My Best Holistic Cat Care Tips - By Lisa Hannaby Aird

Jul 01, 2024
Dr Conor Brady
My Best Holistic Cat Care Tips - By Lisa Hannaby Aird

Running a cattery, I’ve been in an incredible position to see hundreds of cats over thousands of hours. I’ve emptied the foulest-smelling litter trays and wiped up regurgitated food and vomit. I’ve seen what appear to be burn marks where flea spot ons have been applied and more cases of thyroid and kidney issues than I’d care to. Whilst it's the experience of one single person; a complete anecdote, we often use our experiences to fuel our research and that’s exactly what I did. I’ve learned a few things about raising and caring for cats, and to date, these are my best holistic cat care tips, with a bit of science thrown in for good measure.

Live the Low Tox Life!

It turns out cats haven’t evolved enough to tolerate our toxic life.

A toxin is defined as any substance that must be neutralised and eliminated to avoid its promotion of ill-health if left to accumulate. This is known as detoxification (and no, we’re not talking juicing or colon cleanses!).
Detoxification is carried out by a range of mechanisms and in a healthy system, toxins should be able to find a way out.

Initially, the body will attempt to detoxify at source.

These locations include the intestinal mucosa, respiratory mucosa, microbiome, and the skin epidermis. Whilst these also provide a physical barrier to prevent toxin transport, they also express a range of enzymes which are essential in sweeping toxins away.

Detoxification falls into three phases.

The first two phases are concerned with breaking down the toxin in the body, and phase three is concerned with excreting it. For us to manage ours and our cat’s toxic load, all three phases need to be working optimally.

Unfortunately, the domestic cat possesses certain genetic mutations which mean these detoxification pathways aren’t as efficient as they need to be.

We first started to learn more about this when we realised that cats have a particular sensitivity to phenolic drugs like paracetamol and aspirin.

It turns out that cats demonstrate an inactivation of the gene responsible for the phenol detoxification enzyme and would you believe it was their diet that contributed to this?

Phenols are found in plants and as cats are hyper-carnivorous (they get everything they need from animal tissue), there was no evolutionary reason for them to be able to process these compounds. Cats evolved to detoxify environmental threats, not plants they would never choose to eat, nor human-made synthetic ones (medications).

The problem is, this enzyme is involved in a larger pathway, which deals with things like steroids, hormones, plastics, mould, heavy metals, and other medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.

Can you see the problem?

The bottom line is that cats metabolise these compounds at a much slower rate, meaning they are at risk of a build-up. This is why they appear more sensitive and are in fact at a higher risk of conditions like chronic kidney disease and hyperthyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism is widely accepted as the most common feline endocrine disorder. The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system. It is a small butterfly shaped gland in the neck. One of the main functions is to produce hormones to regulate the body’s metabolism (the process that turns food into energy). These are more commonly referenced as T3 and T4. Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid is hyperactive meaning there is an increased production of thyroid hormones.

It is believed that the exposure to thyroid-disrupting compounds in the environment, drinking water or diet contributes to the prevalence of hyperthyroidism in cats.

Interest in this first appeared with the introduction of fire-retardant chemicals in many household items. The rates of hyperthyroidism seemingly increased with the introduction of these products.

The poor metabolism of toxins, including these fire-retardant compounds is thought to alter the structure and function of the thyroid gland. Not only that, but the slower metabolism of compounds, including hormones and therefore the slower elimination of T4 hormone, leads to high circulating levels.

What is particularly interesting is that these compounds are noted as being higher in the cat than the human they live with, which does offer some clarification that it is an issue with metabolism of them in the cat. If it was simply environmental exposure, humans too would have the same levels.

Now onto chronic kidney disease.

One of the main roles of the kidneys is to filter helpful and harmful compounds in the blood. It stands to reason that the more harmful compounds it must process, the sooner it reaches its retirement party. It is often suggested that chemical exposure is a progression factor in the disease and sadly cats are regularly exposed to cleaning agents, pesticides, and many more environmental toxins. These can be ingested, inhaled, or exposed via the skin.

This is in fact where the issue lies. Many cats are indoor cats, so they are constantly exposed to what we use in our home, which includes:

- Cleaning products,
- Air fresheners,
- Odour neutralisers,
- Beauty products,
- Bathing products,
- Soft furnishing protectants,
- Washing detergents/fabric softeners,
- Floor cleaners,
- Perfumes/fragrances.

Airborne particles can attach themselves to fur and are then ingested when the cat grooms themselves. Whilst we may pop out to go shopping or even spend the day at work, for the indoor cat, they have 24-hour exposure, with a system that is already a little slower at metabolising modern day toxins.

Luckily, we can limit their exposure.

We can opt for non-toxic cleaning products, ditch the fabric softener, opt for a steam mop, and check the labels for any beauty or cleaning products we choose to use. We love the ingenious probiotics cleaning products in the home.

Consider using glass bowls/wooden boards instead of plastic.

Consider using a HEPA air filter in the home to remove harmful particles from the air, and vacuum regularly with a HEPA vacuum. Amazing air/Air Doctor (depending on where you live) is a cracking filter!

Also consider the use of any long-term medications for your cat and how you can support their body to metabolise them, keep an open dialogue with your vet if you feel your cat is struggling with a particular medication.

Supporting their gut, skin, liver, and kidney function will also aid detoxification pathways.

Finally, cats have evolved to utilise animal tissues well. We would always advocate a fresh-food, carnivorous diet for the feline, offering the system what it has evolved to process and nothing that it struggles with.

On that note, let’s explore what to feed your cat in a little more detail.

Feed Real, Feed Fresh

Cats have evolved as hunters. They consume prey containing high amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and minimal amounts of carbohydrates. Anyone who has had the pleasure of a dead animal by their door will appreciate this; we don’t tend to find potato gifts from our cats.
The cat has seemingly evolved as a strict or obligate carnivore; meaning the nutrients they require are found in animal tissue. As such, there is no current nutritional basis for energy to be supplied by carbohydrates; providing other nutrients are available. This is an important caveat - cats, like any animal, want to survive, so if the only offer on the table is carbohydrates, they will eat it - they just probably won’t do particularly well on it.

But why?

Well, there is evidence of limited amylase activity in the pancreas and small intestine (even compared to dogs), which may explain why some cats will not tolerate high starch diets.

Given the limited intestinal enzyme capacity, scientists smarter than us have argued that the consumption of excessive amounts of digestible carbohydrates in the cat will not lead to glucose absorption, but rather a substrate for increased microbial fermentation, causing gastrointestinal adverse effects (read, a sure fine way to vomiting/regurgitation and diarrhoea).

The thing is, cats are defined as hypercarnivores, which means a small carnivorous mammal with a proportionally large brain. This means they have a high brain glucose demand. This high demand simply couldn’t be met by carbohydrates present in a natural prey diet. Cats therefore naturally have a higher rate of gluconeogenesis (the production of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources) and are perfectly able to use protein and fat to survive and thrive!

In similar tests to dogs, cats are able to target their nutrient intake. When given the choice, they will specifically aim for a high intake of protein. In times of low protein, they will opt for an increased fat intake to achieve balance. When carbohydrate intake is high, this limits intake of other nutrients and results in deficits – for that reason, a carbohydrate ceiling is proposed for the cat. So, the hungry cat is hungry for nutrients, not food.

For the cat, we need to prioritise protein and fat intake. Sources of protein include red meat, white meat, game meat, eggs and oily fish. Fat is found in many meats and pasture raised meats are often higher in beneficial fats. But you will find beneficial fats in oily fish, eggs and oils (fish and hemp).

Offer Fresh Filtered Water

Cats don’t naturally have a thirst drive, they evolved to survive in hot, desert climates. In addition, when they have access to their natural diet, a large percentage of that would contain moisture. This is why some cats don’t appear to drink much water.
But as in our earlier point, our water can be off-putting for our toxin-avoiding cats too, which is an additional concern if we aren’t feeding a moisture rich (fresh food) diet.
The UK’s water supply is one of the best in the world yet drinking water quality varies from region to region and it can contain a range of compounds.


Chlorine is one of the ways in which our drinking water is disinfected. When chlorine is added to water, it destroys the membrane of microorganisms and kills them. Chlorine disinfects water but does not purify it. Whilst it is useful in sterilisation, when added to water it reacts with organic matter producing substances known as chlorinated hydrocarbons and in 2014, the EPA in the US classified them as main causes of cancer.

Chlorine has also been seen to destroy epithelium and mucosa – paving the way for increasing sensitivities. Some studies have indicated how chlorine destroys hair proteins.
Finally, chlorinated drinking water has been associated with colon, stomach, pancreas, liver, bladder and anal cancer.

Of increasing interest is how chlorine reduces levels of oxygen in cells – it has been shown that chlorinated water has an effect on heart function and circulation.
Luckily, chlorine is fairly easy to remove from water with the help of carbon based filters.

Heavy Metals in Water

The concentration of heavy metals present in drinking water is still often not within recommended limits. In many samples, contaminants have included arsenic, cadmium, nickel, mercury, chromium, zinc, and lead. The resulting health issues may include cardiovascular disorders, neuronal damage, renal injuries, and risk of cancer and diabetes.

The general mechanism involved in heavy metal-induced toxicity is thought to be the production of reactive oxygen species resulting in oxidative damage largely in the liver. Of interest, long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking-water is related to increased risks of skin cancer as well as other skin lesions such as hyperkeratosis and pigmentation changes.

Data is indicating heavy metal-contaminated water is resulting in high morbidity and mortality rates all over the world in humans. It is also associated with a number of epigenetic alterations.

Plastic Microfibres

Plastic microfibres have been found to contaminate 72% of tap water samples in European nations, including the UK. These microfibres are believed to come from various sources including clothes made of synthetic fabrics, car tyres, paint and microbeads from cosmetics.

The health risks are still unclear, but microplastics are known to contain and absorb toxic chemicals. Research has also indicated that conditions inside the digestive systems of wild animals could potentially be facilitating the release of those toxins into the body. More research is currently needed to determine the exact effect on health.


Ethinyl estradiol (EE2) a chemical found in the contraceptive pill (a potent form of the female sex hormone oestrogen) it seems is getting into drinking water supplies.

Studies have shown estrogenically active substances discharged into the environment can lead to the feminization of male fish, causing them to effectively switch genders. Although there is no suggestion that this will affect the human or other animal populations in the same way, the suggestion that these synthetic hormones are finding their way into drinking water supplies is still a concern.


Pharmaceutical compounds including anti-depressants and cocaine by-products have been found in UK tap water but only at very tiny concentrations. Researchers have also found caffeine, carbamazepine (an ingredient in epilepsy medication) and the painkillers ibuprofen and naproxen in treated drinking water – though levels were deemed low enough that they wouldn’t pose a health risk to humans.

Are they still low enough to not pose a risk to our pets? It's certainly a question we have been ruminating here.

The issue is that water is possibly the single most important nutrient for the body, so of course we need to offer it to our pets.

Firstly, your cat needs a high moisture diet (fresh food), secondly, when you offer your cat/s water, it should be filtered and served in a glass or porcelain bowl. Remember to clean the bowl regularly too! Berkey filters are great for homes, or Phox are a cracking company based in Scotland if you just want a jug (they’re glass jugs too).

Sack off the chemical flea and worm treatments!

You must have noticed the theme by now? We push for the low-tox life for dogs, but cats seem to be even more sensitive.

Unfortunately, because cats hunt, we are told that they’ll get worms and fleas all the time.

But firstly, remember that worm treatments do just that. They treat a burden if it is present. They don’t prevent it. So rather than signing up for the monthly or quarterly wormer, wouldn’t it make more sense to treat if your cat actually gets worms?

This is where worm count kits come in. You send a poop sample off, you find out if your cat has worms and then treat accordingly.

Secondly, why risk dousing your cat in harmful flea products when there are safer, natural options like Biospotix Spot On for Cats and kittens?

If you would like to learn more about fleas and worms in both cats and dogs, we have plenty of articles to keep you awake on your Friday night!

It's clear that our cats are living in a toxic environment - one they haven’t evolved to thrive in. My tips for helping them live their healthiest, longest and happiest life include:

Feed a species-appropriate diet 

For the cat, this is a raw food diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, they need animal tissue to survive and thrive! Pop to your local raw food shop and ask their advice, these guys are some of the most knowledgeable people you will come across when it comes to feeding pets! Also take a look at our articles. You can also consult with a feline nutrition expert too!

Buy a water filter 

Whether it's a home system or a jug for now. Real water drinkers know that all water doesn’t taste the same and when you’ve tasted the filter difference, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. Your cat (and dog) will thank you!

Take a look at your cleaning product cupboard 

In an ideal world we’d have a cupboard of Ingenious Probiotics products, but start with one product at a time and see how you go.

Grab a steam mop - these run on water (and electric of course). You’ll never have to worry if your cat flies in through the cat flap mid-mop - they won’t get anything toxic on their paws!

Ditch the air fresheners/reed diffusers/plug-ins - clean is clean - open a window, even in the depths of winter to get some fresh air in instead!

Whilst you’re at it, you really don’t need fabric conditioner either - clothes are fine without it, but if you like soft towels, pop some white vinegar in the drawer instead and they will soften right up!
Note that baking soda is great for removing odours, as is white vinegar.

Use wood pellets in their litter tray 

These are rarely perfumed (if you check the label).

Opt for natural worm and flea treatments/preventatives - more to come on here about this! 


I hope you have found these top tips useful. As I mentioned, they are the result of my hours spent caring for cats. I want to emphasize the importance of minimising toxins in a cat's environment due to their limited ability to detoxify efficiently.

I hope you consider feeding a species-appropriate diet, using non-toxic cleaning products, providing filtered water, and opting for natural flea and worm treatments.

Overall, we want our cats to be living the low-tox life!

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