Dry Cat Food is not Good for a Nursing Momma Cat
How Opal Went From Being a Typical Scrappy Stray Cat to a Healthy Beauty
The effects of a raw diet on a cat's health never ceases to amaze me. If you've ever seen a colony of stray cats, you'll see cats that look a bit scrappy or unhealthy. Even stray cats that have been spayed or neutered, vaccinated and are being fed every day typically look scrappy and unhealthy. I know, I used to be a feeder with a non-profit group for a cat colony of about 80 cats. By scrappy, I am referring to fur that is thin, separated, dull, and sheds a lot. They often are either very skinny with hip bones showing, yet have large bellies, or they may be very overweight. These cats will often have frequent or intermittent upper respiratory infections, lots of fleas, and very often diarrhea. This story is not meant to take away from all the wonderful volunteers who so generously give their time, money and emotional energy to caring for these innocent and homeless cats. Like I said, I did this for a number of years. While dry cat food is not the best food for any cat, it is especially not good for a nursing momma cat. Dry cat food is slow and difficult for a cat to digest. When a mother cat is nursing, she needs milk as soon as possible to feed those hungry babies. Opal was a stray with a litter of kittens being fed a diet of dry cat food.
Benefits of a Raw and/or Canned Diet for Cats
The point of this story is to drive home the benefits of feeding a diet of raw and/or grain-free canned food.
Using a stray cat is a perfect example. Meet Opal. AKA "Opo Mopo" (it means nothing, just me being silly). She lives in my neighborhood, which has quite a few community cats. Opal had at least one litter of kittens prior to my learning about her existence a few streets over. She was on another litter at this time. Four lovely kittens--three males that looked like her and one black female. Opal was being fed and provided water by a very nice woman--a diet of dry cat food, an inexpensive grocery store brand full of corn, by-products, artificial colors and flavors. Opal was and is very feral, meaning she is very skittish and will not allow human touch. Her kittens were "feral" as well, for the time being. Several others had tried to trap the family without success. One kitten was asleep on the woman's patio table. A neighbor quietly approached and scooped up the kitten, who became tame and remained with the people. I took a turn trying to trap, and had all three kittens and Opal within six days. It was a great success. You can see the condition Opal was in by the photo below. She had recently returned from being spayed, so she is still a bit groggy. But you can see the condition of her fur -- AND how the clinic did a botch job on her ear. The other community cats all look pretty scrappy too, despite being fed daily and having shelters to sleep in.
Despite being fed daily, she was severely anemic and very thin. When I brought her home from the vet, still groggy from anesthesia, I was able to look in her mouth. Her gums and tongue were white and she was full of fleas. Her kittens were also anemic and full of fleas. Dry cat food is not an ideal diet for a pregnant or nursing momma cat or for kittens Why? Because dry food is very difficult and slow to digest. It is more difficult than canned wet food for the nursing mom's body to turn into milk for her kittens, and does not provide adequate energy or protein. Dry cat food does not contribute to a healthy immune system, thus making cats, especially stray cats, more prone to infections and even more delectable to fleas. Her body was starving for the vital nutrients she required, especially in the case of nursing. The kittens were eating some dry food at this point and still nursing. It pains me to think of all the thousands upon thousands of stray cats having litters and being in such poor condition to provide their babies with vital nutrition for their thriving health. If you are ever in the position to be feeding a stray cat that is pregnant or nursing, please feed them canned food. (And thank you for taking the time and having a heart to feed them!)
Despite cat food manufacturers claiming that dry food cleans their teeth, her teeth were full of tartar. Tartar leads to inflamed red gums and if not taken care of, eventually one of two things will occur. The cat's mouth will be in pain from rotting teeth which may fall out or the tartar will lead to painful bacterial infections that can leach into the bloodstream, then the organs, and make for a very ill cat or lead to death. Sometimes all of these occur.
Opal's recovery after surgery was slow. She took about 24 hours to come out of the anesthesia, probably due to being so anemic. A bit off subject...I kept Opal indoors for four weeks in the hopes of taming her. I have had a lot of success taming feral cats. She is my only failure to date. Opal hated human touch, hated being inside, and could not trust us. She wanted nothing to do with her kittens, which confused them. We watched the spirit leaving her eyes. So back outdoors she went. Only now, my roommate and I were feeding her, as she stayed at our place. I found homes for her three kittens.
Opal after just two months eating raw and dry cat food
Fortunately, Opal easily made the transition. First, I fed her one meal of dry cat food and one meal of canned cat food. Then I started adding raw meat to the canned food. For a few days, 25% raw meat and 75% canned. Then, a few days of 50% raw meat and 50% canned. Then we went to 75% raw meat and 25% canned. Until it was 100% raw for one meal. Eventually, I felt so bad about still feeding her dry food (for about 4 months) just "because she was a stray" while my indoor cats were off the junk food, that I quit giving her dry cat food. Opal is fed one meal of raw and one meal of canned per day. There have been no complaints from her!
Opal one year later being fed a diet of raw and canned cat food...
The photo above, the first one at the top of the article, and the photo below this paragraph are current photos at the time of this writing, 13 months since we started feeding her. Isn't she a beauty? Her coat is thick, and even though I cannot touch her, it is obviously soft and silky. Her diet makes her much less attractive to fleas. I know she has them and I see her scratching at them on occasion, but she has no bare spots from frantically scratching at fleas, which stray cats typically do have. She even looks like she gets brushed. She used to have a little bit of intermittent eye discharge, a creamy color. No more. I've been adding an herbal immune system formula to her food. I have this product for my FeLV positive cat, so I add it to her food as well to help protect her from nasties other stray community cats may have.
Worried what will happen to Opal the stray cat
At some point, my roommate and I will both be moving to different locations. There are quite a few cat-loving people in the neighborhood that feed the community cats. Where Opal was living a few streets over, she was the lone cat, not mingling with others. She is so non-trusting and skittish, the kind of cat that never forgets the trap from the first time. The kind that will never go near one again. And we know we will have to leave her behind to find her way to another cat-loving home and feeding station. I worry about Opal, and don't want to think how her health will go downhill if she starts eating dry cat food again. But at least, she will have food. And no more kittens! She hangs out in our next door neighbor's greenhouse, staying warm at night. We are going to ask the neighbor (a cat and dog lover) to feed and care for Opal and request she feed Opal canned food. In the meantime, I am imagining Opal coming to trust us, and walking right into a cat carrier so that she can go with my roommate. Opal was his project, giving her more attention while I worked on a rescued stray male cat that I took in. So Opal trusts him more, and he would love to keep her around.
UPDATE January 2017:
My former roommate successfully trapped Opal and took her with him to her new home. She is acclimating to indoor living, albeit very slowly. She hides in a cubby most of the time. Eats, receives pets (but does not like it). After about four weeks, he heard her running around in the house with the other two cats. She goes into his bedroom at night and meows. One night, he heard a lot of commotion, got up and turned on the hall light, and there were three cats stopped in their tracks, staring at him.
>>The herbal formula immune builder product that I give to Opal is Primalix Immune Functional Food Drops. I mix them into her food. I do this three weeks on, one week off. The reasons I like this company's pet products so much are 1) they are liquid, which are easier to absorb than tablets or capsules, 2) they contain no alcohol as a preservative, which is toxic for cats and dogs, and 3) they are truly 100% natural and safe. You can check it out here: PRIMALIX IMMUNE
Do you have a feral cat turn-around story from ill health to thriving health that you'd like to share? Do tell in the comments below!
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