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The Biggest Mistake in Giving Treats

Treats provide welcome rewards for good behavior, but their overly generous use can contribute to obesity. One reason is that owners don’t count treats as calories. “But the bigger problem is a multiple-person household in which every time someone walks by, they give the cat a treat,” says Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Ask Elizabeth: September 2012

I work at a large no-kill animal sanctuary with special-needs cats. Often when one becomes ill and stops eating, we tempt him or her with people food like baby food or boiled chicken. I have heard a lot of conflicting things about feeding cats baby food or straight meat. Someone recently told me that a good all-meat baby food and straight chicken are nutritionally complete, but I have read in a few places that cats need other nutrients like taurine and vitamins A and D or they will get very sick. Does straight meat provide full nutrition for cats? In the wild, how do cats get full nutrition if meat does not provide it all? What is the best kind of food for our dear kitties?

Short Takes: September 2012

Biologists at the Royal Veterinary College in London may have discovered the reason for the cheetah’s record as the fastest living land mammal. Researchers at the college’s Structure and Motion Laboratory compared the cheetah’s gait to that of racing Greyhounds, whose speed tops out at 37 miles per hour. The big cats have been clocked at 64 miles per hour. “Cheetahs and Greyhounds are known to use a rotary gallop [in which the limbs fall in circular sequence around the body] and physically they are remarkably similar, yet there is this bewitching difference in maximum speed,” says researcher Alan Wilson, Bsc., Ph.d.

Looking Beyond the Food Bowl

Bringing out the nutritional best in your cat goes beyond the food in the bowl. Frequency of meals, location, post-meal bowl cleaning and other environmental factors also influence his health. “One of the biggest problems is that far too many people overfeed their cats, and the cats become overweight and some even become obese,” says nutritionist Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “Dogs give you those begging eyes when you sit down to eat, but in most cases, you can get them to go into another room and leave you alone.” They excel at begging. “Cats, however, are aggressive beggars. They will keep purring and meowing. If you tell them to go away, they will just come right back and start meowing again. They are more persistent than dogs and far too often, the person gets frustrated and will get up and put more food in their bowls.”

Let Them Eat Cake! (Just Don’t Invite Your Cat.)

Sweetness is detected by a specific receptor protein (what we commonly refer to as a ‘taste bud’) in the tongue. Cats are known to be insensitive to sweet tastes, but the specific reason was not known until recently. Researchers analyzed the genes encoding the taste buds in twelve different carnivorous species, including cats (“Major taste loss in carnivorous mammals,” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, US, 2012 ). They found that those species such as cats — whose diet is exclusively meat-based — had lost the gene encoding the taste bud for sweetness.

Considering A Homemade Diet?

Over the past half-century or more, the American pet food industry has worked hard to provide nutritionally sound, affordable and readily available canned and dry cat food. The nutritional contents of these foods are based on the nutrient requirements of cats as published by the National Research Council and/or the Cat Food Nutrient Profiles recommended by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The feed control officials of the various states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration monitor the quality of all commercial cat food products.

Why Is Your Cat Such a Finicky Eater?

Cats have earned the reputation for being “finicky,” and this is partly due to physiological factors that cause some foods to be less palatable than others. Like you, your cat senses taste using taste buds, which reside in the surface of the tongue. Within the taste bud a bundle of “gustatory cells” are contained in a small spherical pocket. The taste bud extends from an opening at the surface of the tongue through to deep within the tongue. The gustatory cells are in close contact with fine nerve endings leading into nerves within the tongue.

Are Prescription Diets Necessary?

Trying to adjust your cat’s diet because of a serious medical condition is undoubtedly a good idea. But experts insist that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Some problems may respond readily to a dietary adjustment, while other problems can be more vexing and require treatment aside from nutritional changes.Firstly, remember that therapeutic diets do not cure diseases. They can alleviate clinical abnormalities on a temporary basis, and alleviating these abnormalities can certainly help our beloved pets feel better and give them a higher quality of life.

Cat Food Labels: What To Look For

Unless he’s acting in a TV commercial, your cat isn’t really able to ask for his favorite brand of food by name. If he’s like most feline companions, he’s dependent on you to bring home a can or package of food that will taste good, and also be safe and wholesome. He will also rely on you to feed the correct amount to meet his nutritional needs. To do that, you’re going to have to understand cat food labels.

Short Takes: November 2011

Fish and flaxseed oil are excellent sources of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and both have become popular dietary supplements. These fatty acids can modulate the immune response, and have been used to address canine skin conditions. However, the effects in cats have been relatively unknown. This study (“Dietary fish oil and flaxseed oil suppress inflammation and immunity in cats,” Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, 2011) investigates the responses in cats to fish or flaxseed oil.

Understanding the Finicky Eater

You think to yourself: "Whats the matter with my cat?" For the second time this week, your cat has barely touched his food. You begin to worry if hes sick - or merely sick of the usual mealtime fare. Healthy cats will occasionally eat less or skip a meal, but it isnt normal for a cat to consistently refuse food. Generally, cats are content eating the same food over and over again. But if your cat refuses to eat for several meals in a row, it should be a cause for concern.

Providing Good Cat Care on a Budget

With the economy struggling, its comforting to know that are plenty of ways to defray the cost of owning a cat without compromising your pets well-being. In fact, some of the most effective strategies can actually benefit your cat. According to Jodi Korich, DVM, former director of Partners in Animal Health at Cornell Universitys College of Veterinary Medicine, "One of the best ways to save money on your pets health is to pay attention to early disease detection and preventive health care." Just like oil changes and preventive maintenance result in fewer repair bills for your car, she says, regular check-ups and early intervention will save you money in the long-run.