In this issue:

1. News Bites

  • Paw Project: The Movie!
  • Vegan Diet Nearly Kills Kitten
  • Obesity-Related Diseases in Cats
  • Rhode Island Bans Declaw Requirement for Tenants
  • Dolphin Rights

2. Science Notes

  • Fish Oil Fakery
  • Hope for Allergy Sufferers
  • Another Problem with Outdoor Cats

3. Report from the AAFCO Annual Meeting

1. News Bites

Paw Project: the Movie! The Paw Project has finally released its dramatic, hour-long movie about cat declawing! The film follows Dr. Jennifer Conrad’s career as veterinarian to animal movie stars; how she began doing surgical repairs on the declawed paws of crippled lions, tigers, and other big cats; and her efforts to legally ban declawing–which were successful in eight California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. Yours truly (Dr. Jean) and Jackson Galaxy are also featured in the movie.

The Denver Film Society will be screening the movie at the Sie Film Center, 2510 East Colfax Avenue in Denver, on Wednesday, September 25 at 7:00 p.m., followed by a panel discussion with myself, Dr. Conrad, and a wonderful veterinary student, Alicia (Ala) Niedzwiedzki, who is attending vet school at the University of Wisconsin. Tickets are available at (only $12.oo for non-members).

The Denver screening will kick off our campaign to ban declawing in Colorado! We will need every local volunteer we can get, and there will be plenty for out-of-staters to do as well–the more the merrier!  If you live in Colorado, you’re more than welcome to attend the screening! If not, or if you just want to keep in touch (no matter where you live), please join our Paw Savers Cause on Facebook, to make sure you get updates as we go along. I will be coordinating advocacy training, and Dr. Aubrey Lavizzo is in charge of legislative efforts.

Vegan Diet Nearly Kills Kitten: A Melbourne, Australia news site reported on a kitten fed a  strictly vegan diet of potatoes, rice milk and pasta. After the kitten collapsed on the brink of death, the couple took it to a veterinarian, who put it on IV fluids, and immediately started feeding it meat. After three days of intensive care, the kitten was sent home with a packet of meat. The vet said this was a first to her, but it’s not that rare; I’ve seen it in practice myself. Fast-growing kittens are especially vulnerable to the effects of inadequate nutrition.  Note to Vegans: cats are obligate carnivores, and must eat meat for optimal health. For more information on vegetarian and vegan diets for cats, please see our article on “Vegetarian Cats.”

Obesity-Related Diseases in Pets: I’ve been saying this for years, but now Veterinary Pet Insurance, Inc. reports an increasing number of claims for obesity-related diseases in cats and dogs. In cats, the top ten most common conditions are:

  1. Bladder/urinary tract disease
  2. Chronic Kidney Disease
  3. Diabetes
  4. Asthma
  5. Liver Disease
  6. High Blood Pressure
  7. Arthritis
  8. Undiagnosed limp
  9. Heart Failure
  10. Gall Bladder Disorders

Now, if they’d only take the next step, and acknowledge that the primary cause of feline obesity is dry cat food! Dry kibble is low in moisture, meaning that the calories are highly concentrated; and it’s high in carbohydrates, which cats tend to store as fat. Free-choice feeding (leaving food out 24/7) only compounds the problem. Most cats do not naturally self-regulate their intake of taste-enhanced dry food any more than I naturally moderate my intake of chocolate! It’s a simple equation: inactive cats + unlimited dry food = a fat kitty! If your cat is already chubby (or if you want to make sure she doesn’t get that way!), check out our articles on Indoor Enrichment and Play Therapy for ways to get your cat to love exercise; as well as Feline Obesity and Health Weight Management for Dogs and Cats; or our detailed ebook on obesity prevention and treatment, Fat Cats, is available on, or in our Bookstore.  

Rhode Island Bans Declaw Requirement for Tenants: Rhode Island pass a statewide ban against landlords requiring tenants to declaw their cats. Unfortunately, this is still a common condition for renting in many places–despite it being more risky to declaw than not in terms of property damage. For more information, see “Declawing Required to Rent?

Dolphin Rights: So, it’s not about cats or even America, but it could affect both…the government of India recently adopted an extraordinary policy under which dolphins are considered “persons” with legal rights, and holding them in captivity is banned:

“Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence; as compared to other animals means that dolphin should be seen as “non-human persons” and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose….”

In contrast, in the U.S., animals are considered property, with no rights other than protection from blatant cruelty or neglect. Even these sparse protections are limited under the U.S. Animal Welfare Act; its definition “excludes (1) birds, rats of the genus Rattus, and mice of the genus Mus, bred for use in research, (2) horses not used for research purposes, and (3) other farm animals, such as, but not limited to livestock or poultry, used or intended for use as food or fiber….” This exemption allows almost unlimited exploitation of animals in multiple ways, such as experimentation, factory farming, and most recently, horse slaughter.

Mahatma Gandhi, instigator of India’s independence and democracy, said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.” Let’s hope that India’s stance is a sign of the times, and that this enlightened attitude will ultimately improve the lot of all animals worldwide.

Is your cat overweight? Diabetic? Having urinary or digestive problems? Little Big Cat’s own Dr. Jean Hofve has written some great ebooks that are instantly available for Kindle at, or for immediate download (as a PDF file) in our Bookstore?

(You don’t have to own a Kindle to read Kindle ebooks! Freely downloadable e-readers are available at for your PC, Mac, tablet, and smartphone!) 

2. Science Notes

Fish Oil Fakery. A recent study, widely picked up by the media, proclaimed that men who took fish oil supplements had a higher risk of prostate cancer than those who didn’t. (Brasky TM, Darke AK, Song X, et al. Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial. Natl Cancer Inst (2013) doi: 10.1093/jnci/djt174.) However, the study didn’t actually show any such thing, due to the many flaws in its methodology. For example, researchers merely tested blood levels of one Omega-3 fatty acid (DHA), and extrapolated all their findings from those. None of the men took any supplements during the study. Researchers didn’t assess the effects of other variables, such as age, ethnicity, smoking, alcohol consumption, weight, family history, or even diet–all of which have a bearing on cancer risk. They apparently asked the questions, but then failed to account for any of those variables in their analysis. According to the Huffington Post:

  • 53% of the subjects with prostate cancer were smokers.
  • 64% of the cancer subjects regularly consumed alcohol.
  • 30% of the cancer subjects had at least one first-degree relative with prostate cancer.
  • 80% of the cancer subjects were overweight or obese.

This paper appears to be an effort by the researchers to squeeze publishable data from otherwise unremarkable numbers, and gain a little notoriety along with it. It isn’t good science, and publication bias is the only reason it ever saw the light of day (journals love to publish unusual results). Thousands of studies have shown strong benefits for marine Omega 3s, and both you and your pets should be getting them every day!

Hope for Allergy Sufferers. New research has found that the proteins responsible for allergies to cats and dogs doesn’t work alone; it combines with a ubiquitous bacterial toxin (lipopolysaccharide or LPS) to generate the full immune response. LPS somehow amplifies the signal to the immune system, which intensifies the immune response to the cat allergen (Fel d 1) as well as the major dog allergen (Can f 6), thereby causing allergy symptoms. They also found that a Toll-like receptor (TLR4) was the culprit that reacted to the LPS-Fel d 1 combination. A drug that blocks TLR4 prevented the inflammatory immune response in vitro, which may indicate an effective new way of treating these allergies. (Herre J, Grönlund H, Brooks H, et al. Allergens as immunomodulatory proteins: the cat dander protein Fel d 1 enhances TLR activation by lipid ligands. J Immunol. 2013 191:1529-1535.)

Another Problem with Indoor/Outdoor Cats: The issue of waterborne diseases from flushed kitty litter has been well investigated, but a new study points to the hazards of fecal contamination of soil by outdoor and feral cats. The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is shed in cat feces, and the oocysts (similar to fertilized eggs) can remain infective in the soil for long periods. People can become infected by gardening without gloves and failing to wash thoroughly afterwards. It’s been estimated that the dirt under your fingernails from gardening may contain 100 oocysts! The risk of toxoplasmosis to a fetus in the first trimester in pregnancy is well documented, but more recent research has suggested a link to other diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, brain cancer, and more.

Cats pick up this nasty little parasite by consuming infected birds, rodents, or other prey; and potentially from raw meat. Within a few days of ingestion, oocysts will be present in the cat’s feces, and continue to be so for up to 2 weeks. It’s a one-time deal; once the cat makes antibodies to the parasite, it will not be shed again. Toxoplasmosis does not usually make the cat sick, but if the immune system is not functioning properly, the cat may show signs such as decreased appetite, lethargy, and fever; however, these signs are common to many diseases. In severe cases, there may be nervous system signs such as incoordination or seizures; indications of liver dysfunction such as jaundice or vomiting; or respiratory symptoms, may be seen. The infection is diagnosed with a special blood test; it is treatable with antibiotics.

As mentioned, raw meat may contain Toxoplasma oocysts (as well as bacteria and other parasites). However, hard freezing for at least 3 days will kill the organism. Of course, the usual safe meat-handling procedures should always be observed when handling any raw meat, whether for Fluffy’s dinner or your own. See The “Dangers” of a Raw Meat Diet and for more information.

3. Report from the AAFCO Annual Meeting

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Annual Meeting was held this week in St. Petersburg, Florida. Thanks to the amazing and generous donations toward the hefty expenses of this meeting, I was able to attend as an official Advisor to the Pet Food Committee and Ingredient Definitions Committee, which both met on Tuesday (August 13). Here are some of the items discussed and accomplished at the meeting.

New Nutritional Standards. publishes standard nutrient requirements (Nutrient Profiles) for pet food, as well as protocols for how feeding tests are to be conducted. However, the current standards are decades out of date. An update will finally be published in 2014. Conflicting opinions on calcium requirements for dogs nearly caused the entire update to be delayed another year, but after much discussion, the issue was resolved–though not to the liking of pet food companies. The Expert Committee recommended that calcium be restricted to a lower level in foods for large breed puppies than for other dogs (1.8% versus 2.5%). This means that foods labeled for All Life Stages must also hold to the lower limit. This is a problem for foods currently formulated to the higher limit–which is common in foods using chicken meal or meat-and-bone meal, both of which may contain large amounts of bone, and are therefore relatively high in calcium.

New Requirements for Feeding Tests. The AAFCO feeding test protocol has long been criticized for its laxity. While the new update (as of 2014) doesn’t increase the number of animals required (just 6 must complete the 6-month adult trial), it does require better documentation of control groups and test observations, improves requirements for puppy food trials, and implements tighter controls on statistics used to interpret results. Perhaps most significantly, tests must use animals of the same breed and size to establish historical averages in order to compare the test food, and the same gender distribution between the test and control groups.

Calorie Statements to be Required. Eight years after it was first proposed, a calorie statement will be required on all pet food labels as of 2014. The pet food industry fought this tooth and nail for many reasons (not the least of which was the cost of printing new labels), but finally lost the argument. Whether pet guardians will correctly utilize this information or not remains to be seen. But disclosing calories will hopefully bring a tiny bit more honesty into pet food labeling.

New Consumer Guide. One of AAFCO’s missions is consumer protection, but the group’s functions and responsibilities have always been fairly opaque to the public. However, the Board of Directors voted to provide funding to produce a consumer-friendly guide for its website. The new guide will include information on AAFCO’s role, reading labels, ingredient definitions, how to choose your pet’s food, and how and where to report any problems that may arise with pet food or treats. It should be awesome!

Change in the 95% rule. The 95% rule is that if a food label states, “Chicken for Cats” (without a modifier like “dinner” or “entree”), then 95% of the food must consist of chicken. (See “Selecting a Good Commercial Pet Food” for details on this and other label rules.) This rule has always applied only to animal-source ingredients (meat, poultry, and fish). A food labeled “Chicken and Rice for Cats” still had to contain 95% chicken. However, this restriction is being removed, so that a food called “Chicken and Rice for Cats” may contain 95% total chicken AND rice. Because chicken is listed first, the food must contain more chicken than rice; but a food that used to be 95% chicken could contain 47.51% chicken and 47.49% rice. Another touchdown for the pet food industry–and consumers lose again.

Stay current with all pet food and treat recalls here: 2013 Pet Food and Supplement Issues & Recalls