Saturday, August 16, 2008


We now call Ivan and Boo the Microchippies because we had them microchipped a couple of weeks ago. The cost at our vet is $37 per cat, and pet insurance paid $20 each. They were a wee bit sore between the shoulderblades for a week, but now they are fine. The vet said there are no known health problems from microchipping (i.e., she has never seen a cat get an infection at the injection site, or cancer, etc. The chip is about the size of a grain of rice). By the way, some other collective names we have for Ivan and Boo are "The Celebrity Catheads," which was the name of a band in the late 1980s in Houston, Texas, and "Va Bruvahs," which is Cockney for "The Brothers" (sort of).

The company that manufactures these chips and keeps records that will help reunite you with a lost and found microchipped cat is HomeAgain. Not only do they keep your contact information, but they also send e-mail to area members, vets, and shelters any time a pet is reported lost. This increases the chance that your pet will be found and reunited with you. On one hand it is a bit sad to see the number of pets who get lost (as indicated by the number of notices we receive in e-mail), but on the other hand it is good to know that the Internet is being harnessed for such worthy purposes. A one-year "subscription" to Home Again is $14 per cat. Our vet said that any time a new cat is brought in, they scan it for a microchip, just in case someone found the cat and adopted it, thinking it was a stray. There is a story on the Home Again web site about that very thing happening! A cat disappeared, only to reappear two months later when the lady who had found her took her to the vet to get her spayed!

While microchips are great for locating lost pets, they do not protect pets from ingesting evil substances. Ivan did just that yesterday. We purchased some "glow necklaces" for use when camping. These contain a substance that, when activated, will glow for several hours. The substance is a fluid. To see how much light the necklaces actually produce, we activated one of them. They are actually just long flexible tubes that can be joined at both ends to create circles that fit over the head and around the neck. Once the glow died, we were going to throw the spent tube away. We unhooked the ends so that it was a 22" straight tube. Before tossing it in the trash we noticed that Ivan was interested in it. We dragged it around on the floor and he became obsessed with it, running back and forth like a mad cat to chase and grab it, and flying through the air like a gymnast to seize it, his eyes fully dilated as though he were chasing some serious prey. After reading the package and noting that it is non-toxic, we decided to keep it and use it as a toy for Ivan, but we made a mental note to put it away each time we finished playing, as we did not want Ivan to puncture the plastic and get to the glow goo inside the tube.

Yesterday we pulled it out of the fridge (where we have to keep it or he would find it and chew it to bits) and played with Ivan for a while. He is so obsessed with it that Boo doesn't even want to try to play with it - Ivan runs right over him! We had a good play session with Ivan. We let him "catch" the tube occasionally to keep him interested. When he catches it, he usually lays with the tube between his paws for a while, until we get the tube and play with him some more. However, after letting him "catch" the tube last night, we turned away for a few seconds to get something. When we looked back, Ivan was backing away from the tube and shaking his head. We thought he had gotten the connector off the tube and was chewing it, but there was nothing in his mouth. We quickly inspected the tube and saw that he had punctured it with a tooth, and some of the fluid had escaped. Ivan started running around in distress. We couldn't catch him for a minute or so. At one point, as he ran around, we saw a lot of saliva coming from his mouth. This was alarming! We finally caught him, examined his mouth, and then took him to the sink and rinsed his mouth out. Once we rinsed his mouth he was fine, ready to eat a handful of treats and play again as normal. But we were freaked out! We later determined that the substance either tasted bad, or it stung his mouth, or both, and his body's natural reaction to something undesirable in the mouth was to produce extra saliva to wash the substance away.

The puncture was barely the size of a pinhole, so a very, very tiny amount of the glow goo made it into his mouth. We threw the tube away promptly and won't be letting him play with those again! We would not even have considered it if they had not been labeled NON-TOXIC.

The ASPCA says that many pets are poisoned each year by all sorts of things, including chocolate, grapes, onions, the sweetener xylitol, coffee and houseplants. This article talks about things we might never suspect would poison a pet, as well as more obvious poisons (like antifreeze). It is recommended reading for any pet owner.

We think Ivan liked the tube because it looked a bit like a snake. He and Boo seem to LOVE snake-like toys and objects. They go crazy over some of my necklaces if I move them around in a snake-like fashion. We have started looking for snakey toys in the pet store. The first one we found is the Swizzle Teaser (also called Swizzle Bird) by "Dr. Noys' Pet Toys for Cats with an Attitude". This is a division of Kong Company at - they make the Kong toys that are so popular with dogs. Unfortunately, the Kong web site does not include the Dr. Noys' products. The above link for the Swizzle Teaser goes to an Internet pet store with which we are not familiar, so if you order from them, let us know what you think. Anyhow, we bought the toy at PetSmart (there's a PetSmart about a mile down the road from us, so we frequent it). The cats seem to like the Teaser, and we can get them interested in it most of the time, but they don't go crazy over it like Ivan did over the glow-goo tube! We have yet to find something to replace the tube. The photo at left shows Boo playing with the Swizzle Teaser. The feathers at the end attach via Velcro, and you can purchase replacements if the original feathers gets chewed on a bit too much.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ivan and Boo: Successful Vet Visit, and Raw Diets

We have a standard plan policy with VPI (veterinary Pet Insurance) for Ivan and Boo (and we just purchased standard policies for Belle and Dev). We feel insurance is a necessity as pet medical care is almost as expensive as human medical care, and we want the option to treat medical conditions that we otherwise might not be able to afford to treat! The plans we have, which include a "Core Coverage" rider, partially cover two vet visits a year per cat, standard testing and vaccinations, and even micro-chipping (we'll talk about that in the next blog entry)! So we took Ivan and Boo in to see the delightful Dr. Mattern at The Cat Hospital in Campbell, California on Monday. It's been about six months since their last check-up.

Having lost two cats to lymphoma a couple of years ago, we want Ivan and Boo monitored closely to watch for problems like that, especially since cats are adept at hiding ill health. So the two-visits-per-year coverage gives us some peace of mind. Dr. Mattern says they are both very healthy, though a bit overweight, and she recommended a low-carbohydrate diet (free of grains, especially corn) to help get their weight down to normal (they are 13 lbs each!). She specifically recommended two brands of cat-food, but the one she seemed to prefer was EVO.

We researched EVO on the internet and found many web sites that sell it. Dr. Mattern mentioned that there is at least one store in the San Jose area that carries it, but we found some good prices on the internet and decided to go that route instead of burning a lot of time and gas. We ordered EVO dry and canned food from as they had some of the best prices on pet foods and shipping, and the site got decent reviews on review web sites. While exploring the site, we also found a section of "raw and frozen" diets, and this intrigued us, so we did some research.

Apparently there is a growing group of veterinarians, researchers, and pet owners which believes that a raw diet is best for pets (there is a parallel raw food movement for humans, as well). This does make sense on its face. For millenia the genus Felis ate raw food. They killed their vegetarian (or possibly insectivorous and/or omnivorous) prey and ate it, benefiting from almost all parts of the prey animal as well as everything the prey animal had eaten. They did not cook their food! Besides, cooking changes the chemical properties of food materials, especially the fats in meat. Since we did have two cats with lymphoma (in addition to other health problems like pancreatitis and urinary tract infections) in the past, we felt that one area to scrutinize rigorously was diet. We wanted to feed them wholesome, organic, and proper ingredients. As we researched EVO dry and canned foods further, we discovered that it is "gently" cooked and billed as a good alternative to raw food, so this was an added bonus. However, we liked the idea of frozen raw food, as it is closer to what cats would eat in the wild (other than being frozen, of course!). So in addition to the two types of EVO, we ordered Primal brand frozen cat nuggets from The shipping on the Primal food was free, and this was a true deal, as they have to ship it UPS Two-Day to insure that it stays frozen during shipping.

Unfortunately, did not send us a confirmation e-mail, and we have gotten out of the habit of printing order information from web sites as we always get a confirmation e-mail! So while we have received the frozen part of the order, we have not yet received the EVO portion, and we have no easy way to track it. If it does not arrive on Monday (which will make it one week since we placed the order) we'll call them up, as we did make a note of the order number (not sure what inspired us to do THAT!). So that's our one complaint with so far.

Back to the Primal raw food. It's a four-lb. bag of small, ice-cube shaped nuggets of raw chicken and salmon with lots of vegetables and ground up chicken/salmon bones (the ingredients are listed in detail on the Primal site). Of course, those distinct ingredients are not recognizable as, when a nugget defrosts, it is a mush. We mixed it with the Science Diet "Nature's Best" kibble for the first time this morning, and the boys loved it! In fact, they ate around the pieces of kibble to get to the mush! Wow! And they have had canned/soft food perhaps one time in their lives previously. They are currently eating their dinner portion of the raw food and Science Diet kibble, and they are gobbling it up (Ivan leaves the kibble behind at first, but Boo eats it all at once). This morning we put the defrosted-but-refrigerator-chilled raw nuggets, which we'd placed in a zip-lock bag to defrost overnight, into a sink of warm water to warm them a bit before feeding, as suggested by the manufacturer. However, just now, we gave it to them right out of the fridge. No problem for them, apparently! That removes a step in the process for us, at least! (Not only is refrigerated food foreign to wild animals, but cold food also puts off less odor/scent, and cats rely heavily on scent to interest them in food. Apparently Ivan and Boo were pretty hungry!).

The raw food is way too expensive to be the boys' primary food. Instead, we think we'll continue to use it in addition to EVO (assuming they will eat the EVO, but they do not appear to be finicky guys). The Primal food was $51.99 for the four-pound bag! However, that computes to two weeks of food for two cats if we are using it along with EVO. Perhaps we'll only feed the raw food once a day, and stretch it to four weeks. We'll experiment and see what works. The Primal web site contains a lot of information, including a calculator to determine how much of their food to feed your cat for specific needs (weight loss, maintenance, weight gain, etc.). The calculator, as well as lots of other good information, is on Primal's Feeding Recommendations page. We halved the number they recommended for weight loss (two nuggets per feeding) since we are using the Primal food in combination with EVO (or Science Diet until we get the EVO food). In comparison, the 15.4 lb. bag of dry EVO was $37.99, and 12 13.2 oz variety pack cans were $25.99 (they were out of the 5.5 oz cans). However, we will attempt to do more research on this topic and see if anyone has compared the effects of a pure raw diet with those of an EVO diet.

In our research, we found that a lot of vets and owners recommend digestive enzyme supplements for cats who do not eat a 100% raw diet. We did some digging, and Total-Zymes seemed to be the most-recommended product. Primal actually recommends that it be used when a pet is first being transitioned to their raw food. So we ordered Total-Zymes from Pet Food AZ. They had the best price and the cheapest shipping. They DID send us a confirmation e-mail, but their ordering system is a bit confusing, as we wanted the product shipped to Mrs. A's office, but our credit card billing address is different from the office address. It was unclear which address they were using for billing and which for shipping until after the order was already placed. Thankfully it worked out correctly. By the way, the AZ part of their name appears to be for Arizona. That's one reason their shipping was cheaper than other pet food web stores' shipping. A lot of these stores are in the central or eastern U.S., and we're in the west. We were surprised how few web stores that carry these products are on the West Coast! You'd think California would be the Center of Natural Pet Food! Anyhow, we'll let you know what we think of Total-Zymes some time in the future, after we've had a chance to give it to the boys for a while. It's apparently a powder that is added to their food. Should be interesting. In the meantime, here is some "propaganda" from the Total-Zymes web site.

We'll provide updates in the future on how the boys are faring with their new diets.