Teaching an old cat new tricks is not an easy task and Caesar is a pretty old cat. He turned 15 in September, which according to the calculations below makes him about 76 in human years, well into his “grumpy old man” phase.
In October, Caesar started throwing up more than normal, sometimes as often as twice a day. We thought it might have been the stress of being boarded at the pet retreat while we were on vacation but soon realized something else was wrong. Caesar was losing weight. He had gone from 22 pounds at his check-up in 2016 to just over 15 pounds in 2017. It seemed obvious that he wasn’t getting the nutrients that he needed.
As cat’s age, their nutritional needs change. Though we were feeding him a balanced diet, he wasn’t able to easily digest his usual food anymore. So we started looking for a good quality pet food in our price range. Have you ever read pet food ingredients? As we stood in our local pet store reading labels, I couldn’t help but remember one of Michael Pollan’s food rules: Avoid foods that have ingredients that a third-grader can’t pronounce. Sure, that rule is for humans, but why shouldn’t it apply to pets as well? Why would we want to feed Caesar something that isn’t even in the dictionary?
Sadly, we couldn’t find one single cat food that did not have at least one ingredient that we had no idea how to pronounce (much less what nutritional value it added) so we opted for the most affordable food with the fewest unpronounceable ingredients. In this case, it happened to be Goodlife.
In years past, Caesar has been very opposed to change. Give him a different food, he wouldn’t eat for days. Change his litter, he’d pee on the floor. Vary his schedule one bit and he’d sing you a sad song all night long. Ornery doesn’t even begin to cover it. Caesar has always been a big boy with a big attitude and you just didn’t cross him. But something changed when we switched his food. He liked it. And not only that, his coat started to shine again and his digestion was slightly improved.
Why stop there, we thought. If he’s amenable to change, we should take this opportunity to make our cat a little more crunchy (ie. environmentally friendly). So we changed his litter too. We chose a pine litter. Pine litter is a natural, biodegradable product, made from wood scraps that would otherwise go to waste. But traditional pine litters are expensive! Being the frugal folks that we are, we naturally found a way around this: equine bedding. These pine pellets are EXACTLY the same as pine cat litter, only way cheaper. A 40-pound bag of equine pellets costs $5.99 at Tractor Supply Co.
Caesar accepted this change in stride. At first, he thought it was a little weird to have large pellets for litter but as the pellets began to break down to more of a sawdust texture, he got more used to it. We’ve been using the pine litter for 3 months now with no problems. The best part – it lasts for a very long time and has no urine odor at all.
The new cat litter made something else more noticeable – Caesar’s poop contained worms! Suddenly a lot of things made sense – the weight loss, the throwing up, the insatiable hunger. We aren’t sure how long Caesar had the tapeworm. His vet exam in September did not show any signs of worms but then again, some test results can come back negative even when worms are present. We’re not even sure how he got them. He’s an indoor cat. But nonetheless, we needed to act immediately.
The question then became, do we opt for a chemical dewormer or an all-natural one? After much research, we decided to try a natural remedy first – diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is a plant-based powder that has microscopically sharp edges that shred worms when they ingest it. I already knew about the pest controlling properties of DE in the garden but I had never heard of feeding it to pets before. We purchased a food grade DE on Amazon and gave it a try. As a dewormer, I can’t say conclusively that it worked. It did cause Caesar to expel a huge amount of worm segments but they are not gone completely…at least not yet. Caesar is eating normally now though and his weight loss has stopped. DE also helped to stop his vomiting almost completely.
I’m pleased to report that Caesar is much happier today than he was even a month ago. Though he still yells at me on occasion, he spends the majority of his time napping and playing. Just yesterday, he stole a paper clip from me and started batting it around the living room and twice he’s offered to help us with a puzzle (by swiping the pieces into the floor for his own amusement).
We want Caesar to be happy and healthy for a long time to come. He’s part of our family, after all. But…and I say this will all the love in the world…we don’t want to go broke in the process. With aging comes illness and illnesses can be expensive, but routine vet visits and making simple changes (like better food or adding a supplement like DE) can go a long way in keeping Caesar, or any pet, well.