Cleo's Progress

One Cat's Struggle with Feline Hepatic Lipidosis



Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cats' exposure to chemicals

I read an article a couple weeks ago about the numbers and high levels of chemicals that have been found in cats. Although there's nothing to say that these chemicals are connected with fatty liver disease or feline hepatic lipidosis, it certainly isn't a stretch of the imagination to think that some of these chemicals could make a cat sick. When a cat stops eating, for whatever reason, it is at risk for getting feline hepatic lipidosis.

It's astonishing to me — and somewhat frightening — that we're suddenly finding all these toxic levels of chemicals everywhere. I want to scream, "Well, what did you expect?!" It makes perfect sense to me that manmade chemicals will cause unforeseeable problems in people, animals, and the environment.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much we can do about it. We can't even figure out how to completely avoid our own exposure to harmful chemicals, let alone our pets'. After reading the article, though, I have these suggestions to make:

1. Avoid cat food with fish in it. Fish tends to have high concentrations of mercury, thanks to factories that keep dumping waste into our oceans. Yay industrialization! Your cat might miss the fish, but at least you won't have to worry about mercury building up in her veins.

Be sure to check the ingredients, though, as I'm willing to bet that most chicken- and beef-flavored cat foods also contain fish.

2. Buy good cat food. I wouldn't touch Purina, IAMS, or some of the others with a ten-foot pole. Most of the time, pet food is made with ingredients that wouldn't be considered suitable for human consumption: spoiled fish and rancid meat, for example, all doctored up (with chemicals!) so that the animal won't notice.

There are some high-quality organic cat foods on the market, but I suggest researching any brand before buying it for your pet. Just because a brand of cat food claims to be safe doesn't mean it is — food companies often define "safe" very differently than you or I would.

3. Don't feed your cats out of plastic bowls. More and more, studies are finding out that the harmful chemicals contained in plastics are leaking out into our food. It's not just when you microwave plastic dishes, as we once thought — right now they're finding that simply adding hot water can cause plastic to shed chemicals. In the future they'll no doubt find that simply coming into contact with plastic causes chemicals to be released into our food.

The other day, I saw a cat dish at the store with a bright sticker on it, proclaiming that the dish was made of "safe" plastic. I have two complaints about this: One, I don't know how they define "safe," and two, that decision is based on current science. Ten years ago everyone microwaved food in plastic dishes and thought nothing of it. Who's to say that there isn't some hazard in that plastic that we haven't discovered yet?

Since there's no real research yet that shows which plastics (if any) are safe, my recommendation is to just use stainless steel or ceramic dishes.

4. Don't give your cat plastic toys. The article also talks about how dogs imbibe checmicals from chewing on plastic toys. Technically, so do cats — there are plenty of plastic balls and other plastic toys on the market for cats. Luckily, you have plenty of other choices, so it shouldn't be difficult to avoid buying anything plastic for your cat.

5. Keep your house clean. The article says another source of chemicals in pets is from the accumulation of dirt and chemicals on the floor. Therefore I recommend cleaning frequently and regularly. Sweep, vacuum, and mop as often as necessary to prevent dirt from accumulating on the floor. I also recommend regularly wiping down windowsills and any other place your cat likes to sit, since dust and dirt accumulates there as well.

Think of it as if you had a baby crawling around on the floor or going all the other places your cat does. If you wouldn't want your baby getting into it, your cat probably shouldn't be around it, either.

6. Use common sense. It's scary how many things we have to watch out for with our pets these days. Most of it is preventable, too — if cat food companies would simply stop trying to cut costs at the expense of quality, and if scientists would stop trying to invent things (like plastic) that were never made to interact with our environment, a lot of these problems could be eliminated.

Unfortunately, there's not much chance of either of those things happening, so it's up to you to use common sense and avoid exposing your cat to things that could potentially harm her.

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