Can It! – Choosing Wet Food Your Cat Will Love

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“Insisting capriciously on getting just what one wants; difficult to please; fastidious: a finicky eater.”  Does this describe your cat’s attitude toward food? Many of our customers have found that their cats have a definite preference when it comes to the type of food they’ll eat. It becomes more challenging when the cats in a household disagree on which foods are the best.

New cat owners are often overwhelmed by the scope of foods available. We recommend starting with small (approximately 3oz) cans or pouches of a variety of flavors and textures, and keeping track of which flavors are preferred. Some customers keep the labels of the favorite flavors, many keep a list, and some have even created a spreadsheet to keep everything straight.

Texture
The first question I generally ask is regarding texture. Do the cats prefer a pâté (everything ground to a similar consistency) or a chunks in gravy?

Pâté is easier to divide among multiple cats, and in some brands is available in large (12-14oz cans). Its uniform consistency also makes it ideal for mixing in any needed supplements. Some cats prefer the smooth texture, and kittens especially find it easy to eat.

The chunks in gravy style is generally more appealing to us, as it looks like something we might serve our families (though it is lacking the seasonings we’d add). The chunks may be shredded pieces of meat, cubed, or minced. The textured formulas are often preferred by cats who enjoy picking up small pieces of meat rather than lapping at their food.  

A few formulas that we carry are in aspic, a clear gelatin, rather than gravy.

Protein
The next question I ask is if the cat has a preference between poultry, fish, or red meat. Ideally, you should rotate among all of these, because that will provide the most complete diet – different types of meat provide different nutrients, and eating a variety reduces the chance of developing food-related allergies or sensitivities.

Poultry choices include:

  • chicken
  • duck
  • pheasant
  • turkey

with chicken and turkey being the most commonly purchased.

We have a lot of variety available in the seafood formulas, including not only the commonly enjoyed:

  • calamari
  • herring
  • mackerel
  • mussels
  • salmon
  • sardine
  • shrimp
  • trout
  • tuna

but also international fishes, such as:

  • barramundi and trevally (from Australia)
  • red bigeye (from the Pacific and Indian oceans)
  • shirasu (baby anchovies, from Japan)
  • tilapia (known as “fish of the Nile”)
  • unagi (New Zealand eel)

You can see we have quite the fish-lover’s feast available to sample.

To encourage your cat’s dreams of stalking its prey on the savannah, we have large game meats, such as:

  • beef
  • bison (also known as buffalo)
  • venison

as well as smaller game, such as rabbit and brushtail (a marsupial that was introduced into New Zealand from Australia, and has damaged the ecosystem in its new home. Read more about the management efforts of this introduced species here).

Size
Once you’ve found the texture and flavors that earn you purrs of approval, you’ll want to decide what size of can works best. Some people prefer buying single flavors by the case, others like buying individual cans, so they can achieve a lot of variety. Depending on the size and number of cats in your house, you may find one can size works best for you. Many cats don’t like eating food that’s been kept in the refrigerator, they’d prefer a fresh can each meal that they get wet food. Some people add a splash of warm water to take the chill off, but we recommend that you avoid microwaving the food, as applying heat to the food can destroy essential nutrients. 

Whether you’re feeding exclusively wet, or a combination of wet and dry, or wet and raw food, will influence your buying decision as well.

I hope this helps you to choose foods that your cat will love. Of course, these tips will be helpful to owners of finicky dogs, as well!

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Pet Foods: Trust Your Pet

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Have you ever tried researching pet foods online, or perhaps asking your vet, trainer, groomer or even your neighbors for advice on pet nutrition? You will get dozens of answers to this same question: What is the best pet food? Today, the pet food industry offers endless options and trying to make sense of it all can give anyone a migraine. Where do you start? Who do you ask? Which “pet food analysis” do you trust? I have learned from over 20 years in the pet food business that there is only one “person” who can answer that question . . . your PET!

I have read pet food ratings that have listed certain foods as the very best. These foods would actually be the very worst for my pets. Use these ratings only as a starting point to get you looking in the right direction for quality pet foods. Ratings, along with a knowledgeable retailer, can help you make an informed decision. Don’t let the overwhelming variety of products and varying opinions steer you in the wrong direction.

So, how do you know what to feed?

Start by making sure your pet has a clean bill of health. Although proper diet can help to prevent many health issues, most serious medical problems cannot be cured by diet alone.

Observe your pets. Create a journal or mark on a calendar any reoccurring concerns. Make note of dry skin, diarrhea, vomiting, hot spots, rash, gas, burping, itching or chewing of the skin or feet. Excessive shedding, tear stains, ear infections, bad breath or body odor can also be indicators, Try to keep track of the foods you feed during that time. Make a note if you try anything new or add in a special treat or food topper. Keeping track of these patterns will help you explain to an experienced pet food retailer what your needs are.

All pet foods have the potential to run their course. If you ate the same diet every day, no matter how healthy it may be, your body would eventually stop using it efficiently. Supplements may become necessary to fill nutritional gaps. Often times a simple change can correct many of the problems listed above. Make some notes and come see us.

This article, written by our Liora Robinson, first appeared in Dogtopia’s newsletter, and has been reprinted with their permission.

Cold Treats for Hot Dogs (and Cats!)

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The days are heating up, and our customers are looking for frozen treats for their dogs! Perennial favorites include Yöghund Organic Banana & Peanut Butter and Organic Blueberry & Vanilla Bean, as well as Mr. BarkSmith’s Cool Treats in Fruit Delight and Peanut Butter.

We’re pleased to announce a new product in our stores: Pet Fairy Noshers – a puree of fruits, vegetables, and honey that you can spread in your interactive toy (such as West Paw Design’s Tux, Kong, Premier’s Twist n’ Treat, or similar) and freeze, as we discussed in a previous entry. Or, if you prefer, you can use small cups and make your own smoothies.

Although these products are marketed for dogs, there’s no reason that cats couldn’t enjoy them, too! One of my cats loves canned pumpkin, and will lick it right off a spoon. My other two will sniff, and walk away without a taste.

For those pets who prefer their frozen treats to be meat-based, we of course still carry a large variety of raw bones in our freezers, supplied by Bravo!, Nature’s Variety, and Primal: beef and bison marrow bones in various sizes; beef and bison knuckle bones; lamb, pork, and venison femur bones. These bones are great for heavy chewers, and don’t splinter like cooked bones can.

Meaty bones that are suitable for meal replacement or supplementation include: chicken backs, necks, and wings; as well as turkey necks. While cooked poultry bones are likely to splinter, raw bones are soft, and are much safer, though we encourage our customers to supervise their dogs and cats while eating these meaty treats.

Staff Review: Dogswell Jerky Treats

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To begin with, I have a VERY picky eater-a 3 yr. old Shiloh Shepherd. He’s known to turn down many things you would consider ‘irresistable’ to dogs. Fortunately, I found a keeper with Dogswell’s ‘Happy Hips’! (Happy Hips is now a well-know term to him!) My dog will gobble down the chicken strips; they’re great as a quick-but-substantial treat for a large dog, and can be broken apart for smaller dogs. (The Breathies variety come in a smaller bite-size jerky as well.)  I’ve used both the beef liver treats and the chicken strip treats- both have gone over very well with my pup.

The ingredients in each of Dogswell’s varieties are pretty simple:

Happy Hips: Chicken Breast, Vitamin E Supplement, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate

Breathies: Chicken Breast, Vitamin E Supplement, Mint, Cinnamon Bark, Oyster Shell Flour (source of calcium carbonate), Rosemary, Parsley, Chlorophyll

Vitality: Chicken Breast, Vitamin E Supplement, Flaxseed, Vitamin A Acetate

Keep in mind: There are other flavors-lamb and rice, beef liver, and duck!

Because of the limited ingredients and meaty taste, these treats are great for sensitive stomachs, allergies, and finicky pups!

To view more of their products and ingredient lists, visit http://www.dogswell.com/.

If you have any more comments or questions, feel free to ask!

What Can I Put in My Dog’s Kong Toy?

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“What should I put in my dog’s Kong toy?” This is a question we hear often at our stores. Kongs are fantastic toys for heavy chewers, and with nearly endless combinations of fillings to keep them entertained, dogs may never tire of these rubber workhorses.

If you’ve tried filling a Kong with peanut butter, you may have found that your dog licks it clean in a very short period of time. Filling the toy with treats can be tricky – you want something large enough to stay in as he rolls the Kong about, but not so large that it never comes out again.

What we’ve found works well is using a combination of ingredients: small pieces of varied sizes and flavors for interest, with a “mortar” to help hold the pieces in place.

The first component is small pieces of food or treats:

  • Kibble
  • Treats
    • Biscuits
    • Jerky
    • Dried meat strips
  • Fruits & Vegetables (fresh or frozen, not canned)
    • apples, berries, pears, etc.
    • carrots, sweet potatoes, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower
    • AVOID: grapes, garlic, onions, lettuce,

Add to that something tasty with a paste-like consistency, to help keep all the small pieces in place:

  • peanut butter –
    • organic, without  hydrogenated oils, added salt or sugar is preferable
  • canned pumpkin or sweet potatoes-
    • excellent source of fiber
    • be sure it is not pie filling
  • plain yogurt –
    • great source of digestive enzymes, calcium, etc.
  • all natural canned dog food –  smooth textured formulas are ideal

Be sure to try the individual ingredients as treats, to see if s/he likes them, before assembling the Kong treat filling.

To keep everything in place longer, and increase the play time for your pup, you can put the Kong in the freezer (wrap the end in saran wrap, with a rubber band, to keep anything from leaking out the bottom until it solidifies.

If your dog doesn’t manage to get everything out of the Kong, you can use a bottle brush, or simply place it in the dishwasher, to get it ready for its next use.

What are your favorite treats to use in a Kong, or similar treat-dispensing toy?

Staff Review: Answers Raw Pet Food

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One of the foods I feel great about giving my pets is “Detailed Answers” by Answers Raw Pet Food Company. I rotate the proteins (beef, chicken, and pork), just as I rotate the kibbles that I feed my dog and cats, to reduce the chance of them developing food allergies. Because I have a large pet family, I buy the 4 pound carton. It’s very easy to thaw the food in the refrigerator, and scoop out the daily portions. It’s best to use all of the food within 3-5 days of thawing, so that it remains fresh. And when the carton is empty, I rinse it and put it in the recycle bin! It’s paper based, so there’s no chance of any toxins entering the raw food, as can happen from plastic packaging.

Ingredient sourcing is very important to me, and I am happy to report that all of the animal sources are 100% antibiotic free, hormone free, vegetarian fed, and treated humanely. The food is a true raw – it has not been subjected to heat or pressure pasteurization, processes which degrade nutrients in the food. This food is a great way to provide a more natural diet that is close to what their wild cousins would eat – raw muscle meat, organs, bones, and a small amount of vegetables.

The Answers website is a fantastic resource, where you can learn even more about their products and pet nutrition, plus they are very receptive to questions and respond quickly. I’ve also learned a great deal talking with the rep who visits our stores to give demonstrations/information sessions.

Testing the waters…

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We will be showcasing natural foods, durable chews, and other products that we carry in our stores.

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