Lily’s Kitchen Cat Food – New For November 2016

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The tasting panel

Aaah, lucky me!  The lovely people at Lily’s Kitchen have been sending out samples of their new cat food and I have some foil trays in my possession.  My resident tasting panel – Bart, Phoebe and Ringo – are going to sample 4 out of 9 different flavours.  But first, a little background on cat food retail.

There is a hierarchy in the world of cat food.  Amongst the huge array of beautifully marketed trays and pouches, there is an underlying snobbery as cat food manufacturers vy for our well earned pound.  And they all sound so good!!  Time to get wise, as they are not all created equal.

At the bottom of the pile are ‘grocery brands.’  Most of us, including myself have used these as they are often advertised on TV and are readily available at supermarkets and economical.   However,  compared to premium brands, the nutritional content is inferior.  Before we all go on a guilt trip because we have been buying supermarket cat food all along, if your pet loves it and is doing fine, then great!  But its good to know what other food is available for our feline friends, especially if they have changing dietary requirements or are just plain fussy!

At the other end of the scale, we have ‘premium brands’ like Hills and Royal Canin.  These are available from pet retailers are are notably more expensive, but read and compare the ingredients and the nutritional composition and you will see why.  The meat content is higher, therefore more protein, and there is less, or no cereals and fillers.  Some premium brands will also have the addition of ingredients you might find in health food stores, eg antioxidants and herbs, and you are more likely (but not always!) to find organic and ethically sourced meat from a premium brand.

It is easy to get dragged into the which cat food is the best debate.  Personally speaking, I feed a variety of different brands to my cats, because as soon as I find something they like, they change their minds!  I’m sure there are many cat owners out there who have experienced this, judging by the pondering faces in the cat food aisles.

There is also the question of cost to consider too.  I have bought expensive pouches of premium cat food only to find my three going for the gravy and leaving the meat!  At the end of the day, a cat food is only going to be any good if your cat will eat it!

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Are these all for me?

So when Lily’s Kitchen were sending out samples of their new cat food, I was interested in my cats’ reaction.  Lily’s Kitchen is superior to grocery type cat food, but is available at Tesco and Waitrose.  That makes it an ideal step up for owners wanting to feed a better quality cat food without having to shop for it separately.

Lily’s Kitchen was originally developed for dogs.  The founder of the company, Henrietta, had developed recipes for her dog Lily, who was prone to itchy skin.  The food was a success so it was only natural that Lily’s Kitchen should bring out a cat food with the same values – using good quality meat and free from grain, which is often the cause of stomach upsets and allergies.

Well, that’s the background.  Here’s the taste test, starting with the Hunters Hotpot.

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Just to give you all a heads up, the texture of these foods are like a pate, which may not suit all cats.  This one is a coarse pate with some jelly.  Bart and Ringo had a good go at this one but Phoebe was less impressed.  In the end just under half the amount put out was left, so I think we can give that a 6/10.

Phoebe is more of a fish connoisseur, so I had higher hopes for Catch of the Day.

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The texture was a bit smoother but  there is still some jelly present for  the jelly lovers.  All the cats finished their bowls so we are scoring that 9/10.  Why not a 10?  Well, although they ate all the food, they were lacking the gusto I have seen with some other types.  Perhaps it was the texture. Bart and Phoebe in particular are fond of gravy which is lacking in this brand.

Next up was Whisker Lickin Chicken.  This was a very smooth pate food…

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…which wasn’t that popular with my tasting panel I’m afraid!  They all left about a third each.  Or maybe they weren’t hungry.  Cats are odd creatures sometimes so its not always an accurate test.  I’ll opt for a 6/10.

Last one to try for now.  Lovely Lamb Casserole.  Unlike a casserole, there is a distinct lack of gravy.

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The texture is more like a fine mince with a little jelly.  I was disappointed at the appearance (as it didn’t resemble any casserole I’ve seen) but the cats were happy with this one and polished off their portions quickly.  I have marked this 10/10 because of their enthusiasm.

Just for reference, Lily’s Kitchen also do other flavours, plus organic recipes and mature and kitten trays.  There is also dry food and cat treats.  Regarding the food Bart, Phoebe and Ringo had sampled, I would buy certain flavours again and I would try others too, as this is a great brand with a higher meat content than some other well known brands.  Definitely one to try if your cat is fond of pate type cat food.  The foil trays retail at around 80-90p and the organic trays are around 95-99p.  Keep your eyes out for the organic festive turkey dinner variety for Christmas!

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Plastic Rabbit Housing – Ferplast Grand Lodge Plus Review

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I’m a huge fan of plastic pet housing due to ease of cleaning and low maintenance.  Ok, so plastic is not chew proof, but most rabbits find wood more palatable, and plastic has the advantage of being easy to wipe clean and disinfect.  So I was quite intrigued when my sister unveiled her new purchase for lucky rabbits Sage and Onion.  The Ferplast Grand Lodge Plus 120 at £213 from Amazon (at time of writing),  is a two storey plastic rabbit hutch which offers plenty of space for your pets without taking up room in the garden.  In Sage and Onion’s case, their Grand Lodge is indoors most of the time as they are predominantly house rabbits.  Space is even more of a premium when your bunnies live indoors and a plastic house blended into my sister’s semi-detached living room better than a wooden hutch.

Although the hutch is plastic, there are some wooden parts, namely the sleeping area and the ladders – one from the nest area and one leading down to the ground floor.  This hutch is available in bigger sizes too (140 and 160 models) and comes in grey, green or brown detail.  There are also basic versions (without the bottom tray, so can be placed on grass), and optional extras, like a roof insulation kit or PVC covers to protect against wind and rain.

 

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The hutch comes in flat pack so be prepared to do some building!  It is 115cm x 73cm x 117cm for the 120 model, so its a two person job to move it (23.3kg in weight).  There are  some nice features to this hutch, including sloping roof for water drainage which opens up for easy access.  Other openings into the hutch are a handy side door, the door for the nest area and the run opening at the bottom.  The package also includes a water bottle, bowl and hay rack.

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Roof opens for easy access

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Both top and bottom trays slide out for easy cleaning, and unlike wood these can be washed clean and quickly dried.  I particularly like this feature as it works like my own chicken coops, but bear in mind if you use this hutch indoors and your rabbit sprays, you will need  suitable litter trays or some additional protection at the sides.

Any downsides?  Well, my sister would prefer an extra door for the run at the bottom.  My issue is that although plastic is more hygienic, wood is warmer as it insulates and there doesn’t seem to be an insulating cover available for this item.  So if you are buying this item for use outdoors, you will need to keep your rabbits warm by additional means,  so be extra generous with bedding.  There is a roof insulating kit available to buy and clear PVC covers that fit over the wire to protect against driving wind and rain.  You can also move the hutch into an outbuilding during bad weather (not a garage with a car present because of fumes).  For my own plastic chicken coops, I insulate them by covering with an old carpet which I bungee cord in place to stop the wind lifting them off, taking care not to cover the ventilation holes.  This can also work with this hutch although admittedly it doesn’t look great!

This is a great alternative to a wooden hutch with a choice of variations to suit your requirements.  Just make sure you have someone good at DIY nearby if you’re anything like me! 😉

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Nootie Waterless Foaming Shampoo Review – Easier Way To Bath A Cat

Did she say 'bath?!'
Did she say ‘bath?!’

I am lucky that my two Siamese cats, Bart and Phoebe are so good natured that I can give them a bath without any injury to myself!  So I have done this once or twice a year on a hot day and they would go and dry off in the conservatory, unimpressed.  This is my turning point.  They really would rather not have a bath, and to be honest, I wondered if there was an easier way of cleaning a cat without saturating myself and the bathroom.  Even though they are tolerant to being bathed, they can still shake off a huge amount of water!  Ringo, my havana Oriental, I have yet to discover his reactions but none of my cats really get dirty as they live indoors.  However, these days pet owners, including myself are quite partial to clean, fragrant smelling fur!

The pet grooming business is now complimented by a huge range of shampoo products with delicious sounding names.  Gone are the days of standard shampoo and insecticidal…nowadays there are shampoos for white dogs, dark dogs, puppies and sensitive skin, to name a few.  For my furry trio, I opted for a foam shampoo that doesn’t need rinsing off.

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I decided on the Nootie  shampoo as it was paraben free with no harsh chemicals.  In fact, compared to some other shampoos, there were very few chemicals listed on the label.  This was important to me as my cats groom themselves dry, so I didn’t want them to ingest anything potentially harmful.  Alarmingly, tea tree is sometimes listed in shampoos for use on cats, despite some evidence of it being toxic to our feline friends.  This product can also be used on dogs and puppies.

Most animals dislike being sprayed and the hissing sound of an aerosol.  Modern pet products avoid aerosols which is a plus for the environment.  This shampoo is in a pump spray; with a few presses it dispenses a foamy pile which can be spread over your pet and massaged in.  Note that at this point, your cat may still object to this as there is an unfamiliar smell (soft lily passion – mmmmm!) and also because the product is still wet.  Its not to be confused with the dry shampoo human ladies like to use!

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Phoebe was my first guinea pig for this product as she happened to stand in some poo that day.  Phoebe stands relatively still but protests vocally when she has a conventional wet bath.  To the point where I wonder whether she would eventually give me a swipe one day .  This time, there was no filling of the bath, putting towels down on the bathroom floor and catching of said cat.  I did the deed within minutes on the couch as she was sitting next to me, and there was no cursing from Phoebe.  Sure, she tried to escape, but once the shampooing bit was over, I just needed to towel her off and she doesn’t mind a good towel rub.  Result – she went fluffy as she would with a normal bath, and she smelt lovely!

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Note Ringo watching from a distance in the second picture! 😀

I know I would never have problems with Bart.  Again, he would rather not have a bath but he tolerates everything I do with patience.  Even giving tablets is easy with Bart!  He seemed to give his metaphorical thumbs up to this experience….

Bart loves a good massage.  He wasn’t crazy about the taste of this shampoo but he was purring on my lap as I worked the product into his coat.  As a result, you can see the loose hairs over my pants!

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Quick rub with the towel and floof!!  Two down, one to go.

Ringo, being a newcomer to the household, has never had a bath with us.  He would be justified in arguing against one as he keeps himself beautifully clean and his sleek chocolate brown coat shines like a Minstrel.  Its a shame to ruffle it up really, but here goes…

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As it turned out he wasn’t too bad, despite the unimpressed look in the final picture!  In fact, all three cats were pretty well behaved and calm as large amounts of water wasn’t involved, and I did them all in half an hour without much exertion on my part.  The result?  Well, after towelling them off and leaving them to dry themselves, some patches dried a bit tufty.  These were places where I applied more foam, so was more wet, but a quick once over with a brush will put that right.  I don’t think this product will be enough if your cat has got a particularly contaminated coat, but for a quick freshen up it gets my vote.  The fragrance (no toxic lilies listed in this product!!) is pleasant and much nicer than pet wipe fragrance.  Its not the cheapest foam shampoo on the market – around £10 for a 207ml bottle at time of writing – but I chose it on the ingredients listing, which makes it stand out from other brands for me.  Having done my three fur babies, there is still around two thirds of the bottle left, but that depends how much you want to wet the coat.  I wouldn’t say I was a particularly heavy user.

Bathing a cat is not essential but should you need to, at least there are some choices out there that are less stressful for both cat and owner.  Feel free to let me know your experiences on the subject 🙂

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Hanging Vegetable Holder – Enrichment For Chickens

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Enrichment is a buzz word when keeping animals.  Gone are the days where it was sufficient to provide shelter, food and water – to keep our animals mentally happy, they need something to keep them occupied!

Chickens are pretty much on the go most of the time.  If you watch them free range, they are usually scratching around and pecking while they are foraging.  However, when they are in the run, the food is provided in feeders (no need to forage!) so adding a few props in the run is a good idea. Adding some different levels for your birds to hop onto are a simple way of providing interest.  I use an old stool and a mounting block, as they are easily cleaned, but an upturned bucket or a log, or large branch would be fine.  They are also good for hens lower down the pecking order as they have somewhere to escape to.

I chanced upon the Feathers and Beaky Veg Holder as I was looking for something to hang up some greens for the flock to peck at.  Throwing them on the floor meant they would get soiled and trod on so I thought this was a smart and convenient way to provide treats for the chickens.  My item was £13.13 from Ebay and came from a store, Pets Perfect in north Yorkshire.  The price of this veg holder varied on Ebay – up to £25.00, so shop carefully!

The conical metal spring holder is bigger than some designs I have seen on the market and stretchy to accommodate larger items.  The red plastic top which is easily opened to stuff the holder with leaves.  Because the gaps in the holder are fairly wide, the leaves need to be big, so cabbage would be preferable to spinach.

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I was quite excited to see if my flock would appreciate this gift, as in a previous blog I had bought them the chicken swing (much to my husband’s dismay).  Only to find they ignored it, pretty much like many toys I have bought for Bart and Phoebe.  Cue the “I told you” speech from hubby.  But as this new gadget will involve food, and chickens are naturally greedy, I can’t see this one failing.  I filled it with cabbage leaves and hung it in the run.

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Erm, what is THAT?

Chckens are generally wary of anything new, and it took a few bolder members of the flock to investigate before the word was out that it was edible!

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The swinging of the holder put some of the hens off, but after a while they realised it was harmless.

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I checked back a couple of hours later….

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I would say that was a positive result!  The hanger was at a height that all chickens could get to, but it is possible to raise it to encourage them to jump for the food, whcih would provide exercise and make the treats last longer.

Definitely a thumbs up from me and the flock!

Chicken Swing!

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I was quite intrigued at the thought of a chicken swing for my chooks when I first heard of this product.  It conjured up thoughts of Tweety Pie cartoons, and when it was initially out of stock, it made me want it all the more!  My other half scoffed at the idea (like men do) and said he could make one for half the price (which he didn’t).  I waited till the chicken swing became available again and snapped one up for my flock.

Priced at £19.99 from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust, all proceeds go towards helping to rehome ex-battery hens.  This is not any old perch for your hens as the swing is designed to be pumped by the chicken to keep it swinging.  The perch is bright yellow for the benefit of your birds (they are attracted to red and yellow colours) with an appealing corn cob design which gives them a secure grip.

Ideally, the swing should be fitted low to the ground to encourage hens to use it.  The chooks gave it a wide berth.  My flock prefer to use the mounting block in the run when they want to perch on something, so after a few days, I ended up placing the block nearby in a vain attempt to get them to hop on.

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Anyone want a go?

Weeks later, the swing remains untouched and still bright yellow through lack of use!  I have left it up hoping one of my chooks will have a eureka moment.  However, all hens are individuals, so please don’t let my experience put you off – if you think your hens might like this toy, order it from http://www.bhwt.org.uk/ and help ex battery hens at the same time.  Judging by the pictures on their website, the swing is appreciated by some hens who look very comfortable on it and seem to have the swinging motion sorted!  There is a great range of other gifts available for both hens and chicken mad humans if you are shopping for presents.

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Go on Bunty!

La Digue Cat Tree

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Credit to my hubby, Steve, who will be putting this lot together!

This is my latest present for the cats, yet another cat tree!  We have recently added a third cat to the family, Ringo, a havana Oriental.  As he’s still a kitten, he’s incredibly active and loves to climb and roost in high spots, so what better reason to have a nosey on www.zooplus.co.uk at their incredible selection of cat trees!



I love Zooplus.  Most of my cat supplies are from there as they stock a massive range of food and pet products.  My first cat tree lasted about 5 years before the 2 Siamese wrecked it, but I have saved the good parts as spares as the screw threads seemed to be universal.  This new purchase is a model called La Digue and is cream coloured, and cost £69.99 with free shipping.

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This model features a hammock at the bottom.

The only tool needed to put this tree together was an allen key which was provided along with instructions.

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Meanwhile, Bart and Ringo found the packaging!

The next tier has a hideaway box and another scratch post with a platform and toy.  The flat surfaces are covered in a plush fabric which can be vaccuumed easily.

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The removable cushioned cover is on the top platform – the drawstring fastening needs to be tightly secured.  The finished product is sturdy and fits in the corner of the room neatly as the base is 50 x 50cm.  Its 167cm tall, and you can see there’s a lot of climbing opportunity there!

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Bart and Ringo give their approval!

Ta daaa!  Assembled within 20 minutes!  Of course, it would take me a bit longer.  Thanks Steve!