Your pets are what the eat
I know you’ve heard it a gazillion times and it’s as true for animals as it is for humans. They’re designed for a certain kind of diet, certain kinds of food. Given the right food they’ll thrive. Given the wrong foods you can expect problems to develop over time.
Sophie (as a kitten)>>>
So what can you do?
Read the ingredient list for everything you buy for your pets. Can you identify the ingredients? Does the product contain a long list of ingredients? Does it include chemical names and numbers, artificial colorings and/or flavorings? Does it contain “meal,”wheat, gluten, soy, or corn (all common allergens)? My suggestion: Choose products with the simplest and fewest ingredients as close to the way you’d find them in nature.
On the prowl
Ever since I acquired my first cat a little more than a year ago and then a second cat this summer, I’ve been on the lookout for pure (meaning 100% meat) treats. The pet treats at most of the local pet stores, particularly the chains, contain a dizzying array of junk unfit for a human, cat or dog’s digestive tract.
With the help of several great books on holistic pet care and the internet, I’ve found some companies whose products I feel good about giving my girls. After the product passes my ingredient test it has to pass their taste test, which isn’t always easy.
Halo Pet Products
Recently I found Halo, a new line of treats to try. Halo, Purely for Pets Inc. makes holistic natural dog and cat food and treats. They use real foods you can recognize and pronounce and human grade ingredients (a great sign!!). Their products are never recalled. They don’t add chemicals, artificial flavors, preservatives, by-products, or fillers.
What I Like
Their 100% freeze-dried protein treats are promoted as suitable for both dogs and cats. They contain a single ingredient: salmon, beef, or chicken breast. That’s it. Nothing else added.
What the girls liked
Of the three flavors my two kitties preferred the salmon treats, beef treats, and chicken breast in that order. It took longer for them to really dig the chicken breast treats, perhaps because they had a more mild smell than the other two.
What I would change
I found the freeze-dried chunks of salmon, beef, and chicken too big for my cat and kitten. They’d be perfect for dogs, especially big dogs. Not that the cats couldn’t eat them, they could. The problem was that for my purposes I needed smaller, bit size (for cat) morsels for their daily Clicker Training.
I train my two cats on an empty stomach (really it works!) I spend about 5 minutes once or twice a day giving a commands, clicking as their doing what I want, then giving a treat to reward each cat. I usually give them 5 or 6 treats per session. If the treats are too big, they take too long to eat, the cats forget what they’re being rewarded for, and they fill up too fast, crowding out their forthcoming meal. Btw: If you plan to do clicker training with an animal, you can't leave food out all day for them to graze on. They animals need two daily meals and you need to pick up any leftover food and put it away with an hour of setting it out.
I would prefer Halo make separate treats for cats that are one-quarter the size of the current treats.They'd also work well for tiny dogs. I found the chicken breast treats the easiest to break up, although they still crumbled. I plan to suggest this to the company. Sure I could break them up but it’s a) messy; b) not as convenient; and c) some of the chunks are more difficult to break, resulting in a lot of crumbs in the bottom of the container and on my fingers. Yes, they enjoy the crumbs but they don't work for training.
Cats can be trained
Forget what you’ve ever heard about it being impossible to herd cats. Not only can you herd them, you can teach them to come when called or when you crook your finger, to hop up onto or "down" off of a chosen surface when commanded (a bed, a table, or whatever), to “sit” on command, and to move “back,” meaning step away from the door when you tell them to. My two kitties do all of those things! They know where I keep the treats, the sound of me opening the containers, and more.
Sheba, my friend Don's kitten (photo right)>>>>>
I taught my now adult cat “back,” when she was a kitten, before I knew about clicker training. She would come to the door to greet me when I came home or be sitting there waiting for me when I put my key in the door. I usually had a lot of things to bring into the house and I didn’t want my indoor only kitty getting out. So I trained her to heed the word “back,” when I came in the door, gave the command, and pushed my insulated totes, grocery bags, boxes or cooler toward her. She learned it fairly quickly and we never had and escape incidents. My kitten has now learned it as well. That means they don’t charge the door even when I open it wide to wheel in boxes, coolers or laundry baskets. Both kitties also know what "off" means (as in OFF the table!) and that if they get on the table and hear may say THE word, they fly off the table.
There are many more things you can teach a cat. Some people even teach them how to use a (human) toilet in lieu of a littler box. Seriously! I don’t have rare cats. You can teach your cats to do practical and fun things. My dear friend Don has also been successful with clicker training his cat and kitten. It’s not only impressive but fun to watch the cats respond so well to single word commands and enjoy doing it.
To learn more about clicker training, click here. So far my two favorite books on the topic are Getting Started with Clicker Training for Cats by Karen Pryor and Cat Training in 10 Minutes (a day) by Miriam Fields-Babineau. Clicker Training for Clever Cats: Learning Can Be Fun! by Martina Braun looks interesting but I haven’t read it yet,
Shake it on
Halo, Purely for Pets Inc. also makes a shaker bottle of powdered freeze-dried salmon, called Dinner Party Salmon, and one of powdered, dehydrated chicken breast, sold as Dinner Party Chicken. These products are designed to improve the taste and nutritional value of your pet’s meals. For example, if your cat or dog isn’t fond of leftovers (canned food that sat in the fridge all day or overnight), you can sprinkle this on top of his/her food to add an attractive smell and taste.
Besides salmon or chicken, these two products contain dried kelp, dried celery powder, dried carrot powder, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), dried garlic powder, dried rosemary powder and dried tomato powder––all real foods and recognizable.
I liked the purity of ingredients here but my cats weren’t as wild about these as the chunks of freeze-dried fish, chicken, or beef. They preferred the crumbs in the bottom of the pet treat containers. Of the two cats, my kitten liked these powders better than my adult cat.
Other Halo products
Halo also makes canned cat food sold as “Spot’s Stew,” and dry foods “For Indoor Cats” and “For Sensitive Cats.” These products are high in protein, low in carbs, made without corn, wheat, or gluten, free of rendered animal products, and free of artificial flavorings, and colorings. Their dog foods are made from quality ingredients although they do contain grain (non-allergenic grains), which I don’t recommend.
What did the girls think?
I tried giving the Halo canned cat food to my kitties but they just wouldn’t have any of it. It had a consistency like stew, more wet and soupy then their usual canned food. It also contained vegetable bits, which they’re not accustomed to eating, so they vetoed it!
A note from the company
When I talked to David Yaskulka, vice president of marketing communications for
HALO, Purely for Pets, he said “if you read the online reviews for Halo Spot’s Stew for cats (the recipe that launched our company), they are kind of ‘all or nothing.’ Some equate the experience to trying to get your kids to eat grilled chicken and steamed vegetables (when they are really lobbying for a Happy Meal). So about 20% of consumers just can’t get their cats to eat it. Some eat it, but literally leave over the vegetables. But for regular users, the ratings go through the roof.”
My final verdict & caveat
I recommend Halo pet treats, particularly for dogs. If you use them for cats, be ready to break them into tinier more manageable morsels.
I don’t recommend their canned food because of the added vegetables. From what I've read I don't think they belong in a cats diet except for the possible exception of small amounts of kitty grass. Nor do I recommend Halo's dry cat food because it contains, in addition to vegetables, oats, barley, peas, pea fiber, flax seeds, and inulin, ingredients that lower the total protein content of the food and pose problems for a cat’s purely carnivorous gut.
If you're looking for gently eye drops or ear drops with safe and effective herbs, Halo makes these using some of the same ingredients I would use if I were buying such products for myself in a natural foods store.
Here are two different $5 coupons (one for Halo’s web store, one for anywhere offline that Halo products are sold):
1. For the $5 coupon code for the Halo web store GO TO www.halopets.com, buy at least $5 of merchandise. AFTER you’ve entered your credit card number, you’ll see a confirmation screen with a “coupon code” (NOT a gift certificate code) field. Type in “ChefRachel” (without the quote marks) as your coupon code. Coupon expires 11/20/2010.
2. You can also go to www.halopets.com and sign up for their free holistic pet care newsletter. Upon subscribing, you will receive a link to print a $5 store coupon, good anywhere offline that Halo is sold.
Keep checking back to read more reviews of healthy products for cats, dogs, and their people.