How I save over 90% on Topical Flea Control for my Multiple Cat Household

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Jeffie in the garden, one of the rescued kittens

I don’t like using topical flea meds, but when you have two dogs and ten cats sometimes diatomaceous earth just isn’t enough. When I took in an abandoned cat and her litter a few months ago, they came with fleas. Despite my best efforts dusting with DE, washing bedding and vacuuming; after a couple months everyone had fleas.

Since I was rehoming Mama and most of the kittens once they were ready, I had to make sure they didn’t bring an infestation to their new homes. The only problem: A six dose package of Advantage for cats under nine pounds from my local vet costs $82.94 plus tax. This works out to about $14.50 per cat. A single dose works for about four weeks if you’re lucky. So, for ten cats, I was looking at $145 a month for flea control. NO WAY.

I decided to do a little bit of research. It turns out that the Advantage cat and dog formulation is the exact same thing. The active ingredient in both is imidacloprid 9.1%.

In other words, buy the package for small cats and get a total of 2.4ml of medication, good for 6 cat treatments. Buy the package for extra large dogs and get ten times that amount, a whopping 24ml of the exact same medication, enough for 60 small cat treatments!

The kicker is that the package for extra large dogs costs only a little bit more than the one for cats. At my vet, it’s about $100, dropping our cost per cat dose down to $1.60. That’s much better!

However, you really don’t have to pay $100 either. Since I’m in Canada, I discovered I can take “advantage” of the low price of Advantage in Australia by ordering online. (This particular product is not available to the USA). A bit more research later and I had found by recommendation what looked like a nice little online shop: Pets Megastore. A 6 pack of Advantage for extra large dogs there is $55.91 CAD and shipping is about $6.  I placed my order and they shipped that same day. My order arrived in good shape with no duty owing about two weeks later.

DSC_0013So now I have managed to drop the price per small cat dose down to $1.03. That’s a savings of almost 93 percent!

All you need to do is get a small glass vial and a syringe with no needle designed to squirt medicine into your cat’s mouth. (Note, you WILL NOT be squirting Advantage into anyone’s mouth! It is applied externally between the shoulder blades directly onto the fur.) Simply empty your extra large dog dose into your glass vial, and use the syringe to get the correct dosage out for your cat (or smaller dog). Here is a handy weight to dosage chart that applies to both cats and dogs:

0-10 lbs = 0.4ml
11-20 lbs = 0.8ml
21-30 lbs = 1.2ml
31-40 lbs = 1.6ml
41-50 lbs = 2.0ml
51-60 lbs = 2.4ml
61-70 lbs = 2.8ml
71-80 lbs = 3.2ml
81-90 lbs = 3.6ml
91-100 lbs = 4.0ml

An added benefit here is that you can tailor your dosages more precisely to your pet’s actual weight. This can save you even more money and is healthier for your pet. Keep your unused medicine well-marked and tightly sealed in a safe place that is also cool, dark and dry. Shake it up well before using again as the active ingredients may settle. It won’t lose potency until the expiration date, so mark this down as well. Be careful not to get this medicine on your skin, or wear latex gloves if you’re worried. Wash your syringe out very well with soapy water before storing. Do not use on kittens or puppies under 8 weeks of age.

If you have a multi-cat household, this tip has the potential to save you a lot of money which you can then spend on your lovely, flea-free friends. Consider a home with three small cats who get treated every month. The yearly cost of buying the small cat sized vials from the vet would add up to $522. The cost of ordering the extra large dog vials online would be $37.08. Throw in the cost of the syringe and vial and let’s say $40. You’ve just saved $482. That’s enough to feed those three cats a high quality grain-free canned food (let’s say $3 per can, one can a day) for over 5 whole months.

(I’d like to add that I haven’t been paid or reimbursed by any of the companies mentioned above. Just had a good experience shopping online and wanted to share. Also note, this information applies to Advantage and Advantage II products only. Do not use the newer, K-9 Advantix or Advantage Multi for Dogs products on cats.)

Raw Feeding Kittens and Cats

Ever since I got my three sister cats as tiny, supposedly 8 week old kittens about five years ago, I have tried to feed them raw as much as I can.

Long story short, their much-loved kitty predecessor died at the young age of six from undiagnosed diabetes and acute renal failure and I strongly suspected her commercial, “high-quality” dry kibble diet. I wanted to make changes to fresher foods with my new girls, like I was doing in my own life with good results.

No, I do not spend a fortune each day feeding pre-prepared raw. I make my own!

DSC_0009I’d like to emphasize that you have to do your research with homemade raw cat food diets. They don’t have to be perfect, just as your own or your children’s diets are not perfectly balanced at every meal, but they absolutely must provide certain key elements.

I bought an electric meat grinder, found a great site online with a great recipe, and I’ve adapted it over the years to fit my cats and my budget. I’ve found that a homemade raw diet can be slightly cheaper than a good-quality, grain-free commercial canned food diet, although preparation time is a factor. I do still offer store bought canned food sometimes, and I do get lazy and give them a kibble meal sometimes, but I strive to keep cat kibbles strictly in the treat zone, where they belong. Even the most expensive “doom pellets” make excellent, low cost treats!

Well, of course I couldn’t resist starting this hard-luck litter of kittens on raw food right from the start. At this point in my life I don’t think I could bring myself to offer kibble to a small kitten. It would be like offering McDonalds to a baby.

Let’s be clear here: High quality commercially produced dry cat food is made from meat and byproducts (both generally fine), vegetables and (often) grains, all cooked at very high temperatures and coated with fat to make them palatable. Cooked food may taste good but it isn’t a natural primary diet for a cat.

Think about how convenient dry foods are. They require no refrigeration, no preparation. It’s the cat equivalent of a meal replacement bar. How would you feel about eating a big bowl of the same room-temperature, dry, possibly rancid, super-processed nuggets every day? These are completely dead foods that include significant proportions of things like vegetables and grains that cats cannot digest. They might as well be adding sawdust. Some probably do… Cellulose, right?

Cats are true carnivores and only need to eat meat. In the wild they catch and eat small animals, a diet very high in moisture. Cats evolved in the desert, and naturally have a very low thirst drive since they are accustomed to getting most of their moisture from their food. A healthy cat on a healthy diet never drinks much water at all.

Ok so, I’ve had these kittens since they were three days old. I was a little nervous about offering them my humble homemade cat food. Would they hate it? I had already been feeding the mother cat raw from nearly the start. She arrived with a bad case of diarrhea and did not produce a solid stool until I did so. Luckily she was totally into it and now has well-formed, firm stools. She’s a real wild girl who knows what’s good for her.

Benefits to Raw Feeding:

-Improved overall health, energy and longevity, shiny coat
-Vastly improved tooth and gum health, more natural eating motions, less bad breath
-Improved and reduced stool formation. Small and dry crumbly stools with no odor
-Improved mental stimulation when eating, each meal is different and fun to eat
-Sufficient hydration is maintained
-Wash glass jars instead of tossing cans

I noticed a couple of the kittens sampling the mama’s raw food at about week three. They were keenly interested in it. I had been adding water to make it soupy for them, but I don’t go out of my way to serve it warm. One kitten was gumming a piece of bone-in rabbit ribs for a good ten minutes while I watched. With no teeth yet it was a futile endeavor, but I was pleased with his enthusiasm.

At some point as kittens grow you may begin to worry that perhaps you should just leave out a bowl of kibble. Let me tell you, I’ve had this feeling. What if the babies get hungry between meals? The truth is, if you care about your cats then you’ll feed them regular meals and they will never go hungry for long. Cats were not made to eat all day long. They are made to catch a meal, eat that meal, and then let the gut clean itself out until the next meal. I would never go back to the All-Day-Kitty-Buffet. And it sounds funny, but it’s actually not funny at all, because my kitty died from it. Every cat out there is “doing fine” on their kibble diet until they’re not.

At week four, four of five kittens were eating the raw food meals and enjoying them very much. Now they all love it and much prefer it to all else, especially the batches made with fresh home-grown rabbit.

I feed about 3 to 4 big meals a day, (about 1.5 cups for 5 kittens and one momma) for the first four or five weeks, then reduce to two meals a day with fresh water always available. Use your own best judgement and keep in mind that kittens need to eat more frequently than adults. The momma cat is very helpful, she lets me know very clearly if it’s been a little too long between feedings.

The new chicken, rabbit and turkey formula seems to be a big hit. It’s very satisfying to be able to use my own rabbits and eggs to feed my precious cats. I love knowing exactly where the food has come from, down to the last detail. Today many bunny spines and other bones were ground up for them.

We do not waste a single bit of our rabbits. Literally, nothing is thrown away or even makes it as far as the compost, other than boiled bones. Everything is consumed by either human, dog or cat.

I’ll provide my catinfo.org inspired recipe in an upcoming post.

The Easiest and Best Coturnix Quail Brooder

Many designs for chick brooders exist out there, but most of them are high-maintenance, hard to clean, or labor intensive to construct.

I’d like to share with you the best design I’ve come up with for brooding very small quail chicks (or chicken chicks or ducklings). The parts are cheap and easy to put together and clean, the water stays crystal-clear without drowning incidents or changing five times a day. The chicks stay healthy and there is a minimum of care involved.

DSC_0003You start with a standard Rubbermaid bin, the one foot tall size works best. Remove the lid and store it. This gives you a nice solid-walled brooder that will protect the tiny chicks from drafts which can chill them. If you decide at some point that raising chicks is really not for you, you still have a usable bin.

Line the bottom of the bin with shop towels (as seen here) or paper towels. Anything slicker, even newspapers, will cause traction problems and you could end up with spraddle-legged chicks who will not survive. Place a shallow saucer of food and also sprinkle some food around on the floor of the brooder so the babies can easily learn to peck at the pieces.

DSC_0019Nutrition is very important. Quail grow incredibly fast and will run into problems if fed incorrectly. I use a 26% gamebird crumble throughout their lives and they do very well on it. You don’t need to pulverize the crumbles, the chicks will find pieces small enough to eat.

DSC_0002Now you need to create a mesh top for your brooder to provide ventilation, keep quails in and prying fingers and paws out. I created this top easily using a piece of 1″ by 1/2″ galvanized wire mesh, normally used for rabbit cage flooring.

Cut a piece that is 26 inches long by 20 inches wide. Remove a 2″ square from each corner so you can bend the sides to form an overhanging lip. Use a piece of 2 x 4 lumber as a guide and a hammer to bend your sides up at the seam and fasten the corners together with small hog rings or j clips.

DSC_0006DSC_0005Next, cut out two 5″ by 1″ slots in the center of each short side to accommodate the handles. If you bent your sides and corners neatly, everything should fit perfectly.

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Brooder with drinker flap open

Next you want to cut out a square in one corner to accommodate your drinker or waterer. You will need to customize the size of the opening to fit whatever container you use. Then cut a square that is 1″ larger on three sides to fit over the opening like a flap. Connect at the hinge with more hog rings.

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Brooder with drinker flap closed

Now you need to construct your waterer. Mine is made from a small plastic honey specimen bucket with a lid, but you can use any small plastic container with a lid such as a clean, large yogurt container. As long as you can fit your hand inside to install the nipples it should work. If it has a handle, even better. If not, you may have to add one with a piece of wire or cord.

I find that two nipples are sufficient for the amount of quail that can fit in this small brooder. Make sure you buy high quality nipples as the cheap ones may leak and/or fail. These ones cost me over $8 each, but they’re worth it. Install your nipples carefully and test to make sure they are working and not leaking. To install, just drill a hole slightly smaller than the nipple and push it in tightly. Always retest your nipples when refilling to make sure they are still functional.

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Chick drinker with nipples installed

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Drinker supported by mesh lid

Your drinker should fit snugly over the mesh and hang inside the brooder. When the  chicks are very small you will need to adjust the height, beginning with having the nipples only an inch or so above the floor. To do this you will place the drinker inside the brooder and hang it from the mesh at the suitable height with S hooks.

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Drinker height adjusted for newborn chicks

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With safety flap closed

Now you just need to add a heat lamp overhead at the correct height and fill up your waterer. You can see my heat lamp has a metal safety grille which needs to be removed as the chicks need the bulb itself quite close to the mesh top for the first week or so.

The chicks learn very quickly where the water is and it won’t need to be refilled for at least a few days and up to a week. The water will stay sparkling clean with almost zero maintenance. An added benefit is it provides a small shaded area for overheated chicks.

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Ready for new chicks!

This size brooder will hold approximately 60 quail chicks (at an absolute maximum) for the first couple of weeks. The chicks will tell you if they are too hot or too cold so pay attention to the noise they make and their activity. Make sure the heat lamp is not placed directly above the water as chicks don’t like water that is too warm. Also keep it away from the sides of the bin as they may melt.

As the chicks grow and poop, add layers of woodchips (not cedar) or wood stove pellets to the floor and adjust the drinker height accordingly. I don’t clean out my brooder until the chicks are taken out, I just add more bedding as needed.

If you have any more questions about brooding Coturnix Quail chicks, ask me in the comment section below or check out my Coturnix Quail Chick Care Sheet. Happy brooding!