Meet Matt Snyder, our guest editor, with his article on pet food nutrition – not to be missed!

On an all too brief get-away recently your cat faerie bumped into Matt Snyder and this very good and well written article. Matt has a shop for animal companions in Buellton, California which is in the heart of California’s beautiful central coast (if you saw the movie Sideways you’ve seen the area)

Matt’s advice for deciphering labels is a treasure. He’s done excellent research with an uncommon viewpoint. The only aspect of this article which we disagree with is corn. We at Cat Faeries are grain free for many reasons. It’s probably good to assume that any commercial corn is genetically modified and we believe this to be very dangerous.

Great nutrition leads to happy and healthy pets!
By Matt Snyder

When we talk about nutrition there are many factors that we need to think about when deciding on what food is best for our pets. Most foods you find on the market are foods that our pets should survive on but 80% are NOT foods that our pets will thrive on! We need to remind ourselves that our dogs and cats are domesticated. That process changes them dramatically in what they need as our companion animals verse what they would need out in the wild as wolves, coyotes and forest cats.

There are so many foods available and so many recipes that could be made at home, most of these are not nutritionally balanced. I hope to clarify some myths and rumors that run rampant in the pet industry and give you some tips as a pet owner on how to provide a great foundation of nutrition for your four legged family members.

First we should probably get this out of the way; Corn is not bad for pets. This rumor started in 1979 when an up and coming dog food company wanted to get into the pet food market. They decided to start the rumor that corn was bad and used as cheap filler or causes allergies. Corn contains: highly digestible proteins, carbohydrates for energy, linoleic acid, beta carotene and Vitamin A. There are different grades of corn available for use in pet foods. The highest grade corn has a very low moisture content and little to no dust; If ground down properly to the right micron size corn is a great ingredient and highly digestible. The two lower grades of corn are not a good ingredient and they are defiantly used as fillers or help keep a food low in cost.

Next let’s talk about how to read a pet food label. I know this is going to be a huge insight into how lacking our current regulation of pet food labels here in the US. AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) is the regulating association for pet food here in America. The last update they had to their regulations was almost 20 years ago. Since then information regarding our pet’s nutritional needs has changed dramatically. The tips below will allow you to critically think about and decide what food is best for your pet.

  • True or False: The first ingredient listed is what the pet food contains most of?

    False – AAFCO regulations state that ingredients are to be listed in order of precooked weight. This is incredibly misleading to the consumer. Since meats like: chicken, lamb and beef contain high amounts of moisture they are place first on the ingredient panel, when in all reality after they are cooked and processed they are lucky to be 5% of the total diet. That being said make sure when reading the label to keep in mind that the first ingredient isn’t always what they say it is!

  • True or False: If a label states 100% Beef then that is exactly what is in the can?

    False – Yet again a loop hole in the system. It is required by law that at least 95% of what is list on that can is that single protein. Make sure to check the moisture content. Too much moisture decreases the amount of protein in the can.

    Here are a few other useful hints: If a label states dinner, formula, recipe or entrée it is required that there is between 25-94% of what they are listing in that food. Then if a label states “with” only 3-24% of the “with” is required to be in that food. Now most misleading of all is when a label says “Flavor”. That term requires that 3% of the pets that eat this food must recognize that “flavor”. My question to you is how do we know when a pet can recognized a specific flavor?

  • AAFCO requires that there are only four components that need to be listed on pet food bags. These are: Crude Protein, Crude Fat, Crude Fiber and Moisture. All these except moisture are the minimum amounts, while moisture is listed as maximum. Below I have a table that has each of the components that AAFCO requires and three different products. Which product do you think is a can of food for a healthy 12 year old dog? Now keep in mind only one of these would be suitable to feed to your dog.
    Guaranteed Analysis Product A Product B Product C
    Crude Protein, min % 6.0 6.0 4.0
    Crude Fat, min % 4.0 5.0 2.5
    Crude Fiber, min %

    6.3 2.5 1.0
    Moisture, max % 78 78 78

    • Product A is old shoes, oil, coal and water
    • Product B is Old Yeller® Dog Food for growth & maintenance
    • Product C is Science Diet® Mature Adult Chicken Entrée Dog Food

    It is shocking to think that a pair of shoes contains very similar guaranteed analysis to that of dog food. This just goes to show that AAFCO regulations are so out of date. If there is anything else listed on the analysis it is because that pet food company has decided to list additional components. Hopefully these are beneficial but that is up to their discretion.

I think it is time to look at what factors we as consumers should look for in a pet food. Questions I would ask about a brand would be:

  • Do they use quality ingredients – where are they sourced from? Are they made in the USA?
  • Does the company own their own manufacturing plant and/or cannery? If so where is it located?
  • Does the company do feeding trials to provide the best quality product to the consumer and their pets?
  • How is the food packaged for storage on the shelf? Has it been nitrogen flushed? What is the quality of the bag used?
  • How long has the company been in business for? Do they have veterinarians and nutritionist on staff?
I know this article has given you a huge amount of information. The goal is to allow you as a pet owner to be knowledgeable about what you are feeding your four legged family members and how to sort fact from fiction. Remember we want to feed foods that allow our pet the THRIVE rather than just survive! Till next time…enjoy your pets!

Is your cat a chub muffin? Help your cat lose weight.

Is your cat a chub muffin? Help your cat lose weight.

A cat must lose weight very slowly. Rapid weight loss can cause liver failure as the liver cannot process the fat fast enough. So if your cat is tipping the scales either weigh the cat yourself (baby scales are a great investment when you have small animals) or take the cat to the vet.

Once you know the cat’s weight your vet will tell you how many calories a day the cat should eat to slowly lose weight. Since we are not veterinarians we cannot advise you on this.

When you know how many calories your cat needs a day call the cat food company and ask how many calories are in their food. They usually are more than happy to tell you. If you are feeding raw look up meat in any calorie counting book for people.

If you have just one cat it’s easy. Feed two meals a day. Half of the portion in morning, and the other half at night.

If you have more than one cat here’s how we helped Tasha lose 3 pounds about 10 years ago: We picked a room in the house with a door that shuts to be her special dining room. We put her portion of food into TWO BOWLS! Ha! We could tell by the look in her eyes what she was thinking “oh boy, two bowls, twice as much!” Her bowls went into the special dining room, we picked her up and put her in the room and shut the door. Then we fed the other cats in the regular kitty dining room. After 30 minutes we collected their food bowls and washed them out. Then we collected Tasha’s food bowls and washed them out. No more food for any of the cats until the next meal.

It took awhile for all of the cats to realize that they needed to eat when the food appeared. After a few days Tasha figured out that she ate in a special room and she’d follow us at feeding time.

It took about a year for Tasha to lose the 3 pounds. Her vet was very pleased, and we could tell she felt a lot better. She continued to eat separately for a few more years until we felt that she no longer wanted to pig out on food.

One last thought: Before separating her from the others, Tasha used to gulp down her food, then clean up everyone else’s food bowls. But by putting her portion into 2 bowls after awhile she’d leave a few bits behind. Also, not having the competition in the kitty dining room was very relaxing to her she no longer gulped, she ate slowly.

When you have multiple cats each cat needs their own food bowl. Set them at least 3 feet apart for privacy and to minimize food competition.

Slow Food Movement and cats

We have been supporters of the Slow Food Movement since around 1990. We shop, eat, cook, and live . . . slowly. When we work we try to make every move slowly and carefully with much thought and attention to detail and its cause and effect. Unless forced otherwise we buy only food grown or produced by persons in our bio region or watershed who are committed to organic, Permaculture, or Biodynamic principles. The same principles of Slow food and living Slow extend to how we care for and feed our cats and bunnies.

Our cats are fed a diet of raw grass fed meat. We purchase it from a local producer who we know by name and have the personal phone number of. We can ask them questions and get real answers. We know these folks well enough to know the names of their family members and their housecats! We enjoy the relationship we have with Linda Alston of Alston Farm and trust that the meat she sells us is as pure and clean as can be. We know the animals are raised with compassion, that they are healthy, and that they are not given drugs. The Jersey cows graze year round on grass in the California sunshine. We also like that Linda is close to our 100 mile watershed and is in our bio-region.

Our cats eat twice a day, breakfast and dinner. Preparing their food is a way we can slow down and put our energy into their good health and well being. As I put the meat in a bowl I think of Linda who I bought it from and I send nice thoughts her way. When I stir in minced baby greens I think of my garden where they grew or the person I bought them from at the farmer’s market, again sending out good wishes and nice thoughts.

If I add baked sweet potato (which cats love) I think about how I incorporate what the cats eat with what we eat. I roast or bake enough sweet potatoes for all of us. The greens which go into their food are also in my salad or part of a meal. We don’t give our cats much grain, but if there is some left over rice I’ll add a bit to the mix. My rice comes from a grower who’s in my bio region. Sometimes its from a fair trade company which works with organic and sustainable growers in far away places. I add Kidney Kitty flower essence formula as all of our cats are over 12 years old.

As I mix their food carefully and slowly I think about my beloved geriatric cats who’s ages range from 12 to over 18. I know that they look great and have lustrous fur and fairly minor health problems compared to other cats their age or even younger. I believe that eating commercial cat food on a daily basis is not good. Our cats do sometimes get canned cat food, but I’m very fussy about what I buy. I call the cat food companies and ask if all of their ingredients are US manufactured. I will not buy any food items which contain ingredients from China or similar countries (with the exception of things like tea, but its organically grown). Rarely do my cats get canned cat food more than a few times a week. While I mix their food and spoon it into their bowls I send out healthy and loving thoughts to all 6 to my cats.

I like homemade food for my cats for many reasons. I know the name and source of every single ingredient which is how I feed my human family and friends. The mystery ingredients in commercial cat food scare me. And how do we know for sure that the ingredients in prepared food for animals and humans are not toxic or safe? We don’t! We cannot trust corporations to put care and love into what they produce. We certainly cannot trust companies in other countries.

When news of the tainted cat and dog food first hit the media I wondered “why would any US or Canadian company consider buying ingredients like wheat or rice from China when we grow them right here?” Its madness. China and many other countries have appalling standards of cleanliness and health. Do you really trust US corporations who care only about the bottom-line and which buy cheap ingredients to feed you and your cats? Do you trust corporations in places like China?

We feed our cats food made with love. Do corporations love you? Or just your money? Do those workers, who are often slaves or barely paid, resent and hate us? As they are working under force or for little money are they putting their angry thoughts into those goods and ingredients?

Speaking of ingredients, how do we know for sure that every ingredient in prepared food – be it your cat or dog, or yours – does not contain toxic ingredients. Does that food bowl which was made in China contain toxins or give off toxic fumes? If you think we are alarmist then read the recent news articles about the millions of children’s toys which have been recalled because they contain deadly toxins

Cheap cat toys from China, cheap clothing from China, cheap appliances from China. Cheap and cheaper, toxic and dangerous, the list of cheapness grows every day. Then there is the pollution its causing in the countries where all of our manufacturing has gone because they do not have safety standards. Think your safe here on US shores? Read about the clouds of pollution which blow across the Pacific right into our backyards.

Do you know that only 1/2 of 1% of all imports are inspected? That’s not a typo, its a fact. Are you outraged? You should be. The recent cat and dog food deaths caused by poisoned ingredients from China should have scared you, gotten you to ask questions, and changed how you spend your money.

Transporting all that cheap junk to the US on ships requires the burning of a staggering amount of fossil fuel. The next time you say “Wow, I love it, its so cheap.” Think about what your saying and the effect shopping like this has.

Earlier in this post we tossed out some words you may not be familiar with: bio region and watershed. Hop over to Google and learn something new!

Shop: To find grass fed in your state:

Read: The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Read: In Praise of Slowness, Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honore’

View: Manufactured Landscape, a film by Edward Burtynsky. View the trailor:
View: Lou Dobbs on MSNBC

Web: FDA website for recalls and warnings on food, health care items and more. Very eye opening indeed!