DEAR DR. FOX: I am a new owner of a rescued cat, as well as a dog I inherited from my aunt. Both get on so well, and give me all the love and attention I could have ever hoped for in this time of shutdowns and isolation.
Now for my question: My cat’s poop is so hard when I clean out her litter box (twice daily, as you recommend), while my dog’s poop in my yard is firm but still somewhat soft. So is my cat constipated? Should I worry? Both get mainly canned, moist food, along with some soaked, freeze-dried food and only a little dry, organic kibble (one for cats, one for dogs).
Also, I sneeze more lately, and wonder if I am allergic to the cat. What do you think about giving her Purina’s new LiveClear kibble? -- K.L.C., Trenton, New Jersey
DEAR K.L.C.: What you are seeing is the biological, metabolic difference between cats and dogs. Domesticated cats, originally a desert species, conserve water and absorb moisture from their stools before evacuation. So their feces are very firm. The feral cats my wife and I rescued always had very dry stools, which they buried with great diligence in their litter boxes.
Firm stools should be no cause for concern, except when cats are just fed dry kibble and do not drink sufficient water to properly hydrate. Such cats can have very concentrated urine, which can cause inflammation of the urinary bladder (cystitis) and pain when they urinate. They can also become severely constipated, leading to pain when they try to poop. Fecal retention can even become toxic and require veterinary treatment. Cats suffering from any of these ailments often learn to associate pain with the litter box, so they urinate and poop elsewhere in the home -- in turn leading to them being unfairly punished, abandoned outdoors, given up for adoption or even euthanized, which is absurd.
On the other hand, cats with diarrhea could be in crisis if it is not resolved. The cat should fast for 24 hours, and then be offered salt-free homemade chicken or turkey bouillon, meaty baby food or a sardine canned in water.
Clinically serious diarrhea is more likely in cats allowed outdoors, who are exposed to infectious, free-roaming cats carrying various viruses -- including, potentially, the SARS-CoV-2 virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic. All cats should be kept within their owners’ property so that if the cat becomes sick with diarrhea, there are fewer possibilities as to the cause.
Loose stools, and even blood in diarrhea, are often quickly resolved by the fasting and bouillon routine described above. Then put the cat on a biologically appropriate, moist or freeze-dried diet. Many pet foods cause these problems in the first place, containing high levels of corn and soy and grains from genetically modified crops contaminated with herbicide and insecticide residues. Singly and collectively, these ingredients cause dysbiosis and inflammatory bowel disorders, as well as weaken immune systems. On occasion, such foods are contaminated with salmonella, which can give the entire family diarrhea.
No cat should be fed a dry-kibble-only diet. I worry about Purina’s widely advertised LiveClear kibble, which has an additive they claim makes cats “47% less allergenic to people who are allergic to cat dander.” This kibble contains rice, corn gluten meal, poultry byproduct meal, wheat flour, dried egg product, beef fat preserved with mixed tocopherols, soy protein concentrate, liver flavor and caramel color, some of which we know could make some cats sick. Glutens and gliadins are associated with inflammatory bowel disease in dogs, also.
My solution for cat allergies is to wipe the cat down morning and evening with a moist sponge to remove the dander (essentially dried cat saliva from self-grooming). Get a room humidifier in cold, dry weather, and vacuum well once a week. Keep cotton towels where your cat likes to lie, and launder them regularly. Many people, including children, eventually become desensitized to cat dander and their allergy goes away.
DOG’S DEVOTION DURING PANDEMIC
A dog in Turkey followed an ambulance carrying her owner to a hospital. She was taken home, but she returned to the hospital each day and waited outside while her owner was treated for COVID-19. Hospital staff fed the dog and allowed the owner to see her through a window until he was discharged. (Full story: CNN, Jan. 23)
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