We've all read about pets being killed by tainted food and treats. Recalls by manufacturers are becoming commonplace. I like to think that I'm a conscientious pet owner. I research ingredients and only feed my cat premium food, but I never gave her dishes a second thought. Turns out, I should have. I first noticed something was wrong when, while drinking water, Pawlie would go rigid and stare into space, making strange slurping sounds, as though she were sucking on her tongue. When she didn’t react to my waving my hand in front of her face, I became alarmed and called her name loudly.
This cat, who jumps at any noise, including when the air conditioner fan clicks on, didn’t even flinch at my shout.
I watched her over the next week, and sure enough, each time she drank, she zoned out. I realized this wasn't something I could let slide, so waited for her to go to her bowl and I took the photo you see above, then video recorded her as she slurped. The next day, she was at the vet. At our appointment, she happily inspected the room, rubbed against Dr. Rodriguez, and rolled around on the floor. He said she was in great shape. But when I pulled out my phone and showed him the video, his smile vanished. He quickly snatched Pawlie up, holding her so that her back legs hung down.
“Watch her back legs,” Dr. Rodriguez told me, as he touched Pawlie's legs against the side of the table. As the legs made contact, she instinctively brought them up. After repeating this a few times, he finally set Pawlie down, with a pat. “At first, I thought she might have lesions on her brain,” he said. “But she doesn’t have weakness in her back legs. Her behavior on that video was like being in a trance.” He asked if she drank out of a ceramic bowl made in China. I said she drank from a ceramic bowl, but didn’t know where it was from.
Dr. Rodriguez shook his head and said he’d been seeing this more and more with his patients. “They’re getting toxicity of the brain from imported Chinese ceramics. There’s something leaching into their bloodstream and going to their brains.”
I was reassured that if Pawlie only ate and drank from stainless steel bowls, the symptoms would clear up in about six weeks. However, I was taken back when he told me that after doing research, he got rid of all his Chinese-made dinnerware and bought European and American, because they are subjected to stricter standards.
When I got home, I went straight to the kitchen and, sure enough, Pawlie’s bowl was made in China. An Internet search turned up a lot of news articles about lead being found in the glazing of dinnerware and pottery made in China and Mexico; two of the largest exporters to the U.S. I searched for stainless steel pet bowls, and the news was no better. Only two weeks before, the Veterinary Practice News put out a release that Petco recalled three types of imported stainless steel bowls when U.S. customs found that they contained small amounts of Cobalt-60, which is radioactive. This wasn’t the first time stainless steel pet bowls were recalled – or radioactive metal consumer goods, for that matter. In 2009, Durapet recalled stainless steel bowls from India because they contained high levels of lead. In January 2012, Bed, Bath and Beyond recalled tissue boxes that were so radioactive, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency advised that 10 hours of being within one foot of the boxes was the equivalent of having a chest x-ray. In 2008, alarms went off at a recycling plant in Flint, Michigan, when a cheese grater, made in China, was found to be radioactive.
Why is this happening? A 2008 Los Angeles Times article revealed that improper recycling of medical scanners and industrial equipment caused them to end up in smelters. Once melted down, they became tissue boxes, cheese graters, pet bowls, and who knows what else.
I ended up buying American-made stainless steel bowls from Platinum Pets of Valencia, California. [Disclosure: evox has no relationship with Platinum Pets. I bought these on Amazon.] Their website says that their products are made in the USA and are food safe, do not contain toxic chemicals, are FDA compliant, E.U. certified, and have an unconditional guarantee. I can vouch for the guarantee; my first set was missing little rubber feet for the stand. Instead of sending me new rubber feet, they sent me an entire set of bowls and a new stand and told me to keep the old set. Two years later, the dishes had some issues, and the company, very concerned about product quality, stood by their lifetime guarantee and replaced them for free. That’s great customer service.
As for Pawlie, her symptoms went away in about seven weeks. That was enough for me; I sadly replaced my beloved Russel Wright Oneida reproduction dishware (made in China) with Fiestaware, which is made in America, and is lead-free. [Disclosure: evox has no relationship with Fiestaware. I bought them through Kohl's.] Maybe I was being overly cautious, but the vet's information, the many recalls in the news, and seeing my cat make a complete recovery was enough for me to make a change.