What makes kitty food, and what is nutritious kitty food?
If your kitty could talk, he may not just be asking you: Hey, is that tuna good for me?
Especially if he keeps having an itching spot that he has licked bare, like Sara/Mocha and Snowball/Atom. The first thing to do for your kitty is establish that he or she doesn’t have a parasite problem. Of course, a vet’s help is necessary to ascertain that. But do note that if the problem persists after seeing the same vet over a long period of time, as happened to Sara/Mocha, it is a sign that you should get a second opinion.
If it’s not a parasite problem, then it may be a food allergy. Again, your vet should be able to advise you on that. He would likely recommend Prescription z/d and suggest you monitor your kitty’s condition if your kitty does indeed has a food issue.
Snowball/Atom who has just recently been switched up to NB Ultra Premium by his mum, just started on his z/d. Sara/Mocha, who’s allergy problem is gone now she’s on z/d, was on Avoderm previously.
But before you, cat parent, cry hell and high water, and rush to dump your kitty’s food, please do make the effort to understand WHY Prescription z/d worked for Sara/Mocha, and is expected to work for Snowball/Atom. Especially if your cat is not having food allergies.
Let’s start with the basics, and this Q&A from about cats is a very good approximation of the excessive-licking-kitty scenario. (emphasis, and additional links mine)
Subject: My cat licks all the time
My cat Lucky has a problem. He’s a mixed breed about 6 years old. He licks himself all the time and is licking off his fur. He has medium-length fur. The poor guy – he’s driving me crazy and I’m sure it’s uncomfortable for him also. Could it be he needs a bath? Change his food? I haven’t given him a bath in about 2 years.
Thanks very much,
Hi Michael. I wouldn’t give him a bath. As a general rule, cats don’t need baths unless they get into something they shouldn’t have, or if a medical condition makes it necessary. Giving him a bath could dry out his skin and worsen the problem.
It COULD be a food issue. Food allergies can cause itchy skin with hair loss, although scratching and scabs usually occur with allergies. Many cats are allergic to corn, which is found in most cat foods. Fish and beef are also common allergens. Ideally, you should feed your cat a high-quality diet that contains no corn (although corn gluten meal is okay), no fish, and no beef. A food with chicken as the first ingredient, and with rice for carbohydrates, may be a good choice. If you decide to switch foods, do so over the course of a week to prevent stomach upset. Some cats are still allergic to chicken and rice and require special diets available through vets, which use meats such as venison, lamb, or rabbit, and vegetables like potatoes, peas, or carrots.
Also, if he is wearing a flea collar, flea powder, or Hartz spot-on treatment, I’d stop using them. These are common causes of skin irritation. Advantage and Frontline are my recommendations for flea prevention.
Some cats develop excessive grooming habits. It can be due to boredom or anxiety. If you suspect boredom, be sure he has plenty of catnip toys available at all times. You should also try to dedicate a half hour or so to interactive play, with ribbon wands or feathers, etc. You can even purchase him a video to watch while you’re away from home (see http://www.videocatnip.com/ for an idea), or maybe even bring him home a kitty playmate?
It’s natural for a cat to groom when he gets nervous or stressed. It’s a displacement behavior that helps them cope with those feelings. However, if stress occurs for prolonged periods, the behavior may become obsessive/compulsive.
If you have had any changes in the home, such as new pets, guests, added a family member, had a death, moved house, or even brought in new furniture or rearranged your home, this is enough to stress out most cats, and they can sometimes trigger anxiety-related behavioral problems. Some cats simply develop a chemical imbalance that causes anxiety with no known cause.
What I would suggest first is to see a vet. Lucky may be suffering from a medical condition that causes itchy skin, like environmental allergies, mites, fleas, fungal or bacterial infection, even scabies or lice! These can all be treated.
If the vet feels it’s behavioral (which I have found is usually the case when excessive licking is involved), I’d recommend that you reduce stress, if possible. Try to keep changes in the home to a minimum.
Also, I always recommend a product called Feliway. It’s a synthetic facial pheromone, a hormone that helps reduce stress. You spray Feliway around the home, on bedding, etc., a few times daily. Or, you can purchase the plug-in diffuser to treat enitre rooms. The diffuser contains Feliway and is sold under the name Comfort Zone. You can order and learn more at their site, http://www.felineway.com. It’s also available at pet stores.
While Feliway and reducing stress work in most cases, some cats need to be put on anti-anxiety medications to give them relief. Generally, cats who overgroom for more than 3 months are considered good candidates for medicinal treatment. Fluoxetine (Prozac), buspirone (Buspar), clonazepam (Valium), amitriptyline (Elavil), and clomipramine (Anafranil) are some of the most common choices. I have used Prozac in some of my obsessive/compulsive groomers and would recommend it if needed.
Best wishes to you and Lucky.
So, if your kitty’s problem does turn out to be food-related, why does Prescription z/d work?
From the z/d product page:
z/d® Low Allergen Feline For the Nutritional Management of Cats with Food Allergy and Intolerance
Food allergy and intolerance, also called adverse reactions to food, can cause serious skin and stomach problems in your cat. This condition is usually an abnormal response to a specific protein in food. Only Prescription Diet® z/d® pet food is formulated with Hill’s Hydrolyzed Protein System™, a process that eliminates animal intact proteins and significantly reduces the possibility of an adverse reaction to food. For cats, most allergic reactions occur as a result of beef, dairy products and fish. z/d® Low Allergen Feline cat food contains none of these allergens. The nutritional formulation of Prescription Diet® z/d® Low Allergen may also be useful for pets with a variety of conditions.
Sounds like so much mumbo jumbo hocus pocus. But a peek at its ingredients list shows it does not have the common allergen components of fish or beef, as the expert, Jessica, in the about cats page say.
Rice Protein Concentrate, Brewers Rice, Hydrolyzed Chicken Liver, Soybean Oil (preserved with BHA, propyl gallate and citric acid), Powdered Cellulose, Hydrolyzed Chicken, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Glyceryl Monostearate, Choline Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement,) Iodized Salt, Calcium Sulfate, Taurine, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Ethoxyquin (a preservative), Beta-Carotene.
But it is important to note what Jessica said:
A food with chicken as the first ingredient, and with rice for carbohydrates, may be a good choice.
So personally, I don’t feel that Prescription z/d should be the be all and end all to your kitty’s food allergies issues. And thankfully, it is not.
So what next? Bearing in mind the causes of food allergies in cats, barring the quality of the commercial food your kitty is being fed, it is clear the ingredients is the main issue.
Now look at the list of Avoderm cat food formulae, and Natural Balance’s Ultra Premium, Reduced Calories formulae. It becomes easy to see how a cat like Sara/Mocha should be taken off Avoderm. It also becomes easy to see that for Snowball/Atom, given the NB ultra premium ingredients list, may be allergic to something other than fish or beef, as Jessica said:
Some cats are still allergic to chicken and rice and require special diets available through vets, which use meats such as venison, lamb, or rabbit, and vegetables like potatoes, peas, or carrots.
Next, the question is: IS Presciption z/d the ONLY answer?
Not quite. It is easy to see that as long as the food you choose to feed your kitty does not contain the allergy causing ingredient, everything’s perky. But then how do you determine that, given the list of ingredients?
It involves an educated guesses or a few, doused with healthy doses of common sense and logical deduction. For example, the common allergy ingredients are identified. And if your cat is on Prescription z/d and it works, then you just to find a similar formulation.
One such formulation is Natural Balance’s VENISON & FRESH GREEN PEA FORMULA. One thing to note is that it may take a while for your kitty to get used to the smell and taste of venison. We have tried it for our slackers, not that any of them have exhibited food-allergy symptoms, but as a matter of more equitable nutrition, given what it said of venison being a new source of protein in cat food formula and thus minimal issues of allergies etc. But because there is no discernable differences for our lots of both slackers and clannies (since they do not have food allergy issues), and it does cost more, we have dropped it and have gone back to just using the Ultra Premium formula.
Whether there are other Prescription z/d equivalent cat food formulae, it is up to you, conscientious cat parent to do your due diligence.
- Allergic Problems for Cats from vetinfo.com
- Natural Balance VENISON & GREEN PEA FORMULA Testimonials (note: Not a promotion/trumpet call for this formula per se, but to provide examples of the range of issues/symptoms a low allergen formula may alleviate)
IMP! Please read, added 20 Apr 07:
- Why All the Fuss About Cat Food?
- Non food-allergy ref from about cats: cat shampoo and products for reducing human allergic reactions to cat fur and dander
(Created: 15 Apr 07)