Our resident cat expert, Wendy Nan Rees, offers advice on cats and sensitivity to environmental factors.
Recognizing Environmental Dangers for Cats
You may not realize it, but many common household items pose a toxic threat to cats. Let's start with something very basic- water. Everyone knows our water is treated with chlorine to kill bacteria. Authorities tell us the concentration of chlorine is harmless to ourselves and our children. But what about our pets, especially cats that are ten pounds and under? They are one tenth the size of an average child or one quarter the size of a preschooler. Has anyone certified that the chlorine concentration is safe for our pets?
Since small pets, especially cats, can be sensitive to chemicals, I recommend only giving them filtered or bottled spring water. I recommend spring water because our pets still need the minerals and trace elements that distilled water takes out. Chlorine is especially harmful to both pets and people that have thyroid issues as well as anyone with glandular imbalances. Chlorine can also aggravate allergies, dry coats, recurring infections and chronically poor immune systems.
If you can't provide bottled water, an alternative solution is to let tap water rest in an open container for 24 hours to let the chlorine naturally dissipate.
Endocrine Disrupting Compounds
There are other harmful chemicals like chlorine in our environment. Dr. Michael W. Fox. DVM has pinpointed what he calls endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) in our environment. EDCs can be found not only in industrial pollutants, chemical fertilizers and untreated sewage, but also in common household products such as plastics, clothing, floor material and the lining of food cans. Dr. Fox believes these EDCs make their way into our animals' food and water, and then disrupt the animal's entire endocrine and immune systems. With the immune system compromised, our pets are susceptible to allergies, chronic skin diseases and recurrent infections of the ears and urinary tract. EDCs might also be linked to digestive system disorders such as:
- Chronic colitis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Metabolic and hormonal disturbances
- Endocrine disorders of the pancreas and adrenal glands
You can avoid these endocrine disrupting compounds by taking the following precautions:
- Make sure all pesticides, weed killers, fertilizers, household cleaners, polishes, bug spray and anything else with chemicals in it is securely locked away. It's not good enough to store these bottles on the bottom shelf in the garage or basement. That's where inquisitive pets will look first.
- Change all your cat's food dishes and water bowls to glass, ceramic or stainless steel. Even water sitting in a polycarbonate bottle or bowl can leach an EDC called Bisphenol A into your pet's water.
- Be cautious when your pet walks on perfectly manicured, weedless grass. For small pets, purebred pets and pets with a previously compromised immune system, the chemical residue that they pick up on their paws and legs from the chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weed killers could be enough to cause a reaction. I've seen issues where a cat either develops a reaction when it licks its paws after a walk or develops rash on its belly from lying on the grass.
More Household Dangers
There are also ordinary household ingredients you need to watch out for. With the resurgence of aromatherapy and our obsession to eliminate odors in our household, you need to be cautious regarding the use of essential oils and those stick-on and electric odor eliminators. The stick-on and electric odor eliminators generally contain chemical scents that could harbor EDCs, not natural essential oils.
Even natural essential oils are harmful to some pets. Just because they are natural, doesn't mean they are safe for all animals. Let me give you an example. We've all seen the sprays and liquid deterrents to prevent cats from scratching furniture. Usually they have an orange or lemon scent. That's because citrus oils are toxic to cats, and they will instinctively avoid their scent. Cats, being pure carnivores, do not have the enzyme to process citrus oil molecules. The citrus oil molecules will therefore accumulate in the cat's liver and not exit the body. So, diffusing and using citrus essential oils around the house and on our body could cause an eventual build up in cats to the point of toxicity. The problem is that this build up is so gradual that vets don't connect it to long term exposure to citrus oils and must treat it as a liver toxicity of unknown origin.
Other Dangerous Foods
Believe it or not, many foods people eat everyday can be toxic to our pets. One of the latest foods discovered to be toxic to cats and dogs is Xylitol, a sweetener commonly used in gum and candies. You can also buy it as "birch sugar" at health food stores for use in baking. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (www.aspca.org) cautions that Xylitol can produce a sudden drop in blood sugar and possible seizures in dogs that accidentally consume it. It takes less than 30 minutes for the reaction to develop.Onions can cause hemolytic anemia in animals because they cause new red blood cells to be deformed and unusable by the body. Symptoms can include fever, vomiting, weakness and collapse. There are onions and onion powder in a wide variety of processed foods such as baby food, ketchup, soup and hot dogs, just to name a few. Beware of feeding regular hot dogs, sausages and even lunch meat to pets.
"Remember the animals in your life are not just your pets they're your friends" WNR