DEAR READERS: Since I shared my basic dog food recipe last week, I thought it was only fair to give one for cats. For additional details, check my website, www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.
1 whole chicken, cut in pieces, or 1 pound hamburger, ground lamb or turkey
1 cup chopped chicken hearts and gizzards
1/2 cup peas, chickpeas or lentils
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon fish oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped canned clams in juice
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, lactate or human-grade bone meal
Combine all above ingredients. Add enough water to cover ingredients. Simmer, stir and add more water as needed until cooked and thickened. Add an egg or 1 cup of cottage cheese. Immediately after cooking and cooling, debone the chicken parts, but do not feed your cat the cooked bones since they can splinter and cause internal injury. Add a few drops of fish oil after the stew has cooled to room temperature. Stew should be thick enough to be molded into 1/2-cup muffin-size patties. You can add a little oatmeal, bran or mashed potatos to thicken if needed. (Note: Some cats are allergic to fish, corn, beef and dairy products.)
Freeze the patties and thaw as needed. Serve one patty to your cat three times per week with regular food.
Transitioning your cat onto the new diet should be done gradually to allow for adaptation and avoid aversion and digestive problems that a sudden dietary change may cause. Mix increasing amounts of your cat's new food with decreasing amounts of the old food over a seven-day period.
DEAR DR. FOX: My two female cats, Angel and Melon, have been constantly licking and biting themselves for a number of years, creating bald areas and sores on their legs (and on Melon's stomach).
They have had blood allergy tests that indicated they are allergic to ragweed, goldenrod, birch and mulberry trees, June grass, penicillium mold, fleas and black ants. Since they are strictly indoor cats, their contact with any of these is extremely low. In foods, they tested at high levels for milk, pork, potato, wheat and barley.
Over the years, their vets have prescribed various medications (amitriptyline, Xanax) that had no effect. A combination of prednisolone and Clavamox has worked in the short term, reducing the amount of licking and healing sores, but when they're finished, they revert back to licking.
I vary their foods among Natural Balance duck and green pea, Wellness Core turkey and chicken, Evo turkey and chicken and California Natural chicken and rice. Because they are allergic to potato, I will eliminate the Core from their diet.
I would appreciate any suggestions on how to treat Angel and Melon. My male cat (Melon's brother) does not have this problem. -- J.A.W., Annandale, Va.
DEAR J.A.W.: I realize you have spent much time and money trying to find a cure for your two cats. When allergies like these are diagnosed, it is surprising how many allergens in a cat's environment and diet may be identified. There could be one particular trigger that impaired their normal immune system function, opening the door to allergic reactions to an increasing number of substances.
Contact allergies to various floor cleaners, scented products from cat litter and wool in materials such as upholstery and blankets -- these are all worth addressing. An air ionizer may help.
I would also advise getting your cats used to a few drops of fish oil in their food, increasing the amount to about 1 teaspoon daily -- this is a supplement with almost miraculous benefits for many cats with skin problems. With older cats, a blood test for thyroid disease is advisable since hyperthyroidism can be associated with skin hypersensitivity and excessive licking. Giving them clean cotton sheets to lie on may also give some relief.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a small reticulated python. After the last time it shed its skin, it seemed like some is left on the eyes. Should I try to take it off myself, or is it best left alone? -- W.M., Fort Myers, Fla.
DEAR W.M.: Any local pet store that sells snakes or the municipal zoo should be able to refer you to a veterinarian who has experience treating snakes. Even though most do not, all "exotic" animals should have professional advice when health issues arise. You could also contact any local veterinary hospital and ask for a referral.
Most likely, your snake has not gone through a normal skin-shedding cycle, which can be disrupted by the snake's environment being too dry or the animal not having suitable rough surfaces (like rocks and tree branches) to rub against. The modified skin over the eyes (called "spectacles") has been retained. Trying to pull them off could damage the corneas and result in ulceration, scarring and loss of vision.
Purchase over-the-counter human ocular lubricant and apply three to four times daily. Make sure the snake's enclosure is humid and suitable objects for the snake to rub against are included. If the spectacles have not been shed in 10 to 14 days, a veterinary specialist should examine your snake for possible eye infection causing the spectacles to continue to adhere to the surface of each eye.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.)