Fred is Sick Again – Naturally Treating Cystitis in Cats

DSC_0029After just one time sneaking into the kibble, Fred is sick again. I first noticed while I was in the bathroom a few mornings ago and he got into the bathtub, squatted over the drain and had a little pee. Trying to tell me something Fred? Then he was back to doing the litterbox shuffle, going back and forth from box to box, voiding just a few drops of urine each time.

I wasn’t looking forward to another $200 vet treatment, which last time basically consisted of a shot of antibiotics and a prescription for snake oil special cat food. I decided to do a little more research into natural treatments to see if I could manage his condition myself. A few hours of research later and I decided to try cranberry and goldenseal.

I know from personal experience that pure unsweetened cranberry juice will knock out a urinary tract infection in short order. Fred might not have a UTI, but he is having bladder issues and does have struvite crystals. I was hoping cranberry would help acidify his urine and hopefully dissolve them. Goldenseal was recommended as an antibiotic that helps alleviate infection and inflammatory conditions. Both had been okayed as safe for cats by multiple sources.

DSC_0032I gave Fred a full capsule of cranberry extract in the morning, then a full capsule of goldenseal in the evening, just so his body could process the supplements properly without overloading him with both at once. He is such a good boy and lets me pill him easily. The next morning, he still seemed to be having difficulties passing urine, but was showing no signs of pain or discomfort. He got his cranberry pill in the morning and goldenseal pill in the evening once more. He was in good spirits all day and raced all over the house with the kittens, playing up a storm.

Since he still seemed blocked, I decided to try something new. I had also read many positive reports of people treating cystitis in cats with apple cider vinegar. I know that at any sign of sickness in my rabbits or birds, the first thing I do is put ACV in their water. So far, in two years, this along with good hygiene has cured everything from baby bunnies with no appetite, to quail with bumblefoot.

I chose to mix a tablespoon of ACV with a tablespoon of water, and administer about 2ml by mouth using a small plastic syringe designed for medicating cats. I did this about 3-4 times a day for the next three days and also stopped the herbal pills. Guess what, today Fred is peeing normally!

So I’m hoping we have a natural solution here. Fred must stay on a strictly canned/raw diet. No more kibble for Fred, ever. If he develops problems peeing, I can give him apple cider vinegar and water orally. He doesn’t seem to mind the flavor too much.

I feel if I put ACV in the communal water dish that it will prevent all the cats from wanting to drink, so I may start mixing small amounts into their food and seeing how they tolerate that. I believe I’ll put all the boy cats on ACV since cystitis is more prevalent in males.


Freshly ground bone-in chicken and necks

During my research I was also interested to learn that male cats with long hair and high stress levels are more prone to cystitis. (Not to mention kibble diets of course.) Fred is far from stressed right now, but he was probably the most stressed cat ever while he was fending for himself as a stray. I know he was panic-stricken when he first showed up. I’ve been keeping him away from the girls so no more fighting has occurred. Here’s to getting things a little more calm and normal around here!

Fred is Sick, and Vets are Misinformed About What to Feed Cats


Fluffy Freddy boy

Some of you may remember Fred, the stray cat who showed up here a few months ago in rough shape. Well yesterday Fred was doing the litterbox shuffle, going from one box to the other, only able to urinate a dribble each time. He still seemed frisky and cheerful so I decided to give it a day. He was back at it today so I scheduled an appointment with my vet.

I brought him in and after a urinalysis, he was diagnosed with a raging bladder infection and pee chock full of struvite crystals. Poor Fred. He was given a shot of strong antibiotics and I was told that he needed to go on a special diet. Uh oh, here we go.

Ironically, as I had been waiting for the results of the test, I had been noticing that all the posters and infographics in the vet office had been sponsored by pet food companies. If you’ve been reading my blog, you may know that I try to feed my cats raw food predominantly. Of course lately I’ve been lazy and have been passing out low-carb kibbles and canned. My bad.

When the vet said I needed to change his diet I knew what was coming. She said he needed to go on a special, very expensive canned diet that could only be purchased from a vet. I asked her if there was a natural alternative to this food and she said very sternly, “NO”. So obviously then I asked if whatever was in the special diet was not natural? To that she had no response.

Of course, once back at home, about one minute of online research later, I discovered that these special foods basically just have lowered ash and magnesium content, something which has actually been proven to have no effect on urinary crystals. The only thing proven to help with struvite crystals in the urine is increased water consumption. What a shocker. Why is there ash in cat food to begin with? And of course the best way to keep his urine acidified so it can properly dissolve the crystals is simply to feed a high-moisture content, zero-carb, raw diet. What a coincidence.

I remember when I started feeding homemade raw, I felt a bit guilty. Was I being a bad cat owner? The vets seemed to think so. After having my three cats on raw for about a year, one hot summer my cat Parsley started drinking water. Normally she never drank water as she got plenty of moisture from the raw food. I was worried. I brought her in to the vet for full blood work. Of course he asked about her diet. I told him I made her a homemade raw diet and he looked at me like I was a poor deluded idiot. “What spices do you add to this diet?” he asked. Spices? I don’t add any spices. I make a species-appropriate prey-model diet based on what a cat would eat in the wild. Did he think I was serving them raw chicken with Italian dressing? He was unimpressed. When he came back out with blood test results in hand he said, “This is one of the healthiest cats I have ever seen.” The next thing out of his mouth was “I still think you should switch her over to a commercially prepared diet.” Huh?

And so this is how it has been with nearly every vet I have ever visited. A homemade raw diet is evil, you’re killing your cats, you are a bad owner, you should be ashamed. And yet I’m just not buying it. A feral cat would be eating a raw diet, and I myself don’t eat a “perfectly balanced” meal each day and somehow, I survive.

I’ve heard anecdotally that vets get a few hours of training total regarding nutritional health of pets and that this “training” is highly influenced by pet food corporations. I myself have found that most vets are sorely misinformed when it comes to what kinds of foods are best for cats and dogs. They espouse high-carb kibbles and canned foods that probably ensure their patients will be returning for expensive treatments again and again. I’m sure most don’t do this knowingly, but that’s no excuse.

Anyway. Around $200 later, I have a paper bag of very expensive tiny cans of cat food which list their first ingredient as water. I think I’ll just stop being so lazy and get everyone back on the raw food feeding regime. All I want are healthy cats, and I don’t mind a little extra work and expense to achieve that. I’m tired of being shamed, looked down upon and made to feel horrible for providing my pets with a fresh, raw diet that I know is good for them.


Jeffie enjoying a rack of raw rabbit ribs


Rabbit Carpaccio

DSC_0009Some people get cravings for carbs, I get cravings for raw meat. That’s why I was super excited to try a rabbit carpaccio dish ever since I started raising my own rabbits. The loin cut is such a tender and finely-grained morsel that I always feel absolute simplicity is best. There is nothing much simpler than this recipe and it is so fresh and delicious. I also call it rabbit sashimi and the flavor and texture reminds me of a mild raw tuna. Sushi lovers will appreciate this dish.

Rabbit Carpaccio

1 Fresh rabbit loin
Half a lemon
Salt to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

Remove the silverskin from the loin and slice it thinly. Place the slices in a single layer on a plate and sprinkle with salt. Squeeze on lemon juice and drizzle with olive oil. Serves 4 to 6 as appetizers.


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 inspired recipe in an upcoming post.