Saturday, November 21, 2009

More for Cats Who Like to Chew

Ivan loves to chew. He chews the cardboard on cat scratchers, he chews the wrist strap on cameras, iPods, Wii remotes, and other portable electronic devices. He even occasionally chews small cables. And, if you're a regular reader here, you know that he likes to chew fabric - especially clothing.

We wanted to try to redirect his passion for chewing so that it would not be so destructive. We tried cat chew toys (yes, PetStages makes cat chew toys that are intended for teething kittens), we tried rawhide chews made for dogs, etc. We eventually found dried chicken breast strips, marketed for dogs and sold by Trader Joe's. The cats went nuts over these, and the strips seemed to satisfy some of Ivan's chewing urges. However, Trader Joe's stopped carrying those, so we had to find an alternative source. We did, at PetSmart. However (again), we read, after feeding those to the cats for months, that those made in China seemed to cause some health problems in dogs. Knowing about the Chinese melamine pet food scandal, we decided to stop buying dried chicken made in China. Unfortunately, EVERY brand of the chicken strips we could find was made in China! So for the past year or so, Ivan hasn't had much to chew on except what little he could find in the house that we had not already removed from his reach. We substituted freeze dried salmon and shrimp cat treats for the chicken strips, and while the cats love the salmon and shrimp, neither is terribly chewy.

Well, Trader Joe's started carrying a product for dogs that looked interesting. It is a piece of rolled rawhide wrapped in dried chicken breast. Hmm. And it's made in the U.S.A.! Of course, it didn't have to be made here. We would have bought it if it were made just about anywhere but China. But it is made here. We gave each cat one of these, and they went wild! They threw these chicken breast wraps in the air, knocked them around, and pounced on them and chewed the heck out of them. FINALLY! Not only do they like to chew these things, but they like to play with them, too! We hope to have less cardboard and fabric chewing in our future! See Ivan in the photo below looking rather guilty about his bad habit.

Trader Joe's also carries the chicken breast strips again, but we find the chicken breast wraps (with rawhide) to elicit more chewing from the boys. They gobble the breast strips down pretty quickly, and while the chicken is low carb and high protein, the boys are on diets (being indoor cats, they tend to be less active than outdoor cats and so gain weight, despite being on a no-grain, low carb diet already), and the chicken breast wraps have a bit less chicken and require more work (and burning of calories) to get it.

Be very careful in giving these kinds of treats to your cats. You may even wish to speak to your vet about giving your cat the dehydrated chicken breast. We are lucky that our cats are chewers, so they very thoroughly chew the dried chicken and have no problems swallowing or digesting it. But all cats may not be quite so adept at handling the dried chicken. If you want to try it with your cats, break off a very small piece of the chicken and let them eat it. Then slowly increase the size of the piece. The good thing about the chicken breast wraps is that the chicken is wrapped around the rawhide roll, and the cats have to chew bites of the chicken off the rawhide. The chicken is a bit crumbly and so they aren't getting big pieces. But the dehydrated chicken strips are definitely a bit more chewy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We Love Feliway, and ModernCat's New Boutique


We love the Feliway diffuser. Feliway is a synthetic version of feline facial pheromones. When your cat rubs his or her face on you, or a corner of table, or a wall corner, or anything else, s/he is rubbing a pheromone of well-being onto those objects. It is a form of marking, but not necessarily a territorial type of marking, like urine marking or vertical scratching. So veterinarians decided that this pheromone was a good thing, and that diffusing it into the local atmosphere would keep cats calm. They also found that it reduced territorial behavior like urine marking and vertical scratching.

I'm here to tell you that it works! We first used it when our 20-year old male cat Ian was diagnosed with cancer. He was given prednisone tablets, which helped him somewhat, but the Feliway diffuser, after a few weeks, really seemed to help Ian calm down and feel more relaxed. He had fairly advanced lymphoma, but with the use of the Feliway and prednisone, he lived a comfortable two months, during which he was eating well and interacting a lot with us.

After we lost Ian, having lost our dear Aggie 10 days earlier, we adopted two kittens, littermates, from our feral cat colony in the country. The Feliway helped Ivan and Boo transition into their new home. Now it helps them remain calm when their tendency is to fight over who is top cat. We can tell when it's time to replace the Feliway diffuser refill - Ivan starts terrorizing Boo! Boo, though the bigger, heavier cat, is so polite that he will not fight back much. So the Feliway diffuser is a true aid in keeping these silly brothers from fighting in the first place.

The diffuser is very simple to use. It is a small unit that plugs unobtrusively into a wall outlet. You screw in a diffuser refill, which lasts about 30 days. The refills are admittedly pricey (typically around $25.00 US), but it's a small price to pay for maintaining peace in the household, not to mention preserving furniture and carpets! We occasionally find the refills on sale and stock up. There is also a Feliway spray, which is useful for spraying in a cat carrier, when you need to take an uncooperative kitty to the vet, or for spraying in a room, when a new kitty has arrived but is in seclusion before being slowly introduced to the indigenous cat population.


Our friends at ModernCat have opened a new shop in Phoenix. They plan to make their wares available via Etsy. Check them out at their Facebook page to keep track of when you can buy their products on line. And if you're in Phoenix, drop by and pay them a visit.