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:

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.
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

How To Train Your Cat to Walk on a Harness

Cats are made for hunting and exploring. This is how it’s always been and always will be. Understanding the true nature of a cat allows us to address their individual needs and avoid unwanted behaviors.

While we understand that it is not always possible or desired to allow cats outside unattended, we do believe for cats who exhibiting restless or aggressive behavior, it is important for their mental and physical well-being to allow them to interact with the natural environment. We feel strongly that every cat benefits from fresh air and the sight, sound and smell of the outdoors. Fortunately, there are ways to give your indoor cat the benefit of the outdoors. Two of our favorites? Cat enclosures and training them to walk on a harness.

Signs your cat needs more mental and physical stimuli:

  1. Aggression towards people and other animals in the house
  2. Inappropriate urination and defecation
  3. Chewing and eating odd objects such as plastic bags, hairbrushes, or cords
  4. Scratching furniture and carpets

Many people think that having a cat requires less maintenance than a dog. However, indoor cats need lots of additional environmental enrichment because they lack the opportunity to hunt and explore the outdoors. A great way to provide your cat with the stimuli they need is to start harness training your cat, and yes it can be done!

Ideally, you would start harness training your cat as a kitten because they are naturally more accepting of new things. However, if your cat is older, the biggest trick is to make your cat think the harness is their idea by rewarding the desired behavior with a fun treat.

First Steps to Harness and Leash Training Your Cat

  1. Put the harness on your cat and then provide a treat. Do not put on the leash, as often times the feel of the leash on their backs is a big turn off.
  2. Try to get your cat used to walking around the house with the harness on by distracting your cat with treats or play. Continue this exercise until your cat shows that he/she is done wearing the harness. It is always important to make the experience positive and not push your cat too fast or too far beyond their comfort level.
  3. After your cat has exhibited ease and comfort in the harness, attach the leash. We suggest holding the lease up so that it doesn’t touch your cat’s back or drag on his body. We don’t normally suggest retractable leashes for dogs, but for cats it can be a good option that doesn’t touch their body.
  4. Ideally, you will be able to start your outdoor activity in a safe, fenced-in area. If you don’t have access to a fenced area, choose a place near your house (like a patio or porch) and be sure to keep the door open, as it is very important that your cat has access to their “safe zone” at all times.
  5. Cats are naturally territorial and like to expand their territory at their own pace. It is typical for a cat to slowly explore their environment so allow him/her to set the pace of your “walk.”
  6. Ideally, you should repeat this exercise every day, with the ultimate goal to take your cat out everyday for 30 minutes to one hour. It sounds like a lot of work, but remember dog people do this all the time and it will greatly benefit your cat — both mentally and physically.

Harness Rental Program

Try a few styles of harnesses to see what your cat might like best. Rent a harness from The Happy Beast. $7 for 7 days.

Important Tips to Remember:

We suggest scouting your prospective walking area during the time of day that you plan on walking your cat. Cats are both predator and prey, so if you find that there are lots of dogs out at one time of day, pick another time that is more mellow in order to reduce chance encounters with dogs.

In general, we recommend walking close to your home and not hopping in the car with your cat for a hike that’s miles away from his/her familiar environment. If you allow your cat to slowly expand his/her territory around your home turf, you have a safeguard that if your cat gets loose he/she will be able to find the way back home.

For those of you interested in taking your cats on vacation, be sure to scout out your pit stops before taking your cat out. Your cat should be 100% comfortable walking on a harness if you are planning on taking them to unfamiliar areas.

Catio outdoor cat enclosure at The Happy Beast in Lafayette, CO.*Remember that while some cats absolutely love getting out and about, for other cats, especially those that are skittish, it might not be the best expression of their energy. For these kitties, a cat enclosure may be the safest way for them to interact with their natural environment.


Our store kitties are benefiting from an enclosed “catio” since our busy store location in Lafayette does not allow for safe outdoor access. Check it out next time you’re at The Happy Beast!



Cat sitting in a green bowl | The Happy Beast

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.