Category Archives: Information

Informational Posts

Bah Humbug! The Holidays Can Be Dangerous For Your Pets!

Dog Dressed for ChristamsBah Humbug! The Holidays Can Be Dangerous For Your Pets!

Did you know that holiday decorations can be deadly for our four-legged family members? I hate to sound like the grumpy Grinch Who Stole Christmas, but I really do want to help you avoid the pet calamities of the holidays so your whole family can have a grand old time and stay sane and safe at the same time.

Decorations & Gifts Pose Hazards for Pets

Tinsel and ribbon can actually kill a cat if she swallows them; a puppy can get electrocuted (and burn your house down!) if he chews unprotected electric wires for holiday lights and decorations. And what about that lovely Christmas tree, covered in all those sparkly enticements? All it takes is a cat batting at the decorations or a dog pulling or jumping on a tree for it to come crashing down. And then there are all those wrapped packages under the tree, which if you don’t keep the tree safe and off limits, a young dog would delight in opening those wrapped boxes for you — because who knows what he might find inside the packages? How about yummy chocolates? Not everybody knows how dangerous chocolate is for a dog — and that the higher the quality of chocolate, the greater the cacao content and the more dangerous it is for them.

Are you aware that your sweet alcoholic holiday beverages can be appealing to pets when they discover them on the coffee table — but you’ll end up with them in the animal ER? What about mistletoe and holly? They might make for a lovely holiday song, but they are a couple of the holiday plants that are poisonous for dogs and cats (poinsettias are another)!

And then there’s the cold weather itself for people in the Northeast — dogs walking on salted sidewalks can get burns if their paws aren’t covered or washed afterward — and older dogs can fall down and have serious injuries on slippery ground, just the way senior people can.

Holiday Stress Can Stress Your Pet

Oh, and let’s not forget the holiday stress that our pets pick up from us — we have too much to do, too many gifts to buy (and money we’re anxious about having to spend), chores to complete and people coming and going. Our pets sense all that and don’t know how to make sense of it! During the holidays, cats have been known to bolt out the door after one guest too many — and some dogs can get nippy if there is too much stress and intensity in their environment and their space is not respected.

My friends at Halo have invited me to give a webinar on pet safety during the holidays — it’s going to be a Dogington University online webinar. Please join me Thursday December 18th at 6PM ET! It’s easy to join my webinar on and let me help your dogs and cats stay safe with a handy checklist I’ll give you of the Pet Pitfalls of holidays and how to avoid them. You need to register to be able to join me, but it’s super easy. Go to I’m eager to give you tips about staying safe with your pets over the holidays — and to answer any questions you might have.

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credit: skirtpr via photopin cc

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Hallelujah! A miracle supplement that stops shedding!

dog grooming brush and hair

Hallelujah! A miracle supplement that stops shedding!

When I invited Vivamune supplements to join the Radio Pet Lady Network as a sponsor, I knew there was good science and ingredients behind this daily supplement that boosts and protects a dog’s (or cat’s) immune system. However, at first, I was not giving it to my own dogs because I was so busy helping to facilitate donations of Vivamune to shelters like Adopt-a-Dog in Westchester, Southampton Shelter (the Official Shelter of my NPR radio show DOG TALK®), Animal Haven in Connecticut, some wonderful Japanese Chin rescues, Doberman Rescue in Florida and Friends for Pets in Sunland, California where my first two Weimaraners came from. The company wanted my help to reach out and touch those animals most in need of immune support — those in shelters or foster care, whose unavoidable high stress levels being sheltered can weaken their immune system.

Treating Environmental Allergies

Meanwhile, I began giving Vivamune to my young rescued Weimaraner, Maisie, who suffers from environmental allergies (itching, scratching) and takes Benadryl several times a day. She also shed like crazy, more than any of the Weimaraners I have rescued over the years. Unlike my previous light gray Weimaraners (the usual color), Maisie is a dark charcoal gray (called a Blue Weim). Her shedding was such a nuisance that everything was covered in short black hairs: my car (where she spends a great deal of time, going with me everywhere), towels from her baths, the shower drain itself after bathing, the dog bed covers, her Ruffwear winter coat, and anywhere she lay down. If I had a damp hand and stroked her, my palm came away with hairs on it! I assumed it had to be the result of her allergies, since shes has a high quality diet of The Honest Kitchen, Halo kibble and Nordic Naturals omega-3 fish oil.

No More Cloud of Black Hairs

After a couple of weeks of giving her the delicious Vivamune chews that she viewed as a treat, I noticed that she seemed to be a lot less itchy. I didn’t know if she was scratching less because of the antihistamine she was getting, or the change in seasons with the weather getting colder. So I didn’t realize how dramatically the Vivamune had curtailed her shedding until I did a load of dog laundry. I had become accustomed to the inside of my washer window being covered in short dark hairs and having to wipe out the whole drum and run it on a rinse cycle. I was resigned to having a dryer that blew a cloud of black hair back at me when I opened the door after drying her things. It was gross! And so much work to clean out every time. Suddenly there was 90% less hair in both those places — I couldn’t believe my eyes, because I had not been expecting this visible result from giving the Vivamune, even though improvement of skin condition was one of the listed possible results of giving it. I was thrilled! I had expected to live my life under a cloud of black hairs, and now I discovered not only that Maisie was barely shedding compared to previously, but her coat had taken on a brilliant shine. It wasn’t obvious to me until I had some new photos taken with her for the Dog Film Festival website and I realized she was outshining me!

A Shiny New Coat

So many of us have dogs who shed or have dull, lifeless coats and we think that’s “just the way that dog is,” we don’t realize there is something we could do to improve that, even beyond a great diet. Hallelujah for Vivamune! Try it for your dog just for overall health, but see if you don’t get the bonus of the shiniest, prettiest pooch in the neighborhood!

–Tracie Hotchner

Vivamune, Halo, The Honest Kitchen and Nordic Naturals are sponsors on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Halo’s “Forever Home” Movie Made Me Cry For Joy

Dog Film Festival (logo)

Dog Film Festival (OCT 2015, NYC)

Halo’s “Forever Home” Movie Made Me Cry For Joy

From the minute I had the great pleasure of seeing the beautiful little gem of a film, “Forever Home,” directed by Peter McEvilley — who created it as one of his #RescueFilms for Halo — I knew it simply had to be included in the First Annual Dog Film Festival that I am producing for the Radio Pet Lady Network next October 17th in New York City. Halo’s #RescueFilms embody all the qualities that we will be looking for in films we’ll choose to show at the Dog Film Festival — the joy and intensity of the canine-human bond and the remarkable relationship people have with dogs. I’m proud to announce that this new film and the earlier #RescueFilm from Halo and Peter called “Le Sauvetage” are the very first contributors to the Dog Film Festival! These two films will kick off each series of short dog films at the Festival and set the mood, as well as a high bar, for all the films to follow.

All the #RescueFilms that McEvilley has made for Halo embody the company’s message about the beauty of saving a dog’s life from a shelter, which makes it a perfect fit that the canine stars — The Olate Dogs, winners of America’s Got Talent — are themselves all dogs rescued from shelters. Presented by Halo, Purely for Pets, “Forever Home” was inspired by the holiday classics “The Night Before Christmas” and “The Nutcracker” ballet. Peter McEvilley’s film shows that dreams can come true for the holidays, for people and for dogs. You can watch Forever Home right here, but I promise you it will be even better to see it again at the Festival next October in New York, in a theatre full of fellow dog-lovers!

Submit Your Own Dog-Themed Film

Peter himself will be coming to the festival and receiving a pair of “all-access dog tags” to admit him to the Gala Premiere Pooch Party at a major New York dog-friendly hotel the night before — and to the full day of screenings and panel discussions on October 17th. If you want to try your own hand at creating a dog-themed film — or you have a child under the age of 16 who might want to create a short film — you too might wind up being my guest for all the festivities. The submission guidelines are here:

–Tracie Hotchner

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Halo Gives Me Much To Be Thankful About

Halo Products: Natural Dog Food, Cat Food and Treats

Halo Gives Me Much To Be Thankful About

Every week I have the privilege of sharing some of my thoughts and interests about pets with the Halo audience. As we all try to take a moment to reflect on what we are thankful for at this time of the year, I continue to be amazed at how fortunate I am to have worked my way to having a seat at the table where the Bigger Thought Process about pets in our world takes place. My association with Halo Purely for Pets has helped reinforce my own instinctive choice to align myself always with the highest quality, most ethical causes and companies. The Halo company never veers off its declared course: to use impeccable ingredients in their foods, to always tell the truth, and to use their marketing and messaging energy and time on behalf of less fortunate pets in shelters – through I am proud of my association with such a good-hearted company, and inspired to know that success can come from never wavering in what you believe in and care about.

Advice from Joan Baez

I am reminded of simple advice I received many, many years ago when I was interviewing Joan Baez for a featured piece I wrote for the Sunday Los Angeles Times Calender section, comparing women in the film business (who were powerless) to women in the music business (who had more control of their work and lives). When I told Joan Baez how much I was impressed by her consistent morality in her work and life, and as a young woman how I hoped I could follow her example, she said it was simple: “Never do anything or associate with anything you would have to apologize for.”

Serving Goodness in the Bowl, Goodness in the Shelter World

We can all be thankful for individuals and companies like Halo that set a good example for us in our professional and even personal lives. For a perspective on the other side of the coin, take a moment to listen to my NPR radio show DOG TALK® this week, that will be podcast December 2nd on my Radio Pet Lady Network in which I have a philosophical discussion with a pet food industry veteran about what has happened to many previously excellent pet food brands when they quietly sold out to the bigger food companies. Be thankful that Halo is there for us and our pets, serving up goodness in the bowl, and goodness in the shelter world.

–Tracie Hotchner

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Looking For A Few Chubby Dogs

Overweight dog (beagle)

Looking For A Few Chubby Dogs

Is your dog getting pudgy around the middle? Has she lost her girlish puppy figure? Did your boy once have a svelte outline when he was two years old, but now you can grab a big handful of “extra dog” behind his collar and over his shoulders? We have become a nation of overweight people and obese children — so it’s only logical our dogs are suffering the same fate — and all the medical problems that follow from it. We’ve got a solution for the dogs, at least!

Halo’s own expert vet Dr. Donna Spector is my co-host on THE EXPERT VET on the Radio Pet Lady Network and we have been having a great time on our show and website helping people whose dogs have packed on a few too many pounds to shed the weight using the Halo Healthy Weight kibble. Once we discover a canine candidate, he needs to live with a human who is highly motivated to put the dog on a strict calorie-controlled diet devised by Dr. Donna. She calculates what the dog weighed at age two (a good benchmark for a healthy weight for most dogs) and then creates a diet that will burn body fat, yet keep the dog from feeling too hungry. Halo has graciously allowed us to offer three months’ worth of canned Spot’s Stew and their Healthy Weight Grain-Free dry food to those dogs. It’s plain for everyone to see for themselves that a super-premium food like Halo’s can also be used a “diet food.” When it’s in the right hands.

Dr. Donna’s Weight Loss Strategy for Faith, the Siberian Husky

Dr. Donna and I have just completed another successful weight loss experience with Faith, a beautiful California pooch who lives with her fellow Siberian Huskies. Faith had gotten quite chubby over (what seemed to her Mom a short period of time) and simply cutting back on Faith’s food portions was not making a dent in those added pounds. Her mom was dismayed because she knew the negative health consequences of a dog being overweight, but she was making no headway trying to put Faith on a diet.

Enter Superwoman, Dr. Donna to the rescue! Dr. Donna put together a carefully planned diet for Faith (as she had done for Teddy and Fritz previously) and Faith’s Mom agreed to take her to the vet’s office for weekly weigh-ins, and to stick to the low-calorie vegetable snacks and other instructions from Dr. Donna that go along with Halo Healthy Weight food. Faith not only lost weight the slow-and-steady way that is healthy and can establish a new normal weight for Faith- but she is more playful and generally happier. And Faith is going to stay on the Halo food to maintain that hard-won weight loss!

Enter Your Dog in the Weight Loss Challenge

Now we are on the lookout again for another lucky candidate for the Halo Healthy Weight Challenge on our show. Do you have a dog you’ve come to think of as chubby? Do him a favor! Send us a note to and tell us your dog’s age, type, weight now, and weight at age two (an optimal target weight). If we choose your dog we’ll be following you on THE EXPERT VET and giving you the Halo Healthy Weight food and Spot’s Stew in a can to turn your dog’s life around.

We are so grateful that Halo Purely for Pets shares our concern not just about the highest quality ingredients in a dog’s diet, but also that so many dogs are getting “too much of a good thing” and getting fat. With our weight loss challenge we hope to raise awareness that giving your dog even a few tablespoons of food more than what he really needs can wind up packing on the pounds over time and creating an avoidable problem. Please write us at

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credit: NickNguyen via photopin cc

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Halo’s Healthy Weight Challenge: Successful Week 10!

Faith, on Halo's Healthy Weight Loss ChallengeHalo’s Healthy Weight Challenge: Back To A Successful Week 10!

Guest blog by Dr. Donna Spector

True to form—after no weight loss during weeks 8 and 9—Faith weighed in with a loss of 1.2 pounds this week. She is now 61.4 pounds—way to go Faith!

Faith’s mom often feels she is on a weight loss roller coaster but I encourage her to recognize this as the way Faith’s body loses weight. Although Faith has a weekly weight loss target, it is always best to look at the bigger picture of weight loss over several weeks.

Although weight loss is our goal, if the pounds are coming off slowly a dog owner may need to change their focus to improving health instead of just chasing a number every week on the scale. Not necessarily “how long will it take?” but rather “think of how much better my dog will feel”. Slow and steady wins this race!

I just received this email from Faith’s mom:

“I really appreciate all that you and Halo are doing for Faith. She is acting like a young pup again! Her happiness makes my heart very happy! The pet sitter noticed her increased activity too. It’s fun to see her zooming around!”

Check back in 2 weeks for Faith’s final weigh-in!

Faith is the second participant enrolled in the Halo Healthy Weight Challenge on THE EXPERT VET of the RADIO PET LADY NETWORK. Faith is eating a specially designed meal plan of Halo Healthy Weight natural dog food and extra fruits and veggies to help her get back to a thin and trim weight.

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Halo’s Healthy Weight Challenge: The Dreaded Plateau of Weeks 8 & 9

Faith, on Halo's Healthy Weight Loss ChallengeHalo’s Healthy Weight Challenge: The Dreaded Plateau of Weeks 8 & 9

Guest blog by Dr. Donna Spector

Faith has definitely exhibited a distinct pattern of weight loss over the past 9 weeks—she will lose 1 or 2 pounds and then plateau for a couple of weeks.

My experience with owners of overweight dogs on a weight loss program is that they become concerned, disheartened or frustrated when they don’t see results on the scale every single week. It can test even the best owners “stick-to-itiveness” when they are following strict feeding guidelines and limiting treats and not getting positive feedback from the dreaded scale. If this sounds like you, do not lose hope!

What I have found with pudgy pooches is that the plateau is a common part of the weight loss process and every dog (person too!) loses weight differently. Some lose quickly and easily and others seem to struggle with every pound. Although I have given Faith a weekly weight loss goal, it is best to always look at the big picture. I know that Faith’s mom has been sticking to the plan—because she keeps an excellent journal!—so it is best to wait a little before considering another major calorie cut or diet adjustment as this plateau is the way Faith’s body normally loses weight.

For a dog on a diet, a good rule-of-thumb is to consider a change in the plan if weight loss has not occurred for 4 weeks in a row. First, look at the calories and consider a further restriction. It is also reasonable to consider changing to a different type of food. Although a high-protein/low-calorie food like Halo Healthy Weight is a great first choice, some dogs will do better on a higher fiber diet or some other type. Ask your veterinarian for help with this decision if your current plan is not working.

I have faith in Faith—check back next week to see if she has lost more or if we need to further adjust her food plan to get her back on track!

Faith is the second participant enrolled in the Halo Healthy Weight Challenge on THE EXPERT VET of the RADIO PET LADY NETWORK. Faith is eating a specially designed meal plan of Halo Healthy Weight natural dog food and extra fruits and veggies to help her get back to a thin and trim weight.

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Treating Fido Like Family in China

Woman crossing street with dog in stroller

Treating Fido Like Family in China

Mary Peng advocates for the welfare of the rapidly growing number of “companion animals” in Chinese cities.

[Journalist Debra Bruno writes for the Atlantic and posted this superb article about changing values and practices in China regarding dogs as dinner or family members — and mentions Mary Peng, my wonderful co-host on TAILS FROM CHINA. This article neatly describes the explosive changes in Chinese attitudes towards animals as pets, a topic which is the mission of our radio show.]

Guest Post by Debra Bruno

The images were shocking: Truckloads of wire cages jammed with bedraggled dogs, all of them looking like family pets that got caught in the rain. The animals were headed for the Yulin summer solstice festival, an annual event in the southern Chinese city, where they would be killed, skinned, and served as barbecue or hot pot.

Although the festival takes place each year, more and more activists and animal lovers are stepping in to try to prevent the slaughter and consumption of as many as 10,000 dogs.

The festival illustrates the paradox of a changing China: The clash between a traditional culture that celebrates the solstice with eating lychee and dog meat, and the growing middle class that treats the pet pooch as a member of the family.

Animal rights activists hold caged dogs they bought prior to the Yulin festival last June, to keep them from being killed.

Animal rights activists purchased these caged dogs prior to Yulin festival to save them from slaughter. (Stringer/Reuters)

Some reports say there are as many as 1.2 million registered dogs in Beijing alone (a city of about 22 million), and 10 million in China overall, but that number doesn’t include the unregistered dogs, which China would count as strays and confiscate.

Pet ownership is largely an urban practice, in contrast to rural villages, where dogs are still used as guards and to herd sheep. People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, published an editorial in June decrying pet ownership and calling it one of the downsides of Western influence.

But in cities, many families with one child lavish additional attention on the family pet. Some older Beijingers walk around the city pushing strollers that hold a dog instead of a tot.

Mary Peng, founder of Beijing’s International Center for Veterinary Services, thinks the best approach to ending the practice of killing dogs for meat is to make the conversation about public health.

“We have found it’s much more effective to base the argument on science,” she says. For the ever-practical Chinese in a country with increasing numbers of food-safety scares, the thought of eating meat that might have come from a dog with rabies or who had been poisoned is a powerful one. The emotional appeal—don’t eat Fido!—will come of its own accord as the country’s urban middle class grows, Peng thinks.

The festival illustrates the clash between a traditional culture that celebrates the solstice with eating lychee and dog meat, and the growing middle class that treats the pet pooch as a member of the family.

Peng, a Chinese-American New Yorker who has lived in China since 1991, has an acute sense of how to work the system here. When she adopted a cat not long after her move to the country and discovered that veterinary care for cats was less than ideal, she co-founded her own hospital. Today, ICVS offers boarding, grooming, emergency care, and a steady flow of free lectures on topics such as how to exit China with a pet or the legal requirements related to keeping a dog in Beijing.

In addition, Peng has become Beijing’s go-to companion-animal expert, writing a column on pet issues for the English-language Beijinger magazine, serving as a board member of the Jane Goodall Institute in China, and creating a radio program, “Tails from China,” on the Radio Pet Lady Network. She’s in the process of revising a guide to companion animals to be distributed to Chinese schoolchildren in the city.

And when she’s not talking about spaying and neutering feral cats, the hazards of unregulated puppy mills, or China’s quarantine regulations for incoming animals, she’s pushing to end the practice of dogs as menu items.

“It’s one of the last vestiges of a very traditional food culture in China,” she says. Cats and dogs are seen as “exotic delicacies” in China’s south, and as a warming winter food in the country’s north near Korea.

Mary Peng, shown with a little girl and her baby rabbits.

Mary Peng, shown with a little girl and her baby rabbits.

The health argument strikes a chord, Peng says. “What do you think the chances are of having high-quality, high-grade, disease-free, antibiotic-free meat from animals who are completely off the grid?” she asks. Rabies is present in the dog population in China, and consuming a dog that might have had rabies is a “possible risk,” she says.

Jill Robinson, the founder of Animals Asia, a nonprofit that works on everything from bear bile farms to conditions in zoos, says another issue is that many of the dogs have been poisoned so they can be easily snatched. When Robinson first came to China in the 1980s, she found dog farms that raised animals for meat. But farmers realized it was too expensive to prevent disease in the animals, and “it became easier for the trade to steal these dogs,” she says.

In dogs recovered from dog markets, “we see licenses faked, dogs wearing collars, who had obviously been socialized into a family home,” she says.

This year in Yulin, activists protested the festival as others came to sit at round tables in an alleyway and eat barbecued dog. Newspapers reported that one dog seller threatened to strangle a puppy unless someone bought him on the spot, so activists did.

In dogs recovered from dog markets, “we see licenses faked, dogs wearing collars, who had obviously been socialized into a family home,” Robinson says.

The rise of social media in China has fueled activism. Ten years ago, the reach of animal-rights activists was “fairly limited,” Peng says. “Now we have eyes on the street. If they’re riding down the highway and they see a truck with 500 dogs crammed into tiny cages,” activists start putting pictures on social media and there is a “huge procession of demonstrators,” she says.

(Ironically, all this publicity has had the effect of temporarily letting sellers gouge prices for dog meat.)

In May, the Chinese actress Yang Mi put a much-viewed post on the social media site Weibo. She wrote, “I treat dogs as friends, I don’t eat dog meat, and I oppose the use of dog meat as food,” and she called for an end to the Yulin festival.

Peng believes that changing attitudes and growth in the practice of keeping a family pet will cause an evolution away from dog-meat cuisine. “I feel so strongly that the moral character of a nation is tied to the way it treats its animals,” she says. “If you are kind to the animals, you are kind to each other.”

This post originally appeared at:

Is Wet Cat Food Really So Much Better Than Dry?

Cat eside empty food bowl

Is Wet Cat Food Really So Much Better Than Dry?

I got this letter from Carol, a listener to my show CAT CHAT® that really made an impression on me because it was so honest about her long-held skepticism about my urgent recommendation to everyone that they feed canned food to their kitties.

“I have long been a skeptic on dry vs. wet. All my cats, my whole life, had been on dry and have done well. I’ve listened to your show, and your phrase “kitty crack” to describe dry food, and I must say I have blown you off for quite some time. Then I inherited a fat kitty, as well as having a skinny kitty already (I attributed his thinness and other health problems to his age). Well, I took my dog to the vet, and asked how to get my fat cat to lose weight. He told me to use canned food; that this was the current thinking. Then, I took the fat cat to another vet (I had to move her out of state temporarily) and that vet said that ideas were shifting and it was now recommended to feed wet food, as cats are obligate carnivores. So I was finally convinced: I moved all my kitties to wet. Well, my fat one is getting skinny, my skinny one is getting fat and on top of that is gaining a great coat, urinating less, shedding less, and now has incredible skin, as well as attitude. He looks better than I have ever seen him, even at age 14. I just wanted to apologize for blowing you off, but I really was a pretty big holdout. If I changed, then anyone can. You can use this message to help others. Love your show.”

How generous to acknowledge the huge improvement in her cats’ health when they stopped eating “kitty crack.”

Carol’s thoughtful note just knocked my socks off! It’s so great that she took the time to acknowledge her reluctance to follow my advice about “Thinking Outside the Bag,” and then showed humility in admitting that her skepticism was misplaced — plus she wanted her story to help others “see the light” for their kitty cats. This was the coolest letter I have ever gotten — and I was so grateful that I thanked her by sending a signed copy of THE CAT BIBLE. What made me doubly happy was that two different vets praised wet food and had caught up with the research (and common sense) showing the harm of feeding carbohydrates to an animal intended to eat a meat diet.

Not All canned cat food is created equal.

Once I get a convert to wet food, then I always try to point out that many supermarket brands of canned cat foods can contain quite a lot of carbs and inferior sources of protein. So people should be willing to go the distance to find brands with minimal carbs in the can or you aren’t really solving the nutritional health problem. That’s why Halo’s pate style foods with around 3% carbs — and Weruva’s Paw Lickin’ Chicken are stars in my firmament!

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credit: hehaden via photopin cc

Halo & Weruva are sponsors on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Cats are Eating Cindy out of House and Home

cat looking at table food

Cats are Eating Cindy out of House and Home

I got this email from Cindy, who is a Cat Chat® listener, and has taken to heart my advice to feed cats wet food only, because they are obligate carnivores whose bodies don’t need or do well with carbohydrates. She wrote:

“Thanks to you, over the past year I have converted all 5 of my cats to wet food. They get 1/2 can 2 times per day. 4 domestic short hair and 1 feral. All was going well — the overweight cat lost 8 pounds and did well and everyone else maintained weight. These are indoor and outdoor cats that live on a very big farm. Here’s the problem: all of these cats are attacking human food. They seem hungry constantly. They are eating food on the table when I eat, bread in wrappers on the counters, dog food during preparation for my 9 dogs on the farm. I don’t think 2 times per day feeding is enough to satisfy or sustain and have been feeding 3 times per day with winter weather rolling in. They live inside and come and go at will. Any suggestions?”

I did ask if the cats had been de-wormed and she assured me that they had. So it sounds as though Cindy has 5 healthy, hale and hearty cats, who are enjoying all the benefits of living with people and also the safe freedom of having a natural feline life outdoors. However, there are two possible reasons they are eating everything in sight: the quality and quantity of canned food

The first issue is quality: not all canned cat foods are created equal

cat looking at steak on plateWhile wet food is a more natural diet for a cat, you still have to pay attention to what is inside those cans. Is it a good quality protein as the first ingredient (often after water needed for processing)? Is the proportion of carbohydrates in that food best for a carnivore—less than 10% of calories from carbs? Because there are many brands of canned food that are full not only of carbohydrates (more than 50%, as if they were dry food in a can) but also may utilize poor quality protein ingredients, like by-product instead of a meat source. Those lower quality ingredients are also less expensive, meaning greater profits for the manufacturer — but not the quality needed by a cat’s finely tuned “engine.” Those foods will not satisfy a cat’s hunger, and may even make her hungrier, the way eating nothing but dry food can do to a cat’s appetite. Halo happens to have created a new pate style canned food that has an extraordinarily low percentage of calories coming from carbohydrates–around 3% — a real gift of health to our kitties.

The next problem is: are cats getting short changed on quantity and simply need more food?

Cindy’s cats sound as though they are burning up their food at a high rate of metabolism since they have an active lifestyle in and out of the house (since it is safe on her farm); with the weather turning cooler, that burns more calories, too. So it’s not how many times a day she feeds, but how much at each feeding. Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, my co-host on Cat Chat®, suggests giving cats as much as they will eat in a 15 minute mealtime. Cindy can try feeding them a bit more to see whether that doesn’t calm their appetite. I’m not trying to break her piggy bank, but often a cat who gets as much as she wants at a meal will not feel so frantic and will soon walk away from an uneaten portion of that food (which can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for the next meal). Although this may mean a higher food bill, there will be a big savings in health. By feeding the obligate carnivore the quantity she wants of food at two meals — and making sure it is high quality — you will be ensuring their health and investing in nutritional wellness, instead of spending money on the vet bills that can be the result of poor feeding practices. Getting the best quality food you can manage for your kitties will result in happier, healthier cats who will live longer. And that — as the ad says — is priceless.

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credits: dailywishes via photopin cc & nix-pix via photopin cc

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.