Remembering The Recall: A Reading List


The pet food recall in March 2007 did more than change everything I believed about the “right” way to feed pets. We lost our cat, Kisses. Sometimes grief competes with happy memories when I think about her, a sad trend which seems to slowly improve over time.

As this unpleasant anniversary approaches, a friend suggested I focus on the season as a new beginning –- appropriate advice for spring. Kisses will always have a special place in our hearts, and the two cats who joined our family after her death are unique, irreplaceable gifts. Her legacy includes the information I gathered while working with our wonderful vet to prolong her life.

After Kisses was gone, I sent friends the titles of all the books I discovered during her illness, and I share my bookshelf inventory with Itchmo readers now to honor her memory. I also dedicate this entry to thousands of other grieving pet parents.

Note: Books containing recipes for cats have one asterisk* and those with recipes for dogs and cats have two asterisks.** If you’d like to pick up a few toys along with your books, consider pet supply shops like Only Natural Pet Store (see the Hard Goods category) or Robbins Pet Care. Used booksellers such as are a great way to locate out-of-print books. Older titles may recommend certain commercial foods that have changed ingredients and/or ownership over the years. Use caution.

I read The Nature of Animal Healing by Martin Goldstein, DVM, after Kisses became ill, and it was my first exposure to pet food problems and dangers beyond the recall. (His brother and sister-in-law wrote The Goldsteins’ Wellness and Longevity Program for Dogs and Cats). His explanations of holistic techniques and the chapter, “The Death of a Pet,” were extremely helpful, and the book led me to several other authors, including Ann Martin.

Martin’s works, Food Pets Die For** and Protect Your Pet: More Shocking Facts,** are riveting. Like Goldstein, Martin showed me I had bought more than pet food over the years: I had swallowed a false message that commercial food is the only way to maintain optimum health for our pets. The second book, Protect Your Pet, contains a chapter titled, “The Controversy of the Raw Meat Diet.” Martin explores limited nutritional changes when meat is lightly cooked or stewed, and she highlights concerns about raw meat.

A newer book is Pet Food Nation,** released during the recall. In this easy-to-read paperback, veterinary clinical nutritionist Joan Weiskopf offers quick hits on topics such as pet food history, regulation and labeling. Like Martin, Weiskopf has reservations about feeding raw meat.

Author Sandy Arora includes raw meat recipes in Whole Health for Happy Cats.* Recipes are only a small portion of this book, and I appreciated the colorful layouts which make information easy to locate when you return to the book later. One sidebar lists vegetables which can be included in cat food and one lists those to avoid. I underlined a warning to avoid using essential oils with cats in the “Home Care and Minor Ailments” section.

Another raw meat diet supporter is Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM. In Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life, she devotes a chapter to feeding raw meat to cats, a choice she has made for five feline generations as a breeder of Bengals. Hodgkins also explores the connections between the diets we choose for our pets and common ailments such as obesity and diabetes. The chapter on obesity contains seven tips for switching your cat from dry to wet food.

More veterinary advice is contained in The Veterinarians’ Guide to Natural Remedies for Cats* by Martin Zucker. Like many other holistic pet care resources, the first portion of the book is dedicated to feeding pets, with good food as a foundation for good health. Keep Your Cat Healthy the Natural Way* by Pat Lazarus is another excellent resource. Rather than a cookbook-style approach, most of the recipes in these two books are based on percentages and formulas (such as how much protein to use) which let the caregiver select individual components.

Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats** by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, and Susan Hubble Pitcairn features more than 400 pages of information, such as suggested remedies for common ailments. The first quarter of the book is dedicated to feeding pets, and my copy is full of scribbles. One highlighted quote: “Lead is one of the biggest concerns…because lead is deposited and does not break down. It is interesting that bone meal meant for human consumption (sold in natural food stores) cannot be derived from U.S. cattle, because there is excess lead in their bones. These same bones, however, are used in pet food, and the more fed, the more lead exposure there is.”

Donald Strombeck, DVM, wrote Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets: the Healthful Alternative,** first released in 1999. The writing is more technical than most of the other resources, but still readable and accessible. More than 200 recipes are the simplest parts of the book, clustered within related sections such as “Feeding Normal Dogs and Cats,” “Food Intolerance and Allergy” and “Diet-Induced Disease.”

Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs by Don Hamilton, DVM, is an interesting resource even for those not interested in homeopathy, which uses highly diluted substances to treat illness and restore balance. Hamilton often lists non-homeopathic options, explores which traditional medications might be used and suggests which ones to avoid. Each system of the pet’s body is explored in turn, and Part Three of his book is “Vaccination: Helpful or Harmful?” Tables showing the decline in death rates due to measles and whooping cough before vaccines were introduced are particularly interesting.

Several books on my shelf explore the spiritual connection between animals, their caregivers and their health, including The New Natural Cat* by Anitra Frazier and Your Pet Isn’t Sick, He Just Wants You to Think So by Herb Tanzer, DVM.
Four Paws, Five Directions by Cheryl Schwartz, DVM, applies Chinese medicine to pet health, and herbalist Juliette de Bairacli-Levy is the author of The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat.

Pet massage techniques are detailed in Getting in TTouch with Your Cat by Linda Tellington-Jones and The Healing Touch for Cats by Michael W. Fox, DVM. I particularly appreciated Fox’s comments about multi-cat households, such as “…I have found that cats who live only with humans more often become dull, obese and sickly than cats whose social environment is enriched by the companionship of other affectionate, playful cats.” His words reshaped my view of a multi-cat environment. Although some cats want to be queen or king of the castle, most seem to benefit from feline companionship.

If you’re adding another feline, I loved Pam Johnson-Bennett’s books Think Like a Cat and Cat vs. Cat. In How to Be a Cat Detective, British behaviorist Vicki Halls discusses common problems in multi-cat households and outlines how to collect and deposit facial pheromones from your cats throughout your home as if the cats are already buddies.

I always have a stack of books to read, and one item in queue is Pets at Risk: From Allergies to Cancer, Remedies for an Unsuspected Epidemic by Alfred J. Plechner, DVM. I heard about another book, Natural Nutrition for Cats: The Path to Purr-fect Health by clinical nutritionist Kymythy Schultze, but I have not seen a copy yet.

Learning more about feeding our pets teaches us how to better meet our own needs. The pet food recalls reignited my interest in organic foods, and we eat “locally” as much as possible. I like shaking hands with the families who raise the vegetables and meat I consume. To find foods not available locally, The Ethical Gourmet by Jay Weinstein is a good resource.

I noticed an interesting comment related to the human food supply while reading Food Not Lawns by H.C. Flores a few weeks ago. Flores quotes a communications director for one of those familiar agri-giants who said, “‘[We] should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.’” The original source of the quote is a New York Times article from 1998, “Playing God in the Garden.” More about the company’s response to the article is available on Michael Pollan’s Website.

Flores wrote, “This is like saying a car company doesn’t have to make sure its cars are safe, but the Department of Transportation should take responsibility for any accidents that occur because of equipment failure or bad design. The solution is obvious: If the suppliers of our food cannot be responsible for the safety of that food, then we need to take that responsibility into our own hands.”

I agree. Legislation moves slowly, but information is already available. We can equip our minds to make informed decisions, right now.

Some foods are unhealthy or poisonous for certain species; onions are poisonous for cats. Contrasting opinions about topics such as feeding bones, garlic, raw meat and more may seem overwhelming at first, but remember: you already wade through all sorts of data about how to feed yourself and human family members. Whether you choose to create meals for your pet, carefully select and monitor commercial foods, or a mixture of both methods, trust your ability to make decisions based on information instead of marketing. You can do it. We all can.

Losing a pet teaches us things, too, like who our friends are and how great our vet really is (or, sadly for some, is not). I am so thankful for online resources like Itchmo, Pet Connection, the Pet Food List and more. From insightful articles to equally insightful and spirited comments, these sites were my lifelines during the recall.

A section of the Itchmo forum is dedicated to making your own pet food and home remedies, and another section is dedicated to memorializing recall victims.

May we all find comfort as we pay tribute to lost friends. Our garden will soon feature a memorial to Kisses, with new shrubs or a tree to offer berries, insects and shelter to all the birds she loved to watch.

Photo of Kisses: Candace Schilling
We bought a disposable camera on a vacation, took more photos when we returned home to fill it up and forgot to develop the film until recently. After Kisses died, I wished for a picture of her in a favorite red chair. We must have taken this one a few years ago, and it turned up at just the right time.

22 thoughts on “Remembering The Recall: A Reading List

  1. My heart just bleeds for everyone that had a loss due to this senseless tragedy. Profits before pets health – horrible. Let us never forget and stay vigilant on what we choose, not what we are marketed, but what we choose is right for our pets. Do you research and don’t rely on cool marketing campaigns – cause if the big companies really were concerned with pet’s health they would have put the money in the bag and not on the TV or their websites.

    Robert Davis

  2. I am so sorry about the loss of beautiful Kisses. Thank you for sharing your reading list.

    Some members of the Itchmoforums plan to light a candle or candles in memory of the lost and sickened pets, many of whom continue to struggle to this day, at sunset on March 16. We invite anyone who wishes to participate in this memorial remembrance to do the same.

  3. I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story and your bookshelves with us. Kisses was a beautiful girl. I can see why you called her Kisses, she must have had kisses routinely planted on that sweet face!

  4. This is such a touching story. I’m devastated for the loss so many people have experienced and grateful for the resources. I know I’m not alone when I say that I am overwhelmed by the confusing information out there and am stumped in terms of what the best options are for my little pups.

  5. Kisses, the most beautiful girl in the world, until Iam’s and China manufacturing killed her. I feel sickened by your loss and truly feel your pain. I don’t know how you forgive murderers. May your cats you have now live a healthy and long life to keep you company.

  6. I am sorry for the loss of your kitty; Kisses. She was a beautiful girl.

    Thank you for sharing your story.


  7. I lost my beautiful Ragdoll, Slim, to acute renal failure – caused by the pet food – on March 21st, 2007. I’m still struggling everytime I put a plate of food down for my other cats. I buy all natural, I buy what the lablels tell me is good, but still, everytime they eat, I’m petrified. Not only did Slim pass away from this, but one of my other cats, Pixie, had to be hospitalized for 3 days, and on sub q fluids at home. This anniversary is not one I’m looking forward to.

  8. Something briefly mentioned in the article that caught my attention was the reference to cancers in pets. I’ve seen quite a few comments on message boards about a suspected link between cancer and pet food. Until recently, I tended to discount the idea to a large extent.

    As it turns out, some of the mycotoxins are just about the most potent carcinogens known to man. For example, aflatoxin has a kind of two tier effect. If one survives an initial poisoning event, it’s almost certain so much cellular damage has been done that death from cancer within a year or so will result.

    On the anniversary topic, there will be a webcast this Sunday at 2 PM Eastern at:

    Dr. Lykissa of ExperTox, who discovered acetaminophen in pet food will be on the program, along with the director of “Pet Food: A Dog’s Breakfast”, one of the attorneys involved in the class actions, I was interviewed for the program, and there are several others that have been very active on issues related to the recall.

    The site is down for repairs after a hacking event, but is scheduled to be back up tomorrow, and a mirror of the site is available in the mean time.

  9. Thank you, Candace for sharing your story –I cry with you for Kisses…and all the others that died or are still sick………….trying to get better…

  10. Kisses was just beautiful. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story.

  11. Kisses was a beautful cat. Thank you for sharing your information. After I read her story I could not stop thinking about you and Kisses. My heart goes out to you. I hope that we never have to go through this again.

  12. Thankyou Candace for your knowledge and wisdom. I am so sorry for your loss. Also being touched by the pet food recall and almost losing my kitty of 20 years, I had no choice but to turn to alternative measures.
    Thru my kitty’s near death if there is one thing that really hit home, it was that the food that we feed our fury friends as well as ourselves is one of the most important things to keep a pet healthy and disease free. Boy, did it ever wake me up. I thought if they are feeding my cat poison what are they feeding me? Another huge lesson I learned from the animals.
    I believe also that although there maybe organ damage there is incredible hope for reversal of a condition whether it is kidney disease or cancer. Thru all of the measures I have read about and believe, my 21 year old kitty is healthier now than she has been since she was 9 years old.
    This has given me hope for other pets to also live a disease free life.
    It was alot of hard work and research, however we were blessed.
    This passion is in honour of all of the pets that were sickened or died from this poisoning. We will never forget!

  13. Thanks for the reading list! The best tribute to your lost “Kisses”, is helping others learn how to avoid the pet food industry.

    I have started feeding my cats and dogs a raw diet at Christmastime. They have never looked better!!!

  14. I have lost , so many , loving souls , to ” Pet food poisoning ,” our cats
    Miss Blue …. Cancer ….Sweet Pea …..Kidney Failure,
    Sandy ……..cancer , Brendal ….kidney failure , Windy & our beloved dog ,Foxy was eskimo Spitz …..stroke , other two dogs ill , recovering .
    Lucky ….our cat …..suffering from ( pet food poisoning ,) that the Vet says ……Food allergy , to protect Pet Food Co.’s
    I tryed buying can cat food ……. called ” Natural Balance ” on the internet , from( Pet Food Direct,) before it was delivered , I seen , it was on RECALL , tryed to stop order, couldn’t , so refused it , from UPS , it was sopost to be good for cats , that had allergys. I do not trust the pet food Co.’s ……… they say ……. it is ” Organic ” then , you hear , the powered chicken , is on recall ,by FDA………, they are still , using …. …………” BY PRODUCTS ” so , I was a FOOL , to trust them , or any of the Pet food ………… , the Vets are sticking by the Pet food Co.’s
    This country has lost thousands of pets , not reported ,they got away , with , ” murder ” We all feel pain , for the loss of ” Kisses ” & the people , who loved Her, & the only way , people can let the Pet Food Co.’s know , we are sick of there lies , STOP BUYING THERE POISON .
    T.K.J. Thel

  15. Thank you Candace for sharing all your research with us. Unfortunately, Kisses and the others had to suffer and die in order to enlighten the rest of us to the horrors going on in the pet food industry and beyond. They have saved our present and future fur babies from the same nighmare. At least we can be one step up on the industry now and have got the wheels churning for changes to be made and we will never give up. Our babies will not be lambs going to the slaughter anymore. Kisses picture showing up at the precise moment was her gift to you. I think a memorial like that is a great idea to ease the heartache for all of those who have lost and can give back to a precious memory.

  16. Thank You Candace, and blessing to you on your anniversary.
    Kisses was a beauty…..

    The book list is terrific. Would it be OK to share that the author Sandy Arora has an online community. (No affiliation -I’m just a very happy member of the group) her book was censored for lack of better word, quite a bit by the publisher. The book depicts such a tiny fraction of knowledge she has about all kinds of holistic care. And,,, anyone wanting to start on a raw diet will get all support needed there.

    Hope it isn’t out of line to think that after this recall many cats and dogs are now eating a much healthier diet than they were before.
    More and more are turning to their own home made food. Food with REAL ingredients…. no fillers and slaughter house refuse.

    Here’s a video on youtube to help with the grief:

    Best wishes to you, Candace

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