Friday, November 27, 2015

When was the last time you spent three days collecting poop? #Kittybiome

Earlier this year I heard of a very interesting project being funded on KickStarter. The Kittybiome is
"a citizen science study of the kitty microbiome to better understand how microbiomes differ among cats, whether those differences reveal insights into cat behavior and biology, and how the kitty microbiome depends on and may shape the health of your cat."

I am a big believer in the human microbiome and how important it is to our own health. We have 100 trillion bacteria in our gut alone; that is ten times the number of cells that make up our body. I think there is so much we have yet to learn all we can about this symbiotic relationship and I imagine we have a lot to learn about that in the cat as well. (fyi, even Little Bub is participating!!) There is so much we can learn from poop!

I wanted to sign up, but which cat do I pick? Jack who is 13 with urinary issues and previous thyroid issues (at the time I didn't know he was hypo thyroid), Muffin who has been very healthy her entire life, Fleurp who is sporadically anemic? etc.. how do I choose. At $99 a pop to test them, I was reluctant to test all seven of them, but I really wanted to, so I contacted the people running the campaign and asked if they were interested in the fecal matter of seven raw fed cats.

After a little back and forth, they offered to let me test all seven of my cats for a reduced price and they threw in a few really cool perks (not shown is a pen with a laser pointer in it)

Every time I see that logo I think of Lisa.. 

I was so anxious to get the collection tubes that I didn't even consider the logistics of trying to get poop samples from seven cats and understanding which sample came from which cat, etc.. and then it arrived.

They wanted fresh samples, which is totally understandable, and they wanted clean samples, meaning they wanted you to dissect your kitty's poop and take a 'fresh untainted sample' from inside, with no bacterial contamination from the litter.  Well this was going to be 'fun'.

The only way I could know which poop belonged to a specific cat was to lock him or her up with a litter box... but doing that one at a time would take at least a week (actually more but we'll get to that in a minute) and how could I lock one kitty away from us? wouldn't that be mean?

So I locked everyone up. At the time Jack wasn't walking up and down the stairs to the litter box area, so I left him in the main part of the house with a box. I dug up a few clean foster litter boxes and scored some disposable boxes, and locked all of the cats up in different rooms with a box and went to work.

You don't think it was that easy do you? ha ha ha.  do you even own cats?

Samples of the poop

Well, we did have some success right off which made things a bit easier. As poop was collected the cat in question would be let out into the main part of the house where they could go downstairs and use the regular litter boxes. Day one and I collected three samples.  I ended up rotating the cats and in the end I found that the guest room was the 'magic room' for collecting samples as the last four cats all donated once they were put in that room.  Skippy took the longest.  It was two days before he finally pooped.  I was getting to the point that I fed him some canned food to help 'push it through' since cat stools tend to be bigger on canned food.. 

yes, a poop close up, just what you were hoping for right?

The poop above belongs to Skippy. Can you tell that the poop on the right is smaller and drier than the poop on the left? It really is amazing the difference in raw verses even a good quality canned food.

I found two very interesting things while doing this project. First that my cat's poop actually does stink. I have been saying for years that it doesn't because on the whole you can not tell.. but when you get all up in it's space and cut it open and inspect it and dig out small samples you can smell it.. and sadly it doesn't smell as good as kitten belly. 

My poop does NOT stink momma!!

The second thing I noticed was that my cats poop even less than I thought. Cutting those 'deposits' open I found that a lot of them were mostly fur. I did the collection in the heat of summer, so it wasn't like they were shedding. I know that cats ingest a lot of fur while grooming because their tongues. They are built to clean meat from bone and help hold on to small prey, but it also causes all lose fur groomed from the body to be ingested. When your cat has good digestion going on, that intake of fur isn't a problem and it is forced out the "back end" with the unused bits of food. I knew this, I had seen it occasionally while working at the vet and processing stool samples brought it, but I still found it fascinating that it was a factor in all of my cats. Since they go so infrequently because so much of their food is utilized and there isn't much waste, it only seems logical once I realized it.

All of the poop of all seven full grown cats is in this post.  Stunning how little of it there is, isn't it?

So I collected all of the samples. They provided a few extra containers in case things were damaged being sent to me, and so I also sent them samples of Skippy's canned food poop, and Angelo's poop - a 12 week old foster kitten I had in the house who pooped right in front of me when I was about to process my cat's poop.  I sent their poop off in a padded envelope and two Ziploc baggies, and I'm still waiting to hear the result. I really have no idea what information I'm looking for nor what I will get.. but I helped contribute to the collective knowledge of cat health, and hopefully they make some wonderful discoveries in their whole body of data.

If you would like to participate, you can check them out over at Fundrazr. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

My experience with the Catit Design Senses Grass Garden Kit

As someone who feeds her cats home made raw food, I'm aware that there are times when they need a little 'something green'. Yes, cats are obligate carnivores and are designed to get their entire nutritional content from the animals they catch and kill, but my cats don't eat other animals, so I believe they are lacking in a few things when I don't add a little bit of greens to their diet.

I know that cats make their own Vitamin C, but I have read the work of vets who believe that they often have a hard time making enough when their bodies are under stress.

I know there are components in grasses and leafy greens that have yet to be understood and quantified. There is a reason cats are naturally attracted to eating grass, and over the years I have tried to provide that for them... and I have been wildly unsuccessful at it. Cat grass seems to come in small little light weight plastic containers; those things are great for ease of shipping and not too bad for growing, but once the cat gets near it they tip over and the entire contents spills out.

I even tried planting it in a regular plant pot, and my cat knocked that over too. It was an absolute mess.

When I saw the Catit Grass Garden Kit, I actually went right out and bought one. I spent under $20, and thanks to Amazon it was shipped to me rather quickly.

I love that this thing can not be knocked over. I love that the screen on the top keeps paws off the vermiculite and keeps it all contained within the product. I love the no slip pad so the cats can't just lay there and bat at the thing and push it around the house as they are wont to do when they are bored.

Eli LOVES this thing.. I know because over the first few weeks of having it he would be regularly vomiting up grass. No, that is not fun, but the vomiting has become less. No one knows why cats do this.. One theory (which I like) is because cats lack the digestive enzymes to break it down, but I'm not fully convinced this is the complete answer, because several of my cats have also been chewing on this and haven't been vomiting.  Eli also tend to vomit just a few minutes after eating. I don't think that is really enough time for the stomach to give up on food and send it packing in the wrong direction. Then there is the fact that other undigested substances (mainly his fur) isn't hurled back up but is passed through to the end (more on that in another post)

I'm glad I bought it, I will be replanting another round of grass probably in the next few days because my poor house only has one set of windows that are good for sun and they aren't anywhere in the house I spend any time so I forgot to water it for a few days and it died.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving Eve

We here in the USA are about to embark on one great big huge eating fest, and for many people that will continue on for the next five days. Chances are if you celebrate Thanksgiving, or any other holiday centered around eating, you will run into a moment when you have a pet at your feet begging you for a little something something.

If you have been paying attention you will have probably run across articles and infographics on the web trying to scare you into being obnoxiously cautious when treating your pets, if not downright abstaining from giving your pet anything but commercial pet food.

I would like to tell you that some of these fears are absolutely true, and they should be heeded every single day of the year. You should always make sure that cooked bones are not accessible to your pet. You should never feed grapes or raisins to dogs. Raw yeast dough should not be fed to dogs, nor cats for that matter if for no other reason than cats are obligate carnivores and yeast doughs are not meat.

But in the past few days I've seen some pretty frightening articles telling you that your cat or dog is going to get pancreatitis if you feed them so much as a buttered piece of broccoli. Fat is not going to give a healthy cat pancreatitis.

Causes of pancreatitis include:
*Concurrent inflammatory bowel disease or liver disease. The combination of inflammatory disease of the liver, pancreas, and intestines is so common in cats that it has its own name — "triaditis." It is safe to assume that most cats diagnosed with one of these conditions have some degree of the other two as well.
*Diabetes mellitus
*Certain types of infections (e.g., toxoplasmosis or feline distemper)
*Abdominal trauma
*Exposure to organophosphate insecticides
Could your pet come down with a case of pancreatitis if you feed it, or it consumes without your consent, a wildly inappropriate meal with gobs of fat, sure, as anything is possible. Lots of cats and dogs end up in the emergency clinics because they had dietary indiscretions, and some extreme irritation and inflammation could bring about an acute case, but unless your pet already has chronic issues, one piece of buttered veg is not* going to land your pet in the emergency room.

We know that cooked bones are very dangerous for both cats and dogs, but uncooked bones aren't. Cats and dogs are both carnivores and are designed to eat raw meat and bone. Uncooked bones are soft and do not splinter when they are chewed. A lot of people feed wing tips and necks to cats for them to chew on for oral health. It is good for increasing jaw strength which improves dental health, and the ripping of flesh from bone and chewing bone does keep teeth clean from tartar. I feed them to my cats quite often. Many people feed them daily. Could a raw piece of bone get lodged on a tooth or could the cat swallow a too large piece of bone, yes.. and the kibble being fed could be contaminated as well.

Eggs are an excellent source of protein as well as vitamins and minerals and yes fat. A lot of people try to scare you into not feeding your cats eggs, be it they are contaminated with salmonella or ecoli or what not, or the fact that raw egg whites contain a substance that inhibits the absorption of biotin, a very important vitamin. The studies that they base this fear on were done by feeding rats just the egg white. They discount that they yolk is so rich in biotin that the chances of a biotin deficiency is incredibly low when you feed the whole egg.

One thing that you should keep in mind is that the more limited your pet's diet has been over the past year means you have a much narrower window of goodies you can share with your pet. Cats and dogs are both prone to digestive upset if you do not feed a varied diet on a regular basis and then abruptly change what they are eating. If you always feed the same brand and flavor of food, then giving your pet a plate of cooked turkey or a raw turkey wing tip will cause problems.. just as it would if you abruptly changed them to a different type of pet food.

Your best bet is to make sure your pet eats their regular meal and thus are not starving when your own meal time comes around. Slipping them a few pieces of turkey will not kill them*, and feeding them pieces of turkey that have been sitting around for a while will not give them salmonella* (remember that cats are not only predators but they are not opposed to eating any carrion they find in the wild to keep themselves alive. Their bodies are designed to handle this with a shorter digestive tract and much more acidic stomach acid than herbivores or omnivores)

Keep their treats to under 10% of their general food intake, aim for animal based treats over plant based ones, don't feed them anything you wouldn't feed to them at any other time of the year, and by all means keep your kitties away from the onions and garlic. (and tinsel and snow globes)

*I am not a vet, nor do I play one on the internet. I made several definitive statements on here, and I know I can not say that there will never be a case where giving a piece of turkey to your animal won't kill them. Maybe your cat is allergic to turkey, maybe they eat it so fast it lodges in their throat, etc. I can't say that your cat will never catch salmonella, but I can tell you they are far more likely to do so from contaminated kibble then they are from anything in your home, and I can't say for absolute certainty that your healthy cat won't get pancreatitis from eating a piece of buttered broccoli, but I'm fairly certain the chances of that are so low that the statement is ridiculous. If your cat isn't healthy, then you know full well not to give it a high fat meal because your vet told you so.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Family photos

I thought I would try to get a photo of the whole family now that they have grown. I will say it wasn't easy.. and I'm not sure I can really say I was successful... but there are five sets of eyeballs and you can see them all, so there is that..

Their time at Casa de Gato is coming to an end. The boys are all at weight at this point. Belladora is a half pound behind, but once they hit the two pound mark they generally put on the next half pound pretty quickly. I was guessing they would be ready to go home the first week in December and it looks like I'm going to be right.  I'll call the shelter some time next week and see what we can do about getting them in and being neutered.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Playing favorites

I end up sharing a lot of photos of these kittens on my facebook page and I was recently accused of playing favorites with one kitten in particular.

I assume it was because I share a lot of photos of one kitten in particular, Winnow.. but it is only because that boy is so freakingly photogenic. he sits still for long periods of time and looks right at me, unlike most kittens who tend to gaze off into the distance and are off running before they an form a full thought in their heads. It helps that he is so freakin cute and he's often doing something worth taking a photo of..

but he is not my favorite, and I'm guessing by now you have figured out who is. Flynn is an incredibly goofy kitty who often is running around quite clueless. He makes me laugh every single day

The extra white fur on his legs reminds me of arm hair on men, and that also amuses me. His fur is also quite soft and he doesn't mind if I pick him up and snuggle him and kiss him silly unlike Ethan Errol whose dad must have been feral because he is not as friendly as his siblings and who tends to be afraid of things his siblings don't.

Don't get me wrong, they are all incredible kitties and they all make me happy and anyone would be lucky to have any one of them..

Including Lovey, who is achingly sweet and who is so ready to play and snuggle

but seriously, Winnow takes some freakingly adorable photos..