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Feeding and Vaccinating Cats
The kidneys of cats are uniquely capable of conserving water. As a consequence, the concentrations of substances dissolved in the urine are very high. Also, since cats eat a 60% water diet (muscle etc.), they need to consume little water. Cats, therefore, do not urinate very much and do not drink as much water as other species. At the Hampshire Veterinary Hospital cats eating only moist food consume 1 - 1.5 ounces (2 – 3 Tablespoons) of water daily. If the cat produces less than a certain "normal" amount of urine during a period of time some of the substances in the urine can precipitate out of the urine in the form of a sandy substance called struvite. Cats are also unusual because they are thought to harbor a virus which can cause the production of struvite. This compound can be found as a sandy substance in the bladders of about 70% of the species.
Struvite, a product of inflammation, is capable of causing urethral irritation in both male and female cats. The irritation in turn causes bloody urine and cystitis (bladder inflammation). This can become a chronically repeating problem accompanied by urination in strange places around your house, urinating on porcelain surfaces such as the bathtub and frequently repeated trips to the litter box. In male cats, struvite and protein can form a urethral plug in the penis which can prevent the cat from urinating. This condition can cause the death of the animal.
Since cats are carnivores it is easy for them to have an acidic urine. This is due to the products of metabolism of the excess amino acids which are derived from high amounts of ingested protein or protein mobilization during between meal fasting. These products are excreted in the urine and, therefore, acidify the urine. Since cats eat meals of small rodents, they fast between meals. During fasting amino acids from protein are delivered into the blood, circulate to the liver, and are made into blood sugar which needs to be kept at a relatively constant concentration to provide for energy requirements. Amino acids promote urinary acidification. Once acidified, the struvite crystal in the urine is then smaller in size and is, therefore, less irritating to the urethra.
With the above in mind, it is absolutely necessary that cats not be fed dry or semi-moist food. The 78% water content of canned food will cause cats to urinate more, making it much less likely that the sandy substance will be in high enough concentration to cause urethral irritation or blockage. The dietary promotion of gastrointestinal motility will decrease intra-abdominal inflammation and thus, struvite crystal production.
In an attempt to cause better urinary flow companies who produce all of the dry foods add salt to the dry foods to cause the cats to drink and, therefore, hopefully urinate more. Since we all know that it is difficult eat only one potato chip, we all know that salt in the dry cat food entices cats to eat these dry grain chunks. Cats in the wild consume muscle which contains no sodium in its cells. Since it has been estimated that 70% of domestic cats are mildly hypertensive by the time that they are 7 years of age, this concentration of sodium in dry cat food is certainly not helping eliminate this hypertension.
In addition, most cats that over eat dry food will be overweight. Many times, dry food is left out for a cat to eat continuously. In the wild or in the back yard a cat will be lucky to consume 3 mice/day and these will be at different times allowing fasting between meals which, as mentioned above, decreases urinary tract inflammation. Also, it is more difficult for cats that over eat moist food which markedly decreases the tendency to accumulate excess weight.
Most canned foods are adequate. Some canned foods containing fish are often low in thiamine and vitamin E. Most canned fish containing diets, even though supplemented with vitamin E and thiamine, are devoid of those substances when packaged in the can. This is due to the preparation techniques used for those foods. Therefore, feed fish-containing diets no more than twice weekly (3 times/week if used as a snack).
Cats differ from many other mammals because they have an obligate requirement for vitamin A which is found in liver and, since they eat livers every day in the wild, cannot produce vitamin A from plant sources. Because it is an excellent source of vitamin A, we recommend feeding liver as a snack (one to one and a half tablespoons) two or three times a week. However, over feeding liver can cause hypervitaminosis A and calcium phosphorous imbalance. Canned cat food has adequate vitamin A and needs no supplementation.
Dry food is grain based and certainly not muscle based. Amino acid composition of meat based foods is different from grain based foods and this makes a lot of difference in many ways to the metabolic scheme for the animal. Cats have an obligate need for taurine, an amino acid found in meat. Cats fed dry dog food, which is not supplemented with taurine, for instance, can become blind because of a lack of taurine. The carbohydrate content of dry cat food is about 40 % while the carbohydrate content of the animals that they eat is less than 5%.
The best diet for a cat is one consisting of a major brand of chicken cat food. Many balanced cat foods are readily available. Ingestion of meat (protein) but not carbohydrate causes urinary acidification, causing decreased size and amount of struvite crystals in the urine. Although chicken cat food is far from all meat, it has meat and by-products that work in the same way. In our experience, feeding chicken canned food each day and having access to the outdoors promotes long lives.
Cats are very smart. They are the creatures that have caused the production of more varieties of cat food in the supermarket than most sother type of product in the store. Consequently, you must provide your cat with the information that only one variety of one brand of cat food is available in the store as of this day.
In addition, as stated above, it has been reported that, since cats hunt and eat only about 3 times each day, the periods of fasting between meals is important. That is because those fasting periods of time allow mobilization of protein from muscle stores and subsequent metabolic utilization of amino acids. The byproducts of this utilization of muscle protein are nitrogenous substances that are excreted in the urine and are identical to those resulting from ingestion of high amounts of animal protein. These substances, excreted in the urine, promote urine acidification, smaller bladder struvite crystal size and less urethral irritation. Thus, your cat should eat all of the food immediately (5-10 minutes) and, if not, you should then pick up the excess. Feed 2-3 times/day only! Cats must fast between meals!
Chicken, in our experience, is the food that produces the least intestinal gas in the cat. Turkey seems to produce more gas. Gas is the product of fermentation of intestinal contents by intestinal bacteria and protozoa. Increases in the activities of these organisms can be immune-modulating and could be responsible for inflammatory conditions of the bowel including malabsorption and constipation. This inflammation can kindle previously existing inflammation in the bladder which, as described above, many cats seem to have.
Chicken is facsimile of chipmunk, rabbit and bird, certainly not cow - which cats never catch in the wild – they consume primarily light meat.
Dry cat food, which is only 10% water decreases flow through the digestive tract, further allowing inflammatory processes.
In an attempt to increase water consumption and urination you can put a bit of vegetable oil on top of the drinking water. In an attempt to lick the oil off the top, your cat will also ingest some extra water.
Milk is not a physiologically sound substance to feed since a cat because adult cats do not drink cat milk and no cat in the wild sucks from a cow’s teat. Bu every kid knows that a stray kitten needs to fed a dish of milk. Milk can cause mild to severe chronic bowel inflammation. Offer milk in moderation.
Exercise and lean bodily conformation are extremely important. Lounging and continuous consumption of dry food promotes buildup of intra-abdominal fat which is highly correlated with non-specific inflammation. Many people, when they were growing up, had cats who tolerated dry cat food. Hunting and exercising does not favor the accumulation large amounts of intra-abdominal fat in the abdomen, promoting longevity despite improper diet. Increased cardiovascular activity from hunting, for instance, can help overcome the high amounts of sodium in the dry foods. Running all out, as cats do in a country setting massages the abdomen promoting movement of fat from the abdominal cavity, decreasing inflammation. Their hunting supplements the diet well. Often cats dine out better than they dine in. If possible, allowing cats to be outdoors is very important to longevity. Coyotes and coy dogs hunt at night. Leaving a light on at night will allow your cat to race home in a crisis. Coyotes are dark adapted and will not come into the light. Foxes like to hunt at daybreak. The only role for salt laden dry cat food is to shake some in a can to allow your cat to think that this snack might be available and, therefore, promote kitty curfew.
Kittens absorb protective antibodies from their mother’s milk in the first hours after birth. These antibodies protect the youngster from many viral and bacterial diseases that its mother had been exposed to. Its mother was exposed to these diseases through direct exposure to the organism or through vaccination. Vaccines are small amounts of proteins from organisms or killed or modified virus or bacteria which do not cause disease but promote the animal’s immunologic defenses. The immunological defense is in the form of proteins called antibodies produced by B lymphocytes, or direct cellular attack by T lymphocytes, protecting the body from attack by bacteria or viruses. The length of time that the absorbed antibody will protect the kitten is proportional to the amount of antibody presented to the kitten through milk from its mother in those first hours of the kitten’s life. If less antibody is absorbed the kittens need to be actively immunized by vaccination early but if a lot of antibody is absorbed these antibodies will neutralize the effects of the vaccine. Since the amount of antibody transferred from the mother is not known, a repeated vaccination schedule will be set up for your kitten by the veterinarian. Cats are vaccinated for distemper (panleukopenia), colds (Herpes & Calici viruses), Chlamydia, Feline Leukemia and Rabies. Some of these vaccinations need to be repeated in kitten hood, some do not. Periodic vaccination and boosters are necessary for adult cats. We will send you notices of your cat's next vaccination requirement. These notices will change over time due to the rapidly changing body of information which is repeatedly revealing increasing longevity of duration of immunity produced by the vaccines. Rabies vaccine is boosted in 1 year from the first rabies vaccination and then every three years. If rabies vaccination is repeated back to back with 9-12 months in Massachusetts, all subsequent rabies vaccinations are legally valid for 3 years thereafter.