Rice Isn’t Nice

By Margaret Gates

Feline Nutrition Foundation


I’ve been noticing something when I walk down the pet aisle at the supermarket – just to get kitty litter mind you, since I don’t feed my cats anything sold there – a lot of those cans and bags are touting the fact that they contain rice. It seems rice is the new “in” filler. Wheat has gotten a bit of a bad reputation lately, mostly because it turns out some people have trouble with it, and pet owners are getting the message that corn is bad for cats. Pet food companies seem to be left with rice.

A lot of people buy pet food based on how the name sounds to them. I don’t make a judgment; in the past I too fell for the pet food marketing strategies. Rice is easy to market, easier than other grains. All those meats sound so appetizing paired with rice: “Tender Turkey Tuscany in a Savory Sauce with Long Grain Rice and Garden Greens.” Sounds like something I would eat for dinner. Now, if my cat could read labels, this is more like what she would find appealing: “Raw Brains and Heart in Fresh Blood with a Crunchy Chopped Grasshopper Garnish.”

Cats have no nutritional requirement for grains of any sort.¹ If there is rice in it; it’s a filler, plain and simple. A study by The American Society for Nutritional Sciences showed that dietary rice decreases the amount of taurine in whole blood and plasma in cats, and that despite the routine supplementation of commercial feline diets with taurine, cats continue to be diagnosed with taurine deficiency. The presence of rice in the food affects the content of fat and fiber, which in turn could affect the metabolism of taurine. To quote from the study: “Diet formulations with normally adequate taurine supplementation may actually be deficient in taurine if rice bran or whole rice is included as an ingredient.”²

White rice also has a high glycemic index, meaning it will cause a rapid increase in blood sugar.³ Eating carbohydrates such as this is not a good idea for any obligate carnivore and can lead to a variety of health problems including obesity and diabetes.

As if whole rice wasn’t bad enough, many products contain brewer’s rice, which is “the small milled fragments of rice kernels that have been separated from the larger kernels of milled rice (AAFCO definition).”⁴ Brewers rice is used because it’s the lowest quality by-product of the milling process and is therefore cheaper. And remember, the massive 2007 pet food recall involved foods that contained imported rice protein and wheat gluten adulterated with melamine.

Then, there are all those foods with wild rice. I think they just love to get that word “wild” on a cat food label. Conjures up all those big cat associations. You know, stalking prey in the jungle and all that. But that cat is not looking to pounce on the elusive wild rice plant. Wild rice is still a filler in cat food, and is not any better for your cat.

So, if you read a cat food label and it sounds good enough to eat, it probably is not good enough for your cat.

Margaret Gates is the founder of the Feline Nutrition Foundation. If you would like to learn more about feline diet and health, please visit FelineNutritionFoundation.org. We have a wealth of information on how to feed your cat a healthy, bio-appropriate diet. We especially welcome raw diet beginners!

1. Kymythy R Schultze, CN, CNC, Natural Nutrition for Cats, The Path to Purr-fect Health, Hay House Inc, 2008, 145.

2. M Stratton-Phelps, RC Backus, QR Rogers and AJ Fascetti, “Dietary Rice Bran Decreases Plasma and Whole-Blood Taurine in Cats,” The Journal of Nutrition, No. 132, 2002, 1745S–1747S. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/6/1745S.full.pdf

3. “Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods,” Harvard Health Publications. http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods

4. “Brewers Rice,” Association of American Feed Control Officials, definition at Wikipedia.

Food for Thought

By Valerie Barry,


In Partnership With Dogs





I use food treats when I train my dogs – a lot of food treats.   

Believe it or not, that statement is one that irritates a lot of people.  I try very hard not to say it like a confession or like the beginning of a 12-step program meeting!  I’m proud to say that I use food treats when I train my dogs and I strongly suggest and encourage my students to do the same.  When I hear that a trainer uses and recommends food in training, that’s a strong indication to me that they are quite possibly a positive reinforcement trainer – big plus!  Other things will be the clincher, but that’s a good start.

Why does that statement make people angry?  Well, I imagine there are many reasons but I think that primarily some of the dog owning public have been mis-lead into believing 2 things:  (1) if you train with food, you’ll need to carry food for the rest of your dog’s life; and (2) training with food means your dog only does something because you have food not because you asked.  I can understand why you might be led to believe this because they can be true statements if you do your training with someone who isn’t a skilled and knowledgeable trainer.

One of the reasons food gets a bad reputation in training is because trainers aren’t always successful in teaching their students how to stop using food or how to use food properly. dog-treats_small

Using food properly involves:

  • How to get to the point where food isn’t necessary.
  • How to use food as a reinforcer instead of a bribe.
  • How to recognize when behavior is learned and successfully on cue and then how to move on to alternate methods of reinforcement.
  • How to train without food when food isn’t working or food isn’t available.

The unsuccessful student comes to believe that unless they have food, their dog will not do what they ask – and certainly that can be what it looks like when you watch some people with their dogs.

Another reason the use of food in training gets a bad rap is when trainers aren’t skilled enough to know what to do when a dog isn’t interested in food.  I use food for teaching tricks or obedience, for working with puppies, and I also use food for working with fearful or aggressive dogs.  I use food for everything – except – if the dog would prefer something else.  Therein lies the really important point about training and working with dogs.  It’s not about using food or not using food, it’s about motivation.

Training animals (any animal, not just dogs) is an art.  Positive reinforcement training, using modern, science-based methods in a humane and positive way, is definitely an art.  Good training is truly remarkable to watch when it’s done with skill, experience and knowledge.  The dog is clearly engaged, having fun and learning and the human is clearly engaged, having fun and learning – what a great partnership is being built and reinforced!  In contrast, training done with punishment – coercion, pain, and intimidation – is nothing close to an art.  Methods like this amount to little more than bullying – forcing a dog to do or stop doing something.  It’s not fun to watch and it’s far from fun or entertaining for the animal or any informed, compassionate person to witness.

The art of teaching:

  • provides a learning experience that promotes open participation without fear of making a wrong choice;
  • is instructive with informative feedback that aids learning;
  • makes things clear and simple; and
  • encourages freedom of choice.

In order to accomplish this, the experience must be positively motivating.

Motivation is important but it can be a tricky thing.  In order to teach anybody anything, there needs to be a positive reason to want to learn it in order for learning to be interesting, easy and retained by the learner.  For dogs, food is often easy to use as reinforcement (and therefore a good motivator) because most dogs will willingly work for some kind of food treat.  High or low value food options – every dog has his “price” to some degree.  A hungry dog is very often willing to work for food.  Food, therefore, is an easy and clear choice because it’s portable, easy to obtain and you can repeat exercises quickly, which makes training go much faster.

Food needs to be used properly, however, as reinforcement not a bribe, and there is an art to this too.  But not all dogs will work for food or may work for food but not in all circumstances.  When dogs are highly stressed, overly aroused or anxious, often they will not and cannot eat.  The true art and skill of the trainer becomes apparent when they have the knowledge and experience to know how to motivate a dog with or without food.jack-bounce-3

When I’m working with my 3-year-old dog Quincy and we’re outside, food is of very little interest to her unless she’s 100 percent comfortable – which she often isn’t.  She came from a difficult situation, received no (positive) socializing and she also appears to have very poor eyesight.  Consequently, she is more concerned about figuring out where she is and who or what is coming and going than eating.

The biggest reinforcement for Quincy is letting her take the time she needs to check out her environment and giving her space from whatever concerns her.  Sometimes the biggest reinforcement is listening when she tells me she has had enough and needs to go back to the car or even to go home. Listening to what your dog is telling you provides a lot of motivation for your dog and promotes a willingness to work with you.  Wouldn’t you rather work with someone who listens and takes your concerns into account, who is supportive and helpful vs. someone who simply makes you do something whether you want to or not and whether it’s rewarding or not?  I know I would.

Some trainers not only don’t use food in their training, they make a point of advertising the fact that they don’t use food in their training.  Those kinds of assertions tell me that the art of training has completely eluded that particular trainer!  They may or may not be using painful, inhumane methods but they’ve missed the point – missed the art of the training.

Something I find quite interesting is other dog owners’ response to me when I’m using food and working with my own dogs. I spend a fair bit of time with a trainer friend of mine who has a puppy a similar age to my own.  The two boys have spent a lot of their puppyhood together and are great friends.  We enjoy getting together for a dog walk or going out and finding socializing and training opportunities with the two of them.

One of the places we like to walk our dogs is a park out in Coquitlam that, sadly, has a large number of dogs wearing shock collars.  I think that most of them hate the sight of us coming down the trail almost as much as we hate the sight of them clutching tightly to their shock collar remote as they walk along.  Why?  Because all their dogs cluster around us like we were the pied piper!  We have food in our pockets, their dogs cannot leave us alone and this angers quite a few of the owners.  We don’t feed their dogs or even interact with them very much – trying hard not to get them in trouble.  If we say, “we have some good cookies in our pockets” by way of explanation, we often get the response, “Oh, you have food!” stated in disgust as they drag their dog away.  We’ve had people comment, “Oh that’s why he comes back to you so quickly – you’ve got some good stuff in there!”

Interestingly, quite a number of people smile as they see our dogs bouncing towards them – and bounce they do – it’s quite amusing!  We even get comments on how bouncy and happy the dogs are.  However, no one seems to connect the training methods with the happy, bouncy demeanor.  This same demeanor is not displayed by the dogs wearing the heavy equipment or accompanied by the food-angry owners.  We make the connection and so do our dogs.  Our dogs do come when they’re called and they don’t bug other people who may or may not carry food – that’s good training.

Please keep it positive – research your trainers thoroughly and make it a fun experience for your dog.  Food is good!



Reiki and Healing Effects on Animals


By Mari Omori and Sarah Janzen




Reiki is a Japanese energy healing modality that helps both humans and animals to heal on a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels.

What is Reiki?

Reiki is a Japanese word, and the translation is “Universal Life Force Energy”. A Reiki practitioner, who is attuned to Reiki, can access this energy and flow it into the client to activate the healing process. Reiki flows from the palms of the practitioner’s hands, and hands can be on the client or hovering over the client during a session.

Reiki is a safe and natural healing method that can be used at the same time with medical or other therapeutic treatments, because the energy flows to where it is needed for the body to heal.

The inspiration for Reiki was discovered by a Japanese monk, Mikao Usui in 1922, while completing a 21 day meditation on a mountain in Japan.

What are the Benefits of Reiki?Mari_and_Dog_Reiki_1

Alongside humans, our pets benefit from Reiki too! For pets, Reiki can:

• reduce pain in joints or discomforts from illnesses
• accelerate wound healing on injuries or post surgery
• soothe and calm rescue animals coming into a new forever home
• help the pet transition into the next world and helps the owner with grief

Reiki can heal physical discomfort

Links was a beautiful tuxedo cat who was as wide as he was long. He developed a strange skin issue that was resistant to several skin and allergy creams. He was extremely itchy and was chewing away his hair on and around the skin’s breakouts. The diagnosis was a skin allergy, however, none of the allergy medications were working. In fact, several had made Links very sick to his stomach.

Sarah worked on Link’s kidneys for three sessions. In animal Reiki the kidneys directly affect the skin. If there is a kidney blockage, it may show up in a variety of different unrelated physical symptoms. The Reiki will go to the source of the problem and heal the root issue.

Within one week, all the skin breakdown had healed. Unlike the allergy medications, there was no return of skin issues and Links showed no signs of irritation or skin breakdown again.

Animal Reiki is a great alternative to traditional medicines that may not find the root problem or may cause an unpleasant reaction for your pet.

When there is no choice but to use medications, animal Reiki can help with unpleasant side effects and increase the effectiveness of the medication. By improving the pet’s immune system, Reiki may shorten medication times and assist in recovery from illness or disease.

Reiki can treat behaviorial issues

Like people, animals express anxiety or discomfort in a variety of ways. Some animals may express their struggles through unwanted behaviors. These behaviors result when there is a blockage of energy flow through a particular chakra or energy center. Each of these centers are associated with emotions and therefore, have emotional and behavioral issues attached. Too much energy in a chakra may lead to extreme dominance or aggression and too little may result in an overly submissive or fearful pet.

Stella is a beautiful dog with the sweetest heart. Unfortunately, during the first 8 years of her life she was severely abused. When her new family decided to try pet Reiki, Stella had a debilitating fear of people. She was unable to look at or remain in the room with someone she did not know.

Sarah sent Reiki energy to Stella’s safety and security chakra, also know as the Root chakra located at the base of the tail. Within two session, Stella progressed to making extended eye contact and relaxing in a room with someone she did not know. Giving Stella Reiki allows her to have short breaks from her constant state of fight or flight, allowing her to heal and to learn to trust again.

Reiki can soothe emotions

Mari and Cassi the HorseWith permission from the stable owner, Mari walked around offering Reiki to the herd, but they all politely refused by stepping aside from the flow of Reiki. Only one horse, Cassi, was interested. Stepping up to Cassi, Mari offered her open palms and began flowing Reiki. Cassi moved closer and placed her left cheek right up against one of Mari’s hands. Within several minutes, Cassi’s eyes began to droop slowly, and her body swayed from side to side and began to look sleepy. A positive sign that Reiki was working. During the entire time, Mari felt Cassi take an immense amount of Reiki. After half an hour, Cassi signaled she had enough by stepping away and shaking her mane. After the session Mari and the owner discussed how Cassi responded to the treatment. The owner commented she wasn’t surprised Cassi was interested in Reiki, as this horse had experienced an emotional hardship with a previous owner, along with a history of events that stalled the healing process. Intuitively, Cassi knew that Reiki would help soothe her emotions. Animals in need of healing will be drawn to the flow of Reiki and will step closer or stay in close range of the practitioner. The animal will physically remove themselves away from the flow of Reiki to signal that they have received the right amount of healing for the session. The stable owner later reported that Cassi spent the rest of the afternoon in a state of absolute bliss!

Reiki can help senior pets with transitioning

Minnie, an elderly cat, had her health decline suddenly. Minnie’s owner immediately contacted Mari for healing assistance. Mari tuned into her intuition to check if Minnie really wanted Reiki. Mari received Yes as an answer, which was surprising because on previous occasions, Minnie never was interested in Reiki but her other feline roommate, Teela, was happy to soak it up.

When Mari offered Reiki to Minnie, she immediately began to purr and tried to move closer. Mari flowed Reiki to the elderly cat for an entire hour. Intuitively Mari could feel Minnie’s body shutting down, more specifically, her kidneys felt like they stopped working. Throughout the entire session, Teela never tried to paw or meow for attention like she usually does. Teela quietly sat still next to Minnie, as if to hold vigil for her. There was a sad look in Teela’s eyes that she understood it was time for Minnie to transition. After the session ended, Mari told Minnie’s owner she had to take her cat to the vet.

The vet confirmed that Minnie’s kidneys had stopped working, and there was nothing else they could do but put her to sleep. Minnie’s owner called Mari, to ask if she could tune into Minnie’s spirit to confirm if she was ready to leave this world. Mari, a Psychic

Medium, tuned into her Spirit Guides and received a firm Yes as the answer. This confirmation helped the owner to make a very hard decision. Minnie peacefully slipped into the Spirit World later that evening. Using her psychic mediumship abilities, Mari checked in intuitively to ensure Minnie’s spirit crossed over into the Spirit World smoothly. A part of Minnie must have known that Reiki would help with the transition process, and was open to a session at a turning point in her life. Minnie’s owner, was grateful for getting guidance and confirmation on what would be, a difficult decision.

Reiki has incredible amount of benefits for your furry family members, and they will definitely let the Reiki practitioner know if they need some healing by moving closer. In all sessions, it is up to the animals to decide how much and how long they need Reiki. Note that not all Reiki practitioners are intuitives or psychic mediums. Mari and Sarah are naturally intuitive and developed their abilities over time. Becoming Reiki Masters has certainly opened up their intuitive skills even more to help both people and animals, and they continue to take joy in being channels for Reiki.

Dog and Horse Photos courtesy of Mari Omori