QA stray cat was brought to me last year. I didn’t think she would last the night because she was so emaciated and weak. She fought hard to live and won, but about two months later we learned she has vaccine-induced cancer. She is currently receiving treatment at Michigan State University’s Veterinarian Teaching Hospital. I would be very grateful for any holistic advice you can offer that might also help.

AYou are giving your feline friend the best opportunity for recovery by pursuing treatment with a veterinary oncologist. Besides traditional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, your cat can also benefit from nutritional support, supplements, acupuncture and other treatments.

Because your cat is suffering from vaccine-induced cancer (fibrosarcoma?), I would first focus on food. Cancer, and the barrage of treatments used to fight the disease, can potentially compromise your feline’s appetite, and the most important thing is that she keeps eating. Having a variety of wholesome foods available can cater to her potentially finicky palate.

As cats are obligate carnivores (their bodies metabolically require meat protein to thrive), offer premium or home prepared foods that include real meat (whole chicken, turkey, beef, fish or other protein sources) as the primary ingredient. Moist foods tend to be more appealing, closer to the way nature intended them to be consumed, and require minimal additional hydration to break down in the digestive tract.

cat eatingAvoid any foods that contain processed carbohydrates (sugar, fructose, etc.), by-products (corn, soy, and other by-products and meals), preservatives (sodium nitrite, sulfur, propylene glycol, etc.), or artificial colors.

Additionally, talk to your veterinary oncologist about feline-specific dietary supplements that can enhance her immune system, which may be weakened from the cancer or the treatments she is receiving.

QI really want to switch my cat to a healthier diet, but he refuses to eat anything except a particular brand of low quality dry food that is full of color, grain fillers and other bad ingredients. I have tried all kinds of quality premium canned and dry foods, but he turns his nose up at all of them. Or else he’ll eat them for a little while, and then get bored with them and refuse to touch them anymore. He really doesn’t like wet food at all, and never has. He won’t even eat things like tinned salmon, cooked chicken or beef, although he does love raw venison. I don’t know what to do to get him eating a better diet. Any suggestions?

AYour cat is not alone in his preference for lower quality food over more wholesome options. Commercially available foods are inexpensive and readily accessible in grocery stores, so consumers fall back on them out of convenience or a lack of awareness of the foods’ potential health consequences. If your cat has a taste for raw venison, consider a premium feline food that is packed with real ingredients, including whole venison pieces. Venison is often used as a “novel” protein source for animals that have digestive or dermatologic allergic diseases, and is less commonly used in lower quality commercial pet foods.

Have your cat examined by a veterinarian so that underlying illnesses potentially contributing to his dietary predilections can be ruled out. Metabolic conditions such as hyperthyroidism, renal failure or liver diseases, as well as infection, inflammation or other problems can affect a cat’s desire to eat a particular food or consume water in appropriate amounts.

patrick mahaney

Veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. He is a certified veterinary acupuncturist (CVA) from the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society. He started California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, Inc. to offer house call based integrative veterinary medicine to dogs and cats in Los Angeles. Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary blog for and contributes to pet media sites, radio and television. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, wi ll be available by the end of 2011.