Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Update: Supporting Cat Health Naturally

Things are looking up since my last post. Way up.

Saturday I took Diddy to the veterinary heart specialist. You can only imagine his excitement. Thankfully, his vicious protest was nothing more than a soft, pouty meow and a pathetic squinty look that seemed to say, "But why?" He soon discovered a clever hiding spot under the towel on my lap while we waited for the doctor.

The specialist was excellent, and a "cat person" to boot. His staff appreciated Diddy's compliance and even opted to carry him around between tests rather than sticking him in a cage.

I waited patiently in the exam room trying to prepare myself for the news to come. The vet soon re-entered, asking me to come on back and take a look at the digital x-rays. Diddy reached for me like a toddler, and I let him perch on my shoulder while I heard the results. X-rays showed trouble in Diddy's lungs, not his heart. Irritated lungs were affecting his heart, but main problem looked asthmatic. Phew. A serious problem, no doubt, but far less scary than heart failure.

Siamese are prone to asthma, this I knew, but Diddy's symptoms were so mild considering the serious inflammation inside, it's no surprise we didn't catch it sooner. Interestingly however, Diddy's always had a "sensitive stomach" and I've been through several foods over the years to find one he'll keep down. The vet explained that, like humans, most immune cells are located along the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, and the skin. So, just because Diddy hadn't been coughing long, his tummy trouble says his system has likely been irritated for ages. Poor baby.

While there's no "cure," for asthma, there are many ways to manage it, like most any other inflammatory condition. Drugs are always the first option presented, but a purely pharmaceutical approach won't suit me for long. Changing his diet, improving home air quality, removing obvious irritants, and adding supplements will all support a overall healthier Diddy, and thus a stronger immune system.

My goal is to get Diddy to where he relies on as little medication as possible. That said, with a little medication, Diddy's already stopped coughing completely, has more energy, and is breathing better at night. So, I am grateful for pharmaceuticals when it comes to acute care. They can work wonders in a pinch.

I spent most of Sunday morning reading about kitty health, and discovered the site of a cat-loving veterinarian who has had amazing results switching all her cats to a "raw food" diet of chicken thighs and supplements. While I'd always heard dry food is better than canned food because it promotes better dental health, turns out dry foods can bring a whole host of problems.

In addition to issues like contaminated ingredients that caused the deaths of numerous pets back in 2008, dry foods are also prone to molds, bacteria, mites, and other unfriendlies while they're sitting in warehouses and stores. Dry foods are also grain-heavy, which cats don't need (and actually contribute to stinkier, bulkier stools -- ew).

Everything I read made sense, and I've committed to slowly switching my kitties over to a homemade diet. Just like we humans, who aren't meant to fill up on processed foods, cats have had to try to adjust to less-than-healthy processed diets that aren't what thousands of years have trained their bodies to eat.

My little carnivores devoured the half-cooked chicken thighs like lions on the plains of Africa. They were also discernibly more content after dinner. So, of all the things I never thought I'd have in my house, I'm ordering a meat grinder. It's very important to feed bones as well as meat for calcium, and a grinder to offer up bones easily. Supplements are important, too, says the site creator, especially taurine. I'll be adding a few anti-inflammatory supplements, like fish oil, as well. If my cats weren't already spoiled, they'll be crossing a new threshold here shortly.

I look forward to seeing how my own health improves as I make changes that benefit the whole pride. For example, the dust and fragrances from clay kitty litter can cause a whole heap of irritation, for humans too. Living beings are living beings, and no system thrives on a sub-par nutrition, environmental toxins, and poor air quality. Stay tuned for updates!