Cat Food and Cross Contamination

I accidentally contaminated myself with the vegetable oil in my cats food last week. Gross? I agree.

As I was heading to bed, I had a cheese snack in one hand. It was dark and I realized that I should check on my cats food level before I finally went to bed. If his dish empties out before morning I get a big fuzzy wake up call. So instead of flipping on the light and ruining the nice sleepy calm I had going, I transferred my cheese to my non dominate hand and stuck my finger in his bowl to check the food level. It was only after I had finished my cheese that I realized that even though I had wiped off my hand after touching his food, I had not washed with soap and water. There was every chance that oil was transferred to my cheese. I hoped that I wouldn’t get sick, but I wasn’t surprised when I found myself ill.

Every time I have an exposure to oils I try and figure out how to avoid having it happen again. Because there are few other people talking about oil allergies, I usually look up better understood food intolerances like gluten or peanuts. Most pet food does not contain peanuts but they often do contain gluten. So I did some reading about pet food and cross contamination of gluten.

There’s not a lot of studies about gluten and pet food cross contamination in the home, but I did read about a study where farmers have been sick from feeding horses grains and breathing in the dust. Apparently the dust kicked up from dumping grain is full of gluten and when inhaled into the lungs its just as damaging to the intestinal lining as if it was consumed orally.

There is often wheat in pet food and anecdotally celiacs do get sick from breathing in flour, so it theoretically could be possible that pouring cat food can aerosolize the proteins and potentially cause a reaction. Theoretically those aerosolized proteins could have oils  on them too.

Another blog I read talked about about gluten and pets that made some valid points.

“For the cat lovers — [cats] eat and then they spend lots of time cleaning themselves directly after eating. I’m really not in love with the idea of handling an animal that’s covered in saliva mixed with glutenous food, let alone having the cat roam all over… including trying to lay on my pillow when I’m not looking.”

Just to keep me safe in the future, I have instituted some new policies:

1) The scoop I use for cat food is plastic and has been used for bad oils for a long time, so unless I use a tissue to hold the scoop handle, I always wash my hands after scooping my cats food.

2) From now on I will always try to hold my breath when dumping food from the bag into our airtight container, just in case particles become airborne.

3) I’ve taken to washing my dish rag after cleaning any dishes that have come in contact with my cats food, before using them for any other dishes. Just in case I could transfer the oils to another dish accidentally.

4) As my cat loves to sleep on my pillows and pillows have direct contact with my face, I have taken to covering them with my comforter when I’m not using them.

5) I am trying to train myself to wash my hands before I put my fingers in my mouth, or handle food. This is actually harder than it might sound. I often touch my face or rub my lips without thinking about it. Still its best to get out of the habit of making sure my hands are clean when that happens.

6) I’ve decided that at least for now I’m not going to use my feliway diffuser. I’ve also read about Asian women getting lung cancer from cooking with vegetable oils over high heat. Obviously even traces of oil can get into people lungs, and cause trouble. I really don’t like the idea of accidentally causing myself problems after such careful avoidance of oils in my diet.

Ultimately I would like to move my cat off of the food that has both gluten and vegetable oils, but that’s tricky, as my cat is very happy right now. When he is unhappy he expresses it by peeing on things, so I don’t really want to rock his boat. Its funny that I worked so hard to remove oils from my diet and environment but completely forgot my warm fuzzy companion who I live so close and personal with. It’s really weird what slips through the cracks.

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