Editor’s Note: Louise Hung is a writer for Catster’s sister SAY Media site, xojane.com. This article first ran on xoJane, but we’re rerunning it (with permission!) so you readers can comment on it. Please note that the opinions expressed below are just the author’s and not necessarily Catster’s.
I’ve been on a natural living kick for about two years. It started with getting really sick, like I can’t walk sick, for three months. My skin and stomach got really sensitive, and I started spending the unending days and nights in bed researching ways to feel less like a leper. Turns out the answer for me was to go natural — little to no chemicals, and using food for eating as well as body care.
After my recovery, my natural-stuff obsession gained momentum, and, after starting work in a natural pet supply store in Honolulu, I turned my attention to our furry friends.
Enter Brandy the Cat. I’m going to get all Crazy Cat Lady on you for a moment, so just be cool.
I love my kitty. She is a mean little feline who has shown me how much she loves and appreciates my servitude to her by leaving all manner of scars on my crunchy granola body. She pits my husband and me against each other, battling for her favor, and her food is higher quality than anything we will eat with any regularity for at least the next decade. Every Christmas or birthday, I give my husband a t-shirt with Brandy’s face screened onto it. And, by golly, he treasures them. I love my cat.
So it stands to reason that what’s good for the girl is good for the kitty, right?
After lots of research and some careful experimentation on lab humans (lab = my kitchen, and lab human = me), I’ve found that a lot of the food in our kitchens and grocery stores can be used as safe, cheap, and kick-ass home remedies for what ails your dog or cat.
These are some of my favorites.
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Extra virgin coconut oil — I’ll call it EVCO — is the Grand Poobah of natural pet and human care. It is naturally antimicrobial, it absorbs beautifully, and if your cat or your dog licks it, no problem!
For minor cuts, abrasions, sensitive spots, minor fungal problems, and blisters, slather EVCO onto the spot and let it soak in. It works great for dry and rough paws, too. And, like I said, if your dog or cat licks it off, no problem, because it doesn’t contain any yucky chemicals that other topical pet medications can contain. It used to freak me out whenever I read the label on my pet’s skin medication and it said, “TOXIC IF INGESTED.”
Extra virgin coconut oil is also great as a supplement for your dog or cat. When adding anything into your pet’s diet, go slow. Start adding a little EVCO to their breakfast or dinner on a daily basis. I’d start with a 1/4 dose of EVCO for a couple of days, then slowly build on that amount over the span of a week to 10 days until you are at the full daily dosage — about a 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of pet. Going slow will help you and your pet avoid getting the dreaded diarrhea or any such discomfort. Why rush? If your pet gets some tummy troubles (see: pumpkin), back off and go slower.
After about a month or so of feeding extra virgin coconut oil to your pet, you’ll notice the condition of the skin and coat improve. Shiny hair! Who doesn’t like that? Not to mention, the oil’s antimicrobial properties really help when dealing with fungal, bacterial, or yeast issues in a dog or cat’s system.
I could go on and on forever about EVCO.
Every pet owner hates diarrhea. (Then again, does anybody enjoy diarrhea?)
When I’m working at the pet supply store, the questions I most often receive involve poop. Specifically, the questions involve “loose doo-doo,” as I often hear it expressed ’round these parts.
Pumpkin to the rescue!
Pumpkin — either pureed, or plain, unsalted, steamed, and smooshed up — is a great tummy tamer for pets. Feed it to your dog or cat (about 1 teaspoon daily for small dogs and cats, and about 1 tablespoon daily for medium size or large dogs) during a bout of diarrhea, and everything should firm up in a couple of days. Most pets need it mixed into their food for them to eat it, though some will just eat a dollop plain.
You can either buy the pumpkin and steam it yourself, or you can buy a pumpkin product from your local pet store or online. However, make sure it’s plain — do not buy pumpkin pie filling. The pie filling is full of ingredients that humans can digest but that could be harmful to your pet.
How many times have I been awoken in the wee small hours of the morning to the dulcet tones of Brandy the Cat yacking up a hairball? How many times have I sprung out of bed, ready to attack the day, only to step on a moist, slushy hairball?
It is the bane of cat owning existence. However, butter can help.
Once or twice a week smear a little dollop of plain, unsalted butter on your kitty’s paw or put 1/2 a teaspoon of butter in your kitty’s food. You can do this more often, but as I said earlier, start slow and ease your cat into it.
I’ve found this can lessen the amount of hairballs coughed up and even allow cats to pass hairballs in their stool.
Hairballs are a fact of kitty life. A cat will normally cough up a hairball or two about once a month — some cats more often, some cats less. If you find your cat vomiting excessively, dry hacking, or coughing up copious hairballs every week, you should take your cat to the vet to make sure everything is all right.
Oh, and extra virgin coconut oil can help with hairballs, too, when ingested. (Is there anything it can’t do?)
So there you go. I’ve picked up these tips through research and experience. Always consider your pet’s baseline health before trying anything new. I’m super careful, but I’m no vet, so please when in doubt, check with your vet.
Just know that next time your cat or dog has an itch, a scratch, or a tummy ache, the simplest, most natural, and tastiest solution might be right in your kitchen.