DEAR DR. FOX: My cat passed away a few weeks ago. She had been drinking lots of water, and the vet wanted us to measure how much, but I found that difficult and didn’t follow through. Everything else seemed OK, except she would occasionally vomit if she ate too fast.
She ate canned cat food, mostly the fish kinds, though she would usually just eat the gravy and very little fish. I was wasting a lot of food. I would rotate between the turkey and salmon varieties of the more expensive brands, plus smaller cans of different kind of grilled fish with gravy.
One day, I accidentally picked up several cans of the beef kind. I had never tried her on beef, but I gave her a small amount of it. I figured she could handle a little bit. She loved it and ate it, gravy and all, immediately. I was so happy to see her enjoy her food and eat the whole thing that I let her eat the rest of the small can without any gradual transition from the fish. A couple of days later, in the middle of the night, she became very ill. My husband took her to the emergency vet hospital, but she died on the way.
My question is: Did I kill my cat by feeding her beef without slowly transitioning from fish? And do you think feeding her mostly fish could have raised her mercury levels too high?
I am so sorry I didn’t do a better job of taking care of her. I have only been a cat parent when they choose me, and several have. Now I am living with regret, and am asking you to please help me understand what might have happened. We didn’t do an autopsy, so there is no way to know for sure. -- C.T., Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
DEAR C.T.: I am so sorry about the loss of your cat. She most likely had chronic kidney disease, which is why she was drinking so much water, possibly complicated by diabetes.
Regarding her diet: Many cats do not like fish, and tuna should be avoided since it is high in brain- and kidney-damaging mercury. I doubt this was an acute allergic reaction to beef. Most likely, her kidneys could not handle the high protein load from the beef she ate, which lead to uremic poisoning. It is unfortunate that the veterinarian did not test your cat’s kidney function early on, and put her on a special renal diet to avoid this health crisis.
Do not blame yourself. You did your best for your beloved feline companion.
DEAR DR. FOX: Scott Loss and I mentioned you in our article in Tulsa Pets Magazine, which refuted a prior article that had supported TNR (trap, neuter, release). I wanted to share the article with you: 4legspublishing.com/magazines/TulsaPets-Magazine-March-2021/14/
Thanks for all your continued great work on behalf of animal welfare! How is the cat sanctuary project going? -- P.G., Tulsa, Oklahoma
DEAR P.G.: You wrote an excellent article in this very beautiful and informative publication. I wish every large city could have such publications to educate residents about dogs, cats, wildlife and “pest” issues.
I will send your letter on to Julie Marvets, who is building a larger cat sanctuary in Minnesota (furballfarmpetsanctuary.com), effectively re-homing over 80% of cats that had been released by TNR-practicing animal shelters. I am also sending it to local leaders in the TRE movement -- trap, neuter, enclose -- which works in opposition to the annual release of some 1,000 cats by shelters and animal societies here in our area of Minnesota.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)