Sunday, September 8, 2019

Cats With Leukemia Virus

I had a request for information about cats with leukemia, called FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus). Can they live normal lives without having to be quarantined or isolated?

The conventional advice from conventional veterinary authorities is, of course, to either keep them away from other cats or to simply euthanize them now, before they become too sick to have any "quality of life" or spread it to another cat.

This is an outdated view these days, but it's still the traditionally accepted method of handling them. The more progressive opinion is that even leukemia positive cats can - and should - be allowed to live fulfilling lives. Simply killing them off is not humane, contradicting those who believe it is, and in the end, it does nothing to stop the disease. It's still the most common deadly disease of cats, but the statistics may surprise you. They are not quite as dire as many think, and a surprising number of cats actually outgrow the virus if they live long enough, conferring lifelong immunity.

It must be noted, however, that FeLV cats must be handled correctly if they are to enjoy their lives without endangering others or suffering themselves.

They can even be quite healthy, despite their viral infection, which results in a diminished immune system. This makes them more vulnerable to common ailments which then can become deadly. While they can successfully live with other cats, it's not done by simply allowing them to be together without taking precautions.

I found several articles online about leukemia cats that suggest helpful and hopeful ways to give them the life they deserve as much as any other cat. The message at these few sites is that FeLV does not have to be a death sentence.

Find a holistic vet, if possible, or try to work with the vet you have on assisting in their care if or when these cats need medical attention.

As expected and observed, the disease is most deadly for kittens, who can acquire it from their mothers before even being born, or from close contact with infected cats in their environment. It doesn't take much contact to spread this virus to vulnerable young ones.

However, I want people to know that taking kittens away from their mothers too soon has more than behavioral consequences. It also results in lowered immunity due to poor nutrition (humans can never feed them as well as their own mothers do) and the loss of natural antibodies passed to them through mother's milk.

If you are considering fostering or adopting a leukemia positive cat (bless you), please research and learn what your responsibilities will be to ensure their health and well being.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Flea Control Products - Are They Safe?

Fleas can be active in your home throughout the year, but they become more active during warmer seasons, most notably summertime. As a result, this is the time of year when we hear stories about flea problems, flea products and flea product problems.

When new products appear on the market, we need to do a little homework first, before using them. Such is the case with one called Cheristin. First released, I believe, as Assurity, or Comfortis, this drug has been shown to be too toxic for some animals, especially certain cats. It was repackaged and then recently re-released as Cheristin For Cats.

My friend "Sue" lost her very best friend in June to a preventable, though uncommon, condition in which the active ingredient seeped into her cat's brain and slowly caused her to suffer a horrific death due to the symptoms that accompany neurotoxic paralysis.  She was only 9 years old and in peak health, weighing in at 13 pounds. When she died, she was only 7 pounds. She had numerous symptoms indicating neurological damage, including a "circling" behavior and loss of balance. Only one of the vets consulted took note of the symptoms, but it was too late.

cat died from flea treatment
Due to a genetic abnormality, some cats and some dogs are unable to process this product and the active ingredients cross the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB). Mammals normally have a system that can remove, block or deactivate certain chemicals that would damage the brain. But if that system doesn't work, or doesn't even exist, the chemicals will enter brain tissue, damage the delicate cells, and almost always causes death, either slowly as it accumulates, or in one case, at least, within an hour of application.

There is a test for dogs to see if the genetic defect exists. Since the test examines the individual's DNA, it seems reasonable to expect it could be useful in cats, too. But no one has done, or is doing, research in this area. Here are the only two labs testing dogs at this time:

As for dogs, the defect seems to be most common in the herding breeds and protocols exist to deal with it, such as lists of drugs to avoid and the breeds most affected. Interestingly, and possibly critical, is the presence of white on the legs or feet. The anecdotal evidence with cats has so far included the presence of white paws. Is it possible the defect exists on the gene(s) that dictate foot or leg color?

Because the defect is about the animal and not the drug, the companies that produce it, such as Elanco, simply refuse to recognize this problem. There are no warnings on the product, and certainly no sympathy if your pet succumbs to the use of it. The attitude is, "Not our problem." It's not common, and their claims of safety are valid as long as the genetic defect does not exist.

Pet owners have few resources to address this, however, there is one major method of preventing it from killing your pet: Don't use drugs that have not been approved by the FDA (such as this one, which is only approved by the EPA). Or, even better, use only natural products with a good track record. If possible, have your animal tested before embarking on a new protocol. Also, do some research. Be aware that most veterinarians will be unaware of this problem since it is relatively new, no research exists for cats (yet), and little has been published by other than anguished pet owners.

In any case, spread the word. Report incidents to local vets and ask them to share with other vets. Call news outlets to do a story. If they are not interested, try writing a letter to the editor. Collect documentation on your pet's case. Take photos. Save any test results you obtain from your vet or any labs that have tested your pet. Report to your state veterinary board. The more these agencies hear about victims, the sooner they may take notice and start doing something.

For more information, here is a Facebook page that focuses on the same or similar formula for dogs, called Trifexis:

See also:

If you find other sites with more information, please feel free to share them in the comments. We are all still learning about this and need updated info and more stories. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Can a Cat Be a Vegetarian?

The quick answer is, No!

Cats are carnivores. Strict carnivores, too, according to the experts. That means they eat meat. They should not be fed grains, vegetables, potatoes, fruit, etc. Dogs can manage on those things, but cats who consent or are forced to eat them will eventually experience failing health. Some die if their owners don't stop forcing the incorrect food on their pets.

One very common example is one you may not realize. If a cat is fed nothing but the very cheapest commercial cat food from the grocery store, it will not live as long as it could have. Many many cats on such a diet develop kidney disease and suffer terribly until kidney failure claims their lives.

If anyone thinks a cat's normal lifespan is 10-12 years, or even 14, chances are they're being fed inferior food. Those cheap brands consist primarily of ingredients like corn meal, wheat middlings, and various inert fillers. If you love your cat, be sure to feed primarily a meat diet to ensure continued good health and a long life. My cat Holly is 26 now and eats raw chicken every day.

Vegetarians and vegans who are reluctant to handle meat for their cats may wish to obtain the proper food prepackaged. It's more expensive, but it may be worth it.

[Special thanks to Paul DeCeglie for suggesting this topic. It's very timely right now with all the petfood recalls and warnings, and articles on the subject can be found on many websites. Do a search on any of the veterinary care sites, such as,, and others.]

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Saying Good-bye to Tammy

While the news was good for a while and we had high hopes for a full recovery, the final outcome for Tammy was not good. Her tumors returned and a second surgery showed some promise, but that didn't last, either. When the tumors again returned, they were somehow "angry" and we knew there was nothing left to try. An x-ray showed extensive metastases throughout her body, including her lungs. An x-ray just one month earlier showed none of this. It was an extremely rapid change.

Amazingly, though, she was still active, eating well, never missed the litter box in her life, and she even still enjoyed playing with the "red dot."  But now she was breathing rapidly, just to get enough oxygen, and she needed to rest often. It was her breathing difficulty that led us to take her to the vet for her final visit two days ago.

She was only 12. It just doesn't seem fair. She was one of the nicest cats we've ever known...always cooperative with whatever was required of her - vet visits, accepting new food when we needed to change everyone's diet, cuddling often, and never starting any fights. She even knew her name and usually came when called.

Her rabies tag will now be added to the Memorial Wreath I hang every year for the holidays. If it seems there are too many, I agree. I miss them all and wish they didn't have to go. But after 13 years rescuing more than 1,000 cats (and several hundred dogs), losing some is inevitable. Most rescued animals come from difficult situations, and we were happy to have been able to find them new homes, or to love them to the end at our home.

RIP, Tammy.....

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tammy's surgery was a success! Cancer free!

Tammy is about 12 years old, rescued from life on the street at about age 3. I had her spayed right away, along with her sister, Judy, and they quickly became settled into life at the shelter. Judy got lucky and was adopted that year, leaving Tammy behind to make friends with the other cats on her own. She did very well and became a favorite at the shelter. But no one wanted to adopt her. So I took her home with me.

However, it wasn't long before I noticed she was still going into heat on a regular schedule, 3 times a year. The vet who spayed her said not to worry about it and that repeating the surgery was unnecessary. She wasn't going to get pregnant, after all. So we put up with her yowling 3 times a year for the next 9 years.

Then it happened: This summer she developed some odd growths on her belly. She already had a somewhat large, fluid-filled cyst on her abdomen for the last few years, but again, the vet said it was just a "water sac" and not to worry about it. So we didn't. But the new growths had me concerned, since older female cats can get mammary cancer if they haven't been spayed. Tammy was still making estrogen, so she was a good candidate for a cancer diagnosis. And the nodules were hard and rough to the touch.

I took her to our new vet right away and scheduled surgery for the following week. We wouldn't know the outcome until she had x-rays to be sure her lungs were clear and the tumors were removed and examined.

We were all very happy to discover she did not have any malignancies and took her home to recover.

Here are some of the masses the
vet removed:
In this cluster are one ovary, part of the uterus that was left behind, and a fluid-filled cyst.

Tammy is very lucky to have survived this scenario that could easily have gone in a different direction. It's always a good idea to be sure your vet knows what he or she is doing. Just like human physicians, get references and check into their history for complaints. That's usually not easy, but asking around among people you know who have used their services is one way to get information. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What's the most affordable and healthiest type of food for my cat?

Combining "healthy" and "affordable" when feeding our pets is the biggest challenge! Certainly, there are many affordable products on the store shelves, but are they healthy? Often, they are not even adequate, as claimed by their manufactuers. Additionally, it's difficult to find a food that has not appeared on a recall list.

By the time you find a petfood that has safe, optimum ingredients, the price has skyrocketed beyond the wallets of many pet owners.

It might be useful, however, to look at this in another way....that is, what's best in the Long Run?

I performed my own experiments a couple years ago and discovered that feeding what's called a "premium" pet food led to several unexpected results:

1. The cats ate less, because the nutrition satisfied their appetites rather than the quantity. This meant the product lasted longer.

2. The cats visited their litter boxes less often, and when they did, the droppings were smaller, better formed and easy to scoop. This means I use far less kitty litter...another savings.

3. The cats were more energetic, and over time, we were making fewer visits to the veterinarian. Many health problems are nutrition-related, similar to the human experience.

To keep things interesting, I also began making my own petfood from natural ingredients. There are many good recipes you can find online if you search for "natural homemade petfood." If one has the time and energy, making your own petfood is not as expensive as one might think, either.

In the final analysis, when you factor in the savings of using less food, less litter and fewer vet visits, I discovered that I actually spend about the same amount on the cats by feeding premium food as I did on cheap, commercial foods, and everyone is healthier.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cat Safety Tips in the Summertime

In most areas, summertime can be a risky season due to extreme heat, increased insect populations, and exposure to sunlight. Yes, pets can become sunburned.

The following 5 tips will help you protect your beloved kitty from suffering any these problems:

1. Provide shade for outdoor animals. For the most part, it's just best to keep them indoors, where air conditioning, or at least a good fan, will help keep them cool. Like dogs, cats do not sweat. And though they may be seen panting, it's only normal for dogs. If your cat is panting, it's usually an urgent sign of trouble. Immediately cool the cat down with water. If she won't drink it, you will need to drizzle some onto her fur, or use a small cloth dampened with cold water, especially on her head and paws, while you are on your way to the veterinarian's office.

2. Never leave ANYONE in a locked vehicle on a hot day. It literally becomes an oven in there and WILL result in heatstroke and probably death. If you see a pet (or child!) in such a car, immediately contact local police.

3. Sunscreen may be just as helpful for animals as it is for humans. Apply it to the areas of thin fur on the head of your cat, but be sure to clean it off when the sun goes down or the cat comes inside. Cats like to wash themselves and human sunscreen may be toxic. There are animal sunscreen products that are better for your cat, such as Solar Rx. (Look for the page of cat products.)

4. Use flea protection products year 'round, but especially during the summer months. Check out the variety of products available at Only Natural Pets. Also look for tick prevention products!

5. Create and keep a first aid kit at the ready for your kitty. Use a breakaway collar, and keep identification on your cat.  Here are some poison control contacts you should keep handy and hope you never need:

The National Animal Poison Control Center 1-900-680-0000 or 1- 800-548-2423

Once you have these items and ideas in place, you can enjoy the summer months with your cat without taking chances.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Book is Now Available!

Thanks to a great group of writers who love their cats, our next book is now a reality...and is available at these links:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Outdoor Cats Are Killers

Have you seen the recent "news" articles about all those horrible feral cats demolishing and decimating all the wildlife all over the world? Well, OK, maybe they are having a negative impact on some environments, but it's very upsetting to see how the media is handling this.

They make it look like feral and stray cats are from another planet and have invaded earth and their only purpose in life is to destroy the entire planet....because they are such awful little beasts.

The FACT remains that these cats are only doing what they must to survive, because some HUMANS put them in harm's way. It was NOT their idea to live like that.

Responsible pet owners don't throw cats out like just so much trash, littering the landscape as if they are bags of dirty diapers tossed out the back window of the car as they drive by.

Those of us who rescue these hapless creatures and work so hard to rehabilitate them, often at great cost, are going to have an even harder row to hoe with the already negative attitudes of many who either don't understand cats, or even actively hate them.

How can we teach compassion when the mainstream media preaches hate, without the least concern for the effect this will have?

Now it's going to be that much harder to find homes for even the shy, easy-going and loving cats stuck in shelters everywhere. There is way too much killing of sweet, gentle cats, and now many people will feel even more justified to accelerate the kill rate.Worse, more cat haters will feel justified in torturing them. 

Why not take this opportunity to promote the spay-neuter agenda? Or, why not put the birth control drugs back on the market? FeralStat was working! Yes, it had side effects in some cases. But what is the side effect of allowing abandoned cats to reproduce at will? Hint: a short list includes starvation, disease, injury, etc., all adding up to misery. Oh, but who cares, right?

Better yet, teach responsibility in cat ownership: keep them indoors, get them altered, give them the life they deserve.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cat Dental Health Notes

Like humans, cats can have problems with dental health, often related to poor diet and lack of care. When we keep cats as pets, it's our responsibility to provide the proper foods and veterinary attention. Cats in the wild usually don't have these problems if their habitats remain natural. But even that may not be the case and wildlife experts sometimes have to intervene with remedial treatments.

To prevent problems with our pets, the best actions we can take include a diet of sufficient quality to prevent the buildup of tartar and the subsequent development of certain oral diseases or conditions, notably gingivitis, an inflammation of the gum tissue.

Gingivitis, and later actual tooth decay, account for tooth loss, pain, difficulty eating, and bad breath. This requires veterinary care before it affects the cat's immune system, as it can lead to more serious health problems, such as heart disease or other organ involvements, as well as premature aging.

Your cat should be seen for annual tooth cleaning and to check for other health issues. Keep in mind, a dental procedure, such as "scaling" (or scraping) to remove the tartar buildup, will require your cat to be anesthetized. You may wish to have your vet show you how to care for your cat's teeth at home, too, to prevent things from becoming advanced.

Most vets will recommend tooth care either daily, or at least twice a week. Use a soft toothbrush with a small head, or perhaps a bit of gauze wrapped around a finger to gently rub the teeth. It's important not to upset the cat if you want cooperation, so don't try to do too much when you first start.  If you only brush a few teeth at a time, that's better than nothing.

Start slowly and let the cat sniff the brush. Be sure to use toothpaste made for pets. Never use human toothpaste, especially if it contains fluoride! It can kill your cat.

End each session with petting or cuddling to help your cat relax.