The Happy Beast - Blog - Cat Health

tabby cat licking its lips after eating a raw, meaty bone

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.

Tabby cat peering over the edge of a table

How To Provide Your Indoor Cat with Mental & Physical Stimulation

Let’s be honest, we love our cats dearly, but an unsatisfied cat can make your life…umm…rather difficult. Difficult behavior can come in the form of a puddle of pee on your bath mat or a half eaten phone cord or scratched up chair. Regardless of the form it takes, cats are not known for their subtlety.

Unwanted behaviors are more often seen in indoor cats because of their reduced physical and mental stimuli. Cats are born hunters, which means that they are programmed for exploration and short intense bursts of energy. When cats cannot naturally express their energy, the energy is redirected into unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate peeing and defecating, or destructive chewing and scratching.

We understand that in today’s world, it is not always possible to give cats safe access to the outdoors; either through cat-proof fencing and enclosures or trained harness walking. If you have to keep your cats indoors, here are some tips on how to give them the stimulation they need:

  1. Treasure Hunts: Hide treats around your house. This activity will mimic the tracking behavior your cats would exhibit when hunting for their prey. Start by showing your cat the bag of treats so they become familiar with the smell. Then place the treats in various places around your house, initially showing your cat where you are putting the treat. Ultimately, you will hide the treats without your cat’s knowledge. Rotate your hiding spots daily, and as your cat becomes better at “the hunt,” increase the number of hiding spots.
  2. Treat-Dispensing Toys: There are several treat-dispensing toys on the market that are geared towards different foraging behaviors: some role, some “fish,” some knock. Our cats enjoy The Egg-cersizer by PetSafe and Jackson Galaxy’s Cat Dice.
  3. Toys: Go Cat Da Bird and Go Cat Catcher: these toys will get your cat running and jumping. Just 20 minutes of hard play can do wonders for your cat’s physical needs.
  4. Play Fetch: If your cat won’t chase down a ball, throw treats against a wall or up and down the stairs. This is a great way to get your cat moving and a relatively effortless activity for you.
  5. Cat Chews: Last but not least – cats can chew just like dogs! Chewing on bones is a behavior we associate with dogs, but cats can receive just as much benefit from bones as dogs do; just on a smaller scale: Fish Skins, Duck Necks, Chicken Necks, Duck Feet, Turkey Tails… there are lots and lots of options! Chewing is a great way to keep your cat’s teeth clean and give them mental stimuli. If you thought that your cat eating plastic bags, cords, and hair ties was just a weird behavior, it’s not. It’s an indication that your cat is in need of additional stimuli. If this behavior is not addressed it can end up costing a lot of money in surgery costs. Chewing is an inexpensive way to fulfill this need.
tumeric to relieve inflammation in pets

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

Claire Martin, CCMT (Certified Canine Massage Therapist), CVT, shares how massage therapy can improve our cat's physical and mental health.

Improve Your Cat’s Health with Massage Therapy

Claire Martin, CCMT (that’s Certified Canine Massage Therapist), CVT, shares how massage therapy can improve our cat’s physical and mental state of health. Read more about her services at Peak Animal Wellness and Massage.

Utilizing All Tools.

Cat MassageAs veterinarians continue to advocate for their patients by better understanding and researching different means to combat chronic and acute pain in their patients, bodywork such as massage therapy and acupuncture are becoming much more commonplace in veterinary medicine. Consistent use of these modalities continues to positively enhance the lives of pets living with different levels of physical and emotional pain. While some may gawk at the idea of massage therapy for cats, the results at Peak Animal Wellness and Massage steadily speak for themselves!

The Power of Touch.

As humans, we understand that touch is essential. It carries us through our most vulnerable stages in life, and helps us better connect with who we surround ourselves. Whether being held as a newborn, holding a newborn, a hug during times of sorrow or joy, the power of touch and it’s importance never waivers. There’s no doubt that massage therapy for people has long been used for relaxation and emotional support, and now is greatly utilized for chronic and acute pain. While the studies are limited surrounding the exact responses and effects of massage on animals, Peak Animal Wellness and Massage (along with plenty of other animal massage practitioners and veterinary practices across the country), is seeing direct results with this therapy on both large and small companion animals.  In fact, massage therapy has been used for horses and agility dogs for many, many years — and with great success!

Cat MassageBenefits of massage therapy include (but are not limited to!) increasing circulation, preventing muscle atrophy (wasting), pain relief, increasing flexibility, prevention of injuries, speeds healing processes, and emotional support.

According to a recent American Hospital Association survey regarding the use of complementary therapies in human medicine, almost 82 percent of responding hospitals offered massage therapy among their health care offerings — and over 70 percent utilized massage therapy as a part of their pain management program.  Since our pets experience many of the same medical conditions that we do, it only makes sense that massage therapy has a similar response for pain and emotional management!

What About Cats? 

senior catAccording to the ASPCA, the average lifespan of an indoor domesticated cat is somewhere between 13-17 years old, however it’s really not uncommon to see cats who are 20 years and older (I have a 20 year old cat myself!).  Because they live such long lives, we know that their bodies (even without significant medical conditions or physical traumas) experience age related changes, such as arthritis.  It’s important to remember that a cat’s pain tolerance is absolutely through the roof, and often times guardians will have no idea that their cat is experiencing any discomfort at all!

As a body practitioner, it’s clear to me that the mind and body act as one vessel, so subtle signs of pain and discomfort may vary greatly.  For example, a cat may not limp, hunch over, or vocalize from pain like we may expect.  Alternatively, the signs may consist more of a subtle personality change, becoming distant, hiding more, or perhaps a change in appetite.

How Can We Help Our Cats? Cat massage

Going forward with complimentary modalities such as massage therapy for cats, it feels really important that we dismiss our judgement and expectations of how we “think” our cat will react. Sure, we have ALL met cats who request to be petted, only to become incredibly perturbed minutes later.  The truth is though, our companion animals are extremely intuitive, and immediately understand the innate difference between being petted and massaged.  I have found almost every one of my feline clients to be receptive to massage therapy, and most experience some kind of life changing result which involves living a more pain free life.

Meet Chester:

Cat MassageChester is an 8 year old domestic shorthaired cat who has experienced chronic lower back pain for years. He receives regular acupuncture, and is on an excellent diet. While he usually does well with his regular bodywork regime, his condition recently regressed, and so his guardian decided to try regular massage therapy sessions with Peak Animal Wellness and Massage.  After only a few weekly sessions, Chester’s guardian noticed a substantial shift in his personality.  He was happier, more playful, and overall less distant.  His veterinarian also noticed a decrease in pain while assessing his condition, and he became more receptive to his acupuncture treatments.  Yay, Chester!


3 Essential Pieces for Your Cat’s Success With This Therapy: 

  1. Connection: It is incredibly important that the body practitioner and your cat have a good connection.  Enjoying each other’s company is powerful, and once the relationship is established, increased healing can occur.  While rooting and deepening this connection may take time, it’s critical that your cat doesn’t feel fear or discomfort in the presence of their massage therapist.
  2. Respect: Respecting your cat’s boundaries is a key component for healing with massage therapy, especially during the beginning stages of the relationship.  How the therapist responds and reacts to your cat’s communications will ultimately mold the success of this therapy.  Beginning sessions may be shorter in duration and then become longer, as your cat begins to associate massage sessions with a more pain free life!
  3. Results: With connection and respect achieved, along with skill and technique, results should occur within 4-6 sessions.  Some progress occurs in baby steps, others in leaps and bounds.  However, if you are not seeing results in this time frame, it may be time to discuss other options for your pet.  These options may include acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, laser therapy, or other recommendations by your veterinarian and veterinary team.

The Future for Cats and Massage.

Cat MassageOur cats are family. As guardians and professionals, our understanding of them — both medically and behaviorally — continues to grow each day.  As Peak Animal Wellness and Massage continues to flourish, we will further advocate for your cat’s wellbeing, and also for their place within this complimentary modality.

I hope that this blog has sparked an interest in you, and that you see the potential that I see for all of our cats!  Any questions or comments?  I’d love to hear what you have to say!  Wishing you and your pets health and happiness, now and always.

Wags and Kisses,
Claire, CVT, CCMT

Understanding CBD Cannabis for Pets

Understanding CBD Cannabis for Pets

As the cannabis industry expands, interest in hemp and marijuana’s health benefits for pets has grown. The cannabis plant is cultivated for both hemp and marijuana harvests and hemp is already a popular material in dog toys, beds and collars. Now even more people are using CBD supplements to improve their pets’ health and well being.

Good to know: CBD vs. THC

CBD (cannabidiol) is derived from marijuana or hemp plants and is touted for its therapeutic effects.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) comes solely from marijuana plants and is known for its psychoactive properties.

The CBD used in the supplements and treats we carry at The Happy Beast is extracted from cannabis plants grown to produce hemp and contains less than .3% THC (the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana.) This means: 1) You and your pets will not get “high” from ingesting CBD, and 2) CBD is legal to purchase and possess in all 50 states.

How it works:

All mammals, including dogs, cats, and people have a endocannabinoid system composed of receptors in the brain called CB1s and other receptors in the body called CB2s. Our bodies produce endocannabinoids that bind to these receptors to maintain homeostasis, which means the body stays in balance regardless of environmental changes. A good example of this is how our body temperature stays around 98 degrees even when it’s very hot or very cold in our environment.

Homeostasis becomes more interesting when the body experiences a disruption or injury. We know that pain and inflammation are important in healing, pain lets us know that something is wrong and inflammation initially occurs to protect the body. CBD goes to work on immune and nerve cells to regulate pain and inflammation.

Why supplement with a CBD oil when our bodies already produce endocannabinoids?

First, endocannabinoids are produced by our bodies (“endo” meaning “within”) whereas phytocannabinoids come from the cannabis plant (“phyto” meaning “plant).

New studies show that supplementing with a small daily dose of phytocannabinoids increases the number of CB1 and CB2 receptors which augments the function of the entire system. Some scientists propose that deficiencies in our modern diets decrease the body’s ability to produce a sufficient supply to the point that supplementation becomes necessary.

How to try it:

If you have a healthy dog, PetReleaf treats are perfect for a small daily dose to create balance in the endocannabinoid system.

If your dog or cat is suffering from anxiety, pain, cancer, arthritis, or an otherwise compromised immune system, PetReleaf oil and CannaCompanion capsules provide a concentrated, higher dose of CBD. While CBD has shown no contraindications with other medications or serious side effects, if your animal is under vet care make sure your vet knows you are using it.

And finally, if you’d like more information, just stop by The Happy Beast in Lafayette and we’ll walk you through the various options and benefits.

P.S. Marijuana is STILL not safe for our pets. THC is not the same as CBD, and animals can have adverse reactions to THC, so keep it out of paws reach!