As founder of Feline Nutrition, I spend a lot of time thinking about cats. They are a huge part of my life and I confess we have quite a few, eleven actually. My focus is always on nutrition, but you can't spend time with cats without having them worm their way into every aspect of your life. Ask most people, and they will tell you that their cats are part of the family. Ours certainly are. In my opinion, a house without cats is just a house, it's not a home.
One of the reasons that nutrition is so important for cats is that, as pets go, they live a long time. Currently, our cats are all five or six years old. I fully expect to have the same eleven cats in fifteen years, maybe even in twenty years. Barring accidents, all cats should live into their twenties. This means that they are going to go through old age and, just like people, they are going to need to stay healthy to make the best of their senior years. Proper nutrition plays a huge role their health.
Here are some of my thoughts about cats, cat food and what we can learn from our furry family members.
I Worry About My Cat
The primary things that cats worry about are food and safety. I delved into those worries in my last post
. Basically, for a cat, that means eat and don’t get eaten by someone else. These concerns explain why cats can be so skittish and why they startle so easily. They know they are prey and quick reactions are life and death. It also explains why food can be such a bonding tool with your cat. Being the one who feeds the cat really does give you a leg-up on being at the top of your cat’s favorite person list. But, what do you
worry about when it comes to your cat? Safety is certainly a top concern. Most people cat-proof their house to some degree: making sure the cat can’t get trapped in a closet, walk on a hot burner, topple furniture onto themselves, eat poisonous plants or escape outside. Even for those who do let their cats out, an easy way back into the safety of the house is...
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Your Cat Worries About This
Everyone who shares their life with cats at some point wonders how cats see the world. In the literal sense, they do see it differently than we do. Their distance vision is blurry, their close-up vision is pretty bad, too. They don't see the colors we do. But, vision is not really what I am thinking about. I'm thinking more about their outlook – what they care about. What do cats think is important in life?
My answer would be two things: food and safety. They are not unusual in this; it's what almost all animals, people included, care about. With cats though, the two may intersect in ways you might not think of. A problem in one area may drastically impact the other. Take safety. Most people wouldn't immediately think of this as a priority in a cat's life, but it actually controls a lot of cat...
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Your Kitty May Need to Go to Chunk School
I frequently get asked "How do I get my cat to eat meat chunks and raw meaty bones?" I'm glad to hear this question because it means people understand how important it is for a cat's dental health to do some chewing. It's also important for their psychological health. Imagine if you only ever got to eat soft foods. Cats evolved powerful jaws that can slice through meat, skin, tendons and bones, yet we have mostly taken away any opportunity for them to actually use their teeth. This can't be healthy physically or mentally.
Some of my cats dove right in to eating chunks and meaty bones. Others had to be, in essence, taught. In the wild, a mother cat would bring prey to her kittens to teach them these essential life skills. Kittens have the instinct to hunt, but aren't...
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Are Cats Clandestine Consumers?
I once met with a representative from a meat producer trade group. I thought they might be interested in the work Feline Nutrition was doing to educate people on feeding raw meat diets to pets. One of the questions I asked was whether they had any figures on the amounts or percentages of human-grade meat that was being purchased for pets by consumers. The rep looked genuinely surprised by the question, like it had never occurred to them to ask this particular question. It turned out that it was something they didn't track at all.
Maybe the rep from the meat industry wasn't surprised by the question, but only surprised that someone was asking it. They may be very aware that this is going on, even if they don't actually track the figures. Maybe they don't...
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Dry Cat Food - The Big Easy
The hook that gets most people snagged into feeding cats dry food: it's easy. Okay, it's extremely easy. You can feed the cat in under five seconds. The cat seems to like it, too. It's hard to fight against that. We are all busy, some of us ridiculously so. Easy is a big deal.
Once you do get it through to people that dry food is not what cats should be eating, one of the first worries that people have – whether they admit it or not – is that feeding the cat will become a lot of work. Almost everyone who is at this stage has already realized that their cat can't stay on dry food, no matter how convenient it is. When we outline transitioning a cat to a raw meat diet from a dry kibble diet, we always recommend an intermediate step of going to a...
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Eight Cat Curiosities
I have had cats my whole life. Except for a brief period in my younger days in a no-pets apartment, they have always been there. There are pictures of me as a baby snuggled up to a kitty bigger than I was. As a child, my father insisted that the cats go outside at night - sigh - it was a different era. But, I kept the window open in my room to let them back in.
One of the most heartbreaking experiences I ever had as a child was leaving a house we stayed in for the summer without one of our cats. Tigger, at the time less than a year old and not neutered yet, ran away or got lost in the woods days before we had to leave. We searched valiantly, but could not find him. We hoped a nearby farmer had taken him in, but we never knew...
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Cats and Cantaloupe: A Method in their Madness
One of the things that we hear about all of the time is the strange things that cats will eat. If you've had cats for any length of time you have undoubtedly experienced this. Not just the odd items in the meat category, such as grasshoppers and frogs, but also things like broccoli and string beans. However, the single food item that seems to come up again and again is cantaloupe. Having a cat that wants to eat something unusual now and then doesn't seem that implausible. They are individuals and subject to the variations in behavior that entails.
But to have cats from all different parts of the world, in the past and the present, seemingly unable to resist cantaloupe, has to be more than just...
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The Myth of the Finicky Cat
One of the questions I get asked most is what to do about a cat that doesn't want to eat the new raw meat diet you are offering. I hear words like "stubborn" and "finicky." While that may describe what's going on, it is from a decidedly human perspective. I think it's time to delve into a little cat psychology to help us understand what's happening in that little kitty brain.
People like to say that cats are creatures of habit. I would agree, but habit isn't quite the right word. Cats stick with what works. That kind of behavior makes a lot of sense for them and they learn what works pretty early in their lives. It's especially true when it comes to food. Notice I say "learn." While cats are predators and have a hunter's natural instincts, those instincts are basic. They learn the...
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Falling Off the Recipe Cliff
If you're making homemade raw food for your cats, you are following a recipe. At least, I sincerely hope you are. Not following one can be disastrous for your cat. Recipes matter. You really can't just feed whatever you want. We don't recommend trying to formulate one from scratch. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is rocket science. Part of our whole message is that you don't have to have an advanced degree in nutrition to feed your cat properly. That's the argument that big pet food tries to use to discredit homemade raw diets. They say it shouldn't be left to amateurs. By that logic, no mother should be allowed to take her infant home from the hospital. She isn't qualified to feed it.
Feeding your cat a balanced homemade diet really isn't that hard, but you...
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Cat Daddy Talks Cat Diet!
You have undoubtedly heard of Jackson Galaxy. Jackson has spent the past fifteen years helping people solve feline – and also human – behavior problems, so that people and their cats can live in harmony.
All of that experience getting into kitty minds finally resulted in his Animal Planet show "My Cat from Hell
." His show has helped people everywhere understand their cats and why they do what they do. We think what he does is terrific. Anything that helps cats stay in their homes and be happy is something we applaud. Feline Nutrition also wants cats to be happy and healthy, but we focus on diet.
Jackson is a long-standing advocate of feeding cats bio-appropriate diets. He...
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Is Your Tabby a Tiger in Disguise?
I have been a fan of this great organization for a long time. They provide a home for more than 100 exotic cats and are dedicated to ending big cat abuse. I've read Carole's story of how she got started and the learning she went through as the organization grew. One of the things I admire about Big Cat Rescue is how smart Carole has been about making sure the organization can provide for the cats. It takes a lot of money, time and dedication to care for big cats. It's not a mission for the faint of heart. A number of the cats at her facility came from other rescues that just couldn't provide for the...
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Go Go Go on Animal Wise Radio!
Margaret Gates, founder of Feline Nutrition, joins Mike Fry and Beth Nelson on a new Animal Wise Radio
show which aired on Sunday, June 1, 2014. Animal Wise Radio is a weekly, two-hour live show that airs every Sunday at noon Central. Produced by Animal Ark
, Minnesota's first and largest no-kill shelter, the show not only covers news from the no-kill shelter movement, but a range of topics on animal care, wildlife and environmental issues. Animal Wise Radio streams live 24/7
, and has a podcast archive
Margaret talks about how Feline Nutrition was founded, the importance of proper nutrition for cats and Feline Nutrition's Indiegogo Campaign. She outlines the role of the campaign in Feline Nutrition's efforts to reach new pet parents by...
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The Popularity of Poop
Feline Nutrition posted a new video at our YouTube Channel
. So far, "The Poop Question
" has gotten more than 2300 views in just two weeks, which is ten times what any of our other videos got in their first two weeks. Poop is popular.
We launched our Channel as a way to reach people who feed raw meat diets and, importantly, to reach those who are thinking about making the switch. Videos make information more accessible and we want to get our message to as many people as possible. Besides, there are many things that are easier to show than to try to explain in just words.
I have been looking to understand why this particular video, released...
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Margaret Talks Foundation and Dry Food Recalls on Animal Wise Radio
Margaret Gates, the founder of Feline Nutrition, appeared on Animal Wise Radio
on Sunday, May 6, 2012. Margaret spoke with hosts Mike Fry and Beth Nelson about the Diamond dry food recall, as well as the new Feline Nutrition Foundation.
The show is a service of Animal Ark
in Hastings, Minnesota, the largest no-kill, raw-savvy shelter in the Twin Cities. We think the world of them, and we encourage members of the Society to check out the show and to support their wonderful shelter.
Listen to or download Margaret's May 6, 2012 interview on Animal Wise...
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The Future is Now! Margaret on Animal Wise Radio
Margaret Gates, the founder of the Feline Nutrition Education Society, appeared on Animal Wise Radio
on Sunday, July 10, 2011. Mike and Beth talked with Margaret about the importance of science, diet and its relationship to disease, as well as the benefits of a bio-appropriate diet.
Animal Wise Radio is a weekly, two-hour live show that airs every Sunday at noon Central. Produced by Animal Ark
, Minnesota's first and largest no-kill shelter, the show not only covers news from the no-kill shelter movement, but a range of topics on animal care, wildlife and environmental issues.
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TeleSeminar: Benefits of a Raw Diet for Cats
Join Margaret as she is interviewed by Ingrid King in an online teleseminar. Ingrid is the author of the book Buckley's Story, Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher
, a celebration of the connection between animals and humans. Margaret's interview, "Benefits of a Raw Diet for Cats," is the fourth in a series of teleseminars, all of which are available at Ingrid's site The Conscious Cat
. Margaret discusses the dangers of dry food diets, dispelling some of the myths surrounding kibble-type foods. Next she presents the benefits of a raw diet for your cat. Margaret answers questions about the practical aspects of feeding raw diets, including easy commercially prepared and homemade foods, transitioning your cat, pathogen and parasite concerns and the relationship between diet and disease. The entire program clocks in at a bit over 44 minutes. Be sure to recommend this...
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The Most Important Member, You
When I started the Feline Nutrition Education Society in 2008, one of the first things we had to do was name the organization. People usually don't think about the naming of things, and how much a name can influence the character of a person or a group. Names matter. I thought long and hard about it. The Feline Nutrition part came naturally; that is the core of what we are all about. We chose feline over cat, as feline evokes the scientific and science is at the core of our world view. Education was what we intended to do and are doing now.
After going through all the possible choices for the last word — organization, association, group, and more — we realized that Society was the only choice. We are a society in the most literal definition: a group of people distinguished by...
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You Said You Feed Your Cat, What?
Recently I read about a survey
that questioned people on their cat nutrition knowledge.¹
That the survey was done by Purina gave me pause, but the answers they got didn't surprise me all that much. Most people have never thought a lot about what they feed their cats. They buy what's in the grocery store. You know, the stuff with the healthy sounding names and the nice pictures. It couldn't be sold if it wasn't good for your cat, right?
You might think I'm passing judgment, but I'm not. I used to be that person. I know how they got there. I understand them. They are good people that just need to have their eyes opened. To be shown the truth in a way that makes them stop and see what is really going on, right before their...
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Oh! Those Dirty Little Kittens!
You may have heard of the hygiene hypothesis. The theory is that exposure to dirt and germs early in life helps to prevent allergies later in life — your immune system needs to be "trained" at an early age to fight off allergens.¹
The idea came about partly from the observation that children who grew up on farms had a much lower incidence of allergies than children who grew up in cleaner environments, without as much exposure to naturally occurring germs. There are several studies that conclude that infants exposed to multiple pets, cats or dogs, have fewer allergies as adults.²
Two recent studies add to this idea. One shows that it may apply to creatures other than humans. The hygiene hypothesis may go far beyond just...
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