23 February 2015

Cats: Raw Food and FIP

Several cats helping clean the bowl after making the food
A friend asked me, as someone who has done extensive research on raw diets and who has fed raw for years, to comment on cats with FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) and raw diets.

One major arguments against feeding a FIP cat raw is with regards to the usefulness of raw diets.  No, there is no scientific research on the benefits of raw for FIP cats or any other cats because there are no scientific studies on raw vs. commercial.  There are the Pottenger's studies from the mid-1940s on raw vs. cooked diets and there are a lot of anecdotal evidence by long-term raw feeders, neither of which are rigorous scientifically.  But while there is no evidence to support it, there is, likewise, no evidence to not support it.  The concerns the veterinary community has against raw are not based on any scientific evidence to date. The lack of evidence can not and should not be construed to mean anything other than there is no research on the topic.

The second argument against raw is that no one has adequate training to judge the appropriateness of a raw recipe except a veterinary nutritionist.  I take offense at that.  I personally have the biochemistry, the statistics, the nutritional training, and, much more importantly, the experience of 25+ yrs of raw feeding to look at and analyze a recipe for the level of thiamine (1.4mg/1000 kcal ME).  It's not rocket science to take the food components and add up all the vitamins and minerals and then compare them to published requirements -- it's tedious, but this is how researchers do it.  (Many veterinary food researchers are not veterinary nutritionists, but nutritional researchers, some without a veterinary degree.)  There is in fact one
THE book on nutritional requirements for cats
company on line that will analyze raw recipes for all nutrients.  So, if someone does have a recipe, they can have it analyzed, or they can do it themselves, or they can ask those of us who have been feeding raw for years to look at it.

I would remind whoever that the general vet has 1 semester of small animal nutrition (cats, dogs, gerbils, and parakeets).  Vet nutritionists are better trained, but there are only a handful of board-certified ones in the US in private practice (ones with 2 yrs of extra training) -- many of those that are calling themselves nutritionists are not certified.  I had the opportunity to talk to one and was left very unimpressed by his knowledge on feline nutrition -- he was brilliant on canine nutrition, but dogs are not cats.

On a side note -- concerning the whole idea that a layman can't make cat food, I have fed my present recipe for ~15 yrs with no nutritional problems.  The recipe I use is borrowed from Michelle Bernard at Blakkatz Raw Recipes.  (Michelle used that recipe for a good 10 yrs before publishing it and raised champion American Shorthair cats on it.)  I have done nutritional screenings on my cats and there are no deficiencies or excesses.  I have analyzed this recipe and someone else had it analyzed by the company mentioned above -- it's fine.  This recipe also has been 'blessed' by my vet, 3 other vets of friends, and was deemed 'perfect' in terms of nutrition. While there are some whacko raw food recipes out there (ones that claim no supplements are required), there is at least one that is fine.

The third argument against raw is the issue of pathogens in the raw food.  Yes, this risk is there.  Given the number of recalls for canned and kibble foods, the risk is also there and of a much more serious nature since the pathogens found in commercial food seem to be of more virulent strains. But back to raw -- not only is the cat digestive system shorter so the bad 'bugs' have less time to colonize, the acid in the stomach is stronger so many of the pathogens that would sicken humans are destroyed by the cat's stomach acid.  I deal with medically fragile Persians from large public shelters and they all get transitioned to raw.  In the 25 yrs I've done raw, not one cat has had any food-borne illness from my raw.  Among my raw-feeding friends including owners of FIV and FeLV cats, not one of them have had problems either.  If you start with human-grade meats and handle it properly, the risk is minimal.

With respect specifically to pathogens, raw, and FIP, the argument is that the cat's immune system is already stressed so the pathogens are more problematic.  That sounds good, but the immune system in a FIP is over-reactive, not under-reactive.  Cats die from FIP not from secondary infections as they do with feline leukemia, but from the immune system destroying the cells of the body.

So, the bottomline is this -- if I had a cat with dry FIP, would I switch the cat to raw?  Probably yes.  I do not see any harm in a raw diet and I have seen major benefits from it in cats with IBD, diabetes, FeLV, and FIV.  If the cat was already showing symptoms, then maybe not if the cat was hesitant to eat the raw -- I would prefer to have the last weeks of the cat's life to be as free from stress as possible.  As for the wet FIP, no, I would just love the cat until it dies.

15 February 2015

Maggie Day

This is the hardest day of the year -- the day my Maggie died.

For those who don't know her story, she was used and abused by a backyard breeder and then dumped. She was under 3 lbs and covered in sores when I got her from the shelter. Someone had tried to trim her mats, but instead cut into her to the bone of her tail.  Shortly after coming home, she got herpes which went to her eyes. One burst from an ulcer and was removed. The other one burst and was grafted, twice, and was saved. She also had cancer in her mouth, which eventually killed her. I had her 16 months which was a brief instant and lifetime....

She loved to play with her mousies, her turbo track, and her jingle balls.  At night, at 2:30am, she used to go to her waterbowl in the bedroom and howl at it.  It got to the point I would wake up to hear it.  And when she was gone, I woke up and didn't hear it.

Most of all she loved to lay in the sun on me. She snuggled to me every night of her life here, including the night before she died when she could barely walk.

Maggie was special. No other cat before or after her has just a joyous spirit. Give her a few minutes of love and attention and she was thrilled.


And that is Maggie's gift to me, it's her legacy. And it's something I want to you to pass on. Please, spend 5 or 10 minutes with each of your cats today. Just love them for the special beings that they are. 

Cherish them while they are still alive.