28-day no palm oil challenge at The Happy Beast

Protect Wildcat Habitat: Take the 28-Day No Palm Oil Challenge!

In learning more about the wild relatives of our domestic cats (check out last month’s blog post, “Raising Awareness for the World’s Small Wildcats”), we discovered just how devastating the palm oil industry can be on the natural habitats of wildcats. This month, we’re taking a 28-day challenge to reduce palm oil consumption in our own lives. We know money talks, and so we’re choosing to discontinue purchasing products that contribute to the deforestation brought on by the palm oil industry.

Why? Palm oil is one of the most widely used vegetable oils in the world due to its versatility, and it’s found in all sorts of products – from foods like cereal, chips, peanut butter to dairy products, soaps, toothpaste, makeup, and laundry detergents (just to name a few.)

It is also one of the most devastating crops to the forests of Southeast Asia where half of the world’s small wildcat species make their home. There are few protections for the environment and wildlife in this part of the world so the palm oil industry faces little push back when it destroys forests and sets up massive operations.

As we explained last month, “because wildcats are apex predators, when we conserve their habitats, we are saving entire ecosystems and helping to preserve biodiversity.” Once you get into the news and research about palm oil, the problem can feel daunting and so we wanted to provide some practical steps that you can take to help.

The organization Say No to Palm Oil’s first recommendation is to take their 28-Day Palm Oil Challenge to identify and eliminate purchasing products that contain palm oil. The challenge is broken into four, 1-week periods, looking at a different category of products each week (pantry, fridge, bathroom products, and laundry products). We’ve already begun our challenge at The Happy Beast and would LOVE to have you join us. We’ve outlined each of the weeks below with products to avoid and healthy alternatives, including homemade recipes and DIY cleaners that are super easy to make and environmentally friendly.


The FDA requires palm oil to be listed on the ingredient panel of packaged food. Be on the lookout for palm oil in the following items: Shortenings, cookies, crackers, cake mixes, icing, instant noodles, bouillon cubes, biscuits, gluten free breads, and almond and peanut butters.

Homemade Everything Crackers
This recipe is super simple and the crackers are done in about 15 min

Recipe from www.thekitchn.com


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, or a mix of all-purpose and whole grain flours
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 tbsp fennel seeds, 1 tbsp poppy seeds, 1 tsp sea salt


Be on the lookout for palm oil in the following items: Ice cream, non-dairy creamers, and margarines. And if you are a vegetarian or vegan and use “meat-free” or “dairy-free” products, it is especially important to read all the ingredients. We tend to assume vegetarian and vegan products are both ethically and environmentally responsible, but there are several dairy-free cheeses and milks that contain palm oil. For instance the popular So Delicious Dairy Free brand has several products that contain palm oil.

Homemade Almond Milk

Making milk seems really intimidating, but it’s actually quite fun and easy. Plus, it excludes thickening agents such as carrageenan, guar gum, and xanthan gum.

Recipe from www.thekitchn.com


  • 1 cup raw almonds, preferably organic
  • 2 cups water, plus more for soaking
  • Sweeteners like honey, sugar, agave syrup, or maple syrup, to taste, optional


The FDA does not require palm oil to be listed in the ingredients for non-food products, so identifying it in bathroom products is a little tricky. Avoid anything with sodium lauryl sulfate and palmityl alcohol. Check out this list of palm oil synonyms and derivatives from the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University​. Overall, products like mouthwash, toothpaste, lotion, and skin care products can contain palm oil and are quite ubiquitous in our personal care products.

DIY Toothpaste

Recipe from: www.wellnessmama.com


  • About 1/2 cup coconut oil.
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of baking soda.
  • 2 small packets of stevia powder.
  • 15-20 drops of peppermint or cinnamon essential oil (optional)


Household cleaning products frequently use palm oil for their foaming and emulsifying properties. Remember that it’s always important to read the labels, especially for those products promoting themselves as “green” or “natural.” For instance Clorox Greenworks, Method, Seventh Generation, and Simple Green cleaners all contain palm oil derivatives.

DIY Cleaner

Recipe from: www.popsugar.com/smart-living/Homemade-All-Purpose-Cleaner-28495713


  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Borax
  • 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 cups hot water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Touch of Lavender essential oil (optional)
Raising awareness of the world's wildcats

Raising Awareness for the World’s Small Wildcats

I have a deep love for all cats, large and small, domestic and wild. They are fascinating creatures with instincts and physiques built for the hunt. It has been a long term goal of ours at The Happy Beast to support causes that go beyond the reach of our pet food industry. Taking care of our environment and all living creatures is the duty of every person on this planet.

When I recently read, “Out of the Shadows, the Wildcats You’ve Never Seen,”an article in National Geographic, I felt that it was important to take this opportunity to raise awareness for the plight of wildcats around the world and how industries like palm oil farming are threatening their habitats. I wanted to provide some of my additional research on the topic, and share how small, everyday decisions can have far reaching effects on preserving their habitats.

There are 31 known small wildcat species on Earth, which are broken into seven different lineages: the Caracal, Ocelot, Bay Cat, Lynx, Puma, Leopard Cat, and Domestic Cat. Small cats diverged from big cats (lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars) 11.5 million years ago and evolved with a number of unique characteristics. For example, one distinctive trait between big cats and small cats is that big cats roar while small cats purr.

Big cats have a flexible neck bone called a hyoid that allows them to stretch their larynx to roar. Small cats are unable to roar and purr instead because their hyoid bone is hardened. Interestingly, cheetahs and cougars, while large in size, are actually more closely related to small cats and they do not roar like the other big cats.

While small wild cats might have slight physiques in comparison to the big cats, they achieve great feats of strength by using their acute senses and reflexes. They have amazing muscular strength and flexibility and their jaws and claws are built to deliver precise bites that can kill their prey instantaneously.

Small wildcats can be found on five of our seven continents, and 14 of the 31 small wildcat species live in Asia. Unfortunately, this is a part of the world where wildcats are least understood and protected.. It comes as no surprise that the greatest threat is loss of habitat. In Asia, much of the destruction of their habitat is due to forests being converted into palm oil plantations.

Palm oil farming, production, and food products are complex topics, but I was shocked by how much something simple like my daily purchases could affect the health and well being of an entire ecosystem half-way around the world. Palm oil is used in a variety of different products from health and beauty supplies to everyday food products, but it’s also relatively easy to avoid by paying closer attention to labels on the products we buy. In addition, websites like “Say No to Palm Oil” provide a variety of ways to take action to reduce your impact and help make your voice heard.

Because wildcats are apex predators, when we conserve their habitats, we are saving entire ecosystems and helping to preserve biodiversity.

I believe strongly that we all have the ability to make a difference in the world through both small and grand gestures. Often I’ve found that the first step is educating myself. Below are a few additional links with more information to help us raise awareness and make a difference in the conservation of these beautiful animals.

  • Out of the Shadows, the Wildcats You’ve Never Seen – National Geographic photo expose and article that inspired this blog post.
  • Say No To Palm Oil – Resources, tips, and recommendations, including the 28-Day Palm Oil Challenge.
  • Wild Cats of the World by Luke Hunter – highlights the importance of wildcat conservation and how protecting them can be beneficial to us all.
  • Species Conservation Fund – The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund is a philanthropic endowment established to provide targeted grants to individual species conservation initiatives, recognize leaders in the field of species conservation, and elevate the importance of species in the broader conservation debate.
  • Panthera’s Small Cat Action Fund – The Small Cat Action Fund (SCAF) is a grants program established by Panthera intended to support in situ conservation and research activities on the many small cat species.
  • Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University​​ – Outline of Production: Palm Fruit to Product – Great, practical overview and guide on products containing palm oil
Stop puppy mills

How You Can Help Stop Puppy Mills

We love puppies. That’s why we don’t sell them.

I read the most gut-wrenching article about puppy mills in The Rolling Stone last month titled, “The Dog Factory: Inside the Sickening World of Puppy Mills.” The reporter, Paul Salotaroff, joined a task force from The Humane Society in a massive puppy mill raid in North Carolina. The story begins with a sickening description of the house under investigation, continues to the discovery of sick puppies and deformed breeding dogs, and ends with the rescue of 128 animals (dogs, cats, and goats) and the arrest of the owner of the operation. Barbara Yates, the woman allegedly responsible, had been running this USDA-inspected puppy mill out of her basement for at least five years and was making a living selling those puppies online. The photos and stories are graphic, but the piece is an informative call-to-action.

The tagline of the article calls puppy mills, “the secret shame of the pet industry.” Those words hit me hard, because, you see, I’m part of the pet industry and I had no idea how devastating and wide-reaching this problem really is. We have a sign in our window that says “We love puppies. That’s why we don’t sell them.” We signed a pledge with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to never sell animals in our store, and when someone comes in looking for a puppy, we send them to local shelters or rescue groups instead. (Check out our Pet Resources page to find one near you.) Based on my background, and the good people I’ve been around, I mistakenly held the belief that most dogs I met came from a shelter or a responsible breeder.

The unfortunate reality is that many dogs are purchased in a pet store or from an online broker. Sales of puppies from puppy mills are happening closer to home than you may think; right here in Colorado. We boast of our dog-friendly towns and high adoption rates at local shelters, but there are still at least 25 USDA-licensed puppy mills in Colorado with an estimated 1,300 breeding adult dogs. Our state makes up just a fraction of the over 10,000 legal puppy mills and brokers nationwide. Some are massive livestock facilities while others are crowded basement operations hidden in suburban neighborhoods. That’s the kind of “secret shame” Salotaroff is talking about.

What is a puppy mill?

A puppy mill, also called a puppy farm, is a commercial dog breeding facility. A court in Minnesota determined the definition to be “a dog breeding operation in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits.” Avenson v. Zegart, 577 F. Supp. 958, 960

How is this happening?

Brokers and pet stores make impressive claims on the reputability of their suppliers while deceiving consumers with terms like “USDA Licensed” and “AKC Registered” and marketing their businesses with stock photos of cute puppies, smiling breeders, and clean facilities. 

What does USDA Licensed mean? The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) inspects breeding facilities to make sure they adhere to the guidelines laid out by the Animal Welfare Act. Sounds good, right? Well, the Animal Welfare Act allows up to 12 dogs kept in a single cage and has no limit on the number of animals kept on a single property. Cages must be six inches larger than the dog so the dog is able to stand up, but unlikely unable to turn around. What’s worse is that dogs never actually have to be let out of those cages. The breeders are required to have a written exercise plan, but there is no requirement that those plans are ever carried out. Facilities are inspected as infrequently as every three years and fines for violations often go unpaid.

What does AKC Registered mean? AKC Registered only means the puppy and his or her parents have been registered with the American Kennel Club as purebreds. It does not have any guidelines for health or temperament of the dogs registered. While the AKC does encourage choosing a responsible breeder, many puppy mill dogs come with papers stamped with “AKC Registered.”

Secondly, internet sales are booming.  In the last ten years, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) have cracked down on stores selling puppy mill-bred dogs, but online brokers have allowed the industry to continue and thrive. Of the 2 million puppies bred and sold each year, approximately half are sold online.

What can we do?

The Humane Society of the United States recommends we “choke the blood supply of puppy mills” by not giving the industry any money and never buying a puppy from a pet store or through a website. Instead, they encourage adoption of a shelter dog or finding a reputable breeder.

  • If you want to buy a purebred puppy
    • Choose a reputable breeder and investigate their history and references. The HSUS published a thorough checklist to simplify this process. A responsible breeder cares not only about the health and temperament of their dogs, but also about where their puppies end up.
    • Responsible breeders won’t use a third-party to sell their animals so beware of pet stores and online brokers who claim to have working relationships with “good” breeders. Meet your breeder face to face in his or her home.
  • Adopt a shelter dog!
    • 1.2 million dogs are euthanized in US shelters every year! There are a ton of rescue groups and humane societies in Colorado where you can find adoptable animals in need of good homes. PetHarbor.com, and Petfinder.com can help you find a dog or puppy based on breed, age, and size. These websites fully vet the shelters and rescues, which makes it very difficult for inhumane breeders to sneak through. Despite this vetting, it’s still a good idea to research reviews and any complaints.
    • In addition to helping end pet homelessness, puppy mills, and unnecessary euthanization, adopting an animal better for your wallet too! The Simple Dollar, a website devoted to simplifying personal finance, has a great blog post on The Financial Benefits of Adopting A Pet compared to purchasing from a breeder or pet store.
  • Get involved
    Learn more about what’s happening and tell your friends. We recommend starting with the resources we used to investigate this article:

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.