We're a Little Different...
We refuse to cut corners in terms of cat health. After learning all we have, we couldn't do it any other way than what was best for the cat. We started with nutrition, then looked to everything from bowls to litter. For that reason, you'll find that we have a very curated selection of products; the things we carry are the best of their kind. Because we always go back to what works the best, it would be a waste of space to carry anything else. Below you'll find how we select the products we carry for each category. We could write pages of information on most of these subjects, and we have, so you'll also find links to our blog where you can read more by us or by those who have inspired us after most sections. We believe in our products so much that, if it doesn't work for you or your cat, just bring it back for a refund.
Dry food will always cost the body. Canned food is the great maintenance food. Raw food is where the healing takes place. The two fundamental facts of why are that 1) cats are obligate carnivores and that 2) cats are built to eat their moisture, not drink it.
Canned food is naturally high in moisture, usually around 75-78%, and they're only cooked for as long as it takes to seal the can, so the food is left still bioavailable after the cooking process. In canned food, the two big categories are human-grade quality and pet-grade quality.
Pet-grade quality foods will be cheaper, but at the cost of quality ingredients. You'll see things like by-products (even going so far as to not say from what animal they come), powdered cellulose (a common fiber filler, also known as saw dust or paper), brewer's rice (the broken and cracked kernels at the bottom of the barrel, which are prone to mold, which is one of the few things not killed by the cooking process), and grains (especially corn, which is considered inflammatory in cats).
Human grade quality foods may be more pricey, but you'll not have any of the junk ingredients listed above, and most won't use very much vegetable. You will see, though, named meats, some going so far as to list what part of the animal used (such as chicken breast or duck liver).
Before we bring in a food, they have to pass a series of tests: Be human-grade quality (so none of the major junk ingredients), be over a specific meat content, and pass an 80% or greater palatability test on our staff and adoption cats. After we bring them in, if the food stops being appetizing to kitties and drops below an 80% on palatability ratings, we cycle it back out and try another food. Because of this and because we can't carry every flavor by a particular brand, we offer special ordering. Special ordering has no additional cost, so it's priced as if we were selling it right on our shelves.
Raw food is the closest thing to a cat's natural diet that a parent can provide without allowing them to hunt. Raw food is chock-full of enzymes that help a cat break down their food and digest it quickly and efficiently. Our favorite raw foods are those that don't have any vegetable in them because cats don't need vegetable. But, for those who can't afford the price of whole, clean meat, there are raw foods that have vegetables in them.
Freeze-dried Raw Food
Freeze-dried raw offers some of the convenience of dry food while not being anywhere near as bad. Instead of waiting for the raw food to thaw, with freeze-dried, you just have to re-hydrate it with water. The down-sides include a degradation of the protein from dehydration (half of the protein molecule lives in the wet part of the cell) and that freeze-dried raw is only possible when including vegetables.
Dry food is highly addictive and in no way a good option for the health of a cat. From top to bottom, there are problems with dry food.
- It's cooked for days at high temperatures, leaving any ingredients mostly, if not entirely, unusable by the animal consuming them.
- Dry food inherently requires a high carbohydrate amount in order for the puffed kibble to form properly. Cats can't use carbohydrates, leading to inflammation and obesity in a lot of cats.
- Because there are so many non-meat ingredients in the food and how long the food is rendered, manufacturers have to spray on "appetite enhancers" in order for pets to even was to be interested in the food.
- "Appetite enhancers" are boiled by-products and make the food smell so strongly that it makes pets nose-blind to any other foods.
- Because the food is cooked so long that the ingredients aren't bioavailable any longer, manufacturers have to spray on synthetic vitamins to carry the nutritional value of the food.
- To preserve the food, dry foods use preservatives. Most of the common preservatives are neurotoxins. Over long-term exposure, it can contribute to crankiness and sensitivity to sensory input, especially touch.
- Because it's inherently a dry food, it leads to dehydration. At only 5% dehydration, we see symptoms like confusion, crankiness, and sensitivity, much like a person with a hangover. Cats on all dry food are 10% more dehydrated than cats on canned and raw food. Such severe dehydration over the long term is a major factor in urinary tract troubles (including crystals and inflammation) and kidney disease.
Because dry food is so addictive, some cats may never be able to make the switch. For this reason, we've opted to find and carry the best of the worst type of food. We specifically looked for dry foods that don't use synthetic vitamins or the neurotoxic preservatives, and from there, we had a short list. From those, we did palatability testing and ended up with two brands of dry food that we carry.
In-depth comparisons of each type of food, written by veterinarians
- www.catinfo.org by Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM
- Your Cat by Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM
- What Cats Should Eat by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM: www.littlebigcat.com/nutrition/what-cats-should-eat
- http://catinfo.org/#Prescription/Therapeutic_Diets by Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM
Transitioning from Dry Food:
- http://catinfo.org/docs/TipsForTransitioning1-14-11.pdf by Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM
The Case Against Clay and Crystal Litter
If you're like most people, you don't realize that litter's made of anything other than clay. Further still, there are a lot of people who don't know what their litter is made of. Most likely, if you don't know what it's made of, it's clay. That's not even the worst news: There's no regulatory agency for cat litter.
Think of how you hold your breath when you pour new litter out of the bag. Now, imagine you're your cat. Your feline friend has to breathe that every time they dig in the box, and they have to consume the litter off their paws when they're done.
Clay litter is made with bentonite clay, which is strip-mined. It's such a powerful clumping agent that it's used to seal land fills and ponds, and it can absorb up to 15 times its volume in moisture. With such a powerful clumping agent being consumed, there's risk of intestinal blockage.
Crystal litter is made of silica crystal. Inhaling finely divided crystalline silica is toxic and can lead to silicosis, bronchitis, lung cancer, and systemic autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
You can do better than clay and crystal for your cat. Kitty litter is now made from many other substrates, including corn, wheat, grass, and walnut. Our favorite litter is corn by World's Best Cat Litter, but we recognize that not every kitty likes corn litter, so we offer special ordering on any plant-based litter. If we can get it, we'll get it for you. (Note that we say "plant-based" not "natural." This is because both silica and bentonite clay are naturally occurring, and "natural" can be used in their branding.)
Why is corn our favorite, though? It's the best odor control we've ever had, as a boarding facility with 6-20 cats at any one time and as individuals cats of our own. We look forward to that same superior odor control heading into having our second location open, which will house up to 27 cats at a time, including both adoption kennels and boarding kennels. Beyond that, it binds naturally from the starches (yes, it clumps!), and controls odors naturally from the enzymes. It's flushable (in well-maintained systems) and biodegradable (clay is not).
Furthermore, as a company, World's Best donates thousands of pounds of litter to shelters every year, and early this year, they made a 3000-ish pound donation of litter to Feral Care, our feral cat sanctuary. Even though we're our adoptions program is so small, they donate over 600 pounds each year to our adoptions program here at The Whole Cat and Kaboodle. This year, they added us to their frequent buyer program (buy 10, get 1 free) for our customers to take advantage of, and we partnered with World's Best to give away a free 7-pound bag (30 day supply) of litter with the adoption of each cat. We'd use their litter without all of these things, but their endless generosity has made them a wonderful company to work with.
The rule of thumb for litter boxes: Always have at least one litter box per cat, plus one. For cleanliness alone, this gives adequate places to "go" in the litter box for both cats for the 12 hours in between scoopings. (For the best for you and your cat, please scoop at least twice a day.) Having this many litter boxes and having them spread out throughout the house also helps alleviate conflict. When cats feel there aren't enough resources to go around, they'll start acting out. In the case of "not enough litter boxes," this usually leads one or more cats to guard the litter box from others' use. Eventually, the bullied cats will decide it's safer to find somewhere else to go, such as a quiet closet.
You'll also want to keep an eye on the integrity of your litter box. You should be cleaning the plastic of the box itself with soap and hot water every month. When you do this cleaning, inspect it for worn spots with many overlapping scratches, visible stains, and olfactory (smelly) stains. Plastic is already a porous material, and after about a year or two of being scratched at, it will have thousands of scratches in the surface. These scratches can trap and hold bacteria and feces, making it more prone to stink and less healthy for reuse. This is the number one sign of the need for a new pan, but stains that you can see or smell are also a good indicator.
You'll also notice that we don't carry covered litter boxes. Covered boxes were designed with humans in mind, not cats. The big three reasons people use them: 1) to keep the smell in the box, 2) to give the cat privacy, and 3) to keep the litter inside the box.
1. Keeping the smell inside the box makes the litter box like a high-traffic portapotty in the summer: Stinky. And, cats can smell even better than we can! If you hate the way it smells, imagine how it is for your cat! Keeping that smell trapped inside the box is going to lead your cat to finding cleaner places to go. If smell is a problem in your house, there are three major reasons that might be: a) that you're not scooping the box often enough, b) that your cats aren't eating a species-appropriate diet, or c) that you're using an ineffectual litter.
A. Remember to always scoop your boxes at least twice a day! If you absolutely can NOT have at least one litter box per cat, then you absolutely HAVE to scoop more than twice a day. Cats will let you know if something is unsatisfactory, and cats are nothing if not blunt.
B. Cats in the wild depend on being invisible to predators in order to survive. This explains everything from why they groom themselves to why they bury their excrement. Without human influence, cats in the wild are hunting whole prey, mice, birds, lizards, bugs, not dry food. (Dry food is like candy potato chips for cats. Even if they like it, it's *really* bad for them.) Cats eating a species-appropriate diet (meat and moisture ONLY) have smaller, less stinky poops, making them easier to bury and making them less easy for predators to find.
Now, we're not asking you to feed your cats live mice. But, the closer you get to that, the better your cat's health will be, the smaller and less stinky their poops will be, and the better condition their coat will be in. If your cat is eating all dry food, just try adding 3 oz of canned food to their diet each day, and see what improvements there are. Once your cat is eating 6 oz or more of canned food each day, you can cut out the dry food entirely. Once they're completely off dry, try some raw. The closer you get to feeding 100% raw food, the more improvements you'll see.
C. Litter can also be a factor. Many a cat parent have been surprised at just how much better odor control can be by simply switching to a plant-based litter. As described in the Litter section, there are a lot of benefits to plant-based litter, and one of them is superior odor control, without perfumes!
2. Cats don't want privacy! They want to be able to see if something's going to attack them while they're going to the bathroom. Cats are prey animals, and they're at their most vulnerable when they're relieving themselves. If they can't easily see that something's approaching while they go, they're less likely to use that box and more likely to leap from the box without burying their poop because oh-my-god-there-might-be-something-out-there-lurking-run.
Additionally, cats like their boxes to be in places that are both not obvious or out in the open, but also not far, far away from where everything and everyone else is. They need relative quiet, so a bathroom is fine, but the laundry room is not. If they need to go too often when the laundry is going, they'll stop going there.
3. Litter's going to escape the box, no matter what you do. Because cats have to touch the litter, it's inherently impossible. You can make it less likely i) by keeping the box clean, ii) by finding a size and depth of box that works for your cat, iii) by picking a litter with bigger kernels, and iv) by getting a litter mat.
I. If your litter box is kept clean, your cat will be in less of a hurry to get out of there. Between the bad smell and the fact that strong smells attract predators, kitty's going to be tearing out of there as soon as their done, buried poop or not.
II. Some cats like to dig to China. Some of them will do so because there's not enough litter, and some of them do it because there's too much litter (the litter isn't staying out of the hole I just dug!). Some cats will dig more because the box is too small. Maybe too tall. Sometimes, it's just a matter of finding the right toilet for kitty. Try a few different options with your cat, and see what works. When in doubt, more surface area is always a good thing.
III. If small kernels of litter are getting tracked too easily about, maybe try a litter that's made up of bigger pieces. You could try a larger kernel of the same type of litter you've been using (World's Best has Zero Mess, for example), or you could try pellet litters. Most pellet litters of them are pine, and most of them dissolve when wet, rather than clumping. And, there's still a chance that pellets will escape; they'll be less frequent, but they'll be much bigger.
IV. We like litter mats that have large surface areas to give more places for kitty to step when they come out of the box. That first step out of the box usually knocks the most litter off, so as long as you shake out your litter mat once a week, you'll likely experience very little tracking. Try to get a mat that offers at least a few inches on each side of the box to accommodate that your cat may not always exit the same side when they exit the box.
Once we used the Litter Lifter, there was litter-ally no point in carrying anything else. With its straight, even, beveled, uninterrupted tines, the Litter Lifter cuts through litter so quickly every time without the need for frivolous shaking or sifting. They're still just as easy to clean as any other litter scoop when the time comes, and they're made of one sold chunk of plastic, so they're durable enough to last for years without losing integrity.
Litter mats keep litter close to the box. Look for litter mats with a large surface area for most effectiveness. The ones we carry are spongy and ribbed to allow the litter to fall off between the ribs. For maximum happiness, shake out your litter mat once a week, and when cleaning it, make sure to let it dry completely before putting it back under your litter box.
Bathroom Accident Care
If you know where the accident happened, it's easy enough to clean up the mess. If you don't, you might have to go looking for it, and the fastest way to find all of the accident spots is with a black light. For ease of use, we carry a black light flashlight.
Once you have located all the places that need cleaning, you have to use something that gets *all* of the excrement, not just the parts you can see and smell. Cats have a much more highly developed sense of smell than us humans, so make sure to use an enzymatic cleaner. We picked one that's all enzymes, no chemicals, so it's safe for you, your cats, and any other small mammals in your house (including baby humans): Uricide.
Additional Odor Control
If you've tried everything outlined in the section under Litter Boxes (the first reason people use covered litter boxes is to control smell, and there are many better and more cat friendly ways to do so, some of them included there), and you still need extra umpf to your litter, try adding a cup of DooKashi. DooKashi is made of all natural enzymes that essentially eat the smell. Just pour it over the litter and scoop the litter with your litter scoop a few times to mix it in. Cats love the way it smells, so they might try to eat it, so mixing it in is the way to prevent that. (There are enzymes made specifically for consumption for cats.)
Reattaching to the Box
After one too many negative experiences around the litter box, some cats are just too worried or too ingrained in a new habit to start back up with going in the litter box. Assuming you've done everything you can to make your litter box cat friendly (read the Litter Box section), it may be time to try some Cat Attract. Cat Attract is a proprietary blend that likely includes catnip or mint, based on the way it smells, and it helps cats return to the litter box. It literally attracts the cats to the box. (The packaging does say it's only for use with their particular litter, but rest assured, we've used it with many plant-based litters with the same affect.)
Single-Ingredient Freeze-Dried or Dehydrated Meat
As obligate carnivores, cats are built to be able to use meat, moisture, and maybe some vitamins. As such, most treats are actually really bad for cats. Following this model, if you're going to give your cat a treat, have it be single-ingredient clean, unseasoned meat. They're more common than one would think at first, and instead of a long list of things to avoid and things that are okay, you can rest comfortably if you look for treats that have only one ingredient. If the treat looks anything like kibble, don't even bother picking it up. By feeding only single-ingredient meat treats, you'll be giving your cats a treat that's more akin to fruit slices, rather than cookies.
Treats for Teeth
There's this persistent myth that dry food cleans teeth, even so much as to have some veterinarians believing it, and allow us to be completely clear when we say that this is, in fact, a myth. Cats don't chew their food (their teeth are built for rending and cutting), and even if they did, cleaning pets' teeth with dry food is like trying to clean your own teeth with pretzels. The carbohydrates in dry food and kibble-like treats also actually further contribute to plaque and tartar.
Which leads us into the talk about Greenies. They're essentially a kibble marketed in a smaller bag. Looking at the ingredients of the chicken variety: "Chicken meal, wheat, brown rice, corn gluten meal, poultry fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), oat fiber, natural poultry flavor, ground flaxseed, brewers dried yeast..." That's a lot of grains, and grains are carbohydrates.
Well, how do cats keep their teeth clean in the wild? First, they only eat a diet of fresh-killed whole-prey meat. Second, uncooked bones. Dehydrated and raw chicken necks are the best for this task, but turkey necks will do in a pinch. According to Natural Pet Pantry and Darwin's, they've had great success with dental care. (We don't recommend getting them from a grocery, though, because raw meat for people is intended to be cooked and therefore allows more contaminants, like salmonella, than raw foods and treats intended for pets to consume raw.)
- http://www.littlebigcat.com/health/does-dry-food-clean-the-teeth/ by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM
Brushes vs. Combs
When working in our grooming room, we've had significantly better results working with combs for everything from regular brush outs to basic matting. (For more severe matting, we always prefer to shave the mats out, for the comfort of the cat.) As such, we only carry products that we use in our grooming room. The closest thing you'll find to a brush in our repertoire will be an undercoat brush called Shed Magic and a starter brush with soft nubs to get kitties used to being brushed with minimal tugging and discomfort.
We also carry our favorite pet wipes, Organic Oscar; our favorite dry shampoo, Earth Bath; and several products in the Zymox line for itch relief and teeth care.
Toys & Food Games
Solitary Play vs. Wand Toys
Smells like... Catnip
Coming soon. (catnip, honeysuckle)
Smells like Prey!
Coming soon. (Rosie Rat, Da Fur Thing, feathers, wool)
Moves like Prey
Coming soon. (snake, mouse, bird, bunny)
Coming soon. (feeder balls, feeder dishes)
Supplements & Solutions
These sections are a lot shorter than the others, and most of them aren't needed as often as the rest of the above. Sections marked with an asterisk (*) have further reading in the Suggested Reading section at the bottom.
Coming soon. (Comfort Zone, Calming Treats, Homeopathy, Cannabis)
Probiotics & Enzymes
Coming soon. (Nature's Logic)
Raw Goat's Milk