further inspection of the nutrient profile, the carbohydrate percentage is way too high. Tango has started throwing up whole food. I don't think it's because he eats too quickly because dry food is openly available at all times. I think it's because the food isn't digesting properly so he's throwing it up. Cats aren't made to digest carbs.
The second paragraph is what made me realize that it would need a whole other post :P Results of the weigh in are as follows. Kurumi is 9.2 lbs and Tango is 11.4 lbs. This means I will need 15.5-20 (roughly) ounces of wet food a day. Right now we are spending about $40 on cat food between the all natural dry and the canned. They will need 4-5 cans of middle sized cans between the two of them each day. If I go with the can vs dry sentiment and drop the dry food altogether, but use the same brand of can food it will go to $60-$75. If we convert to all natural, grain free canned food it will go up to $180 give or take. That's a HUGE difference, and honestly not affordable for us. If I go with larger cans of the cheaper of naturals it will be about $94. Still double. If I feed exclusively dry (7% carbs) it will only be a little more than our current bill. So it's a toss up.
Oh, another option is frozen raw food, but the closest place that carries it is 40+ minutes from where I live. This is ultimately the best option and would cost about what they're getting now...I think I'm still looking into it. But, do I want to drive out of town two weekends a month to get it. Also, do I want to risk bacteria around the house. Food to mouth, mouth to paw, paw to couch/bed, bed to hand, hand to face/mouth while sleeping, bacteria enters system and makes me ill.
I'm trying not to make myself crazy over it all, but geez. It's more complicated than feeding myself and I want them around and healthy as long as they possibly can be. I also understand that these increased monthly investments into their health can prevent all sorts of illness and disease that accompanies dry fed cats as they age such as diabetes and urine crystals, etc.
I think typing this all out helped me answer my questions. I want the best that we can afford...that's all we can do...the best foods in our budget. Blarg. $40 was already a big jump from the $12 bag of Friskies and we adjusted to that okay. I'm going to go call the store with the frozen raw food for a price check.
Have a good Wednesday!