Hello Writers,

First of all, let me thank each and every one of you for your fine efforts on our persuasive essay round of the Petlitzer Prize contest. Judging was difficult, as usual, and this time all the judges were in a dead heat, albeit evenly divided between two pieces. So, we’re calling it a tie and awarding two first-place certificates to Ingrid King and Sara Henderson. Congratulations, ladies! Their essays follow below this introduction.

Their essays will be read aloud by me on Dr. Robert and Michelle Forto’s show, DogWorks radio, Friday, April 1 at 1 p.m. Central. Listen live or access the show online anytime after that from its blog talk radio website. Tell all your friends to listen in.

The next round of the Petlitzer Prize contest will be to write 400–700-word stories starting with the following prompt: “It was a dark and stormy night and my [dog/cat/horse, etc.]…” Have fun creating suspense, humor, whatever moves you. The deadline for submissions on this will be May 31, 2011. For more info and all the Petlitzer Prize rules, click on the link above.

And again, a million thanks to all the talented folks who submitted to this round.—Sid

Petlitzer Prize Round 3 Winners—Persuasive Essays (Two-way tie for first place)

The Truth About Dry Cat Food

by Ingrid King

Grocery and pet store shelves abound with a dizzying array of cat food.   For decades, dry kibble has been the preferred choice for most cat owners.  After all, the bags say it’s “complete and balanced,” it’s easy to feed, and most cats seem to like it.  Unfortunately, dry pet foods, even the high-priced premium and veterinary brands, are the equivalent of junk food for pets.  Feeding dry food to cats is no different than feeding sugared cereals to kids.

Cats are obligate carnivores.  This means they need meat to survive.  They cannot get enough nutritional support from plant-based proteins such as grains and vegetables, because, unlike humans and dogs, they lack the specific enzyme that processes plant-based proteins metabolically.   They need little or no carbohydrates in their diet.  Feeding foods high in carbohydrates leads to any number of degenerative diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Many pet owners feed dry food because it can be left out during the day without spoiling while the cat is left at home alone.  This method of free choice feeding is one of the leading contributors to obesity in cats.  Cats, by nature, are hunters, and it does not make sense that they should need access to food 24 hours a day.  Meal feeding twice a day mimicks their natural hunting behavior much closer, and by feeding controlled portion sizes twice  a day rather than leaving food out all day long, calorie intake, and weight, can be controlled without the cat going hungry.

Dry food is the leading cause behind most urinary tract problems in cats.  While cats who eat only dry food will generally drink more water, they still don’t get enough moisture to support all their bodily functions and essentially live in a constant state of low level dehydration, which can lead to bladder and kidney problems.

Due to the high carbohydrate content, dry food dumps unnaturally high levels of sugar into the cat’s bloodstream, which can lead to an imbalance of its natural metabolic process.  In extreme cases, this can, and often does, lead to diabetes.

Dry food does not clean pet’s teeth.  Contrary to popular belief, most cats don’t chew their kibble long enough for any of the scraping action that is the theory behind this myth to kick in.  What little they do chew shatters into small pieces.  Some pet food manufacturers offer a “dental diet” that is made up of larger than normal sized kibble to encourage chewing, but in my years at veterinary practices, I’ve seen many cats swallow even those larger size pieces whole.  Additionally, dry food leaves a carbohydrate residue in the cat’s mouth that actually encourages growth of tartar and plaque.

You may find that some cats are very difficult to switch from their dry food, further supporting the junk food analogy.  They’re literally addicted to the carbs and additives used in these diets – not much different from a sugar or carb addiction in humans.  During the manufacturing process, substances called “digests” (fermented by-products of meat processing with no nutritional value) are sprayed on the outside of the kibble to make it more palatable to the cat.  Most cats wouldn’t touch dry food if it wasn’t for these flavor enhancers.  For these hard-core addicts, you will need to transition them to a healthier diet somewhat slowly.  Never let a cat go without food for more than 24 hours.

The one best thing you can do for your cat’s health is eliminate all dry food from his diet and feed a meat based, grain-free canned or raw diet which is consistent with the needs of a carnivore.

Ingrid King

Ingrid King is the award winning author of Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher.  She is a former veterinary hospital manager turned writer. Her online magazine News for You and Your Pet goes out to subscribers around the world. Her blog, The Conscious Cat, has been called “educational cat nip for the cat lover” and is a comprehensive resource for conscious living, health and happiness for cats and their humans.  For more information about Ingrid and Buckley’s Story, please visit http://www.ingridking.com.

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By Sara Henderson

It is not the same as our love for and from a partner, a parent, a friend or a child. It is a love all its own. This love is a steel cord between two hearts, a cord that ties us to each other, us and our dog.

They live for us.

When we’re lazy, they wake us.

When we need exercise, they remind us of their leash.

When the bills come, they bark at the mailman and shred the evidence (it’s not their fault an invoice and a birthday card smell the same!).

When we go to work, they give us sad eyes so all day long we know we’ll be missed.

When we come home, they act like we’re Obama, Lady Gaga and Prince William rolled into one.

When we sit in our favorite chair, they’re right beside us, making sure we can easily scratch their head or belly without too much effort.

When we sleep, they drape themselves across us to be sure we’re warm through the night (even if it’s the middle of summer).

When we prepare their favorite meal of kibble or canned, they worship us as the best hunter and chef on the Food Network.

When we have a bad day, they rub their furry selves against us and lick away our tears.

When we snap or growl because they want to worship us at an inconvenient time, they don’t pout or sulk; they wait until a better time and try again.

Their love knows no bounds of age or income or bra size or sports ability.

We are their person and they are our dog and that is how it is and how it should be and how it will be until the day it isn’t. That day will be hellishly painful and that pain will last long into the future until it softens to a gentle ache that brings laughter and tears all at once when memories come unbidden at awkward times and sleepy times and happy times and other times.

But there’s a problem.  Too many adored pets are being released to the care of others because their beloved people find themselves struggling. The economy is tough and jobs are scarce and gas prices and food prices and all other prices are climbing while incomes are falling.

Pet pantries are rising up to help avoid this crisis of separation.  Think about that unconditional love. Think about what you would do to keep your own best friend at home with you. Then find a pet pantry near you and donate your time or your money or both.

And try not to judge. Remember that steel cord.

Sara pays the bills writing for corporate clients, and fills the rest of her time at her unpaid full-time job as a founding board member of The Pet Project Midwest, whose mission is to keep pets in the homes they love and out of our over-burdened shelters. She’s easy to laugh and easy to cry and finds that the love of a furkid can make any day brighter.

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