Interview with Jodi Ziskin of Healthy Pet Coach
Thank you to Jodi Ziskin of Healthy Pet Coach for doing an interview with us. I requested this interview with Jodi after I "met" Jodi through her articles on cat food nutrition on The Conscious Cat. If you are interested in reading them, you can find them here:
- The Best Food for Cats: Is There Only One Right Choice?
- Are Dehydrated and Freeze-dried Foods a Healthy Option for Your Cat?
- Homemade Food for Your Cat: Healthy, Simple and Economical
Jodi runs a business, the Healthy Pet Coach, where she does private consultations about your pet's nutritional and other health needs.
What is your background with cats?
Cats have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. I've always had a deep bond with not only my own, but just about every cat I've met!
After Kayla, the kitty love of my life, was diagnosed at age 14 with kidney disease and IBD (among other things), I was at a loss. I thought I had done everything right! How could she be so ill? It was then that I took her to see an integrative/holistic veterinarian. And boy, were my eyes opened. He explained about the ingredients in most cat foods and how they affect overall health; he explained that most veterinarians have little to no training in nutrition (one course in vet school, usually taught be one of the big pet food companies) and so much more. Because of what I learned from him, I was able to provide a much better diet for my Kayla (a healthy, bio-appropriate diet, along with supplements, acupuncture and sub q fluids helped my girl live well until she was 20.5)
That was when I decided it would be my mission to help cats (and dogs) live healthy lives and hopefully avoid all Kayla went through.
So after a long career in public relations, I returned to school and earned a master's degree in Holistic Nutrition with a concentration in companion animal care. I followed that up with a course to be certified as a pet nutrition consultant. Since 2010 I have been working with pet parents, helping them help their fur babies thrive.
How did you become interested in cat nutrition?
As with humans, a cat's diet can have a great impact on their overall well-being. Like most cat parents, I had trusted that the cat food I was feeding my fur babies was meeting their needs. I was wrong! That lit a fire under my butt. Learning all I could about proper nutrition for cats became front and center in my studies and research.
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that many of their essential nutrients must come from animal flesh. They truly only need meat, bone and fat to thrive. A small percentage of their diet should be made up of carbohydrates (vegetables) for additional vitamins, minerals and fiber. They have no biological need for grains or starches, nor can they digest them well.
Most commercial cat foods are high in carbohydrates, do not contain optimal amounts of protein, use low-quality proteins, often from meat deemed unfit for human consumption, rancid fats and synthetic vitamins and minerals, etc. Is there any wonder that so many cats have chronic diseases and disorders?
For many cats, simply changing the diet to one that is bio-appropriate is a life-altering experience. They feel better, they rarely if ever vomit or have hairballs, their urinary tracts are healthy, their energy is up, etc.
What does the Healthy Pet Coach do?
I help empower pet parents with personalized information on nutrition, enrichment, environment, and care so that they can make the best choices for their cats (and dogs). The physical, mental, emotional and social needs are all addressed. Consultations are followed up with detailed reports, usually 8 - 12 pages long. You can read more about it here: WHAT THE HEALTY PET COACH DOES
What is usually the most common complaint with cat parents that you receive?
Cat parents contact me for a variety of reasons. In many cases, they are overwhelmed by the amount of information out there on diet and care. They know their cat's current diet isn't optimal and they simply do not know where to begin. I also hear from a lot of cat parents whose cats have chronic urinary tract or digestive tract problems. I ask that they talk with their vet before implementing any of the information I provide to them. Most vets are on board with my suggestions.
Can you share one of your favorite Healthy Pet Coach success stories?
Will and Harry, two-year old DSH brothers with tabby markings, were experiencing chronic urinary tract problems, including infections and crystals. Their latest episode had landed them in the hospital for a couple of days. That is when their humans called me.
The first thing we addressed was diet. The cats had been on a dry food diet, which is simply not appropriate for any cat. I outlined several options to their human parents, who had to decide what would work best with their lifestyle and budget. They elected canned food (human grade, grain and starch-free, BPA-free can) and freeze-dried raw options. They ran this by their vet, who was comfortable with the change. That was one year ago. They have not had a problem since.
Do you have suggestions on what to feed a new kitten to get them on the right track?
Once a kitten is weaned and has a clean bill of health, it is a good time to introduce a real food diet, raw or cooked. Kittens need to eat approximately one and a half times more food than adult cats. This should be divided over three to four meals per day. I also suggest a few supplements for overall health - a probiotic, digestive enzymes and high quality fish-based omega-3 oil, which is paramount to brain development. A high quality oil will not contain a pump, will not smell fishy and will have to be refrigerated after opening.
Do you have a blog or a newsletter where you publish regular articles about cat nutrition?
I just ended a four and a half year run as a Cat Health Writer for Examiner.com, however the archived articles are still available (more than 160).
There is also a blog archive from my previous website, HolisticHealthyPets.net - http://holistichealthypets.net/blog/
Currently, I write several blogs per month for my website, HealthyPetCoach.com, which I also share through social media.
What is your ultimate goal?
Although cats have been living alongside humans for nearly 10,000 years, it wasn't until maybe 65 years ago that having an indoor-only cat became a normal thing. So it is understandable that there are still many misconceptions and myths out there about cats and their care.
While I have several professional goals, they all lead to the same ultimate goal - helping as many cats (and dogs) as possible live long, healthy, happy lives.