This 33-lb Cat is why it’s not Good to Free Feed Cats

Sprinkles, a 33-pound domestic cat in New Jersey, had all the expected problems associated with obesity. She had trouble moving. She was at high risk for diabetes, and other health problems. She also had urine burns and an infection on her butt because she couldn’t clean herself. Sprinkles is a prime example of the problems you risk when you free feed cats.

Image via screen capture from embedded video

When Sprinkles was taken to S.O.S. Sea Isle City Cats, her caretaker couldn’t figure out how she’d gotten so heavy, except that possibly her former owners had allowed her to free feed, or that she was fed a lot of table scraps. Perhaps both. While it’s true that many cats are able to only eat what they need, there are also many cats that can’t. Those cats will eat, and eat, and eat, when the food is available for them to do so.

What does it mean to free feed cats?

Free feeding means that you leave a bowl (or bowls) of food out for your cats all the time. It’s usually dry food, and it gives your cat nonstop access to food, which can lead to overeating. Out of our four cats, we have one who just eats what she needs, and no more. She’s never been overweight. However, the other three ate all the time when we free fed them, and they were all overweight at one point. This is one of the primary reasons it’s not good to free feed cats.

Reason number two it’s not good to free feed cats

Another reason it’s a bad idea to free feed cats is illness, especially if you have more than one cat. Oftentimes, the first visible sign that your cat isn’t feeling well is that she stops eating. If you’re feeding on a schedule, it’s easier to see when your cat isn’t eating, and even which one it is. When you free feed cats, it might be several days before you notice. By that point, she could be really sick.

As long as you take good care of your cats, and pay good attention to them, you might notice other signs of illness before you notice a lack of appetite. Thus, obesity is a bigger threat when you free feed cats.

As for Sprinkles, she’s doing better. She’s lost about three pounds, and is on pace with S.O.S.’s goal of one pound per month. The biggest risk now, with helping Sprinkles lose weight, is fatty liver disease. That’s why they’re keeping her weight loss down to a pound a month; her liver needs time to process the fat that she’s losing.

Watch Sprinkles’ story below:

Discovering the Fillers in Cat Food

One of the things that we often worry about with our cats is what’s in their food, and one thing that veterinarians often hear from cat parents is that food is low-quality because it contains too many fillers. However, when it comes to veterinary nutrition, the definition of “filler” is very broad. Do we actually know what fillers in cat food are?

Defining fillers in cat food

Petplace says that veterinarians tend to define “filler” as the following:

“A filler is any lower-quality, typically less-expensive, usually bulky, starchy and carb-rich ingredient that could have been replaced by a higher quality, more biologically available one.”

How broad and vague. Does that answer your question about fillers in cat food? It doesn’t answer mine. Thankfully, Petplace knows that, and went on to explain that there are three steps to telling what is a filler, and what isn’t.

Step 1 in determining what are, and what aren’t, fillers in cat food

The first step is to read the first few ingredients on the food. They’re listed in descending order of weight as they’re added to the formula, so the first five ingredients make up the bulk of the food.

According to Dr. Lisa Pierson, canned foods not only contain an appropriate amount of water for your cat (cats need water with their food), they’re also more likely to contain animal-based protein, instead of plant-based protein. Cats can’t metabolize plant-based protein; they lack the enzymes for it.

Step 2 in figuring out fillers in cat food

Petplace says the second step towards determining the fillers in cat food is to factor out water content. The first ingredient on food might be chicken, but chicken is about 70 percent water. Comparatively, ground corn and corn gluten are dry products; they have a very low water content. The food would have to contain a lot more chicken to compare to the corn content, because of all the water. So the actual chicken content of a bag or can of food might actually be less than that of the next few ingredients listed.

In this case, Petplace says the the corn products are very likely fillers, since they make up the bulk of the food and don’t really contribute anything nutritionally. You’re also not really getting what you think you’re getting, based on the images on the packaging. Fillers in cat food generally take the shape of grains and other starchy products, like potatoes. But this is how you can tell whether corn, or other grains or vegetables, are fillers.

Step 3 is probably the hardest way to determine fillers in cat food

The third step in figuring out what the fillers in cat food are is to consider the way whole ingredients are represented. How do you do that? Pet food labels are deliberately misleading, and the law allows that. The manufacturers try to game the system by listing one ingredient in several ways, like chicken broth and chicken, corn gluten and ground corn. These sound different, but in the end, the top four ingredients are really two. Petplace says that they do this to make you think you’re getting either more, or less, of a particular ingredient than you actually are.

Petplace ends their discussion of fillers in cat food by questioning whether grain-based diets are appropriate for cats. As Dr. Pierson and Dr. Karen Becker both say, it’s not. Cats are strict carnivores that need animal protein to remain their healthiest. We feed our cats a homemade raw diet, on which they’re doing very well. But Dr. Pierson says that a food that contains higher amounts of animal protein is better than even a grain-free food that contains less protein.

It’s hard to figure out how much fillers are in your cat’s food, because pet food labels are deliberately misleading. However, perhaps these steps will help you determine the fillers in cat food, so you can select the best diet possible for your cat.


**This article assumes that your cat is healthy. If your vet has put your cat on a prescription diet, it’s best to stick with that.**

Do Cats Feel Emotion, Like we do?

Do cats feel any emotions other than fear and anger? Fear and anger are obvious, but what about happiness? Sadness? Love? Is there a scientific basis for saying that cats feel emotion? We like to think they do, because it makes us feel good to believe that our cats return our love and affection. Is that just in our heads, though? How important is understanding feline emotions?

Whether cats feel emotion is up for debate

An article on Petplace says that whether cats feel emotion has become a rather hotly debated topic of late, especially among feline behaviorists and scientists. Like me, you probably look into your beloved kitty’s eyes and know that he’s happy. You might see what I call the “lovey-dovey” look, which is kind of half-lidded, with pupils constricted, and just screams, “I love you.” You also feel his head butts, hear his purrs, and see his need to be near you, and wonder how anybody can say that he doesn’t love you, and that he can’t feel happiness.

Petplace says that recent studies on feline and human brains show striking similarities in how they work. Even just based on physiology, it’s reasonable to assume that cats feel emotion, even if they don’t express it or deal with it the way we do. In fact, research does show that cats feel love, happiness, and sadness, much the same way we do.

How do cats communicate emotion?

Petplace’s article says that cats communicate their emotion through body language and action. Your cat shows that he loves you with his head butts, and with things like light paw caresses, and even grooming. He shows you he’s happy, and that he trusts you, by rolling over onto his side, or his back.

By the same token, cats also use body language to show fear, anger and sadness. An angry cat has his back arched, his ears flat, and his fur puffed up. A sad cat is lethargic, just like we are.

We need to better understand how our cats feel emotion

Understanding how cats feel emotion, and how they express it, is one key to optimizing our relationships with our furry feline friends. It’s also key to understanding and correcting bad behavior. When you understand what your cat is feeling, and how he expresses it, you’re better equipped to identify the problems causing bad behavior, and find effective solutions.

It’s also important to understand that cats feel emotion that is basic, and even primitive. They aren’t capable of the higher reasoning that we are, and they act entirely on instinct. It’s easy to believe that your cat peed on your bed out of revenge or spite, but that’s not the case. If he peed on your bed and there’s no medical reason for it, it’s likely because he’s stressed about something, and marking the bed comforts him somehow. So, in trying to understand your cat’s emotions, it’s very important to keep this in mind.

The bottom line here is that yes, our cats feel emotion very similar to the way we do. However, they’re less nuanced, and more primitive, than our emotions. They provide clues to our cats’ mental states, and insights into their minds. So take heart; your beloved kitty does love you, and is happy with you!

These 3 Endangered Cats are Facing Extinction

Scientists at Stanford University are warning that we’ve entered a mass extinction event not seen since the end of the dinosaurs. Species are dying out as much as 100 times faster than seen between mass extinctions. Habitat loss, pollution, and climate change are all human-caused, and are fueling the fire, and extinctions aren’t limited to the dodo, the Formosan clouded leopard, or the Cape lion. The black rhinoceros was just recently declared extinct, and several hundred other species since 1500 have vanished. More cats are slated to join that list, too. Here are the three most endangered cats in the world.

Endangered Cats: The South China Tiger

When it comes to endangered cats, the South China tiger ranks way up there. They are the most endangered tiger left in the world. According to The Telegraph, in the 1950s, there were 4,000 South China tigers in existence. In 2008, there were less than 100. However, of those 100 (or less), it’s thought that only 10 remained in the wild. The rest lived in zoos.

A breeding program in South Africa may be the key to saving the South China tiger, though. A charity organization, known as Save China’s Tigers, is working to breed these tigers, keep them wild and train them to hunt and take care of themselves, and then release them back into the wild. That’s astonishing, considering that most efforts at conserving endangered cats consist of breeding them for life in a cage. Zoos’ efforts are admirable, but conservation really needs to happen in the wild.

Endangered Cats: The Amur Leopard

Another of the most endangered cats out there is the Amur leopard, which is primarily found in Russia. According to The Telegraph, in 2011, there were less than 50 Amur leopards left in the wild, making them one of the most seriously endangered cats in the world. While they used to live in China, too, as of four years ago, they were considered extinct there.

In the winter, the fur of the Amur leopard can grow to three inches long, to protect them from the cold. One of the biggest dangers they face is from poachers who want those valuable pelts. The World Wildlife Federation says that the forests in which Amur leopards live are easily accessible, and that their pelts are highly prized.

Various conservation efforts have helped to slow the Amur leopard’s decline, including better wildlife management, and relocating leopards from other areas to help prevent inbreeding. That’s the strategy that helped bring the Florida panther back from the brink of extinction, and it may help the Amur leopard, too.

Endangered Cats: The Iberian Lynx

This beautiful, rare cat is another of the most endangered cats, with only two confirmed breeding populations left in southern Spain. The World Wildlife Federation believes that there are less than 150 Iberian lynxes left in the wild, and possibly as few as 84. These numbers are not sufficient to sustain the species, and, like the other critically endangered cats, the Iberian lynx faces extinction.

The main threats to the Iberian lynx are habitat loss, hunting, and car hits. The interesting thing about hunting is that these cats are regarded both as trophies, and as vermin. Hunters want both their fur and their meat, but also view them as a threat to game populations. That’s a major problem with hunting everywhere; the predators are often hunted to the brink because they’re competition for game.

Conservation efforts have slowly started growing the Iberian lynx population again, though, so there is some hope that this beautiful cat won’t become extinct. Seven adults were imported into a new region of Spain, which could help establish a third breeding population.

These endangered cats are but a small percentage of all endangered species, and we humans sit around and bicker about whether allowing species to go extinct is good or bad for the planet – or, more commonly, good or bad for profit. All these animals represent important parts of the ecosystem – an ecosystem that we’re destroying.

Ways to Help When Your Cat Vomits

Cats get upset tummies just like we do, and, just like us, if the problem is bad enough, they throw up, or get diarrhea, or both. When a cat vomits, or has diarrhea, once in awhile, then so long as he’s still eating, drinking, and behaving normally, it’s probably nothing to worry about. However, if your cat vomits repeatedly, has diarrhea that won’t stop, and/or seems lethargic and doesn’t want to eat or drink, you should definitely make an appointment with your vet because that’s serious, and your cat needs medical treatment.

Sometimes, a cat vomits because he ate something he shouldn’t have

When your cat vomits after he’s eating something he shouldn’t have, it’s because it’s irritated his sytem. This happens with Kali sometimes, despite our best efforts to keep things that make her sick out of her reach. One time, it was garlic skins in the trash can, which I thought were safe from her. Another time, it was licking a pillow I’d lightly sprayed with Zero Odor (I have no idea why she likes that stuff; I have to shut the doors to the rooms I spray until everything is dry because of her).

When Kali makes herself sick, she usually vomits several times, and whether she also has diarrhea depends on just what she got into. Sometimes she vomits just once or twice, and she’s fine. Other times, she vomits all night and well into the next morning, and has several episodes of diarrhea, too. I usually don’t get a lot of sleep when this is the case, because I keep her with me so I can gauge just how sick she is. Then I decide whether to call the vet.

When your cat vomits, there are ways you can help him at home

When a cat vomits here, more than once, whether it’s Kali or any of our others, the first thing I do is take away all food and water. The food part isn’t hard, because our cats are only fed twice a day. So if it’s close to mealtime, I’ll withhold her meal. According to Petplace, this gives her system a chance to fully get rid of whatever’s making her sick, and also to calm down.

If she doesn’t vomit again after about two to three hours, I’ll give her a little bit of water, and see how she does. If she’s able to hold it down, then I give her a little more water after another half hour or so. If she vomits either of these times, I consider calling the vet, depending on her behavior.

If she does hold the water down, I’ll give her full access to the water bowl again. I withhold food for a minimum of six hours, and usually twelve, depending on how sick she seems. If she’s holding water down just fine, then after six hours of no food, I’ll boil up a piece of plain chicken breast for her, cut it into Kali-sized bites, and give her a few, just to gauge her interest.

If she’s not really sick, and she’s just had an irritated tummy, then by this point she’s usually interested in the chicken and will wolf it down. That’s why I give it to her slowly; she’s hungry, so she’ll try and wolf her food down, which can start the whole cycle over again.

When your cat vomits and has diarrhea, or just has diarrhea

Kali’s also had diarrhea, which was especially bad the time she got into the trash and ate the garlic skins. She didn’t have enough of them to have a toxic reaction, but they did irritate her entire GI tract. When she has diarrhea, after I’ve gotten her interested in food again, I try and feed her a little bit of canned pumpkin (not to be confused with pumpkin pie filling). The fiber in the pumpkin helps to firm up loose stools, and can stop diarrhea fairly well. Be careful, though. Too much can make your cat constipated, which obviously won’t help him get better. I usually only give Kali half a teaspoon, or maybe a full teaspoon, which is what Life With CH Cats recommends.

When none of this works, and it’s been more than 24 hours since any of our cats started vomiting and/or having diarrhea, we call the vet. Vomiting and diarrhea can be symptoms of something quite serious, and as with any health problem, the sooner it’s diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. So if your cat vomits, and/or has diarrhea, and either can’t keep water down, or it doesn’t stop after 24 hours, you need to call your vet and get him seen.

One Irritating, But Important Way Cats Communicate

One fun and enjoyable behavior in which your cat might engage is sticking her butt in your face. For us humans, that’s just gross at best, and a sign of extreme disrespect at worst. Our cats love us, though, and are, at the very least, Oscar-caliber actors and actresses when it comes to respect. Why on earth do they do that? Is this one way cats communicate?

It’s funny, but here at home, we actually don’t deal with this very much. Gizmo is most likely to stick her butt in our faces, but it’s usually because she’s turning circles on us, and trying to get comfortable. When I was a kid, though, my grandmother told me a story about her cat, Lynx. Lynx would always jump on the bed at night, climb onto my grandmother’s stomach, and promptly present her butt. That drove my grandmother nuts.

Cats have scent glands all over, including on their rear ends. Scent is one way cats communicate.

According to Dr. Karen Becker, one way cats communicate is through scent, and exchanging scent. When cats rub on each other, they’re depositing their own scents, and accepting each other’s scents. The same happens when our cats rub on us, and we scratch their ears: We exchange scents. Cats see this as social, as a form of communication.

Dr. Becker also quoted a passage from Vetstreet, which says that this might be your cat’s way of asking for affection. Cats communicate very, very differently than we do, and what we might interpret as contempt, they understand as asking a question, or telling you they want something.

She might also want to reaffirm your social bond

Vetstreet says that there are other possible reasons she’s sticking her butt in your face. She might be trying to reaffirm your social bond, as two cats would when they rub along each other. When two cats do that, they usually end up facing away from each other, with their butts toward each other. Cats communicate with us the same way they communicate with each other, but since we use our hands to rub them instead of our bodies, it might just seem like she’s intentionally sticking her butt in your face.

In short, this is a compliment. You can gently pick her up and turn her around, so that she’s facing you or has her side to you, if this behavior bothers you. Since cats communicate in ways that humans don’t, you might hurt her feelings by pushing her away.

Why do Cats like Licking us? The Answer’s Simple

Have you ever felt your cat’s rough, sandpaper tongue, and not just because you were giving him a pill, or have something tasty on your fingers? Maybe he lies down next to you and starts washing your arm, or if he’s like Aria, he settles himself on the back of your sofa or chair and starts washing your hair. What gives? Why do cats like licking us?

Licking and grooming is comforting

Mother cats groom their kittens from the time they’re born. Dr. Karen Becker says that the very first feeling a kitten experiences is the warm, raspy tongue of his mama. He can’t see, so he relies on his mama for everything, and being groomed is a very comforting feeling.

Siblings that are raised together often groom each other throughout their lives, and even cats that aren’t related, but who bond, will groom each other. This is how they show that they care for each other. In other words, our cats like licking us because it’s one way they show heir love for us. They’re “mothering” us, trying to give us warmth and comfort.

If you’re like me, though, your cat’s tongue hurts. Gizmo will try and wash my face whenever she gets the chance, and she usually goes for the tip of my nose. Worse, she sometimes goes for the really sensitive skin on my cheek, below my eye. It hurts! I can only stand a few licks from her on my face, and she doesn’t really wash me anywhere else. Of course, she doesn’t understand it hurts, and pulling away seems to hurt her feelings.

What to do when we don’t like it that our cats like licking us

When cats like licking us, we might feel that we have to put up with it, but we don’t. What do I do, when Gizmo starts licking my face, or Aria starts making my arm raw? I distract them, usually by scratching their ears or back. Catster agrees that distraction is a good way to stop this behavior. They suggest using a toy, or some catnip, to distract her attention.

Sometimes, we think our cats like licking us, but it’s really compulsive behavior because they’re stressed out. Licking is self-soothing, but cats suffering from this compulsion don’t always lick themselves. Try some good, interactive playtime to de-stress your cat, if you think he’s licking you because he’s stressed out. Daily play sessions can help cats who feel stressed.

Regardless of why our cats like licking us, trying to get them to stop altogether takes a lot of love and patience. Don’t yell at your cat, or get rough with him, especially if you suspect he’s licking you because he’s stressed. If his licking doesn’t bother you, though, then let him go to town. Just be careful to keep him from licking open cuts, scrapes and wounds.

Illinois Seeks to Lift Crucial Bobcat Hunting Ban

Big cats are returning to Illinois, after decades of decline due to hunting and habitat loss. Illinois is currently home to a few cougars, and a growing bobcat population, which the state general assembly considers to be good enough news that they’re working on lifting our bobcat hunting ban.

Illinois banned bobcat hunting back in the 1970s, when they ended up on the threatened species list due to habitat loss and overhunting. Downstate, people are supposedly upset about bobcats threatening livestock and pets, as the cats apparently grow out of control. In the northern part of the state, people are worried that lifting the bobcat hunting ban will return them to the threatened species list, or worse, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois lawmakers used scare tactics to convince others to vote for lifting the bobcat hunting ban

The bill to lift the bobcat hunting ban went to Governor Rauner’s desk three days ago, with groups petitioning him to veto it, just as Governor Quinn did five months ago. An editorial in the Chicago Tribune talked about just how the general assembly pushed the bill through, with various lawmakers using scare tactics to make their arguments. Representative Ed Sullivan (D-Mundelein) said:

“Imagine a bobcat that’s 60 pounds that could attack and kill something 10 times its weight. Think of a small child or a small woman or a small boy that could be attacked and carried away. That’s why we kill these things. That’s why we hunt them.”

This is utter nonsense, as bobcats are not nearly that big. The average northern bobcat, which is what we have here in Illinois, is 20 to 30 pounds, max. They’re not that much bigger than the domestic house cat. They’re able to hunt animals as big as deer, but their preferred prey is rabbits, rodents and birds.

Rep. Sullivan was not only fear-mongering, he either got his facts wrong, or he was outright lying to scare people into voting to lift the bobcat hunting ban. The op-ed in the Tribune rightly mentions that bobcats are shy of humans, which is quite true. When they have the option, they will avoid us, rather than confront us, let alone hunt us. They do not stalk humans; not even children.

Clayton Nielsen, a wildlife biologist from Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale, says that bobcats are no threat to people.

“Bobcats are active mainly at dawn and dusk, and have no desire for a fight. The bobcat’s story is the same as for most wildlife: if they can flee, they will.”

The real reasons hunters want the bobcat hunting ban lifted

The biggest reasons that people want to hunt bobcats are because they make good trophies, and because their pelts are valuable. The state’s bobcat population is 3,000 to 5,000 now, which is what lawmakers have decided is a good number to warrant lifting our bobcat hunting ban.

Let Governor Rauner know he should veto this bill

Many groups have filed petitions to pressure Governor Rauner to veto the bill. The Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club has asked people to write to Rauner and tell him to veto the bill. The Humane Society of Illinois has a form you can fill out and send directly to the Governor’s office, asking him to veto it. He has not yet signed it, so there’s still time to tell him to veto the bill. Click here to sign the Humane Society’s letter and let Bruce Rauner know that you stand with Illinois bobcats, and against people who want to hunt these creatures back onto the endangered list.

**Please note: You may have to be a resident of Illinois to send this letter, so if you can’t sign it and send it yourself, please pass it on to people who can.**

Cats Don’t Like Hugs, but Why?

Yesterday was Hug Your Cat Day, which prompted articles full of photos of kitties hugging kitties, and people trying to hug kitties. It also prompted articles full of pictures of cats that absolutely hate being hugged. Most of us hug our cats whether they like it or not, and many of us have found that our cats don’t like hugs. Period.

Of our four cats, not one of them actually likes being hugged. If my cats represent all cats, I’d say they’re proof positive that cats don’t like hugs at all. Sure, they like it when I cuddle them, so long as I cuddle them when they want cuddles, and at no other time. However, even if they’re feeling affectionate, they all seem to draw the line at a hug.

Aria will sort of put up with it, but we can feel her tense up. Chase and Kali both start breathing funny; it speeds up and gets a little louder. They, likewise, tense up, and they both try and duck away if they think they can. They’ll also get very squirmy when they can’t. Gizmo flat-out refuses hugs, and will scamper away, duck away, or even push away if possible.

The reason cats don’t like hugs

We love to show our affection for each other with hugs, and since cats seem to like physical contact, it’s easy to think that they’d like hugs too, but they don’t. Why is it that cats don’t like hugs? What’s so terrible about them?

Way of Cats says that the feeling of a hug is confining to cats; we’re so much bigger than they are that we practically envelop them. Cats also feel threatened if we’re standing over them, and more so if we’re making eye contact with them. To cats, eye contact signals dominance, and even aggression. If you’re towering over your cat and making eye contact right before you envelop her in a hug, it doesn’t convey love to her. It’s frightening.

Don’t lose hope; you can still hug your cat

Fortunately, the fact that some cats don’t like hugs doesn’t mean all cats don’t like hugs. It also doesn’t mean you can’t hug your cat. You just have to learn to do it correctly. First things first: Don’t sneak up on your cat. They absolutely do not like being surprised, and you’ll spoil your chance for a good hug and some affection if you startle them.

Pet her softly, on her terms, in her favorite spot, where she’s most calm. If she seems receptive, then you can gently put your arms around her. Don’t grab her, hug her tightly, or otherwise be rough with her; see if you can let her know that she can get away if she doesn’t feel safe.

You might also need to just do it on her terms. Sometimes, it seems like cats don’t like hugs, but what’s really happening is that they don’t like it when it’s not on their terms. Sit down or lie down near her, and she if she’ll come to you. If she wants attention, she will, and you can see if you can hug her in this situation.

Our cats are more tolerant of hugs when the hug is entirely on their terms. It’s important to remember that some cats don’t like hugs no matter what, though, so if you’ve got one of these cats, and you’ve tried everything, don’t force the issue. She’ll show you affection in ways that she’s comfortable with, and that’s ultimately what’s most important.