Finding a safe and lead-free cat water fountain or dish


The other day a customer emailed to say that she always trusts my opinion (aw, shucks!) and wanted to know if I had a favorite cat water fountain. I told her that I do not, but that it would be fun for us both to check Etsy, eBay, and other online sources as well as the local pet shops to see what creative and pretty options exist.

I did caution her to not buy a plastic one. Plastic is bad for many reasons including that it can cause “rodent ulcers” on a cat’s lips. Also, it’s very hard to clean plastic and remove it of bio films which are the saliva slime that accumulates, and which harbors many forms of bacteria, bad bacteria. Also, plastic contains cancer causing chemicals which leach into food and water, and heck – it’s plastic and we want to stop using it for a million health and environmental reasons.

After a quick perusal on Etsy, we both found a few fountains that appealed to us. But me being me, she who asks tough questions, I messaged several sellers: “Do you test for lead?” I’m sad to say that none of them knew what I was talking about! How can you sell or make something ceramic and not know about lead especially when many states have banned lead in glazes! When I wrote back, I dumbed it down: “Many ceramics and their glazes contain lead. Lead is toxic, exposures can lead to lead poisoning which is particularly harmful, even lethal, to children and small animals. You can purchase lead test kits for dishes and ceramics.”

One of the sellers said that her products contained “an acceptable level of lead.” At this point I gave up! There is no acceptable level of lead!

Several years ago, when Mister Cat Faerie was out of town for the weekend, and I knew I was free to make a big mess and have fun with a science project, I bought several boxes of lead test kits for ceramics and dishes. Then I hauled into the kitchen every vintage piece, every modern piece, every vintage planter, etc. that I could find. If it was ceramic, it was being tested. I cleared space on the countertop for two piles: Safe. Not Safe. Was I in for a shocker!

The hand painted fine bone china from the late 1970’s tested positive! Many of my adorable vintage planters tested positive. Antique teacups and saucers that my great grandmother gave me tested positive. Odds and ends that Mister Cat Faerie inherited from his family tested positive. And most horrifying was a new “lead free” cache pot that was glazed tested negative but the surface where the lid fit on to the bowl, which was unglazed, tested positive! I wondered how this could be! I knew the potter, I knew she’d been using lead free everything for years. More investigating.

I learned that if a kiln ever in its history fired pieces which contained lead, the lead lingered, and in the future would contaminate the unglazed surfaces of a ceramic! Possible contaminating the glaze itself. YIKES!

If you want to conduct a similar science project with your own ceramics this website lists and reviews lead test kits. It turns out that their first choice is the brand that I used. It does a great job and it’s easy to use once you get the hang of it. https://romanceuniversity.org/deals/lead-test-kit-for-dishes/

So, what plates and bowls do Auntie Cat Faeries’ own cats and bunnies drink from and eat from? Pyrex, you cannot go wrong with Pyrex. And for splashes of uplifting color, I have bowls and small plates from Fiesta Ware (modern Fiesta Ware, NOT vintage). At this time, I won’t be buying a water fountain. I will continue to use my Pyrex and Fiesta Ware. The water I give my fur children (and myself and Mister Cat Faerie) is filtered at the kitchen sink or Castle Rock from Mt Shasta which is spring water bottled in glass bottles.

After you’ve done your own lead testing tell me what you discovered!

Love,
Auntie Cat Faerie
 
 
 

How to Expand Your Feline Family to Include a DOG!

Do you have cats and are considering a dog? Do you have a dog and are considering a cat? Cat Faeries offers advice for introducing these two very different species to ensure the transition is as peaceful and harmonious as possible!


How to Expand Your Cat or Dog Family

Prepare in advance!

  • Have My New Home is a flower essence formula to help the new addition to your fur family adjust, acclimate, bond, make new friends, and enjoy each other.
  • Have Multi Cat Household Harmony, a flower essence formula which can be given to both species for acceptance, friendship and bonding. No, the dog will not start to purr!
  • Have Calm and Serene on hand to steady the nerves of either species! Here’s a what customer recently told us: “What a wonderful difference Calm and Serene has made for our 3 kitties and one in particular who is high anxiety. Thank you!!” Mary Ann
  • Have Convivial House Cat which is calming to a cat and prevents peeing/pooping out of the box two problems which could start but are easy to prevent
  • Have Anti Icky Poo for any urine clean up needs. Puppies are learning to hold it or learning how to signal you.
  • Think carefully about how and when you’ll begin introductions. Decide which humans will be involved.
  • Look into a good dog trainer or videos. Read about clicker training and crating dogs.
  • Has the dog had experience with cats? Ask about how the dog previously interacted with cats. Ask the same questions about a cat if you already have a dog.
  • Do you have a dog at home who hasn’t met a cat before? Invite a friend’s cat over to play to see how they interact. If you discover your pup is aggressive or rough with cats, work with a trainer before you bring a cat home. If you’re a cat family, do the same work to ensure they’re ready to welcome home a dog.
  • What is the personality of the new cat or dog? Are they playful or mellow? Do they have a quick temper or are they easily frightened? Consider what kind of cat or dog would work best with your current family. A fearful cat probably won’t like a dog. A good dog trainer and a good shelter volunteer can help you match personalities.
  • Think about the age and activity level of your animal family. If you’ve got kittens who like to play, they may respond fine to a younger dog who has lots of energy. However, if you’ve got a chilled out older cat, adding an active puppy to the mix may be difficult and a senior dog might be better.

When you’re ready for introductions, take your time moving through each phase of the process.

  1. Before the official introductions, find a separate space for the cat and dog to reside in your home. After a few days, have them switch places. Repeat this process several times. This will allow them to learn the scent of the other animal before physical contact. They may be curious, excited, or anxious about the new smells in the house. This is normal!
  2. Next allow them in the same room but make sure the dog is on a leash held by an adult who knows how to let the dog know who’s in charge. Start by having them in the same room for 15 minutes and increase in increments of 15 minutes until you are up to an hour. Let them sniff each other out. Then, separate them for a few hours. Repeat this cycle as often as you can. We encourage you to have that dog trainer help.
  3. Once the dog is calm and the cat is comfortable moving around freely, let your dog off leash but continue to oversee their interactions. It may take time, but you’ll know they’re comfortable with each other when your cat eats and uses the litter box freely and your dog is relaxed with the cat.
  4. Some dogs like eating what they find in cat’s litter boxes! Having a dog nosing around a litter box could cause your cat to not want to use it and therefore pee/poop out of the box. Make sure the dog does not have easy access to litter boxes.
  5. Cats and dogs should ideally eat away from each other – this helps to keep the peace. A dog should have a separate water bowl near the bed or in the crate.

Don’t worry if this takes longer than you hoped for. With love, patience and consistent practice, your new family will find their own rhythm living together!

How To Help Feral Cats This Winter

Winter is a cold and potentially dangerous time of year for feral and homeless cats, whether or not a polar vortex is pushing arctic air into your neighborhood. Here’s some ways to help.

Alley Cat Allies is a national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of feral cats (www.alleycat.org). You may have seen their “I’m an alley cat ally” ads featuring Hollywood personalities including Portia De Rossi. Alley Cat Allies has posted a good article on how to help feral cats during the winter at www.alleycat.org/WinterWeather.

Another way to help is to contact one of your local feral cat organizations. Alley Cat Allies has a posted a contact form at www.alleycat.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=1452 so they can connect you with an organization in your area that is a member of their Feral Friends Network.

You can also find local feral cat assistance groups by doing search via Google for “feral cat (insert your city or area).” Contact your local group and ask how you can help.

One of the best ways to help feral and homeless cats during the winter is to provide shelters to keep them warm and out of the weather. Here’s a great video on how to make a simple low cost shelter from a plastic tote box. It even includes a cute cat helper providing supervision.

So get out there and help feral cats this winter. You may make some new friends – both human and feline.

Cats Need to Eat 15% More Food During Winter

We people know that chilly weather makes us hungry for more food. This time of year we begin to crave roasted vegetables and meats, and we hunt for new recipes for stews and soups. Hot food warms our bones and hearts!

Often we don’t realize that our cats respond to weather changes like we do. During Summer while we are eating salad our carnivore friends might leave food behind in the bowl. But in Winter the bowl is licked clean and they meow for more.

How much more? A study that we found told us that in Winter cats will eat about 15% more food than during the rest of the year.

Be a rock star Feline Chef and don’t grab food for your cat from the fridge and serve it cold. Steam it for a minute or two, or warm it up in a pan with a bit of water so it won’t stick.

Warming up or steaming cat food does some nice things for your cats:

  • If the cat has a cold or a respiratory problem warming the food brings out the aroma. Cats only eat what they can smell.
  • Increases digestibility especially for older cats with slower digestive systems
  • Nice for cats who are missing teeth
  • Kittens and cats of any age will be reminded of warm mother’s milk. The food will be much more appealing and soothing to any cat.

Four years and 38 cats later a study by the University of Liverpool School of Veterinary Science revealed some interesting things about cats.

Veterinarian and study author, Dr Alex German, said: “Cats, like many humans are more inclined to comfort eat when it’s cold outside but, in their case, it’s likely to be due to the extra energy they need to keep warm when out and about.”

Seasonal food intake has been examined in the past on farm animals, such as dairy cows, to establish new ways of increasing milk production, but this is the largest study that has yet taken place with domestic cats.
Dr German said: “People should consider the amount of food their cats need at different times of year as this can be part of helping them to maintain a healthy weight.”

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-05-cats-winter.html#jCp

Shedding and the Indoor Cat (updated)

Sir Isaac Newton is our Feline Editor At Large (just how large, he’s not saying) who writes very brainy and very well researched articles for us. Newton lives in the North East and is fond of storms, our catnip toys, a soft bed, sunbeams, and naps. He has an ongoing email flirtation with our Daphne. This is his current, and as always, very well done article.

This is part one of our study about how to being indoors all of the time can be healthier and more in sync with nature. And this isn’t just for your cats, but for you too! This week we talk about feline shedding. Stay tuned for upcoming newsletters when we talk about Circadian Rhythm, light and lighting, and intermittent fasting. This could be the healthiest year for your cats and you yet!


The outdoors can be a scary place for a cat. Sure, it seems like fun running around (in nice weather) living the ancestral dream of being a Saber-Toothed Tiger. Housecats have retained the predatory instinct but, I have to admit, we’re a lot smaller than those tigers. This limits our prey to rodents, birds, small reptiles and insects. Natural foods provide nutrients that are often not found in commercial diets and catching our own food provides good exercise as well as entertainment.




Isaac Newton

But let’s look at the importance of keeping kitty safe. Although some outdoor cats live long lives (perhaps using up all 9 of them), in general “indoor only” cats live 3-4 times longer.

Outdoor cats have a much higher risk of disease and parasites. They are also at the mercy of the environment, particularly predators and cars. Cats just don’t understand that they could become prey themselves.

A kitten kept inside from day one easily adapts to the indoors, especially if the environment is enriched with Cat Faeries toys and lots of places to explore and hide. Catios are also becoming popular as a safe way to let kitty have a bit of fresh air without worry.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to living totally indoors. Some indoor cats don’t get enough exercise and can become dangerously overweight. Measuring food and having a playmate can help. I have 3 siblings including a new kitten for me to keep in line and we all still play like kittens.

Living inside can lead to another problem. The controlled environment (constant temperature and artificial light beyond normal daylight hours) could disrupt the natural shedding cycle. Instead of seasonal shedding we are in CONSTANT fur dispersal mode. And it doesn’t just end up on your furniture!

Cats are “self-cleaning” so we ingest a lot of this fur when grooming. Those little barbs on a cat’s tongue face backwards, so once the fur attaches we have no choice but to swallow it. In small amounts the fur passes through the digestive system without problems. However, when a lot of fur is present in the stomach it rolls up into a ball which we cough back up – voila – the “hairball”.

What can be done to prevent excess fur in the tummy?

  1. Brush or comb kitty daily*
  2. Make it easier for the ingested hair to pass through freely
    • Make fiber available – Cats are obligate carnivores so they are unlikely to crave a salad. However, they do tend to nibble on plant material if they are experiencing hairball problems. Having something safe like wheatgrass accessible could help.
    • Increase hydration – Drinking adequate water is important for proper functioning of the digestive system and is also good for kidney health. Always provide clean fresh water, preferably in a glass bowl. Believe it or not, some ceramic bowls still contain lead. Yikes! Many cats prefer running water, so a cat fountain could also be helpful.
    • • Add a fish oil supplement such as ProNova Fish Oil, which is free of mercury and other toxic metals. In addition to aiding digestion it can reduce flaky skin and brittle fur.

Anyone who shares their home with a cat knows that felines actively seek out the sunny spots – all the better if it happens to be in a favorite chair or a comfy Cat Faerie bed. We don’t know if cats suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the dark months. However, full spectrum lighting (which mimics natural sunlight) is known to decrease cortisol (a stress hormone), increase serotonin (a mood stabilizer), and regulate circadian rhythms (the sleep cycle). Its effect on shedding is not known, but providing full spectrum lighting can make kitty, and you, more relaxed and happy.

* I would be remiss if I failed to mention that brushing a cat is far more challenging than brushing a dog. We tend to be very sensitive and although brushing may feel good initially it can lead to over stimulation. Everything seems fine until suddenly we are in touch with our inner tiger. So start slowly and learn how much kitty can tolerate. Several short sessions may be the best option. Grooming is also a bonding ritual between cats. Why not use it to show kitty how much you care and strengthen your bond?
 
 
 
 

Newton’s Purrspective – Ticks and Cats, Part 2: Protect and Repel

Sir Isaac Newton is our Feline Editor At Large (just how large, he’s not saying) who writes very brainy and very well researched articles for us. Newton lives in the North East and is fond of storms, our catnip toys, a soft bed, sunbeams, and naps. He has an ongoing email flirtation with our Daphne. This is his current, and as always, very well done article.


In Part 1 I presented the perils awaiting cats outdoors – particularly those involving ticks. In Part 2 I will give you some suggestions on how to fight back to protect yourself and your beloved cats.

Scientists are discovering more diseases that can be carried by ticks. Symptoms vary widely which is one of the reasons it took so long to diagnose Lyme disease. Symptoms usually don’t show up immediately after a bite. If you find a tick on Fluffy put it in a tightly sealed glass jar and take it to your veterinarian. Live ticks can be stored in the refrigerator for 10 days. Dead ticks can be frozen. If Fluffy shows any signs she may be sick be sure to mention if she has, or may have, been exposed to ticks.




Isaac Newton

I hesitate to recommend any particular flea or tick repellant. Natural products may not be strong enough and chemicals have their own host of health hazards. The best defense is to keep Kitty inside.

But then again, staying inside is not a 100% guarantee. Humans or dogs can carry ticks into the house requiring a thorough inspection after spending time outdoors. Then there are CATios. Fleas and ticks could certainly invade them. Careful CATio construction and the local incidence of these pests are helpful. Landscaping with plants that ticks don’t like near your CATio would be helpful.

Plants with strong scents can act as flea and tick repellants. The following is a list of such plants that could be planted outside a screened CATio (note planting zones) All of these are pet safe. https://www.organiclesson.com/plants-repel-fleas-ticks/ :

Garden SageUSDA Hardiness Zone: 5 – 8

Rosemary USDA Hardiness Zone: 7 – 10

Sweet Basil USDA Hardiness Zone: 10 – 11

Thyme USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 – 9

Marigold USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 – 10

Another option is spraying the ground and vegetation with cedar oil. Perhaps you recall when cedar chips used to be a common stuffing for pet beds. If you choose to apply cedar oil around the CATio be sure to use a brand that does not contain phenolic compounds. Cats are very sensitive to phenols and they can cause severe illness and even death. In addition, do not let Kitty near the area until it has completely dried.

Checking for fleas and ticks while grooming or petting is a good idea no matter what comprises Kitty’s home environment. Better safe than sorry.

I know many of you may be squeamish about ticks and I don’t blame you. The CDC has excellent directions on how to properly remove a tick. https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/removal/index.html However, if you are uncomfortable with the process, or Kitty refuses to cooperate, do not hesitate to seek help from your veterinarian. The sooner a tick is removed the better since that decreases the likelihood of diseases being transmitted through saliva as it feeds.

Now perhaps you are wondering if ticks have any natural predators. The answer is yes! You may be surprised to learn it is the opossum. North America’s only marsupial has been given a bad reputation most likely since it is nocturnal and only encountered when you take out the trash at night. They show their teeth and hiss when surprised simply because they are afraid of you.

Despite the pointed noses and rounded ears, they are not related to rats and nor do they carry diseases harmful to humans and cats. In fact, they help prevent human disease by eating garden pests, rodents and even poisonous snakes! https://vetmed.illinois.edu/wildlife/2019/06/05/the-helpful-opossum-2/ And here’s the best part. They eat 95% of the ticks they encounter! A single opossum could eat as many as 5,000 ticks in a season. https://opossumsocietyus.org/general-opossum-information/

Attracting opossums to your yard is easy! And it produces a win-win situation. All you need to do is provide an environmentally friendly environment for them. This includes researching what the native plants are to your specific region and planting them, using only organic permaculture methods and planting a dense variety of plants which become cozy nesting places. Please never buy plants from big box chain stores as they are often treated with neonicotinoids. While this toxin has been approved by the FDA it is banned in Europe because when bees take tainted pollen to their hives it kills off their colony. https://www.hunker.com/13425595/how-to-attract-a-possum-to-my-yard

Having tick eating opossums in your garden is coexistence at its finest! If there is one thing that I learned in 2020 it is that we have to take very good care of ourselves and each other.

If this article has kicked in your “cat’s curiosity” about ticks and tick-borne diseases, you may want to peruse the book “Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons” by Kris Newby. This is not an easy read, but this is information that everyone should know about and tell others about.