DEAR DR. FOX: I made your cat food recipe and I cannot get my cats to even taste it. What can I do or add to it? -- M.S., Trenton, New Jersey
DEAR M.S.: As you have discovered, cats can be very finicky eaters. Do not do what some people do -- contending that a hungry cat will eventually eat, so they just keep putting out the new food until they do. Cats who go without food for 24-48 hours can become seriously ill. (In contrast, most dogs are more omnivorous, and will eat almost anything when hungry.)
The best way to get cats to accept a new food is to mix a very small amount in with their regular food and remove what they do not eat. Ideally, offer your cats three or four small, fresh meals daily. Once they consume all that is offered, add more of the new food and less of what they are used to eating.
This can be a challenge, however, when they are addicted to unhealthful dry kibble. Cats manifest what I call "food imprinting," a kind of food addiction about which pet food manufacturers have known for some time. They have researched and cat-tested dry kibble products to develop a taste and texture that cats will be drawn to. This essentially overrides cats' innate nutritional wisdom.
Addiction to these foods is a major contributing factor, because of the products' high content of plant protein and carbohydrates, to a host of cat health problems. (This is documented in the book "Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Food," which I co-authored with two other veterinarians.)
Regrettably, many cat owners let their cats feed when they want from dry kibble dispensers and never give them canned or rehydrated freeze-dried cat foods, which all kittens should be weaned to, rather than allowing them to become kibble addicts.
DOGS HELPING SOLDIERS, AND VICE VERSA
A new federal law directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to set up a five-year pilot program to cover the costs of training service dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. At least five VA medical centers will work with accredited service dog organizations, and if the program is successful, it may be expanded to veterans with other mental health conditions. (Full story: Stars and Stripes, 8/25)
A veteran British Marine commando, Paul "Pen" Farthing, who ran an animal shelter in Kabul, Afghanistan, for 16 years, was able to bring 140 dogs and 60 cats in the cargo hold of a charity-funded chartered plane to the U.K. The government agreed to allow him to bring the animals, as well as the shelter's staff and their families. But at the last moment, the Taliban refused to allow any of his devoted staff and their families to board the plane. Events are still unfolding. (Full story: The Guardian, 8/25)
BANFIELD FOUNDATION: HOPE FOR COMPANION ANIMALS IN NEED?
"During a year that brought a range of unanticipated challenges, we are overcome with gratitude for the work we were collectively able to do. In 2020, we helped more than 475,000 pets receive access to veterinary care, shelter and disaster relief, including more than $500,000 in COVID-19 relief. We also celebrated our five-year anniversary, marking an incredible milestone of 5 million pets helped since we first began in 2015.
"The Banfield Foundation and Idexx Foundation are collaborating with others to establish the first veterinary care facility and services on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota. This initiative is long overdue but is a promising start to reach these underserved Indigenous communities and their animals."
Dr Fox here: In 2007, Mars Petcare acquired Banfield, which is the largest general veterinary practice in the world. Some veterinarians -- including myself, at times! -- are critical of large franchised practices like Banfield and Blue Pearl, also owned by Mars Inc. But the ethical responsibility to provide low-cost, charity-subsidized basic veterinary services to all communities in need is enlightened corporate self-interest. It is also a public One Health mandate, in my opinion, because human health and well-being are dependent on domestic animal health and well-being.
I would like to hear from any nonprofit organization that has received financial support from the Banfield Foundation, and what the funds were for.
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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.)