Challenges for kitty caregivers

Tekla chows down!

Tekla chows down!

There’s a lot of news in the wonderful world of felines, much of it confirming my philosophy that less is more. The choices faced by pet caregivers go far beyond which food to feed and the annual checkup with its obligatory “shots.”

Diabetes in cats

Two new articles on diabetes in cats confirm a single take-away: dry food is its biggest culprit. Eliminating it is the single best thing you can do to manage the disease.

Dr. Karen Becker cites a study that goes back to 2006, which finds that a high protein, low carb diet is as effective as insulin in causing a remission in diabetes. She describes the signs, which include excessive thirst and urination. It often occurs in overweight kitties. She also writes about a new type of insulin called glargine, “a DNA-recombinant long-acting insulin analogue.”

Dr. Elisa Katz writes about the importance of diet for the Feline Nutrition Education Society. She stresses that cats are strict carnivores, a fact that’s widely acknowledged but not always implemented by pet food companies. She discusses “pre-diabetes” in cats, a sage in which the blood glucose level is slightly increased, but it is still producing enough insulin to avoid hyperglycemia, and the honeymoon period where a previously diagnosed diabetic cat goes into remission, temporarily or permanently, and no longer needs insulin.

Dr. Katz, too, stresses the importance of a high protein, low carb diet, preferably commercial or homemade raw.

And the advice of Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins is legendary in the management of feline diabetes.

Raw diets defended

Mollie was a scrawny little shelter kitten who blossomed on a raw diet.

Mollie was a scrawny little shelter kitten who blossomed on a raw diet.

And speaking of raw diets, there’s good news and bad.

Once again the American Veterinary Medical Association is warning of Salmonella in raw diets in the same breath as discussing homeopathy and coming down hard on both. And it has been joined by the Food & Drug Administration (the same FDA that refuses to ban jerky treats from China) and the American Animal Hospital Association

The FDA is taken on by Dr. Karen Becker, who pokes hole in its analysis of raw diets, which they claimed to be loaded with bacteria in contrast to one sample of commercial pet food – that despite all the recalls for Salmonella and FDA’s inaction on the jerky treat problem.  She also discusses AAHA and AVMA stand here. Christie Keith in her also challenges the stand on raw diets taken by AVMA; the comments at the end of the article are thoughtful and intelligent.

Dr. Andrea Tasi, a feline-only veterinarian, discusses raw diets in a column for She cites the improvements seen in the health of her patients.

Ironically, the recalls just keep rolling in for Salmonella in dry pet food with one for Red Flannel dry food and another for Pro-Pet. But heaven forbid you feed a raw diet.

Some knowledgeable lay people have taken it upon themselves to educate pet parents interested in making the transition to raw feeding. has a presence on Facebook as well as its website. A relatively new group, Whole Cat, recently merged with CatCentric on Facebook. In addition, there’s a Raw Feeding for IBD kitties and Raw Pet. Key players within these groups are Tracy Dion, Beth Laubenthal, and Save Samoa. The sites are chock full of articles and discussions on transitioning to a raw diet. It’s not something that is done over night, but these groups offer plenty of support and well-documented information.

Another great article has resurfaced, written in 2006 by Justine Patrick, who was a student at Harvard Law School at the time. In a well-cited paper titled, “Deconstructing the Regulatory Façade: Why Confused Consumers Feed their Pets Ring Dings and Krispy Kremes” (a great title), she challenged the regulations that govern the pet food industry. It’s well worth the lengthy read.

Vaccinating your cats … or not

Vaccine protocols are ever changing, and now are taking into account the cat’s lifestyle. However, on the vaccination site, Truth4Pets, Dr. Jean Hofve discusses the relationship between the FVRCP vaccine and kidney disease, one of the most common afflictions found in cats. She cites the study at Colorado State University, which found that cats given the FVRCP vaccine developed antibodies making them susceptible to renal disease.

The pet news world was also littered with reports that endorsed giving cats vaccinations in their tails, praising it as oh-so-safe and effective and the greatest thing since sliced bread.

That’s because the tail can be lopped off if the cat develops vaccination site sarcoma. Current recommendations call for vaccinating in the rear legs – which can also be conveniently lopped off. Am I the only one with a problem with this? Would a vaccine for children remain on the market if there was danger of a child’s arm or leg being cut off?

In a Vetstreet article, Dr. Marty Becker also encourages veterinarians to rethink vaccination protocols and concentrate on wellness. He acknowledges that there may indeed be side effects to vaccinations that go beyond a day or so of lethargy.

Cat health these days is a landmine of choices. These are only a few of the issues facing cat parents. Do your research and don’t be afraid to discuss your concerns with your veterinarian. As with mine, they just might be willing to listen.


About ExclusivelyCats
Sally Bahner is an expert in all aspects of cat care: Writer, consultant, speaker, instructor.

7 Responses to Challenges for kitty caregivers

  1. Robin says:

    Sally!! What a great blog. Lots of great, up to date cat info all wrapped up in your undeniable style……Just love it!!

  2. lauriesaves says:

    I agree with Robin, great post, thank you!

  3. Great article – I’ve also been loving your articles on kibble and how bad it is for cats. I feel the same way although, sadly, many vets in my area disagree! Keep up the good work.

  4. Great post! Been reading a lot about different aspects of caring for cats. Thanks for the info!

  5. Danielle says:

    Thanks for your informative article ( just shared it on my Facebook page). I found the information about the link between diabetes and dry food really interesting. I always suspected this link, but thanks for the information regarding these recent studies.

    • Thanks, Danielle. Be sure to check out Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins’s website, She has lots of great information on cats and diabetes there. Often, insulin use can be stopped by changes in diet.

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