"All Natural" Diets and Litters

In general, the most 'natural' diet for a cat would be a diet of freshly killed small rodents and birds. The cat is an obligate carnivore- a meat eater. Cats will not survive long term on a vegetarian diet, as it does not provide all the nutrients that cats need in their diet. Consequently vegetarian diets are both dangerous and ineffective in treating elimination problems.

Commercial 'natural' diets can contain many dietary ingredients that although natural are not digestible or sufficiently nutritious such as ground up chicken feathers. Some foods labeled as natural are excellent foods with highly digestible proteins and contribute greatly to the cat's general health and sometimes its urinary and intestinal health in particular.

Raw food diets ("BARF diets") may have some benefits in certain situations, especially in some cases of inflammatory bowel disease and occasionally cystitis. To be truly balanced, a very specific ratio of ingredients must be calculated out, with added calcium supplements and usually B Vitamins. Consult a veterinary nutritionist for an appropriate formula for your cat, as just feeding raw chicken or meat will cause nutritional imbalances. In the wild, the cat ingests the gut of it's prey, which has some essential B vitamins. Finally raw food diets have the disadvantage of being easy carriers of both Salmonella and E coli infections to both the human handling the raw meat and the cat ingesting it. Spoilage is also a concern with these diets as they deteriorate rapidly at room temperature.

"Natural " litters such as corn and wheat do not usually confer any advantage over a soft unscented clumping litter. Cats evolved urinating and defecating in the desert sand, not the wheat or corn field.  The litter 's texture and odor are of more importance that the initial ingredient.

Natural Medicine

"I am interested in non traditional medicine, and organic and natural remedies for my cat. What might help my cat's litter box problems?"

Holistic Treatment

"Non traditional", "alternative", and "complementary" medicines are different descriptive terms for non Western medicine focused medical diagnosis and treatment options. Some types of therapy previously considered alternative are now increasingly accepted by mainstream Western veterinary medicine. Veterinary acupuncture and "nutraceutical" therapy are frequently used as adjunctive treatment for illnesses ranging from cancer  to inflammatory bowel disease, cystitis and arthritis.

The potential  effectiveness of these alternative therapies varies widely depending on the cause of the urination and defecation outside of the box. Acupuncture may be very helpful at relieving arthritis pain, but will have little effect on litter box substrate preferences. Homeopathic medications such as "Rescue Remedy" may be very useful at calming anxious cats but will not treat a urinary tract infection. Chinese herbal medicine may have some very effective agents directed toward "fire in the belly" but be ineffective at addressing intercat aggression. Bach Flower essences have been used successfully in treating some inappropriate elimination problems in cats as well.

Please remember that some alternative products are safe in humans but not in cats due to the carnivore metabolism of the cat. In particular, some herbal products are toxic to cats.

In general, the best course of action is to have your cat thoroughly evaluated by a competent Western medicine oriented veterinarian to determine what if any medical problems are present. The next step is instituting the environmental changes necessary to optimize your cat's litter box situation, and institute thepositive behavioral modification needed. At that time, if problems are persisting, it may be useful to investigate alternative therapeutic options with an experienced acupuncturist, holistic veterinarian, or Chinese veterinary herbalist before trying the human antianxiety medications.