Nick and I decided that, since the weather has been so great here, we'd make a roadtrip down to my parent's second house this past weekend. The creatures rather enjoy it, it's a good opportunity to visit some friends and my grandparents. It's also nice to spend a few days totally unplugged from the world, which is easy to do when you don't have cable or easy access to a radio. The most difficult thing I plan to do on these weekends is usually spend a lot of time cooking, which is actually pretty fun in my mom's fancy kitchen.
Lots of drama was had, but I'll save most of that for another post.
The weekend actually started on Thursday with shopping. I am very particular about what we eat, and from whom I purchase our food. I made a special trip to the Bellevue farmer's market, since the markets anywhere near my parent's place would only be operating while we were in transit. As usual, I bought way more than I had intended to: I met this nice lady with some beautiful rainbow-colored potatoes. She told me all about her farm in the mountains, incidentally the perfect place to grow potatoes. She was also selling beef heart. Beef heart, pasture raised and organic. I was so excited, I bought one that was as big as my head! Well, maybe just shy of that, but it was enormous.
Most people don't get all doe-eyed over this particular part of animal anatomy. Even in humans, we are only particularly interested in the heart as a metaphor. Some people are concerned about their heart health, of course, but few people even want to know what the thing looks like or how it works. Nick, being the squemish Norwegian that he is, would never dream of eating heart, and he's not alone on either count.
This massive, beautiful heart was not for Nick, or for any person. I bought it as a special treat for my cat, which turned out to be serendipitous. Heart, beef heart in particular, is extremely high in Taurine, one of the amino acids that cats cannot produce on their own. It's low fat content and that nature of the heart's job within the body make for a chewy meat, which helps to excercise kitty gums and strengthen their teeth. This is all in addition to the fact that eating raw meat makes my cat think he's a jaguar. Huntard is more like it.
I said before that I am particular what we eat, and that's no exaggeration. My dog eats a homemade diet to help control her allergies. The cat, out of convenience and his personal preference, has been permitted to go back to a very high quality dry cat food after a year and a half of homemade. He lso has an unfortunate habit of playing with the raw stuff. Incidentally, we moved back to dry food right after I had spend 2 hours scrubbing beef blood out of my off-white carpet. My concern about having him on a processed diet has been growing as my health has been improving, and I decided that it was time to at least reintroduce homemade food into his diet, even if it wasn't for every meal.
I had the heart all packed up, and was planning on chopping it into bite sized pieces when we arrived at our destination. After all, if ever there is a time for special treats, it's when you're on vacation. While I was packing, I noticed that the cat was refusing to sit all the way down, and was walking with stiff back legs and hips. I went over and squeezed everything a little, but he didn't seem to be in any pain. A few minutes later, I saw him sit-squatting again. This time, he was urinating. On the floor. My cat has never messed outside the litter box in is entire life. He will follow you through the house marowing for litter before he would even consider messing outside the litter box. Sure enough, there was a spot of blood and some grit in the urine: bladder stones.
Cats are super suceptible to accumulating grit in their bladder. It apparently has a lot to do with the pH of the food they're eating, which has to be very specific. Too alkaline, bladder stones form; too acid, and it weakens their bones. I grabbed my Pitcairn guide and read up on what to do for bladder stones. They suggested a few days broth fast, followed by (of course) a gradual reintroduction of the feline's natural diet: raw meat and bones, or meat supplemented with an appropriate amount of calcium to balance the phosphorous in meat. I made the quickest shopping trip of my life to the local health food store, where I picked up stew meat, distilled water and liquid aminos. Seriously, It took me 7 minutes, door-to-door-to-door.
Ciaran turned his nose up at the broth initially, but once I started adding meat to it he decided that he was hungry after all. I warm up some broth, add supplements and a big spoonful of chopped meat, which warms from the hot broth but does not cook. He's been eating his kitty sukiyaki for 3 days now, and he has not had any urinary issues since peeing on my jacket* on the way to my parent's place, which was within hours of the first incident. In the next few days, I'll be increasing the ratio of meat to broth, and by this time next week he should be back on the Pitcairn diet full-time. Maybe he'll still be able to have dry food as a treat, and I may mix some in with his raw food for texture.
More info on Richard Pitcairn and his awesome, balanced and super healthy cat and dog diet: http://www.drpitcairn.com/index.html
*In fairness, it was the jacket I wear to volunteer at the Humane Society, so it probably smells (to an animal) like all manner of stinky and wonderful things. It might even smell vaguely of animal urine, and seem an appropriate place to relieve one's self.