Adding SOLE to your pet’s diet

Man of La Muncha and I are currently "owned" by a small tortoiseshell cat, Ms. Teeth and Claws.  Ms. Claws is our third cat; previous cats included a pretty black and white girl and a large Maine coon cat.  We have loved all our cats, and have always fed them "good" pet foods, figuring that while they cost more, the cats will be healthier and better fed than if we bought bargain-basement cat food.  And while our cats have primarily subsisted on kibble, we have bought the occasional can of wet food as a special treat or, upon occasion, as a bribe.

The recent massive recall of pet foods produced by Menu Foods has increased awareness in the public with regards to the production of pet food (if you want to find out what has been recalled, a good starting point is itchmo!).  Even the supposedly good pet foods such as IAMS, Science Diet, and Nutro were affected by the recall, making us realize that there are no significant controls around what goes into pet food, and what we in turn are feeding to our animals.  What goes into the vast majority of pet food, apparently, is the non-human food grade scraps--the offal from the slaughterhouse floor, road kill, anything that ends up going to a rendering plant.  If your pet food lists "hydrolyzed" protein (i.e., hydrolyzed chicken, hydrolyzed beef) or protein "meal", it is not high-quality protein and has likely come from a rendering plant.  Brands like IAMs or Science Diet cost more than a store brand because of niche marketing, not because their food is any different in form or content from the store brands.

So what is an Ethicurean to do?  Is it possible to feed cats (and dogs) in a SOLE manner?Currently, Ms. Claws eats Wysong kibble, which, while not organic, has the advantage of being made of human-grade materials.  Wysong does all their own manufacturing and has not been impacted by the recall; they appear to be a company that is trying to make a difference.  But they're certainly not local, and they do not claim to locally source the ingredients for their products.  So if we were to move Ms. Claws to a more sustainable diet, we would have to find another way to feed her.

One option would be to make her food ourselves.  The book The New Natural Cat by Anitra Frazier is a tremendous resource for cat owners who are willing to go out of their way to maintain the health and happiness of their pets.  In addition to information on grooming, spaying and neutering, litterbox habits, and management of chronic health conditions, Ms. Frazier includes a full section on diet, including a recipe for home-made cat food.  Her recommended diet is as follows:

Cat Diet (Courtesy of The New Natural Cat)

60% Protein.  Use raw ground chuck, raw organic chicken, raw organic egg yolks, cooked egg white, tofu (though only in small amounts--taurine, a critical amino acid for cats, is present only in meat), or cooked chicken, turkey, lamb, or beef.  No cooked poultry bones should be used.

20% Vegetable.  Use finely grated raw zucchini or carrot, finely chopped alfalfa sprouts, steamed broccoli, carrots, or corn, baked winter squash, yam, or sweet potato.

20% Grain.  Use soaked oat bran, cooked barley, millet, oat flakes, brown rice, teff, quinoa, amaranth, sweet corn, or mashed potato.

Vita Mineral Mix (to supplement daily).  1.5 cups yeast powder, a quarter cup kelp powder, 1 cup lecithin granules, 2 cups wheat bran, and 2 cups calcium lactate or calcium gluconate.

Every meal, Frazier recommends adding a teaspoon of Vita-Mineral Mix (see above) and a quarter teaspoon of feline enzymes.  Once a week, give the cat a capsule of alpha tocopherol vitamin E and one capsule each of vitamin A (10,000 units) and vitamin D (400 units).  Note that this can be a raw food diet; if you choose to feed your cat a raw diet, the food should be left available for only thirty to forty-five minutes; after that, it should be thrown out.  If you do opt to cook the meat portion, it should be lightly cooked to avoid losing taurine.

There are other homemade pet food recipes available on the Internet (Everyday Simplicity has good links to dog and cat options); it's probably best to talk with your vet before starting a new diet, and always good to make any transition gradually, by adding the new food in with what you're feeding your pet currently, and increasing the percentage of the new food until the old food is phased out.

Another option would be to feed Ms. Claws organic pet food (which Wysong is not).  A great resource is the All Natural Pet Food Directory, categorized by retailers, natural pet food treats, natural pet foods with organic ingredients, human-grade pet food, and additional links. A delivery service, similar to the service Sprouts provides for baby food, would also be an option.   Unfortunately, I was unable to locate anything comparable to pets for the Puget Sound area, though such a thing may be a possibility in other locations.

Ultimately, given our current work schedules and options, we will likely transition Ms. Claws to an organic diet rather than making homemade pet foods.  A raw food diet is a commitment we cannot make at this time, but we can at least make a commitment to the O of SOLE. It may not be local, but at least we know that our cat won't be ingesting rat poison or plastics toxins. 

Sadly, right now that is enough.

7 Responsesto “Adding SOLE to your pet’s diet”

  1. meloukhia says:

    I just wanted to add that it is *really important* that you check with a veterinarian before starting your cat on a new diet. In addition, if your cat has not had a blood panel within the last year, it is probably a good idea to request bloodwork to make sure that all of your cat's innards are in order. This is especially important for older cats, and will help you catch the early signs of chronic renal failure, which is the leading cause of death in cats, even those who are not eating toxic food.

    Also, although you didn't mention this, it is not advisable for cats to eat pork, because of parasites that can be found in a lot of raw pork, and you should go easy on fish which is known to be high in mercury, such as tuna. You should also not feed raw freshwater fish, because it contains parasites.

    And for anyone still in doubt about feeding their pets with home made food, here's a little reminder from the FDA about the purity of pet food:

    "Before it was recognized that they were susceptible to the BSE agent, cats were exposed to the infectious agent through commercial cat food or through meat scraps provided by butchers. The number of reported cases of FSE in the UK and Europe has been declining annually since 1994 after implementation of feed bans in those countries."

  2. Anastasia says:

    I was surprised that PetPromise wasn't listed on the "All Natural Pet Food Directory." Perhaps it isn't natural enough? I don't think it's organic, but their methods sound pretty sustainable. Have you guys heard anything good or bad about the company or products?

  3. Nicole says:

    Frazier's diet is actually a bit of overkill.

    If you have SOLE meat near you, check out this site: rawfedcats.org. Raw diets are fabulous for pets. Cats in particular do not need that level of vegetables and grains in their diet.

    My cats did not take to raw when it was mixed and ground. My older one loves chunks of raw meat. He will eat fish with bones and scales. He recently just started chewing on turkey bones. Calf liver is his favorite organ meat so far.

    My younger one is not so enthusiastic. She will eat some salmon and lamb, but not nearly as much or the variety the older cat will. She still gets some canned food (Nature's Variety Prarie and Wellness Grain Free) as well as Nature's Variety Prarie dehydrated lamb (crumbled up and mixed with some water).

    There is also a great e-mail discussion group on yahoo (rawcats) that has a wealth of knowledge.

    As far as vets, I found a holistic vet in my area that believes in raw food diets. She is really good at recommending gradual change too. And both beasts actual seem to not mind going again when they have to. To find a holistic vet near you check out http://www.holisticvetlist.com. I definitely would recommend finding a supportive vet to help with the changes and make sure your cat stays on track health wise through any major diet change.

    It has taken a lot of patience with my two, but the change has been great! They both love their food and are more active. Their coats and teeth look great and the younger one had skin issues which are immensely better already.

    Good luck!

  4. leavesofjoy says:

    This has been a scary situation, and I got even more scared when I couldn't find any canned pet foods that aren't somehow made by Menu Foods. Even if a specific line was made by them at another plant "not affected by the recall", that's just about THIS event- it still shows how low Menu's quality care is.

    I did since find out that Solid Gold, at least according to their website ( http://solidgoldhealth.com/news/ ), has nothing to do with Menu foods. And, as an aside, IAMS isn't even "supposedly good"- check out http://www.iamscruelty.com/

    I'll be looking into the suggestions on the blog & comments here, too. Thanks!

  5. mo says:

    Pet Promise is a really good pet food. They only use real meat/fish/poultry- no byproducts, no meat with hormones or antibiotics, none of that stuff. Plus, they support small, sustainable, eco-friendly farms. They sound really great to me.

    I don't actually have a pet, so I don't use it, but I have a few friends who do. Actually, one friend mixed half Pet Promise food with half regular food for her dog, while she was trying it out, and the dog picked out all the Pet Promise food and left the regular stuff. Obviously animals can tell the difference!

  6. Pam says:

    The pet food recall has opened a new door for me and my pets. Food/cooking is my hobby and making homemade food for my puppy and cat is my new venture. After reading several articles and info on various pet diseases and allergies that can be caused by commercial foods I'm ready to switch. I have the older Natural Cat book and I'm looking forward to getting the new version. My 4 yr old cat has always eaten IAMS, but I'm sure she will welcome some real food! I'm curious to see if the switch will help with her skin allergy. I'm not sure about RAW food..it'll just take getting use to the thought.

  7. Erin says:

    A word about hydrolyzed protein ingredients as well.

    My cat has sensitive skin, and a food allergy gives him trouble with most cat food. (Fur loss in big patches was the biggest symptom, though he also had trouble with his ears.) Since discovering the food allergy was to blame, I switched his diet to prescription food which is made with hydrolyzed proteins.

    It doesn't necessarily mean that the meat is lower quality but that the protein molecules are broken down enough not to irritate sensitive digestive tracts.

    Again, checking with the vet is always the best plan, but I wanted to add that hydrolyzed isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially for pets with sensitive constiutions.