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Raw Bones for Feline Happiness & Healthy Teeth (without brushing your cat’s teeth)

Chewing on bones is a behavior that we most often associate with dogs, but did you know that bones are great for cats too?! Just like with dogs, chewing on bones can provide significant benefits for cats, including keeping them busy and cleaning their teeth at the same time. Providing your cat with meaty bones, such as chicken necks and turkey tails, provides mental stimulation, exercises and strengthens their jaw, and cleans plaque and tartar from their teeth.

The True Nature of Cats

We want every cat guardian to think of their cats as little tigers. Sure, cats are cute and cuddly too, but they are also natural hunters and carnivores. They have sharp claws and teeth, are extremely agile, and have a keen ability to stalk, pounce and kill their prey. Their jaws are strong with sharp teeth meant to rip into flesh and crush bone and their rough tongue can help lick bones clean.

When you consider a cat’s true hunting nature and then picture the food that we provide to them (mushy, soft food), you can see how a meaty bone is much more likely to satisfy their natural chewing instinct.

Meaty Bones and the Fight Against Plaque

Meaty bones also help clean plaque and tartar from your cat’s teeth, which helps prevent periodontal disease, gingivitis, and other dental problems.Remember that the first line of defense in protecting your cat from developing dental issues is to provide them with a healthy diet that consists of little to none of the carbohydrates that are predominantly found in dry food (kibble). Plaque is a bacteria that feeds off of sugar, and since sugar is a type of carbohydrate, it’s safe to reason that kibble is worse for your cat’s teeth, as well as other aspects of her  health.

For many cats, that natural instinct to chew on a bone kicks in when you present them with a delicious, meaty chicken neck. However, for some cats, they have to be taught “how” to chew on larger pieces of meat and bone.

If your cat doesn’t gravitate to the meaty bone immediately, you can cut it up into smaller bite sized pieces. As your cat’s jaw gets stronger from the exercise of chewing, and she becomes more accustomed to the larger pieces, continue increasing the size of the pieces. It can be a gradual process, but many cats will graduate to gnawing on full-sized meaty chicken necks and wings.

For a point of reference, check out this quick video of our cats chewing on chicken necks and then stop by the store to talk about which meaty bones would be best for your cat.

How to Decipher Pet Food Labels & Misleading Marketing

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.

 

Cats Eat Meat! Phasing out kibble for cats at The Happy Beast

Starting this month, we’ve decided that The Happy Beast will be phasing out kibble for cats, and that we’ll stop carrying it completely as of July 2016! We know this may come as a surprise to a few of you so we wanted to explain our thinking and provide an opportunity for our customers to ask questions. We’re looking forward to this next stage in our growth and evolution and hope you’ll join us!

For years, we have committed a great deal of our time to educating our customers and increasing  awareness about why kibble can be detrimental to a cat’s health. Despite this, we’ve continued to sell it. Over the years, it has become increasingly difficult to sell something that we believe contributes to a variety of the health issues we see in cats today. Selling kibble has become the equivalent of preaching health and wellness on one hand, and then eating a diet of fast food and potato chips on the other hand.

We think it’s important to point out that this topic is not black and white and there are certain circumstances where we recognize the benefits of providing a high-quality kibble for cats. For instance, shelters, rescue groups, and individual’s feeding barn cats, may not have the time or economic ability to feed a diet of raw or canned food to dozens of cats. Then again, we cannot ignore the fact that when you look at the Top 10 Reasons cats go to the vet (reported by VPI pet insurance) we feel that a majority of those visits could have been avoided or remedied by feeding a biologically-appropriate diet of raw or canned food that consists primarily of animal protein.

What really got us moving in this direction was my recent interview with Dr. Angie Krause. In that interview, I learned that by the time Dr. Krause entered veterinary school in 2003, she was taught that cats should be on a canned food diet, and that kibble was no longer accepted as a good diet option for cats. I was both pleasantly surprised by this information and disheartened. If the vet community was now being taught that kibble is not appropriate for cats, then why is it still used and recommended so prolifically?

Let’s quickly review a couple of the most common areas of discussion: the potential health issues and the perceived reduced costs of feeding kibble:

Where kibble falls short and the potential health issues:

Read more in our “Kibble Transition Guide for Picky Cats” blog post

  • Too low in moisture. Can lead to kidney and urinary tract issues.
  • Too low in animal protein. Animal proteins provide the full spectrum of amino acids, including Taurine, which a cat needs, whereas plant-based proteins such as peas and potatoes do not. Peas and potatoes are the most common “binder” found in grain-free kibble, and can make up as much as 44% of the total kibble diet!
  • Too high in Carbohydrates.  All kibble, even “grain-free,” contains an average of 25% carbohydrate (a cat’s natural diet is generally less than 2%). This excess amount of carbohydrates promotes obesity because it is higher in sugar and causes cats to overeat. Cats tend to overeat kibble because the carbohydrates in it do not trigger satiety like fats and proteins do.  Additionally cats lack the enzyme, Amylase, which is responsible for digesting carbohydrates

Perceived reduced costs of feeding kibble:

  • Admittedly, it’s difficult to determine exactly what the cost savings would be to feed a biologically appropriate diet (and avoid extra vet visits) versus the average cost an owner would incur at the vet in order to treat a specific health condition.
  • From my personal experience, I know that I spent well over $8k over the course of four years to help my cat with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The cost to feed raw for an average ten-pound cat would be about $240/year, and the cost to feed canned would be about $480/year. (Costs vary depending on the diet, but yes, feeding raw can be even cheaper than feeding canned!) For my cat, switching him to a raw food diet made a tremendous difference; both in terms of his overall health as well as avoiding extra visits to the vet. I only wish I had made the transition sooner.

In summary, we know that change can be difficult. For example, why should a pet food company shift away from producing a profitable line of kibble cat food when the consumer demand still exists? Or why should a pet food store stop selling it? For us, we’ve decided to stop walking the line of this debate and stop carrying kibble for cats. We’re excited to have you join us, and we’ll continue working to provide the best-possible education and products to improve the health and happiness of cats.
We’d love to have you stop by the store or comment on this blog post to ask any additional questions. Or just use the hashtag #CatsEatMeat on social media to show your support and join the movement!

Feline Nutrition with Veterinarian Dr. Angie Krause

As many of you know, we spend a lot of time educating our customers about appropriate feline nutrition and which commercially-available foods meet our criteria for a proper diet. You can imagine my shock and disappointment when a coworker of my husband’s was told by his vet that cats are omnivores! I couldn’t believe my ears. The domestic cat is part of the Family Felidae which consists of 41 known species, all of which are known to be obligate carnivores.

An obligate carnivore requires a diet of meat and organs to survive, their bodies do not produce enzymes that can convert plant matter into essential amino acids and vitamins. Taurine is the most commonly known essential amino acid that cats must acquire from meat alone.

Over the years, we have had several personal conversations with local vets about feline nutrition and what their nutrition curriculum consisted of while in veterinary school. I decided to take this opportunity to sit down with veterinarian Dr. Angie Krause, DVM, CVA, CCRT from Boulder Holistic Vet, and formally interview her about feline nutrition.

As it turns out, our conversation about feline nutrition was short and simple: proper nutrition means feeding a biologically-appropriate diet that is high in moisture, high in protein, and low in carbohydrates. In essence, we should come as close to feeding a mouse, or other typical prey animal, as possible. This also means that for your cat to achieve optimum health, you should eliminate or feed as little kibble as possible. Kibble is too high in carbs and too low in moisture to meet the needs of a strict carnivore.

Of course my burning question was “why have vets recommended a kibble-based diet?” Dr. Krause said that by the time she had entered vet school in 2003, she was taught that veterinarians had gotten it wrong when it came to feeding cats. Cats had previously been lumped into the same category as small dogs, and were fed as such. However, it is now a well accepted truth that cats have very specific needs and that a diet high in carbs and low in moisture is not well suited for these strict carnivores.

Dr. Krause believes nutrition is everything and that if individuals fed their animals a biologically-appropriate, less-processed diet, the need to see a vet would decrease by 50%! She said that when she first started practicing at a conventional vet clinic, a majority of the feline cases she saw were inflammatory in nature (e.g. Pancreatitis, Irritable Bowel, etc.). When she switched to an integrated vet practice, where patients were feeding healthier foods, she saw a huge shift in the type of conditions she would see. This furthered her belief that nutrition plays a vital role in the overall health of companion animals; cats in particular.

The importance of nutrition became clear to Dr. Krause through her own health crisis. When she was just 18 years old, Dr Krause got mono, followed by chronic fatigue syndrome. The doctors told her that she would suffer the effects of her illness for the rest of her life. Dr. Krause was incredibly active and couldn’t accept this prognosis. At just 18 years old, Dr. Krause followed her intuition and used nutrition to make a full recovery. The key to her recovery was the removal of sugar!

We are all shaped by our experiences and what I valued most about my conversation with Dr. Krause was that she has personally experienced the effects that nutrition can have on our overall health and the power it has to bring us back from disease and illness.

Learn more about Dr. Kraus and her practice with Boulder Holistic Vet.