I have a long history of putting my pet's needs before my own.
I'm the person who will cancel plans, meetings, even vacations if my cat or dog is sick. While working in dog, cat, and equine rescue I've been bitten, clawed, stomped on, had all my toes broken, torn the cartilage in my hip and had numerous fingers broken. Yet I always happily go back for more. My husband says I have a "Mother Teresa Complex" with pets.
So I don't know why it comes as any surprise to me that when I review our modest finances every month, a large chunk of our income goes to our cats.
I'm not talking the occasional expensive vet visit or a splurge on a three-tiered cat jungle gym (I registered for one when we got married). I mean my cats' day to day living expenses -- food, supplements and medication.
I hear this all the time at the pet store where I work, "My cat/dog eats better than I do." Though I either laugh or roll my eyes at this pet boutique cliche, in my case it's true. And I wouldn't change a thing.
If I want my cats to live to be the John Connors of the feline future, I need to feed them the very best right?
My cat Brandy is 12 years old now, but still has enough energy and vigor to torture me every morning at 6 am when she demands to be fed, as well as punish me with ankle attacks or vomit when I come home too late at night. Not to mention her coat is like BUTTER.
My other cat, Tailsy, through great food and good ol' Louise Hung-folksy wisdom, has healed beautifully from the various battle scars she acquired while on the mean streets of Honolulu. Their vet has even called interns into the exam room to marvel at my cats' magical healing powers after illness or accident.
So what am I feeding my cats? Honestly, nothing too crazy -- no Secret Hollywood Cat Diet or Ancient Chinese Cat Secret. I simply feed them raw food with vitamins and the necessary medications for Brandy's kidney and thyroid condition.
The thing is, I feed them the way someone with twice my annual income would feed their pet.I don't live beyond my means, but my cats do.
Some may think this is a little wacko. Cats and dogs have been living perfectly well on regular old commercial pet food for years. But after working in the pet care industry, and knowing the crap that goes into a lot of pet foods, I can't bear to feed my cats food that I know may not maximize their life and well-being.
I am hyper-vigilant about what I put in my body, so why not do that for my pets if at all possible?
I don't have kids, I don't have (much) debt, I myself don't eat meat, and I'm lucky enough to live in a two-income household. If it's between the new pair of jeans that make my ass look scrumptious or the expensive fish oil my cats need to stay lean, mean and bitchy, I'll go for the fish oil any day.
But oodalolly! It's hard sometimes! When running errands, my husband and I can only laugh when we realize that we've spent more than half of our money that day on cat necessities, but have to decide if we can stretch the contents of our freezer out for another few days.
I don't judge those who prioritize differently. On a daily basis, I guide pet owners through the best way to maximize their dollars and still do the best for their pets. There is more than one way to feed a cat, and I realize that not everyone is going to sink so much of their paycheck into raw, non-GMO, free-range chicken with bone ground into it.
Here's what I feed my cats. In my opinion, it's what will help them live the longest and healthiest lives possible. I'm trying to make them live forever.
I feed my cats raw food. There's some controversy amongst vets and pet folks as to whether or not this is safe for pets or humans, but I've been feeding this way for years now, and as long as you don't like, lick your fingers after handling it, your chances of getting Salmonella poisoning are almost nonexistent.
Just treat it the way you would any raw meat. If it looks gray, green or putrid, THROW IT OUT. It shocks me how many people ask me, "How do I know when my cat's raw meat has gone bad?" Really?
Plus, the raw cat food I buy is packaged in such a way that much of the bacteria is killed. It's honestly safer than most of the pre-packaged meat you see at the grocery store.
Raw food is a big movement in pet feeding right now, and I for one am a proponent. By and large cats and dogs who eat raw food have better teeth, skin, weight and digestion. I could go on and on, but it essentially has to do with the ease of absorption raw food affords an animal and the live enzymatic properties present in raw meat.
I'm not going to lie, raw food, specifically the brand I feed, Primal, is not cheap. It ranges anywhere form $20 to $40-something dollars a bag, depending on the protein source and size. The largest bag they sell is 6 lbs.
So yeah, my cats are basically eating filet mignon while I'm buying two-for-one tater tots.
However, if feeding raw is something you might want to do, your cat or dog can still get the benefits of raw food by topping their kibble with some raw or raw freeze dried meat.
Raw freeze dried or dehydrated foods like, Primal, Stell and Chewy's, or The Honest Kitchen are available at many pet stores. They are easy to feed, easy to store, and if sealed in a container properly can stay good for over a year.
Brandy the Cat has a thyroid condition and a kidney condition. Because of this, some of the ingredients in your basic pre-packaged raw food aren't okay for her eat. I have to watch her iodine, magnesium and protein intake.
So I buy her a different Primal meat mix that has a lot of what she needs but is not entirely complete as far as cat nutrition goes. That means I have to add back in some of the stuff missing from the mix.
Because I'm a hippy-dippy crunchionista, I'm very wary of what is in vitamins -- hers and mine. I buy her Taurine and Vitamin E from the natural market, making sure it has no fillers or junk in it.
I also give both of them Nordic Naturals Omega-3 fish oil, to help with inflammation in Brandy's aging body and to keep Tailsy from developing issues later on.
The fish oil alone costs about $24 a bottle, and the other vitamins add another $20-$30 to the tab.
Luckily, most cats and dogs don't need this stuff if they are healthy and eating a balanced diet. However, if you're only going to give your pet one supplement, I'd highly recommend getting them on an omega-3 or fish oil supplement, as it can really help their joints, heart, skin and coat as they age. One small bottle for a 10 lb cat lasts about a month to six weeks. It is also appropriate for dogs.
Brandy's meds are for her kidneys, thyroid and heart. A while back she started getting really skinny and jittery and we found out she had hyperthyroidism that was effecting many of her internal systems.
So she has an array of pills, liquids and sludges that we have to feed her daily to keep her torturing us.
All her meds cost about $50-$70 a month, depending what runs out first. It may not seem like much, as I know some people who spend hundreds of dollars a WEEK to keep their sick dog or cat healthy, but for us it's a big deal.
I can't tell you how many bad checks I've written to the vet's office for those meds, hoping that they won't cash it for a few days.
My cats make me so happy. They are part of my family and take care of my sanity in ways no human ever could. When I have a bad day, they don't see all the embarrassment or shame, they only look at me as comfort and safety. I do believe they love me in their own way.
So I buy the fancy cat food, and I fill my gas tank only a quarter of the way full. So be it.
Of course there are days I get a little pissy about forking over 30 or 40 bucks for cat food, who wouldn't? But, to get all crazy cat-lady for a second, when I hear the sound of contented kitties, happily munching away at their food, it's so totally worth it.
How do you go above and beyond for your pet? What do you splurge on for your four-legged friends? Do your pets eat your paycheck?