When Mario and Luigi came to Erik and I in October 2012 they were only 8 months old and on a diet consisting of Trader Joe’s canned wet food and some dry kibble to free feed on. They were both seemingly happy and healthy so we figured why not continue their diet of part wet/part dry as it sounded like a good balance – and they both LIKED the food, which was a plus. After doing what I felt was an adequate amount of research at the time, I stuck with my decision to keep their feeding routine the way it was – – if it ain’t broke, ya know?
Fast forward a few weeks, I brought the Mario Brothers for their first vet appointment since they had been adopted from the MSPCA six months prior (by a lovely woman who soon realized she was extremely allergic). We were living in Rhode Island at the time and decided to go with a veterinarian who one of my co-workers had frequented and recommended. [To avoid any slander lawsuits, all facilities and doctors mentioned hereon out shall remain nameless. I would also like to note that I do not blame any one veterinarian, I understand they mean well and are most likely being overworked and overwhelmed with little time to spend researching nutrition.]
My main takeaway from that first appointment was that they were completely healthy cats except for the fact they had deformed front paws and some tarter on their teeth. “What are you feeding them?” the vet asked, and I proudly responded with what I thought at the time was an impressive diet. She looked practically horrified that I was feeding them any wet food at all and insisted that they convert to a solely dry kibble diet – “in the long run, this will help keep their weight down, prevent diabetes and help you avoid some hefty dental and other health bills down the line,” she said with such confidence. I believed every word, especially because the word “diabetes” scared me as my childhood cat died from a stroke, likely due to complications with his diabetes, when he was only 8 years old. Even back then, in my eyes, veterinarians were heroes like police officers, firefighters and doctors. I believed her without question because she was an animal hero and therefore, she was my hero. [Spoiler alert: Dry kibble does NOT promote weight loss NOR does it prevent diabetes.]
A few weeks after this diet change, just as Christmas Eve turned to Christmas Day, we found ourselves at the emergency vet with a cat who was struggling to pee. Mario had developed crystals in his urine and was diagnosed with FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease). Luckily we were able to diagnose and treat him before those crystals turned into a bladder blockage (which would have then resulted in a surgery that Mario wouldn’t have survived due to his heart condition – that we didn’t know about at the time – oy!). After a quick conversation with the emergency vet, we figured out that the crystals likely developed due to our switch to a completely dry food diet. She recommended we put him on Hills Science Diet c/d for Urinary Tract Health – they sell wet and dry versions so we can go back to their old routine of a combination but with a “healthier” prescription food. She even gave me a small baggie full of the Hills c/d dry kibble to take home with me.
Weary about jumping into another new feeding routine without doing any of my pet parent homework, I spent the next few days online researching the ins and outs of diets for cats with FLUTD. It seemed that many people were in the same boat as me – they weren’t impressed by the ingredients but since others had seen anti-blockage success over time, they were terrified to take their cat off the food and try other options. I decided to get a second opinion and found a new vet in RI to take a look at Mario. They agreed that I should give the prescription food a try so I conceded. Oh, and in the process, we found a heart murmur and a few echocardiograms later, both Mario and Luigi were diagnosed with a severe heart disease – yikes, again.
Mario and Luigi stayed on the prescription food for a few months. I hated the food but they liked it and we were blockage free – so we continued on for a while. But when it got to the point that they were vomiting after almost every meal and losing weight (I’ll spare you the details on the other mildly graphic issues), I couldn’t deny it any longer. This food that was supposedly “helping” one issue, was obviously causing other issues, perhaps WORSE issues, and it was time to make a change.
Back to the World Wide Web. I read everything the Internet had to offer, from professional articles to pet parent forums to every review listed on distribution websites. I wanted everyone’s opinion. I wanted real life examples and I needed them to be relevant and recent. I wanted credible veterinarian insights, both traditional and holistic and whatever else was in between. And, after it was all said and done, I felt like I had gotten nowhere. There were SO many food options out there and so many differing opinions. How could I be sure that I was feeding my cats the best food when the “best food” seemed like such an ambiguous topic?
Your pet’s nutrition might not be the first thing on your mind, and I can understand that. It was barely on my radar until my boys became sick and all of the sudden it mattered. After seeing 4 different vets in the Boston area, I still hadn’t received any nutritional advice that made sense to me. Feeling perplexed, I had to take matters into my own hands to investigate the types of diets that would make them comfortable and elongate their already shortened life expectancy. Feeding healthier and more species-appropriate foods to Mario and Luigi did exactly what you would expect it to do to a human – they had more energy, their coats were fuller and softer, they stopped having digestive issues and they looked more cat-letic, ha. BUT they were also a bit picky so we bounced around to a few brands and eventually stuck with Natural Balance for a long time, ultimately switching to Wellness grain free – which is where we are now, SORT OF.
Sort of, you ask?
When Luigi started throwing blood clots (3 within 6 months) it was another reality check that his underlying heart disease was not so “underlying” anymore. We added medications – beta-blockers, blood thinners, anti-coagulant injections – but was there more we could do? The night we brought him to the emergency vet, they suggested we euthanize him because “that’s what most people would do” in this situation. If I had taken that vets advice – if I had taken a vets advice AGAIN without knowing better this time – Luigi wouldn’t be here to start this journey with us. Whether by chance or divine intervention, we’re all lucky enough to be here together today and we’re excited to announce…
WE ARE GOING RAW!
That’s right, RAW MEAT – that stuff I kind of sort of used to be afraid to touch. I know what you’re thinking, “she has out crazy-cat-ladied herself and I should disassociate ASAP….” but please, hear meow-t!!!
And to do so, you must read on – [Cat] Life in the Raw.