Having three indoor/outdoor cats, that have complete freedom with a cat door, often results with a lot ‘presents’ brought to me. My one cat and best hunter loves fresh ‘beef.’ His favorite catch is rat and mouse. He devours the entire thing minus the small intestine and stomach. Two parts with bitter tastes. So if I read that my cat’s food contains by-products, is it something useful?

By-products are often some of the favorite parts that pets enjoy. They are bits of the animals that include organ meats, blood, and bone from mammals, and can also contain necks, feet, and underdeveloped eggs from poultry. These pieces are not very appetizing to people. What is not allowed are horns, hair, teeth, hooves, intestinal contents and feathers. These by-products can add flavor and nutrients to pet food. These ingredients often have higher levels of iron, copper, calcium, vitamins A, B-12, and many other essential nutrients than muscle meat. Misleading advertising claiming their items don’t have any by-products have given the term a bad rep. Other concerns may stem from the fact that some (but not all) by-products are rendered into powders or ‘meals.’ Rendering is the process of cooking an ingredient to separate the fat and protein out, resulting in a dry, high-protein meal that is easily stored, transported and incorporated into dry pet foods. While humans may find by-products unappetizing, they can be a healthy addition to pet food. (Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University)

Xylitol is NOT healthy in any form for pets, especially dogs. It is a sugar substitute increasingly used by food manufacturers. It is often found in gums, mints, gummy vitamins, toothpaste, and specialty peanut butter. It contains 2/3 the calories of sugar and is safer than sugar for people with diabetes. Xylitol has dental health benefits, it helps to prevent cavities, and it inhibits the ability of bacteria to attach to teeth and tissues. This sugar alcohol is extracted from plants and is well-tolerated by humans. A caveat to this, your body does need to acclimate to the ingredient. If you eat too many mints in one setting, you will be near a toilet for the next several hours. It has been deemed safe for humans but is extremely harmful to dogs – roughly 100 times as toxic as milk chocolate. If your puppy gets into your goodies, they will have a sudden release of insulin, resulting in low blood sugar. Your dog can become lethargic, and experience such life-threatening ailments as liver failure, to seizures and brain damage.

If you want to give a real treat to your feline, catnip is your answer. Most kitties don’t begin liking it until they are between 8 and ten months old after that they love it. Catnip is effortless to grow, and if you plant it around such pests as mosquitos, rats and mice, who hate the scent of herb, won’t stick around. Now you may not want to go crazy planting it everywhere unless you like cats! Word will spread quickly around the neighborhood, and you will be the favorite house amongst purring cats. In fact, mosquitos detest catnip, even more, than they loathe DEET. The herb is a healthy alternative to the chemical found most often in insect repellents. (Ask Marilyn by Marilyn vos Savant)

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