Tips and Tricks for getting cats to try Raw

December 2, 2015

IMG_0891This is my cat Magic – the most frustrating cat on the planet. You know how you have that one friend that has extremely unhealthy eating habits but won’t change, even though you can practically watch it killing them? Magic is the cat-version of that friend.  Now imagine that you shelled out a ton of money to help that friend stay alive, and then they still won’t change?  Magic is still the cat-version of that friend.

Magic weighs over 20 pounds and the only thing besides his crappy kitty-kibble I have ever seen him actually taste is ice cream.  A year ago, right as I started learning about raw pet food and the many health benefits it can bring to animals, Magic was attacked by a dog and it cost us over 1,400 dollars we didn’t have to save his life, not to mention my husband’s hospital bill.  This is one expensive cat.  And working for Steve’s Real Food, I have access to some of the healthiest pet food on the market, and you know what?  I tried just about everything, and this darn cat still wouldn’t eat it.

This is actually fairly normal.  Cats are much more difficult to transition to raw food than dogs are because they can imprint on their food very early, and since cats seem to assume that anything unfamiliar is a threat, getting them to try something new can be darn near impossible.

If this is your cat, here are some of the many tips and tricks I have heard from people on how to get your cat onto a raw diet.

  1. Expect it to take awhile.
  2. Stop leaving the kibble out for them to eat whenever they want. Have mealtimes, so they can start getting hungry enough to be willing to branch out.

    IMG_0896

    Three different kitties all working towards a 100% raw diet!

  3. Leave raw (or canned as a transition step) out for them all the time to try, but only offer kibble during their specified meal times. If they want a snack, they have to try the raw or canned.
  4. DON’T  just take away their kibble and play hardball, thinking that once they get hungry enough they will eat.  Cats can starve themselves or go into shock that can turn fatal before they dare try something new, so this is a BAD IDEA.
  5. Have one meal available as kibble and one as raw, to see if they will be hungry enough without it getting dangerous.
  6. Try different proteins to see if they like chicken over beef, etc.
  7. Take freeze-dried raw food and hide it around the house, or put it in places the cat is not normally allowed.  Cats like to feel that they have pulled one over on you, and they like to hunt.
  8. Start with the goat milk yogurt.
  9. Place the food where they are usually fed, or some other place they consider safe or theirs, like their bed or cat toys.
  10. Take a stopper and (kindly) force a bit of raw meat into their mouth.  Sometimes cats will try it once you have jolted their taste buds.
  11. Tie a freeze-dried nugget to a cat toy and make them play with it. That gets them to put their mouth on it.
  12. Mix in a tiny crumbly bit of freeze dry product in with their regular kibble – not enough that they will notice it, but enough that they can’t work around it.  Once they have started eating it as a nuisance, slowly increase and make sure they are still eating their food.

For my kitties, Number 8 worked for my cat Rawri, and number 7 worked for my Katara. As of posting I have yet to get ANYTHING to work for my Magic, though. And of course, our office kitties, being young and used to switching their diet, had absolutely no trouble trying raw food.  Every cat is different, but every cat deserves to be fed the best diet you can get them to eat.

UPDATE: 2/18/2016 – Today I found the Magic trick for my Magic.  Back after his surgery, the vets gave me Science Diet A/D, Critical Care, and it is the one thing I know he will eat.  So I got some more (cringe, I know) and this morning I checked if he will still eat it.  He goes crazy for the kitty-crack, so I mixed in some of the canned food I have been using to transition my other cats.  He is so nuts for the A/D stuff that I did a 50/50 split, and he ate it up just fine!  I am excited!  Tonight I am going to try to mix in some actual raw and see if he responds.  If he does, I just may cry.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving to all our pets!

November 23, 2015

As we turn our hearts and thoughts towards the most Thankful time of the year, we here at Steve’s Real Food are grateful for so many things.  Here are the things we are grateful for at Steve’s Real Food.
tanktassi great pyrennese pawtrero dog sniffingbaxter

Welsh Corgi Pembroke dog and pumpkin

 Tera:

Our passionate customers who love their dogs.

The unconditional love our four-legged family members give us.

The love and support that the humans in our families give us.

Our good health that we know if a result of healthy eating

Good friends that are always up for a trip to the dog park.

Adorable pomeranian in the leaves. Other fall decor blurred out in the background.

Shantel:

Being able to meet so many amazing independent retailers across the country!

The chance to help pets get healthier.

The ability to feed our fur-babies so well.

Families who support and believe in what we do here at Steve’s.

Canines for a Cause, the local charity we support, who are doing great things

For working with the very understanding people at our manufacturers and storage facilities

young red border collie dog playing with leaves in autumn

Aspen:

Our positive office environment where things are fun and relaxed and we all get along.

Fun projects like Raw.U!

Hearing all your fun stories on Facebook

Making it through 2015! It was a whirlwind.

The patience that our online customers showed us during the dry ice shortage.

For working in a field we can be passionate about!  Go healthy pets

Cute white puppy dog lying in leaves in autumn, fall forest. Polish Tatra Mountain Sheepdog, known also as Podhalan or Owczarek Podhalanski

Nicole:

Distributors who go the extra mile to help our stores.

The ability to source our meat from local farmers who provide top quality meats and produce.

Dedicated employees who truly care about our customers, products, and pet parents.

Steve Brown, for being the pioneer in the raw food industry that has made good health possible for millions of pets.

The animal nutritionists and holistic veterinarians who are paving the way for the raw food movement.

The support my family gives me which allows me to be a mother AND a business owner.

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Our Retailers Share

November 19, 2015
julzanimalhouz

The freezer in Julz Animal House, a great store in Marysville, Washington!

In this week’s blog, we are going to be sharing some stories we have gathered from retailers around the country who have helped pet parents switch to Steve’s Real Food through their advice, research, and especially, their willingness to care.  See why more and more people are switching to raw, thanks to the hard work of retailers who are making a difference:

Customer Convinced That Kibble is Best

“A few weeks ago I had a new customer come in looking for Nutro.  I told her I was happy to special order it, but that I didn’t stock it.  She asked why not, as she understood it to be the best food, and I explained it didn’t meet our quality standards.  She said her dog was doing great on it but had bad breath, itchy skin, and joint pain.  This led to a review of ingredients and a discussion of minimal processing and the absence of enzymes in kibble.

We reviewed options of premium kibble and raw.  She was skeptical that raw could improve her dog’s issues and was worried about the lack of convenience.  I suggested we work towards 1 meal raw, 1 kibble, then reassess in a month.

She returned a few days ago thrilled to report  one box of Steve’s chicken later, her dog has noticeably better breath, more energy, and was less itchy!  She plans on transitioning to 100% raw when she returns from traveling!”

Bassett Hound with Allergies and Weight Issues

Cute dog and kitten isolated on white

“I recently had a customer come in and ask me to recommend a diet for her dog.  The dog is a three-year-old basset hound mix who suffers from allergies.  The symptoms of his allergies include lethargy and excessive paw licking.  The dog is also a few pounds overweight, and because he is a basset she wants him to lose weight so as not to put unnecessary pressure on  his spine.  She had previously been feeding the dog a high-quality kibble but speculated that the dog was allergic to chicken and was looking for a new protein.

I recommended that she try a more novel protein like pork, duck or rabbit and encouraged her to consider a raw diet.  I explained to her the myriad benefits of raw feeding and told her about my own experiences with feeding my dog and my cats a raw diet.  She was not quite sold on the idea of feeding raw, mainly because of the cost, so I encouraged her to start slow by adding some raw goat’s milk to her dog’s kibble, explaining to her that goat’s milk is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent as well as an excellent source of raw nutrition packed with enzymes, vitamins and minerals essential for good health.  She was impressed by the effects of the goat’s milk on her pup’s allergies and decided to give raw feeding a shot.

This experience taught me the importance of being able to read your customers; this customer was still skeptical after I explained to her that the cost of feeding raw is offset by the money saved in the long run (through less frequent illness/vet visits), so I had to take another approach – recommending the inexpensive raw goat’s milk to give her an easy introduction into the world of raw feeding.  Once she got a taste of just how much raw feeding could improve her dog’s health and quality of life, she was enthusiastic about the prospect of transitioning to a fully raw diet, regardless of the cost.”

Cairn terrier dog playing with his ball a sunny day in may. ** Note: Visible grain at 100%, best at smaller sizesSteve’s Real Food’s Convenience Helping To Convert a Kibble Customer

“I had a customer come in and said he was looking for an organic dog food without any poultry in it.  His vet thought his dog had a poultry allergy and they wanted something to help with her itchy skin.  I asked him if he was set on a kibble or if he would be open to trying a can or a raw food for her.  He told me that he just wanted what was best and would help his dog the most.  I told him that without a doubt that would be a raw diet.

He had several concerns about feeding raw; cleaning, remembering to thaw and then, of course questioning whether or not it was organic.  I addressed his issues one by one; first explaining that cleaning the bowls should be simple enough; done daily just like your own dishes.  I told him that the Steve’s nuggets were great because you could serve them straight from the freezer, or he could do patties and thaw a few at a time.  Lastly, I explained that even though it was certified organic, it was much less processed and would be much closer to organic than any kibble would be.  He ended up leaving with a box of patties and a bag of nuggets in case he forgot to thaw a patty”

 

Many thanks to the retailers who work every day to bring the best knowledge and products they can to their customer’s pets. They are the best!
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Do People Make You Feel Guilty For Buying Commercial Raw Pet Food?

November 5, 2015

Big shepherd dog stealing unattended raw meat from a table, particular focus outdoor shot

On a recent forum post about commercially prepared raw food for pets, there were over fifty comments from raw feeders bragging about how they prepare all their meals for their pets and that is is THE only way to feed your pets. Although we applaud these passionate people pet parents, it is important to know homemade raw diets are not for everyone.  Newbies and busy pet parents should not be condemned for buying a commercial raw diet.

Telling people who are new or those that do not have the time do the proper research that they should be home preparing their meals is like plonking a pre-med college freshman into the middle of an open heart surgery and handing them a scalpel.  Tack on judging them for not being able to do it just adds insult on to injury.

Let’s be more compassionate and understanding of our fellow raw feeders. Remember that learning about raw feeding is not like a macrame class, where the worst that can happen is your finished product doesn’t look that great – not knowing what you are doing can have serious consequences.   Our pets rely on us feeding them a properly balanced diet, and if we fail at that, we have quite likely damaged them – maybe for life.

Preparing a Meal at Home

cooking class, culinary, food and people concept - happy group of friends and male chef cook cooking in kitchen

Here is just a brief overview of the things you have to get right if you are preparing raw food for your pets in your kitchen:

Calcium and Phosphorous Levels: Calcium is necessary for bone and teeth formation, blood clotting, milk production, muscle contraction, heart pumping, vision, and metabolizing enzymes. If you don’t ensure you have enough in your dog’s or cat’s diet, their systems will pull it from their bones, causing fractures and kidney problems. If you have too much, you can stunt bone growth and cause hip dysplasia.  In addition, for the calcium to be properly absorbed, you need a good balance of phosphorous as well – especially when they are puppies for adequate bone strength to develop.  The necessary levels can change over the life of the cat or dog as they move from puppyhood to adulthood or pregnant and nursing animals. Your calcium to phosphorus ratios should be as close to 1:1.2 as possible for proper health.

Magnesium:  This is necessary for the absorption of many vitamins and minerals and acts as a catalyst or activator for more than 300 enzyme systems.  On the opposite end, too much magnesium can lead to bladder stones, and once again required levels vary based on the size and life stage of the animal.

Fats: The newbie will commonly think that fats are bad and that their overweight dog needs to have a low-fat diet. Is is terribly wrong. As long as the fats are from healthy sources such as animal protein, coconut oil or salmon oil they are beneficial. A good balance of healthy fats keeps organ function strong and provides a good balance of energy for your pet depending on their life-stage and energy needs. Steve Brown wrote a great book on balancing fats called, “Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet”.

Protein: We know protein is a big part of a raw diet, but sourcing matters, moisture content matters, and the percentages of muscle meat, organs, and bone matter. These ratios will differ based on the species you feed and requires a lot of research to make sure you are feeding the proper amounts.

Vitamins and Minerals: Trace minerals are essential to good digestive health, and an overabundance can cause health issues, such as kidney stones and other issues caused by buildup or overworked organs.  Not enough, and you can cause nutrient deficiencies. You can add synthetic vitamin mixes do the diet, but for optimal absorption, it is best to get vitamins and minerals from whole foods.

We do not discourage anyone from feeding a home-prepared raw diet for their pets, but we emphasize the amount of training and education and time that those raw advocates have put in to properly do this.  With our busy lives, not every pet parent has the ability to complete the rigorous education necessary to protect their pets from their own mistakes.  Heidi Hill, the owner of Holistic Hound in Berkeley, Calif., often recommends customers to start out with commercially prepared diets to avoid becoming overwhelmed or, risking feeding an unbalanced diet. “If you’re home-cooking or preparing more than, say, 20 percent of your dog’s food yourself, you really need to do your research,” says Hill.*

There should not be an attitude in our community that you don’t belong if you don’t home prepare all your meals.  We all care about our pets, we all want what is best for them. And for many pet parents, there is safety in leaving the nutritional balancing to people who have devoted their life to the science of nutrition.

Dog sleeping on the bed by owners feet

We take it seriously because we are pet parents, too.  We know what it is like to have a dog wake you up with an affectionate lick to the nose in the morning, we know the excitement of coming home to a pup who can’t wait to say hello.  We have that cat who likes to sleep on our arm while we type, too.  We even know staying awake all night with a sick cat, or not being able to move at night because there is a cat at your feet, a dog on your right side, and a spouse on your left.

 

 

*Source: The Bark, Raw Food Primer, By Elizabeth Kennedy

 

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October 21, 2015

Hisstory of Cannabis

In addition to my role as Director of Retailer and Consumer Relations at Steve’s Real food, I also teach evening history classes at a local university, and I begin every class the same way – talking about marijuana.

Now I don’t use marijuana, and it isn’t legal where I live in Utah.  The school I teach at is in a county that is 88% Mormon, and the majority of my students are as well. Most of them have probably never even considered trying it.  So why do I talk about it?

I use it as an exercise about why history matters, and how knowing the story of the past can inform the debate about the present.  The banning of marijuana in the US was part of a long chain of measures to attempt to control immigrant populations of Asian and Mexican descent.  Fearmongering in sensationalist newspapers helped fan the flames, using their influence to terrorize people with accounts of those who were racially-other (and therefore “un-American”) committing unspeakable crimes against white people under the effect of the drug. Wild suppositions about a link to marijuana were enough to inspire fear, and in 1937 a set of hearings in Congress (in which a member of the American Medical Association testified that all the evidence against the plant was based on sensationalist accounts and not scientific fact) led to its’ ban.

It is important to understand this because it took from 1937 to 1996 for America to move toward a more realistic view of the plant.  That was when California passed Proposition 215, which legalized medical cannabis. Since then, progress has been made in the cultivation of strains of the plant that have a very low THC content (the psychoactive element) and high cannabidiol content (the medically beneficial factor).  Strains like Charlotte’s Web, designed for children with epileptic seizures, have anecdotally proven to be a tremendous benefit for those suffering from debilitating medical conditions.  This low THC strain allows for all the advantages of medicinal use without the worry of getting “high.”

The main issue with medical marijuana is that the government’s stance has made it impossible to do any long-term studies about the medicinal benefits of cannabis products on various diseases.  Therefore, they can argue that there is no scientific evidence to support the claims of cannabis proponents while effectively blocking any ability for researchers to produce that evidence.  The American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and even PETA are advocating that marijuana is moved to a Schedule II drug, allowing for more research opportunities. Fortunately, despite our closed American thinking, we are not the only country in the world (gasp!), and researchers all over the globe have done the studies that are near-impossible to do here. Their results have found a clear homeopathic link to better health, pain relief, and function for a myriad of health issues.

Woman's Hands Picking Hemp

Though small, there is a growing niche for cannabis products in the Pet market, as well.  The AVMA has published a near-glowing article https://www.avma.org/news/javmanews/pages/130615a.aspx about the benefits of cannabis for pets, with multiple accounts of how it has helped animals in pain and calls for the Veterinarian community to become involved in the debate around cannabis.  Dr. Karen Becker interviewed Dr. Rob Silver in February of 2015 and discussed medical marijuana for animal companions. On the down side, he notes that dogs have higher numbers of receptors in their brain that react to cannabis, and high THC strains can make them uncomfortable. Some dogs have eaten “edibles” for humans that have made them sick (especially when combined with chocolate).  He is an active supporter of low-THC strains that can benefit end-of-life pain, anxiety, and more. So the evidence suggests that it would be beneficial for dogs and cats to have cannabis products designed especially for them, rather than sharing their owner’s stores, which can cause unforeseen effects.  These are starting to come on the market, but they are still few and far between because of marijuana being Medical Cannabis ( Marijuana ) oil ready for consumptionillegal in many states for humans.  There is, however, a loophole.

The Cannabis plant has many strains, but two broad sub-categories are Marijuana and Hemp.  Marijuana is defined as a cannabis plant that has a level of THC higher than .3%. Hemp is a cannabis plant with a THC content lower than that marker.  It is the THC component that makes marijuana illegal in most states, but hemp products are legal in all 50 states. Because the THC content is so low as to be virtually non-existent – kind of like the alcohol in Kefir – pet products that do not contain THC are 100% legal in all 50 states.  More and more people recognize the loophole inherent in this – hemp still contains CBD, the medically beneficial element, and, therefore, much of the illegality surrounding medical marijuana can be avoided by sourcing from hemp.  Dogs and cats are likely to be among the first to benefit from this because the emotionally-charged political debate surrounding cannabis is not nearly as heated in the pet industry. We here at Steve’s Real Food predict that more and more cannabis products will soon arrive on the pet market, to benefit pets everywhere.

 

 

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