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Ask the Doctor October 2018 Issue

Dear Doctor: Tinkering with a cat’s diet

© grinvalds/Getty Images

If you enjoy making healthy meals for yourself, it can be tempting to add fresh ingredients to your cat’s food, too. Be sure to consult with your vet first.

Q. My wife likes to purée vegetables— like peas, carrots and sweet potato — and mix it into our cat’s canned food. Is this okay to do? Are there any vegetables that should never be added to the cat food? We also add some cranberry powder (made for cats), along with some hairball powder. We trying to be to health-minded, but could we be causing potential problems?

David Smith

A. Dear David: While adding puréed vegetables to cat food is certainly not necessary, it shouldn’t be harmful if you avoid veggies such as avocado, onion and garlic, and if you keep the total calories of the mixture to less than 10 percent of your cat’s daily calorie intake (lower if your cat gets any other treats). For a typical cat, this means no more than 25 calories per day from veggies/treats.

I assume that you are using the cranberry supplement for urinary health. While there is a bit of evidence that certain cranberry supplements may reduce the risk of urinary tract infections from specific bacteria in dogs, I am unaware of evidence of a similar benefit in cats. Moreover, most urinary tract signs in cats — increased urination, urinating outside the box, straining to urinate — are not due to infection, so it is unlikely that the supplement will be of any benefit.

It is important to discuss all supplements with your veterinarian because safety and efficacy of supplements do not need to be proven prior to the products being sold. No doubt due to the lack of regulatory oversight of dietary supplements, there have been many reported quality control issues with supplements that should be safe based on the listed ingredients — sometimes what’s actually in the product does not match what is on the label.

Unfortunately, this can include products that are marketed as “veterinary approved,” so it is important to discuss with your veterinarian and thoroughly investigate any dietary supplements prior to administering them to your cat.

Cailin Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN

Assistant Professor of Nutrition

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

Comments (5)

I recently found out my Norwegian cat has a tumor on his belly area the vet took a biopsy my questions is should I get a second opinion also should I take him to U of Pennsylvania vet hospital I don't want to offend the dr what do I do please respond

Posted by: Ted szymanski | November 10, 2018 11:47 AM    Report this comment

My thoughts and prayers are with you on the loss of your beloved pet. It seems that you did everything possible to save him. Sadly, like people, no matter what we do to try and keep them here, we are called to the other side and it is our time to go. A new pet will never take the place of your older companion but it will ease the pain and bring renewed joy in your life. Saving another cat and giving it a forever home is the highest tribute you can pay to your cat who has crossed over. Please know that many people share the pain of your loss and are sending positive thoughts your way.

Posted by: Joyce Swayne | October 25, 2018 9:22 AM    Report this comment

just read the comments from zimmy and kb. I can empathize with you both! My animald have given me more love and happiness than any man! zimmy, years ago I had a beautiful cat Mio whom caught the feline HIV virus .She developed lymphoma.. She had chemom for 12 moths but eventually succumbed. I was attending a clinic in at a major uni in Perth WA specializing in vetinary science. We tried everything. They were the absolute specialists, so believe me you tried everything possible. It is absolutely heartbreaking to loss a beloved animal. Best wishes to you both,

Posted by: moet | October 24, 2018 12:10 AM    Report this comment

Oh Zimmy, my heart goes out to you. I have a 13-yr.-old cat that's been with me for over 12 years. It's heart-wrenching that you've lost your faithful companion. I've had more joy from my cat, Thelma, than I ever had with either of my husbands. You might want to rescue a cat to ease your pain. There are so many that need loving homes! You tried everything humanly possible to save your furball, so no regrets! It was just your kitty's time to go.

Posted by: KB | October 23, 2018 11:05 AM    Report this comment

I had a cat (12 years old) die recently of lymphoma. Despite five months of chemotherapy. Is there anyway I could have prevented this???? I tried everything I know to save him.....

Posted by: zimmy | October 22, 2018 3:53 PM    Report this comment

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