When I was in University, my roommate and I decided to get a kitten. Our apartment building didn't allow pets but we still convinced ourselves it was a good idea. On our way to the SPCA, we found a tiny little pet store in a seedy mall that had kittens for sale. They were kept in a gerbil cage, and they weren't much bigger than gerbils. We felt so sorry for them that we bought a little female. I wanted to rescue them all!
We named her Jetta, after my roommate's car, because that's what you do when you are 18. Jetta had thumbs, which kind of creeped me out at first. Later on, I was told that polydactyl cats (with thumbs) originated from Europe. Ernest Hemingway was given a six-toed cat by a ship's captain. Upon his death, his former home in Florida became a museum for his cats, half of which were polydactly.
Being in University, we would purchase the cheapest cat food we could find at the supermarket. Every time we went away, Jetta would get a nasty eye infection. A $200-300 vet bill later really hurt the student budget. Finally, I went to see a holistic vet. He recommended that I put Jetta on a hypoallergenic food. My $5 bag of food increased to $20 but she never had another eye infection. Imagine that?!
Years later, I managed to get an antibiotic resistant bug while I was in and out of hospitals and care homes visiting my sick grandfather. I did everything the doctors told me to do, and I was still very sick and weak months later. I decided to try a naturopath. She asked me tons of questions about my bowel movements and my diet. She recommended a high protein, low sugar diet. I followed her instructions carefully, and low and behold, my energy increased. My immune system got stronger.
These experiences educated me on the power of nutrition to maintain a healthy active lifestyle. My mother is an amazing cook. She has always used fresh whole ingredients. I was lucky enough to grow up without packaged and microwaved meals. I took that for granted.
When I got my first puppy, Abbie, I wanted what was best for her. I did a bunch of research, and found a raw food store in my neighbourhood. The science behind a raw diet makes sense. Abbie did very well on raw for over a year until she got very very sick. One day, my crazy bananas puppy wouldn't even move. My parents and I spent hours in the emergency with her on Christmas Eve. It turns out she got a parasite from her raw food, which I purchased from a reputable but new company. I was always extremely careful with how I handled it. Since then, I have been pretty weary of raw.
I know there are lots of you who support a raw food diet. I am also familiar with the controversy over raw between breeders, vets and owners. Even though I had a bad experience with it, I know that many dogs and cats still do well on it. I have researched company after company. I really wanted to find a local, or at the very least, a Canadian company. Many companies are still relatively new, and many have had safety issues. I eventually found Stella & Chewys out of the US. They have been in business for over 15 years. Their focus on safety and education is exceptional. This is the brand that I chose for my store. Stella & Chewys is very fussy about who they choose to carry their products. Unlike most companies who get offended at my resistance to raw, they agreed that there are many risks involved. They encourage a specific brand of freezer. They've even booked educational sessions before I have officially opened. This dedication helps me to trust their brand. The last thing I want is for you to buy products from my store, and end up with sick furry friends.
However, I am not an expert in pet nutrition. If there is a brand out there that you are passionate about, tell me about it. I have only scratched the surface. I am interested in learning what has worked for you. What we put into our mouths and those of our pets, has a direct impact on overall health and well-being.