DEAR DR. FOX: I have adopted two 1-year-old rescue cats, and I am overwhelmed by all of the conflicting advice one reads regarding cat food.
I am realistically not going to be able to make the food myself. I buy premium-brand dry food; I feed them 1/4 cup in the morning before I go to work, and then I give them another 1/4 cup plus half a can of premium-brand wet food after work. I was buying grain-free only, but my vet said that cats get grains in the wild -- for example, they'll eat birds that have grains in their stomachs, so the cats are also ingesting the grains -- so going completely grain-free is not necessary.
I stand in the pet food aisle completely confused by all the choices. Should I switch them to wet food only? How much? Are there brands you recommend? -- M.K., Washington, D.C.
DEAR M.K.: Your veterinarian is only half right -- the amount of cereal grains and cheap soy protein in far too many cat foods is very much more than wild cats would ever consume if and when they eat the gut contents of their prey. For more details, visit feline-nutrition.org.
Canned foods are generally low on cereals and better for cats than conventional kibble. Look out for and avoid grain-free dry foods that are high in other starches such as potato, pea flour and tapioca. Newman's Own canned cat food has some organic ingredients now, and Wellness canned cat foods are quite good. Dry Orijen cat food is acceptable, and I do like some of the new generation freeze-dried and frozen cat foods available in some pet stores.
I hope this helps, and yes, it is overwhelming when you go into a large pet supply store and see all the different varieties of cat and dog food to choose from, and it's confusing when veterinarians are still selling biologically inappropriate pet foods, high in cereals and soy protein, to their clients.
DEAR DR. FOX: I lost my dog, a chocolate Lab, to old age, and I was deeply hurt. I had this dog from his puppyhood until maturity (14 years), and I trained him very well as a guard dog.
Ever since his death, I've searched for a new dog, wondering if I would even like to have another. I signed up at the Humane Society of Missouri here in St. Louis, and I have fostered eight dogs, one at a time, to heal myself. I am still hesitant to adopt one. Right now, I am fostering a dachshund who was a stray dog that someone turned in to the pound. Due to my working hours, I spend nine to 10 hours out of the house at a time, depending on the traffic.
You've commented before on leaving dogs alone for long periods of time. What do you think about my situation where I am away for many hours? The dog is already well behaved, well trained and knows to control his poop and pee. I am feeling bad about this. -- H.C., St. Louis
DEAR H.C.: Good for you for being a dog foster parent; it's so helpful for many dogs to get out of noisy animal shelters and into a safe home environment, where they can recover from abandonment issues.
Being away for up to 10 hours during the workweek could be very problematic for some dogs, possibly triggering separation anxiety. Keeping the dog in a crate during that time, as many people do, is an act of cruelty. Leave on the radio or TV while you are gone, and ideally have someone come over to walk the dog during the day.
Consider having two dogs in your foster care so they can have each other for company, or keep one that really connects with you as your permanent companion and canine ambassador to welcome future dogs needing a temporary home prior to adoption.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)