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.
- POST: Cats Eat Meat! Phasing out kibble for cats at The Happy Beast
- POST: Kibble Transition Guide for Picky Cats
- POST: What is the Difference Between Raw and Canned Food for Cats?
- POST: 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.
Old dogs are my favorite. The sweet, gentle guys, the grouchy old ladies, and the 12 year olds who still think they’re puppies. Senior dogs just make my heart melt! As dogs get older, we need to remember to address their changing needs. Let’s look at nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle for senior dogs.
Senior dogs will require slightly different nutrition plans depending on their individual health concerns (the most common being arthritis, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease and obesity).
Minimally-processed food: As the digestive system ages, it becomes even more important to feed highly digestible foods. Minimally-processed food (raw, dehydrated, freeze-dried or air-dried) are more digestible than kibble.*
If you prefer to feed kibble, consider incorporating some type of less-processed food. Dehydrated and freeze-dried foods (like Sojo’s) mix well with kibble, or try adding ground meat, eggs, cottage cheese or low-sodium broth.
High-Quality Protein: Unless your dog has an advanced kidney disease, do not restrict the amount of protein in his diet. Senior dogs require protein to convert into energy and to maintain muscle mass. Avoid low-quality protein sources like animal by-products and plant-based proteins (soy, corn, etc.) which tax the kidneys. Instead, choose a dog food that uses whole muscle and organ cuts.
Healthy Weight: Many older animals are overweight due to slowed metabolism and reduced activity. Others may have a hard time keeping weight on, which is often a result of illness. There are many underlying causes for weight-related issues. Be sure to talk with your vet to better understand these. Carefully monitor your dogs calorie-intake and periodically assess your dogs waistline to make sure she’s staying on track!
Fish Oil: The Omega 3s found in fish oil reduce inflammation and support brain health. Try Nordic Naturals, InClover’s Glow, or a treat made with fish like The Honest Kitchen’s Beams.
Digestive Enzymes: Enzymes help the digestive system break down food so nutrients may be more easily absorbed and utilized by the body. Dogs with cancer, pancreatitis, kidney and immune disorders in particular will benefit from enzymes. One way to give your dog a good daily dose is to include green tripe in her meals. Try K9 Natural’s raw or Tripett’s cans.
Joint Support: Supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin reduce joint pain and increase joint mobility. Check out InClover’s Connectin and Nupro.
EXERCISE: Physical & Mental
The less we move, the harder it is to get moving! Although senior dogs may not run and jump and hike like they used to, it’s still important for them to get regular exercise. Daily walks (even short ones) help to maintain muscle tone and joint mobility. Do you have time for two five-minute walks each day? Even to the mailbox and back can make a significant improvement in the way your senior pet feels. Swimming provides non-weight bearing exercise suitable for dogs with arthritis and joint pain.
Manually stretch and mobilize your dog’s legs, hips, neck and back. Use gentle pressure on any aching joints. Connect with a rehab center or canine massage therapist to learn the basics. (We like Canine Rehab and Conditioning Group in Broomfield and Certified Canine Massage Provider, Mary Kennedy.)
Old dogs can learn new tricks and aging brains benefit from mental stimulation too. Teach your dog a new command or give her a treat-dispensing puzzle toy like Busy Buddies to keep her brain sharp!
Stop by the store if you’d like to talk more – and don’t forget that hip & joint supplements are 10% off November 17th-23rd!
545 W. South Boulder Rd.
Lafayette, CO 80026
Northeast corner of Hwy 287 and W. South Boulder Rd. in Waneka Marketplace shopping plaza, just a few doors down from Sprouts.