The Happy Beast - Blog - Diet & Digestive Health

From Kibble to Raw: A Feline Food Journey

This month we are featuring Meghan B, who successfully and happily transitioned her feline household onto a species-appropriate raw food diet. As Meghan says, the outcome is a “Cat Mom Win!” Read her challenges, tips, and ultimate success story.

Mya and Diego are my four-year-old purr-babies who came from the same litter. Despite their single origin, each is a unique individual with a differing personality and, as it turns out, gastrointestinal fortitude!

Both fur balls are 100% indoor cats and had been on a kibble (dry food), free-fed diet their entire lives. Previously, I’ve experimented with different proteins and limited-ingredient diet foods because Mya seemed to be particularly sensitive to chicken and salmon. Another concern of mine was the lack of water both cats would drink from their bowl. Instead, they prefer to meow (loudly!) in the sink until I turn on the faucet. Throughout my four years of being the proud cat mom I am, I had never heard of a raw food diet… until recently on a visit to The Happy Beast!

Why raw food you ask? For one, kibble is full of carbohydrates that can often lead to obesity. It lacks a sufficient amount of species-appropriate nutrients and has little to no water content. While I know that kibble may be cheaper and free-feeding my cats is convenient, I’d rather go a little out of my way for the overall health of my babies!

Our cats’ relatives are hunters and live off their prey, so why shouldn’t our pet cats also eat raw?! Raw food is all protein. It’s minimally-processed, contains plenty of moisture, and is amazing for your cats’ digestive health.

Mya has not thrown up once since switching to raw, which for me, is a huge Cat Mom win. Both of their coats are already softer and their stool is smaller/less frequent because their bodies are using all the essential nutrients from their food.

The process of switching my kibble-loving cats to raw-food felines was not the easiest, but I urge all of you that are trying to not give up! They were both set in their kibble-eating ways, although, Diego was much easier to transition than Mya. I started by shredding dehydrated food and mixing it in with some of their old kibble. Mind you, I had to try several types of dehydrated foods because Mya wouldn’t touch some or, alternatively, she would get sick. Next, I gave them only dry, dehydrated food for a few days before adding water to rehydrate the food. This was Mya’s first time eating “wet” food, because, unlike her brother, she would not touch canned food. After sticking to the rehydrated food for a couple of weeks, I then started to slowly introduce raw food. I began with duck raw food because they had been eating duck in both the kibble and dehydrated form. But Diego threw up and Mya wouldn’t touch it. I had stayed away from chicken for years because Mya would get sick every time she had anything chicken based, but I decided to try it in a raw form. Two white cats cuddlingI put a spoonful of raw food under some of their dehydrated food. Diego loved it! Mya still wasn’t convinced. She would eat around the raw food. I kept trying this with Mya for a few days and started to mix the dehydrated food into the raw so that she had to try it. I would also add a tablespoon of water to it. It took a bit of time and persistence, but she finally started eating the whole bowl of food. Within a few days from that point, Mya was completely on a raw food diet! Victory!!! The overall transition took Mya about 1 1/2 months and Diego about 3 weeks.

Overall, I truly couldn’t be happier that my fur babies are now on a raw food diet. Despite the trials and tribulations to reach the outcome, it was all worth the effort. I’m looking forward to seeing continued health benefits for my kitties over the months and years to come!

If you’re working on transitioning your own kitties to a raw food diet, I highly recommend a few other blog posts from The Happy Beast:

Simple Diet Solutions for Anti-Inflammation

Inflammation is a healthy and normal response the immune system uses for healing, but if not kept in check, can cause pain and more damage. For animals suffering from chronic inflammation and inflammatory diseases, we look for diets that are anti-inflammatory instead of pro-inflammatory.

When is inflammation a good thing?
Inflammation is a useful response of the immune system to attack foreign debris, objects, viruses and bacteria. When the body is attacked, white blood cells surge to the affected area to combat possible infection and to repair or destroy affected cells. The increase of blood flow and the release of healing chemicals cause the affected tissue to warm and swell, which creates pressure or pain. In acute cases, inflammation is a great response, it lets us know we are hurt, and it helps us to recover.

Inflammatory Disorders
Chronic inflammation results in conditions like ear infections, allergies, arthritis, colitis, IBD and IBS, dermatitis and pancreatitis, and can cause cancer and chronic pain. Most inflammatory disorders begin as a healthy immune response. Inflammatory disorders develop for a few different reasons. 1) The cause of initial inflammation is not eliminated, 2) the immune system responds to the pain resulting from the initial inflammation and more inflammation occurs to treat the existing inflammation, or 3) the body suffers from an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakes healthy tissue for a pathogen, and the body attacks itself.

Anti-inflammatory Diet
Unfortunately, we can’t control everything that contributes to inflammation, but we can control what our animals eat. Because the body’s natural response is inflammation, we choose foods that keep that response in check. This is especially important for animals suffering from disease, but healthy animals benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet as well.

  • Feed raw, species appropriate foods
    Remember, inflammation occurs when something foreign enters the body, so we want to feed our animals foods that the body recognizes and accepts as natural nutrition. Our animals evolved eating fresh meat, and we can mimic that with species appropriate raw diets that are either frozen, freeze-dried or dehydrated.
  • Dogs may benefit from added fruits and vegetables
    Fruits and veggies with anti-inflammatory properties like berries, cruciferous vegetables (like brussels sprouts, kale and spinach), and dark leafy greens. Some commercially available raw foods, like SmallBatch and Bravo include these ingredients in their dog food formulas. For cats, we always want to avoid plant-based proteins and carbohydrates.
  • Avoid kibble and other highly processed foods
    High cooking temperatures actually increase the pro-inflammatory property of the food. Processed, dry dog food (we call “kibble”) are heated to temperatures of 400°, resulting in denatured proteins and high levels of AGEs, both of which can trigger an inflammatory response.

Inflammation Fighting Supplements

How to Decipher Pet Food Labels & Misleading Marketing

Got H2O? Keeping Your Dog Hydrated this Summer

Hot summer days paired with Colorado’s dry climate means more dogs are susceptible to dehydration in the next few months. Read our tips for keeping your dog hydrated this summer.

Dehydration can cause lethargy, loss of appetite, dry mouth and if not timely addressed, may deteriorate digestive, urinary and kidney health.

If you suspect your dog is dehydrated:

  • Perform a “skin-test”: Gently pinch the skin on the back of your dog’s neck and release. If the skin doesn’t snap into place, your dog may be dehydrated and you should seek veterinary care.
  • Lift your dog’s lip and apply pressure with your index finger on the gums. The gums should turn white with pressure and back to pink once pressure is removed. If gums stay white, your dog may be dehydrated.

Never ever leave dry food dry.

Canines’ natural diet of meat and scavenged foods is at least 70% water, but kibble (dry dog food) contains less than 10% moisture. Proper hydration is critical for proper digestion and organ function and without enough moisture in the diet, your dog is likely to be chronically dehydrated.

Dogs will drink a ton of water to compensate for this loss of hydration. However, most water consumed outside of meal time will move too quickly through the digestive tract for it to be properly absorbed into the body. (Maybe you’ve experienced this when trying to increase your own fluid intake. I remember someone telling me, “If you’re new practice is drinking 80oz of water a day, your new hobby will be urinating.”

My favorite way to approach this problem is to feed a species-appropriate diet of fresh foods. This can be as convenient and cost-effective as feeding a high-quality dry food.

If you choose to feed your dog dry food (kibble), add something to his bowl to help him stay hydrated.

Carry water everywhere you go.

  • Keep a portable water bowl hooked to your dog’s leash. At The Happy Beast, we carry styles that snap or clip to your leash, backpack or belt. We also love Gulpy’s- a water bottle with an attached fold-out water dish.

Make flavored ice-cube treats.

  • Pour raw goat milk or broth into ice cube trays and freeze. Pop out a cube for a fun cool treat!
  • To keep your dog busy longer: Fill a plastic tub (yogurt and margarine containers work well) with water or broth, add treats, apple slices and carrots and freeze. Once frozen, remove from plastic tub and let your dog enjoy on your patio or yard. Perfect way to keep your dog entertained and hydrated!

 

Retrain the Cat Brain: Solutions for Eliminating Kibble

As we approach our July 4th Kibble Independence Day, we want to prepare and support our customers who are transitioning their cats off of kibble (dry food) by shedding some light on the inner workings of the cat brain and why you may be encountering some challenges along the way.

Why are cats such finicky eaters?! It’s fresh meat, just take a bite! (At least that’s how I’ve felt when transitioning some of our foster kitties.)

The most important lesson that any animal learns is how to identify and secure a food source. Wild animals teach their young what food is by bringing them dead or nearly dead prey in order to teach them how to hunt and what their natural food source is. A young animal needs to know how their prey looks, smells, and tastes.

We humans, teach our cats the same lesson when we offer them food, whether it’s kibble, canned, or raw food. Cats learn what their “prey” is from a very young age. This is why it is often much easier to transition a younger cat onto a raw food diet than it is with an older cat. Our mantra for transitioning any cat is “stay persistent and consistent in your attempts.” Some cats learn quicker than others, but as long as you don’t give up, your attempts will eventually be rewarded.

In addition to understanding the benefits of feeding a “zero” kibble diet, we think understanding how cats relate to their food has the potential to give us a bit more patience in the process. Our foster cat, Carlos, has just started eating about 1-2 oz. of fresh food per day, and it has taken close to two months. Compare this experience to feeding one of our foster kittens, 6-week-old Clementine, who has devoured raw food without hesitation. The experience is as different as night and day, which also speaks to the importance of introducing healthy food and habits as early on as possible.

Common Challenges & Solutions:

  • My cat is now waking me up at 5am to EAT!!! Get an automated feeder to help adjust to feeding your cat only twice per day rather than the “free feeding” that we often see with cats on a kibble diet. At The Happy Beast, we carry a great automated feeder from Petsafe that includes a tray so that you can fill it with either canned or freeze-dried raw food. You set the timer and the top is released at the designated chow time.
  • Keeping cats off of kibble. Some cats will put up a fight when it comes to trying a new food. Maybe they will eat the new food really well at first, but then a few days later won’t even look at it. Do not cave in and give them their old kibble! If you give in, you will essentially be starting the entire process over. Of course we don’t want you to starve your cat; the process simply requires offering a variety of different options throughout the day. We suggest rotating foods and, at a minimum, trying three different flavors and three different brands. When you find a brand and flavor that works, you can use that as the foundation of for your cat’s calorie intake, but it is still important to offer them different types of food since you never know when you will find a “new favorite.”
  • My cat is now crazy with energy! Most cat’s will feel a renewed sense of energy once they have transitioned off of kibble and onto a fresh food diet. Take this opportunity to start a new play routine with new toys or supervised outside time. Or introduce a cat harness and be the wonderful weirdo who walks their cat down the sidewalk! 🙂

For more info about Kibble Independence Day or transitioning your cat off of kibble, check out a few more of our recent blog posts. Good luck and stop by the store if you have questions or would like to talk more.