Cancer in Cats: Holistic Prevention and Treatment
Cancer is a diagnosis that faces an increasing number of cat owners. Our environment is filled with toxins, and who can begin to guess what's in most of the food we feed our kitties? But there are far more factors that impact our cats than most of us realize.
When cancer affects our own cats or those of our friends, we gain a heightened awareness of the causes and treatments available. Pictured above is adorable little Petie, a friend's cat who recently got the dreaded diagnosis. (More on him at the end of this post.)
Since it's National Cat Health Month, it's a good time to explore all modes of treatment available today. This includes the holistic approach, which is one I personally embrace. What luck to find an amazingly thorough new article on pet cancer by Dr. Jean Hofve!
Dr. Hofve addresses both the prevention and treatment of cancer from the standpoint of diet, water, vaccinations, environmental pollutants, electromagnetic radiation, flea control, stress, and exercise. Let's take a closer look at each:
Preventing Cancer Through Your Cat's Diet
While it's certainly easier to feed your cat a commercial cat food, these are far from optimal in safeguarding their health. Dr. Hofve recommends a "balanced, home-prepared diet of fresh, preferably organic, whole foods." Cats are obligate carnivores, and must have a meat-based diet to be healthy.
One of the main culprits in commercial cat foods is carbohydrates. Dr. Hofve cites them as a preferred feeder for cancer cells like lymphoma. Even many grain-free foods are loaded with carbs from sources such as potatoes or peas. Think about a cat in the wild: would potatoes or peas be natural foods a cat would seek? Of course not! Mainly protein, low-carb, and higher fat diets are typically recommended for cats with cancer.
If your cat is fighting cancer - or if you want to prevent it - stop feeding your cat dry food (kibble) at all. Can't stomach preparing a raw diet that includes organ meats at home? There are an increasing number of frozen raw cat foods available from your local pet store. Canned food is also preferable to dry.
When buying canned cat foods, take a close look at the carbohydrate level, if it's present on the label: many of the high-gravy foods are loaded with carbs. An optimal diet for cats should contain no more than 10% carbohydrates. High-carb ingredients to avoid include grains (corn, wheat, oats), potatoes, and peas. Here's a link to a site that discusses cat food ingredients in more detail.
The Importance of Water in Preventing Feline Cancer
We all know that it's important for our cats to drink water for the health of their urinary tract. But the type of water you give your cat can also have an impact on cancer. How's the tap water in your area? Do you use a water softener or filter (or both) for your drinking water? Your cat should get the same.
According to Dr. Hofve, cats fighting cancer may benefit from receiving filtered or distilled water. In the wild, cats rarely drink water, receiving the moisture they need from bodily fluids of the prey they eat. A prey animal's body tends to contain 70% to 75% water. But our indoor cats always need fresh, clean water available. Flowing water from a fountain is a good way to encourage proper hydration.
Vaccinations' Role in Feline Cancer
I've previously written about the role of adjuvanted vaccinations in certain types of cancer. Dr. Hofve's article explains the dangers of over-vaccination. While many communities require an annual rabies vaccine, most other boosters are not needed.
You can have your vet run a titer test (pronounced like "tighter") on your cat to see if any vaccinations need boosting instead of simply giving the entire spectrum of annual boosters. Always opt for the one-year rabies vaccine instead of the three-year. And the risk of an untreatable Vaccine-Associated Sarcoma (VAS) can be minimized by giving the injection in a hind leg. If a sarcoma develops, amputation of the leg can prevent the cancer from spreading, and most cats can live quite comfortably with only three legs. Don't want to risk it? Opt for the titer test.
Environmental Pollutants: Feline Carcinogens?
We're surrounded with chemicals in our modern world. Think about taking a large bucket and pouring all the cleaning products you use in your house into it, all mixed together. Would you dare? Not likely! The fumes and probable explosion would kill you and your cats, too. So why are you using these things?
Think about your cat's everyday activities. There may be some rolling around on the carpet, sitting in the windowsill to look out, plenty of walking around on floors...and lots of grooming. If your home is coated in the chemical residues of cleaners on all those surfaces, they get ingested by your cat during grooming. There are many cat-safe cleaners on the market you can use instead. If you're interested in even more, click here to email me and find out about buying directly from a company that makes all-natural cleaning and personal care products.
Do you use those plug-in air fresheners to make your home smell nice? Dr. Hofve reminds us that they're loaded with petrochemicals. Those aren't good for you or your kitties to be inhaling! Opt for a natural air cleaner such as the Critterzone. These actually remove odors from the air instead of covering them up, and ionize the air to freshen it like a rainstorm does.
If your cat goes out in the yard, consider the dangers from lawn chemicals. Try to use organic gardening methods. Here's an article that explains why and how.
There are also plants such as lilies that can be toxic when ingested. Here's a blog post that lists several cat-friendly plants and features for your garden. Try to keep your cat away from areas where cars are parked, in case any engine coolant leaks out; antifreeze is tempting to lick up, but deadly for any kitty who does.
Protecting Your Cats From Electromagnetic Radiation
This is a danger we seldom think about, but it does pose a danger to ourselves and our cats. In today's world we're surrounded by electronic devices. Each of them emit some radiation. Dr. Hofve reminds us that cats seek out warm places to sleep and may be drawn to the warmth of them.
We get more radiation if we're often near power lines, cell phone towers, utility cables, and even the electrical wiring in our homes. But who can live off the grid and completely without electrical power in today's society?
The light emitted by all our electronic devices can also interfere with normal sleep patterns. Since the body does a lot of healing during sleep, this could inhibit your cat's ability to fight off the cancer. Try to keep the room where your cats sleep as dark as possible to give kitty's body a chance to heal.
Safest Flea Control for Preventing Cancer
While traditional spot-on flea control products are highly effective, they are also filled with chemical pesticides. Over the years, toxins from them can build up in your cat's system. Dr. Hofve tells us that this "can contribute to the toxic sludge build-up in the extracellular matrix." Such a buildup can lead to illness or death.
But you don't want itchy fleas spreading disease on your cats, either, so what can you do? Fortunately many natural flea-control products are now available. A few we carry include Flea Away diatomaceous earth (DE) that can be sprinkled around your house, put on your cats, and even mixed into their food. Deadly to insects, it's harmless for your cats. Flea Away also makes a chewable pill form of DE.
Natural flea and tick control shampoos include those from EcoPure Naturals and Natural Chemistry. EcoPure Naturals also makes a spray form of flea and tick control. And there's the old tried-and-true flea comb, which may work fine if your cats stay indoors and are not around any other cats.
Can Stress Give Your Cat Cancer?
Many things can stress your kitty - any change in the household environment, introduction of a new family member (whether human or animal), outdoor animals prowling the cat's territory at night, loud noises in the neighborhood...and even your own stress. If you're feeling anxious, your cat knows that and internalizes it.
Can this lead to cancer? Absolutely! And not just in our cats, but also in ourselves. Prolonged stress is very harmful to the body. Doing some relaxation exercises, whether through meditation, prayer, yoga, tai chi, or other methods, may actually help your cat to relax.
Dr. Hofve also recommends relaxing your cat through energy therapies such as Reiki, the Tellington Ttouch method, massage, or flower essences. We featured many cat calming and soothing remedies in the Old Maid Cat Lady store. Another of her recommendations is for environmental enrichment products that stimulate your cat's intellect.
Feline Exercise and Cancer Prevention
Every cat needs some play time daily, and playing with you is high up on their list of joys. While playing on their own or with a companion is helpful, play time together helps you both in calming stress. Use some interactive toys to play with your cat daily. It cements the bond between you and builds trust.
Give your cat some ways to climb and get up off the floor. This is good exercise and healthy for the cat's mind, as well. There are cat trees that can do this, or if your floor space is limited, wall-mounted cat perches, shelves, and climbing systems can be constructed in almost any dwelling.
If your cat likes to go outside, try walking kitty on a harness and leash. This skill will take some time and patience to develop, but can be quite beneficial for you both. Walking a cat is not usually like walking a dog; they like to stand and sniff a lot more, so you'll find yourself with plenty of time to think and reflect on life.
If you live in a neighborhood with too many dogs for this, a stroller may be a viable option. Some cats stress over going outside, but if you start them out young and take them out frequently, they may just start looking forward to it!
Holistic Cancer Treatments for Cats
Dr. Hofve's article covers many treatment modalities for feline cancer, in the event that your kitty does get this dreaded diagnosis. Whether you choose traditional (allopathic) medicine or an alternative approach, supplementing these treatments with a holistic treatment system using the methods described above can only improve your cat's chances for overcoming cancer.
Old Maid Cat Lady offered numerous naturopathic, homeopathic, and other alternative remedies that may be helpful for your cat. Consult with your veterinarian before using anything, as some of them may interact with other treatments and their use should be managed in the overall approach to your cat's cancer.
More on Petie
Petie's veterinarian thinks he has either lymphoma or thymoma, leaning toward the latter. This is a rare type of cancer in cats that is treated with surgery. More testing is required before they will know for sure.
While a cancer diagnosis is certainly scary, it's also quite expensive. Petie's mom has spent almost $4,000 so far on testing alone, and more will be required, in addition to the surgery, before her Petie is well. A fundraiser was used to help her cover these costs on Indiegogo, if you'd like to contribute.
Here's wishing Petie and all the other kitties out there who are fighting cancer a speedy recovery to optimal health. Try a holistic approach to your own cat's care to minimize risks of getting the dreaded diagnosis.
AN UPDATE: Little Petie has crossed the rainbow bridge. Sympathies and purrs of peace to his mama and fur siblings.
AN UPDATE: Little Petie has crossed the rainbow bridge. Sympathies and purrs of peace to his mama and fur siblings.