DEAR DR. FOX: When I started my first household with cats in the '80s, prevailing wisdom was that upgrading the cats' diet to a higher protein (and significantly more expensive) brand was healthier. Plus, the cats would eat less and use the litter box less often. It was also said that varying their diets caused GI distress, and again, resulted in a messier litter box. I want to know if you think this was true and if the contents of the popular brands have changed since the 1980s. -- D.A., High Point, North Carolina
DEAR D.A.: Your question is relevant to both cat and dog food quality and animals' nutritional needs, as I have documented with two other veterinarians in our book "Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Foods." A snapshot between the 1980s and today, spanning around 30 years, does not give a very good picture, as I predicted in my 1986 book "Agricide: The Hidden Farm and Food Crisis That Affects us All."
Petrochemical-based agriculture, with its synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, has turned good farmland into bio-industrialized wastelands, contaminating both our food and water. Nutrient values of crops and foods have declined and consumer risks have increased with genetically modified crops. Cruel farm animal factories have spread like a blight across rural America, causing further soil, water and air pollution, contributing to climate change and putting consumers at risk from the tons of antibiotics and other drugs used to make them productive and profitable. Outrageous! The health of the public and companion animals have suffered some of the consequences of this "agricide," compounded by increased consumption of highly processed foods and unbalanced diets. This is why I am an advocate for organic and humane farming systems and vegetarianism. For more details, check my website, DrFoxVet.net.
You are correct that for cats especially, many advocate a better-quality, high-protein and ideally canned food diet -- dry kibble is higher in fiber, leading to more feces. Switching diets and brands is debated; some contend it could cause digestive problems, while others advocate for variety. I, for one, promote the idea of rotating to provide variety of nutrient sources to possibly reduce food intolerance and reduce the chances of possible nutrient deficiencies and imbalances. There are many improved cat and dog foods now available. For details, visit truthaboutpetfood.com and my website for home-prepared recipes.
DEAR DR. FOX: A few weeks back, you had an article on cat litters, where you discussed the problems with the unfortunate dust packaged with the litter as a result of manufacturing. The breeder for my ocicat suggested using rabbit food (alfalfa grass pellets) as an alternative. The argument was that it was cheaper and biodegradable. My cat is familiar with it, and it has seemed to work fine for 12 years now. I am not convinced that it is completely biodegradable, and it needs to be changed more often, since it is not as absorbent. But it is cheaper, and the smell of fresh rabbit food is a pleasant alternative to clay litter. -- J.H., Clinton, Missouri
DEAR J.H.: This is indeed a novel idea. Certainly the sweet smell of the rabbit feed would be a good cat-box odor cutter, but probably not as absorbent as the "clumping" litter many people use.
As per my earlier column, I was especially impressed with Healthy Pet LP's wood pulp and recycled wood-based cat litter products, which also have a good natural resin scent, which acts as an odor blocker. Maybe try mixing the two so you can have some easy-to-remove clumps of litter rather than a mush of rabbit food.
(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 DrFoxVet.net.)