Please Welcome Dogs to Our Furry Family! It’s official – Dogs are finally a part of the Food Fur Life family!
Since we opened for business, we have been asked time and again why we have a dog in the logo, but no product for dogs? As many self-funded small companies, we had to make choices, to prioritize. It isn’t because we don’t love doggies just as much! The dog in our logo is Carolina’s Bruce Wayne! We felt strongly that cats are under-served and in higher need of a premix to balance homemade diets, and we launched EZComplete fur Cats first. But we worked hard to make EZComplete fur Dogs become a reality – and here we are!
We are THRILLED to introduce EZComplete fur Dogs, officially welcoming our woof, tail-wagging friends to our Food Fur Life Family. Featuring a similar formula to that for cats, EZComplete fur Dogs premix contains liver and pancreas as the nutrient and enzyme-packed organs; combines freeze dried bone (calcium hydroxyapatite) and eggshell as sources of calcium. Dogs thrive with a higher bone content than cats, having a higher requirement for many minerals. And by substituting a percentage of the bone for eggshell calcium, EZComplete Fur Dogs meets the needs of puppies, pregnant dogs, and nursing moms – while keeping a lower overall phosphorus content for senior dogs. Egg yolk, a true nutritional powerhouse, is rich in choline and vitamin E, and brings almost every nutrient our pets need. New Zealand green-lipped mussels provide a unique combination of anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory omega 3s, and are rich in glucosamine and chondroitin, important in joint health. Digestive enzymes bring many benefits, reducing organ stress, improving digestion, and increasing nutrient utilization. These are an important inclusions especially for those that opt to cook the meat, as cooking destroys the naturally occurring enzymes in the meat. Tragically, one out of every two dogs will be diagnosed with cancer sometime in their life. Thus, we view the addition of kale, brussels sprouts, carrots and blueberries a valuable inclusion to the diet, important in helping to reduce their cancer risk. Finally, a few vitamins and minerals are included to account for what is missing by not feeding whole prey.
With EZComplete fur Dogs, dog moms and dads will be able to control the main ingredient, the meat, their pups able to enjoy fresh, truly human grade meat, so easy to make complete & balanced with EZComplete!
EZComplete Fur Dogs will be launched at the SuperZoo, Las Vegas, July 25-27th, and will start shipping 1st week of August. Mark your Calendars!!!
We look forward to helping puppies and adult dogs thrive as EZComplete has done for kittens and cats!
PS. Look for our ad on Dogster Magazine!
Dear Food Fur Life Family, you will soon start receiving our brand new "Stop Light" EZComplete Bags!
Based on the feedback we accumulated since we opened our Company, combined with the advent of the upcoming launch of our EZComplete Fur Dogs, our packaging has been redesigned, featuring several GREAT updates.
The bags are the same, made of the same FDA approved Mylar BPA free material. There were no changes to the formula.
For those who see the Catster ad below, please note - We will start to ship the new bags as we phase out of the current inventory - Large bags sooner, and small bags a little later.... Probably mid-June the East Coast and International customers will start receiving the large new bags. If you receive the current (Black) bag, please be advised that the product is the exact same - including the material of the bags. The only change is the bag design.
As always, thank you for your loyalty!
Carolina and Laurie
At Food Fur Life, we advocate for and encourage the feeding of raw food. That said, a (properly balanced) home prepared food made with all human grade ingredients, even if cooked, will always – in our opinion – be a superior choice to any commercial canned or kibble. This is why we formulated EZComplete fur Cats to properly balance food whether the meat used with the premix is cooked or raw. The premix powder includes both pancreas and digestive enzymes so all kitties fed food made with our premix are consuming those needed digestive enzymes. We understand there may be personal reasons to cook. With that in mind, we share the information in this article to help you make informed choices: whether or not to cook, and if cooking, which method will both suit your lifestyle and be most healthful for your kitty.
When we first entertain the idea of homemade food for our pets, it’s quite common to have questions, if not concerns, about raw feeding and bacteria. Unless we are lucky enough to have a veterinarian that is knowledgeable about raw feeding, these questions often grow into fears once we chat about the diet change (if the notion of homemade food is not completely discouraged). The only consideration when it comes to cooking for our pets, typically, is the fear-based potential for bacterial contamination. We treat the question "to cook or not to cook?" as if cooking is benign, and has no impact apart from making food “safer.” Sure, we all know we need to account for nutrient loss. But the decision to cook for our pets is not so straightforward. There are other important factors to consider – especially if it is cancer or an inflammatory disease that prompted us to explore making food for our furry family members.
Having eaten cooked food for anywhere from 400,000 to 1.8 million years, humans have adapted to eating cooked food. Our pets, naturally hunters and scavengers, have not. In their evolutionary timeline, commercial foods only became a part of their diet full time within the last few decades. Cooking their food may have unintended health consequences, as they are perfectly designed for eating not just raw meat and organ, but what we would consider contaminated raw meat and organ.
Of course WE would likely get sick if we ate raw meat contaminated with bacteria. But this an instance where we should not humanize our pets. Veterinarians are quick – and rightly so – to point out the nutritional needs of our pets are quite different than our own. Of course those differences extend to the defense systems of our bodies versus those of our pets. Of course our pets are well adapted to their natural evolutionary diets of hunting and scavenging. And of course our pets have biological mechanisms in place to protect them from this risk that we do not. We address this in our article “Why You SHOULD Feed Your Immune Compromised Cat Raw Food.”
So what is the real difference between raw and cooked?
Why are enzymes so important to our pets?
Enzymes are present in all living animal (and plant) cells: they are the catalysts of all naturally occurring biochemical processes that take place in our (and our pets’) bodies. Without enzymes, we cannot utilize the nutrition we eat, and neither can our pets. The processes that enzymes catalyze would take so long without them, we couldn’t survive. As we have discussed in numerous articles, cats are not “just” carnivores, cats are metabolically inflexible hypercarnivores. Biologically, cats have made no adaptations to eating anything other than their natural diet. And that diet is raw.
As Dr. Jean Hofve explains in the Spring 2012 issue of IVC Journal in her article, “Enzymes,”
“The thousands of enzymes produced by the body aid in a wide variety of chemical reactions. There are two major classes of enzymes: metabolic and digestive. Digestive enzymes are produced primarily in the pancreas and released into the duodenum to help digest food coming from the stomach. The intestines themselves also secrete amylase and other digestive enzymes.” Dr. Hofve goes on to note that “Research in animals has shown that the production of digestive enzymes is independent of diet. That is, animals are biologically programmed to produce specific types and amounts of digestive enzymes in response to food ingestion, regardless of what food they actually eat. Only major evolutionary shifts, such as changing from omnivorous to insectivorous lifestyles, affect these systems. Our carnivorous pets have not, and cannot, adapt their digestive functions to processed diets, which, after all, have only been widely used for a few decades.” [Bold, our emphasis]
In the wild, cats eat the entire animal. Their digestive and metabolic systems are designed to benefit from the supplemental enzymes consumed. When we feed our pets cooked food, we are providing food that is devoid enzymes. While cooking is a form of "predigestion" in that it alters the structure of the proteins in any food making it easier to break down, humans have had, as discussed above, at least four hundred thousand years to adapt to cooked food. So it is that our organs, especially our pancreas, are much larger relative to body size compared to that ratio in other animals. Dr. Hofve also addresses this in her IVC Journal article on enzymes for pets. The bottom line is that we have had hundreds of thousands of years to adapt to this change in food eating. It is only within the last 20 years or so that many cats were brought indoors 100% of the time, becoming 100% dependent on our cooked, literally processed to death foods, requiring long lists of vitamins and minerals be added back. We see the impact of this change to a diet lacking any fresh raw food or any hunted or scavenged prey in the top health issues and diseases cats suffer.
As Dr. Hofve points out,
“Evidence … strongly suggests that eating foods devoid of enzymes as a result of cooking, food irradiation, and microwaving causes an enlargement of the pancreas and also stresses associated endocrine glands… In all of nature, the human pancreas is three times larger, as compared to total body weight, than that of any other animal. What is interesting is that when mice are fed cooked foods, the ratio of their pancreas weight to total body weight becomes approximately that of a human’s. When they are switched back to a raw-food diet, their pancreas shrinks back to normal size. The most obvious conclusion is that the pancreas becomes hypertrophied, or enlarged, because it is forced to keep up a high digestive enzyme output.” [Bold, our emphasis]
It would seem this process is happening to our cats. In a 2008 review article on pancreatitis by researchers at Texas A&M, it was noted that necropsy examination of the pancreas of 115 cats (both sick and healthy) discovered findings consistent with pancreatitis in 67% of cases (including 45% of “apparently healthy cats”). Let that sink in a moment. Two-thirds of cats had an enlarged pancreas consistent with chronic pancreatitis. We do not know that lack of enzymes in the diet is a cause of or even contributor to pancreatitis. But as the incidence of pancreatitis causing illness in our cats has risen to the point of ranking in the top 10 reasons for a vet visit in 2015 (according to Nationwide (formerly VPI) Pet Insurance), we should be mindful of their need for additional enzymes if eating cooked foods.
It is a true testament to the resilience of our cats that so many do as well as they are, having had zero time in the scale of the species to adapt to any of the dietary changes we have forced them to make. The lack of enzymes is just one of many.
Is cooked food ever appropriate for my pet?
Older pets being transitioned to homemade, or pets with very damaged or sensitive GI tracts, may only be able to eat cooked food comfortably until their GI tracts have had time to heal.
When your pet has a bout of diarrhea or vomiting, or if your pet has inflammatory bowel disease and/or pancreatitis and is in a flare, feeding a bland diet of plain cooked meat for a short period of time is often recommended to help settle the GI tract.
Am I harming my cat if I feed cooked meat?
There are no studies of the impact of Malliard reaction compounds or Advanced Glycation End products in cats. But if we suspect those compounds may present similar health problems to our cats as to ourselves, it is best to be mindful of the problem and make informed cooking choices. Low temperatures and moisture minimize AGEs and do not produce Maillard reaction compounds like heterocyclic amines. A slow cooker on low, the stove top in simmering water, or our baking instructions using moist heat (adding water to the pan and covering the pan with foil) are the best choices. With high heat, dry cooking (typically grilling, frying or roasting), the food will contain these compounds. Of course, as with everything, moderation is advised. You can provide your cat a tasty treat, but don't feed them something cooked via such high heat all the time.
In addition to cooking at lower temperatures and with moisture, you can further minimize the impact of cooking by adjusting the "doneness" of the meat. If you are not convinced our pets are safe eating raw meat, consider lightly cooking the meat instead of cooking it to well done. The surface of the meat is the only area that may have been exposed to bacteria, so it is only the outside of the meat that needs to be cooked. There is no need to cook the meat all the way through. Importantly, this approach offers kitty the opportunity to benefit from some primarily raw food with most of its structure, nutrition, and enzymes intact.
Getting medication and sometimes food into our cats are important skills. Even if our veterinarians show us how in the office, they often make it seem so easy - but once we get home it's a completely different experience. Here Carolina and I (Laurie) share important information about medicating and assist feeding your cats, and the methods we use to accomplish those feats. It wasn't all roses, and it usually results in some emotional trauma (more for us than our cats!), perhaps a mess to clean up, or a wasted, soggy pill. We all have to start somewhere. Hopefully these tips will make it easier.
Let's get started -
Obviously, the easiest method is to get your cat to eat the pill. For tablets and small capsules, this is the raw feeding equivalent of a pill pocket. Thank you, Carolina, for this tip!
Cut a small piece of meat that is small enough to be bite-sized, but big enough to snip a “pocket” into it with shears (or use a knife if you’re handy with them, I am not). Put pill in pocket, feed to cat - not as part of the meal, you need to ensure kitty eats it. If this method doesn't work, you may need to pill your cat.
Medicating with Liquids
For liquids, use the same techniques as for pilling. It is still best to follow the medication with water.
Never pill a plain pill. I always put tablets into a #3 size empty gel cap (example: NOW size 3 empty gelatin capsules), and though it makes it a little slippery, I coat the pill with something, usually a bit of butter. Wet capsules can get stuck in the throat.
Pills should NEVER be given alone and dry. Think of your own experience swallowing a pill. It is not just uncomfortable, it can cause physical damage. Strictures are usually not reparable in cats, and over time dry pilling can cause scarring and restriction of the esophagus (to the point a cat must be put on a liquid diet).
If you are using your finger or a piller that doesn’t have a water chaser, to prep for giving the pill, have a little dish ready with a bit of something for them to lap up. Bone broth, meat broth (made for the cats with nothing added, just plain broth), “meat juice” if they like that (what separates from meat during thaw), a little tuna water… whatever works for your cat. Once you’ve gotten the pill down, they need to drink something to wash it down!
Use praise. LOTS of praise. Before, during, and after. Praise your kitty, tell her what you’re doing and why. Tell her WHAT a good girl she is, how much you love her, and don’t stop talking. Calm, sweet, loving, dotted with lots and lots of praise.
The main ingredient is confidence. It takes practice, but it won’t be long before you can approach your kitty wherever she is, hold her head, pop the pill in, and it’s over and done with before she realizes it happened. Take a big deep breath, or a few of them. Think “I can do this!” And just go for it. Worst case, your cat spits the pill out and you must try again. But this does NOT hurt your cat, and you will NOT harm your cat.
If you are still nervous, sing, even if you don’t sing. It calms both of you down. Just pick a tune you know, kitty doesn’t care if you sing in key. And sing the stuff you’d talk to her, if you don’t know the words to a song. Kitty doesn’t care if it rhymes or even makes sense. I no longer need to sing to pill, but I do need to sing trying to get a few of them to do other things (like scuffing them into a crate to go to the vet. I have quite a few still semi-feral cats). I usually sing to the Monty Python Lumberjack song. “You’re a kitty cat and you’re ok! You need this pill so you can play and play…”
Pilling a Cat - Video demonstration by Carolina
Pilling a Cat - Laurie's Method
Important notes before we begin:
I am right-handed. If your dominant hand is the left, the point is to use your dominant hand for the work (getting the pill in, using the syringe, or swiping the food) and the other hand to control the cat’s movement.
You can use a piller rather than your finger. Unlike Carolina who is comfortable with a piller, I’m a spaz with one. I use what I feel in the cat’s mouth wtih my finger to know where the pill is. Yes, the cat usually chomps my finger, but rarely do they break skin. If you use a piller, best to use one with a water chaser as demonstrated by Carolina in the video, above.
When putting something in a cat’s mouth, it is their natural reaction to back away. Use this to your advantage. Sit behind your kitty, knees bent, butt on your heels, legs in a V shape. Use this position to “hold” kitty in place. There’s nowhere to back up, and your legs help hold the cat in place.
I use my left hand (my non-dominant hand) to hold the head, thumb on top of head, the rest of my hand under the chin, head “cupped” in my hand. You are not hurting your cat: hold firmly! I can manipulate where the head is this way. I have the pill (or if you prefer, a piller) in my right hand (holding the pill with my thumb and index finger). I push the mouth open with my left index finger. Locate the back of the mouth, where the upper and lower jaws hinge together. With your other hand (holding the pill), locate the back of the mouth with your middle finger, so you’re ready with the pill.
Hold the head tilted up with your left hand, it makes this easier.
I push at the hinge of the jaw, into the mouth, with my left (non-dominant hand) index finger. Push firmly. The mouth will open. (I’m already holding the pill in my right hand in the correct position, at the back of the mouth, ready-to-go). I push the pill in from the right side at the back of the mouth with my right (dominant hand) index finger. I stick my finger in the mouth, guiding the pill ALL the way to the back of the mouth, over the hump of the tongue. I push quickly. Just get it over that hump, you'll feel it. Remove finger immediately. Yes, my finger usually gets chomped. It doesn’t hurt much, skin is rarely broken. I have been using my left hand to prevent the cat from thrashing the head around, and my body and legs hold the cat in position, though there may be some wiggling.
As soon as I’ve removed my finger, I hold the mouth closed, and keep the head tilted up (and now your dominant hand is available to help). If you let the head down while pilling, tilt it up again. Holding the mouth closed prevents them from spitting it out, and tilting it up has gravity helping do the work. I hold the mouth closed until they swallow. If they resist swallowing, just stroke the throat gently with your right hand while still holding the head firm with your left. Or you can tilt the head all the way up and blow a gentle puff of air on the nose. As soon as they swallow, you’re done! Praise the heck out of her, and offer the liquid to drink.
IF YOUR CAT IS NOT EATING, IT IS UP TO YOU TO GET ALL THE NUTRITION SHE NEEDS INTO HER. Cats' livers are NOT designed to deal with processing fat stores. Without food, your cat starts to release fat and “eat” her own muscles. This fat can flood the liver causing a liver disease called hepatic lipidosis, or “fatty liver” and this IS life-threatening. It also makes your cat not want to eat, and the primary resolution is food. This is not treatable with a medicine. Food IS the medicine.
Assist feeding notes:
When to assist feed. As discussed above, a cat not eating can cause liver disease. Overweight cats are particularly at risk. When a cat has not eaten for 24 hours, or only "picked" at food over a 24 hour period, you need to begin assist feeding. Of course, a vet visit is warranted to discover the cause of the problem. Walking away from food is a sign of nausea in cats, and needs to be addressed and managed. But getting the nutrition your kitty needs into her will help support her best health, no matter the cause. It's important to note that without food, cats often develop acidic tummies, and the cycle of nausea perpetuates itself without food.
What to assist feed. If you need to assist feed your cat, as your cat is already in distress, it is best to continue to use the food you are currently feeding to minimize GI upset. The exception is kibble. Then we recommend using baby food or plain poached chicken breast. Thus, if you feed raw, continue to use that - though if you feed ground with bone, you will have to make a batch substituting eggshell for bone so you can put the food through the syringe. To use eggshell as the source of calcium, use 1/2 teaspoon (3.1 grams) of very finely ground eggshell powder for each one pound (450g) of meat/organs. If using commercial raw, in the U.S. there may be a Rad Cat distributor near you. This is the only commercial raw that is ideal for a syringe as it uses eggshell, not ground bone. If you want a very plain diet, you can use ground meat balanced with eggshell and taurine (1/32nd tsp of very finely ground eggshell powder per ounce (28.35g); for larger batches, one-half teaspoon per pound (450g), and to one of the syringes each day add 250mg of taurine). This can be done with raw or cooked meat. If you feed homecooked, we recommend you assist feed your homecooked food.
Many vets will tell you or encourage you to use prescription food designed to be used in a feeding tube, this makes it easy to use in a syringe. But if your cat has not been on a commercial diet recently, this is likely to cause GI upset, and there really is no need for this. For those new to raw and concerned about using raw when kitty is sick, please read our article Why You SHOULD Feed Your Immune Compromised Cat Raw Food. Having your kitty feel unwell from food simply because it was designed to be used in a syringe makes no sense. The vets that are not anti-raw tell you to keep feeding your cat raw. If YOU feel more comfortable feeding cooked, that's fine. Then cook the food you would feed, just make sure to use eggshell calcium instead of bone. Of course, food made with EZComplete fur Cats works very well in a syringe once prepared for it. When my cats are ill and need to stay at the vet, I take prefilled syringes with raw food, and they assist feed those rather than the canned Rx they would use. And thus my cats don’t get stomach upset from food they are not used to eating. If your vet won’t do that, fill them with baby food. Or poach chicken thigh. By including some fat, this is just as high calorie as the a/d. The a/d has 183 calories per 5.5 ounces, it isn’t a particularly "high calorie" food.
Prepare the food for the syringe. If assist feeding raw or homecooked, you’ll have to run it through the blender with some water. If you feed raw with bone, you will have to make food using eggshell as a substitute for ground bone. See above.
I use a knife to load the syringe from the top. Carolina uses a spoon. We both prepare as many syringes as we're going to feed in one sitting before we start.
How Much Food?
For the feeding, start by giving a small amount per plunger push: 1ML to 2ML are good amounts to start with until you get the hang of it. I usually give 3ML in one squirt.
For the day. One of the biggest assist feeding mistakes is not getting enough food into your cat. You need to get all of the daily nutrition your cat needs into her. It is best to work up to the full daily quantity by starting with at least half of her daily need on day one. Day two, target three-quarters. On day three, you should start getting her full daily need. If you are unable to get ALL the food your cat needs into her, please get a feeding tube. Feeding tubes save lives and are completely underutilized in cats. They are a quick procedure with a light anesthetic, and usually very well tolerated by cats, and even most sick cats can manage the procedure. You vet is the best judge of how your cat will handle the procedure. Whether for three days or three weeks, feeding tubes reduce the stress on both of you and ensure your cat gets the nutrition she needs.
Determining the daily food requirement. As to how much to feed of the course of a day, the math is straightforward. 5ML is one teaspoon of food. Three teaspoons are a tablespoon. So each 15ML syringe is one tablespoon, and that is approximately one half-ounce of food. If your kitty eats 4.5 ounces a day, that means over the course of a day, your cat will need to be fed nine 15ML syringes of food. You can feed one every hour to hour-and-a-half. You can feed two every few hours, and one at the end of the day. You can feed three meals a day of three syringes. Whatever works best with your schedule.
Where to Feed. I assist feed in a bathroom. It’s closed, warm, and easy to clean up. And if for some reason the cat gets away from me, I can more easily corral them again.
Assist feeding is messy – more so when you’re still new to it. Have lots of paper towels handy!
Assist Feeding - Carolina's Method
Please note, this video was made before Carolina transitioned her cats to raw food. Now when any of them need assistance eating, Carolina prepares their regular raw food (raw meat + EZComplete fur Cats) to use in the syringe. (I use the same). She uses her Magic Bullet to blend with water into a consistency easy to use in the syringe. I use my small food processor. As food made with EZComplete fur Cats is moist, it doesn't require much water using the Four Paws Easy Feeder syringes featured in the video and discussed here, as you control the width of the tip by where you cut it to create the opening in the cone on the feeder syringe.
Carolina found the BEST syringes: Four Paws Easy Feeder. No rubber, so they never stick. Easy to clean. They’re large enough to be useful, but not so large you can’t handle them – and we both have small hands. Best, you cut the syringe tip to the width you want it, which makes syringing raw food SO much easier. The pack comes with one food syringe with a cone shaped feeding tip and one liquid syringe. I cut the long thin part off the liquid one, and thus I get two food syringes. Carolina finds the tip on that to be too thick - and it is a wide opening, so best to use the cone syringe as a beginner. The syringes are 15ML each. That is half an ounce of food. When assist feeding, it is often best to feed more frequent smaller amounts. But it sure is helpful to be able to feed an ounce at a time (two 15ML syringes). The syringes the vet gives you are meant to be used with a feeding tube, and are very limiting both in terms of how much food you can feed (they're usually 10ML at most) at one time, and the opening is very small, so it's difficult to get food through it.
In this video, Carolina demonstrates how to assist feed using a cat bag. This works to settle and calm the cats, reducing the stress of assist feeding. It also restrains the cat, so you are free to use both hands. It is stressful to assist feed a struggling cat. ...Though as we've found, you may find that after a few meals, your cat realizes she feels better, and settles down (often after initially objecting just on principle). But this is Carolina's first time assist feeding Lucky (though Carolina was already experienced with assist feeding when this video was made). My Lazlo was the first cat I ever had to assist feed, and at first, of course, he hated it and fought it. But as I got better at it, and he realized he felt better with food in his tummy, he quickly became cooperative and purred throughout - as you can see Lucky is almost enjoying her food, here. Carolina and I think it's important to note: while this is the first time Lucky was assist fed, she is calm and not struggling. Our cats are so sensitive to us, if we approach it with fear and trepidation, we can expect them to object. Approaching it calmly, with love, gentleness and confidence, they respond, as Lucky does.
Assist Feeding - Laurie's Method
The instructions for assist feeding are exactly the same as pilling, only you’re not putting a pill in the mouth, you’re putting the tip of a feeding syringe. And instead of aiming for the throat, tilt the head up with your left hand, so it’s easy to point the tip of the syringe at the roof of the mouth. By pointing at the roof of the mouth, you can be sure you’re not going to make your cat accidentally inhale food.
This can be used for small amounts of food, but it isn’t very efficient. I use this to get slippery elm bark powder “paste” into my CKD cat. I used to use the slippery elm “syrup,” which seems to work much better for nausea than straight slippery elm bark powder. But now I’ve a CKD cat that needs this basically daily, I find it easier to just finger swipe a paste into his mouth – and by replacing water with the George’s Distilled Aloe Vera Juice (now labeled “drink”), he needs less of the paste to be as effective as 3ML to 5ML of the syrup. The usual directions for the paste are one-quarter teaspoon of slippery elm bark powder and one-half teaspoon of water. Stir and let thicken. But now I replace the water with George’s Aloe – and he doesn’t need all of it. I’ve reduced it to 1/8th tsp slippery elm bark powder and one-quarter teaspoon of George’s aloe vera.
Have the paste handy. Follow the instructions for pilling, only rather than holding a pill to put in the mouth, you’re putting a blob of aloe paste on the end of your dominant hand finger. Rather than push a pill all the way into the back of the mouth, you're just “wiping” the paste into the back of the mouth. Open her mouth with the index finger of the hand holding the head as instructed in the pilling section above, and quickly wipe that blob of paste (or food) that's on your other finger into the back of the mouth. No need to push it anywhere. Close the mouth with the left hand, hold the head tilted up, wait for kitty to swallow. Repeat as necessary to get most (or even all) of it in. If you only need the smaller amount paste to help your kitty’s nausea, you should be able to get it done in one or two swipes.
Does your cat frustrate you with loving her food one day – and hating it the next? You might be surprised to learn that the problem could be the nutritional profile of the food you are offering her to eat, not the taste. Of course, cats experience nausea when ill. But a recent study indicates our apparently healthy kitties may have a sound reason for being finicky felines after all. “Balancing macronutrient intake in a mammalian carnivore: disentangling the influences of flavour and nutrition” found that – after a period of introduction to the food textures and flavors – aroma, taste and texture of food was not as important to cats as the macronutrient content of the food.
“Macronutrient” content refers to the basic composition of the diet: protein, fats and carbohydrates. As we have discussed before, cats naturally consume a diet that is over 60% protein, about 20% fat, and has almost no carbohydrates (on a dry matter basis). As fat provides almost twice as many calories as protein, this equates to cats obtaining about 52% and 46% of their energy needs from protein and fat, respectively. (The diet they naturally consume provides just 2% of their energy from carbohydrates).
In this study, cats were introduced to three basic new foods. These were wet foods with the texture of porridge. The flavors were fish, rabbit and orange. (!!!) Each food was initially formulated with a similar protein-to-fat ratio. The cats showed a strong preference for the fish-flavored food: rabbit was “neutral,” and orange flavored food disliked. No surprise there, right?
The three different flavors of food were then formulated with three different ratios of protein and fat. On an energy basis, the three different food formulations were
When fed with those three different protein-to-fat options but offered just one flavor at a time, the protein-to-fat ratio of 70%/30% won as the favorite food, paws down.
Then the cats were offered the varying protein-to-fat ratios with a mix of flavors such that the cats would have to eat orange flavored food in order to increase the protein in their diet. The cats ate a mix that averaged out to about 50% energy from protein and about 50% from fat, in line with the profile of their natural diet and the results of the 2011 study that eliminated taste preferences – even though that meant the cats had to choose to eat orange flavored food to achieve that mix of protein and fat.
Adrien Hewson-Hughes, who led the study, told the Discovery News site, Seeker, “Cats initially selected food based on flavor preferences, but after 'learning' (due to prior exposure) about the nutritional composition of the foods, cats [subsequently] selected foods to reach a particular target balance of protein and fat regardless of added flavors.”
Take a moment to absorb that. Cats chose a nutritional composition over taste and smell.
As noted in the study discussion, “What is remarkable given the unusual nature and properties of the foods offered in these experiments — ‘porridge-like’ consistency, added flavours/aromas, different P : F [protein and fat] compositions and animal- or plant-derived protein sources — is the extent to which the balance and amounts of protein and fat intakes do converge... This indicates that macronutrient balancing is a powerful driver of food selection in cats and points to the ability to detect and respond to post-ingestive macronutrient signals that are distinct from sensory aspects contributing to the apparent palatability of foods.” (Our emphasis)
In plain English, this means cats respond not just to taste, smell or texture – their bodies prompt them to eat what they need from a nutritional standpoint! It bears repeating: cats actually ate orange-flavored food (after learning it was, in fact, food) in order to consume a diet that (from the perspective of the ratio of meat and fat in the foods) resembles their evolutionary diet. As we have discussed before, cats are a metabolically inflexible hypercarnivore, and it really should come as no surprise that the diet they naturally strive to eat is what they need. It may be surprising to some that THEY know they need this. The mechanism responsible for this is not yet known. But what is most likely surprising to most (if not all) of us is the response of their bodies to diet is so strong, in order to get the nutrition they need, cats will eat food a food with a flavor they would most likely never – under normal circumstances – elect to eat on a taste/aroma basis. The qualifier there? They need to have been introduced to the foods and learn that they ARE food.
Cats NEED to Be Introduced to New Foods
If given the opportunity – and, importantly – when properly introduced to the food – cats will choose the diet that best suits their needs. As Dr. Hewson-Hughes told Discovery News, cats display an eating characteristic called neophobia. "This means they are unwilling to try a food that is new or different to their normal food, which may make them appear fussy." If we offer our kitty new food, especially a new food format such as wet from kibble or homemade from kibble or canned, we can’t expect them to like it right away – and we may meet with quite a bit of resistance. Cats are naturally cautious eaters and when a new food looks, smells, and feels so different, it is a part of their life-saving instinct to be distrustful. This is why we have several files dedicated to assisting with the process that results in a successful transition. Cats may instinctively know what they need – but most need to go through the learning process to understand that even healthy, tasty food IS food.
Another interesting aspect of this study explains why cats, when they do take to a food if based just on taste, can so often appear to change their minds. This study indicates that every time you feed your cat, her body tells her whether she needs more or less of the nutrients in the food you’re offering her. If it has the same mid- or low-level of protein as what you were feeding; or if it has a similar carb content- she may well refuse the new food after a meal or two, despite liking the taste at first. So rather than commit to that new case of canned food, consider making your own cat food. A homemade balanced and complete cat food based on the prey model is what your cat needs – and your cat’s body knows it. With balanced and complete assurances (and the ability to use boneless raw or cooked meats) when you make your feline friend food with EZComplete fur Cats, you control the types AND cuts of meat you feed your cat. You control the mix of meat and fat. You control the texture (and temperature). If your cat doesn’t want ground food, you can feed it chunked. If your cat doesn't like gravy, add less water. Food Fur Life provides the tools you need to feed your cat the food her body wants and needs.
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Food digestibility and nutrient bioavailability are at the heart of nutrition. Digestibility is a measure of how much nutrition a food provides in a given volume. It indicates how much of the food is absorbed by the gut (intestines) into the bloodstream. It is the difference between what your cat eats and what your cat excretes.
Nutrient bioavailability is the proportion of the absorbed nutrients that are carried to target tissues and are available for use by the body. Because a highly digestible food provides a higher proportion of absorbed nutrients than a less digestible food, digestibility provides an important measure of a food’s nutritional value and quality. In general, as the quality of ingredients in the food increases, so will the food’s digestibility and nutrient bioavailability.
To understand which foods will provide the highest digestibility to our cats, we need to understand a little bit about their physiology.
We seek convenient food with our busy lifestyles. And most of us do not intuitively understand what cats need nutritionally to support their best health – they seem like little aliens. So we ask our vets. And despite the fact that 80% of cats over the age of three years have periodontal disease, many of our vets still tell us that for dental health, cats need kibble, and that to mimic their "natural" pattern of eating many small meals (being hunters of small mammals), we should leave the food out. We didn't know any better, and we trusted our vet to know what’s best for Bella.
Or we free-feed kibble to our kitties, because that’s what and how our parents fed our cats when we were growing up, and those kitties lived long, healthy lives. So 80% of us go to the store and buy a bag of kibble, come home, and pour it into a dish we keep full for Boots, and Socks, and Tigger. And yet we keep Boots and Socks and Tigger indoors exclusively, where our childhood friends were usually indoor-outdoor cats, supplementing their dry diet with healthy, freshly hunted prey. (If your kitty brought you gifts, that most certainly meant he was eating them, as research indicates that kitty only returns one in four hunted animals to present as gifts to his family.)
…except cats evolved eating high protein, moisture-rich food in the desert. Kibble:
This discrepancy between cats' needs and the dry food format has profound implications for their health, as discussed in our article Cat Food vs Cat health.
Many assume the influence of living among humans would have had an impact on what cats have the ability to eat and use for sources of energy and nutrition, as appears to the be case for dogs. Nope. Not so. Not at all.
Despite their proximity to humans for at least 10,000 years, cats retain their unique anatomic, physiologic, metabolic, and behavioral adaptations consistent with eating a strictly carnivorous diet. That is to say that cats, to this very day, remain obligate carnivores – and not just obligate carnivores, but hypercarnivores. By their genetic makeup, cats must eat the tissue of other animals in order to thrive.
If cats were in charge of the pet food industry, food instructions would read “remove mouse or rabbit from freezer, thaw and feed.” That idea makes many of us laugh and say, "My cat would never eat that!" That is only because they weren't raised eating properly (for a cat!) and usually have to learn to eat biologically appropriate fresh raw foods, having been imprinted to commercial food options, that use chemicals and flavoring to keep them eating. For cats, a highly digestible food is moisture rich, low carb, and made with fresh, high quality animal proteins.
The Digestibility of Cat Foods
Merriam-Webster defines digestibility as “the percentage of foodstuff taken into the digestive tract that is absorbed by the body.” Simply put, it is the difference between how much food your cat eats and how much is excreted in stool. What they can’t digest, they excrete.
Example: your cat eats one 5.5 ounce can of food a day. Your cat excretes 0.8 ounces of stool. That means your cat digested 4.7 ounces of the food she ate. 4.7 ounces of food absorbed divided by 5.5 ounces of food eaten = 85%. This food is 85% digestible. Yes, water is a factor, but not one we have to worry about unless comparing canned and kibble. The point is the difference between what they eat and what comes out is what is meant by “digestibility.”
Example Stool Comparison
On the left:
Food: High protein (meat by-products), low carbohydrate canned with guar gum, food coloring and "natural" flavors
Amount: 4.5 ounces per day.
Frequency of stool: Daily
On the right:
Food: Homemade raw food made with EZcomplete fur Cats using beef as the boneless muscle meat.
Amount: 4.5 ounces per day
Frequency of stool: Every-other-day
Why does this matter? What does this illustrate?
Let’s look at protein, being so important to a cat.
To determine the digestibility of protein (or any individual nutrient), the amount of the individual nutrient in the stool is determined. So if that 5.5 ounce can of food contains 19 grams of protein, and kitty excretes 3 grams of protein in the stool, kitty used, kitty absorbed, kitty metabolized 16 grams of protein. 16 grams of protein absorbed divided by the 19 grams of protein eaten = 84%. The protein in that food is 84% digestible. But different protein sources have differing digestibility due to their biological values, and different foods have varying ingredients that make the protein more or less accessible to the body.
Example: Canned foods 1 and 2 both have 12% protein as listed on the guaranteed analysis. They both have the same moisture content of 72%. This means each 5.5 ounce can of food has about 19 grams of protein.
Food 1 has a digestibility of 90%
Food 2 has a digestibility of 80%
Food 1: 19 grams x 90% = 17 grams of protein absorbed by the body
Food 2: 19 grams x 80% = 15 grams of protein absorbed by the body
Even though each can of cat food is labeled as having 12% protein and 72% moisture, and we expect they will provide the same amount of protein to our cat, they don’t. Food 1 provides more protein than Food 2.
If we presume both canned foods have the same protein as the main ingredient, how can there be such a big difference in digestibility? Digestibility is impacted by many factors apart from protein sources, though protein quality is an important factor in digestibility of the food, and bioavailability of the nutrients. Differences arise from protein source, protein quality, the macronutrient content, other ingredient differences of the foods: the presence (or lack) of fiber, gums or thickeners, particle sizes, processing techniques, the temperatures achieved in processing – and, of course, the age and health of the animal eating the food.
What Is a “High Quality” Protein?
First, we need to understand that not all proteins are created equal, especially when feeding an obligate carnivore. As Mark Peterson, DVM (renowned small animal endocrinologist) says, “The biological value of a protein is a measure of that protein's ability to supply amino acids (especially the 11 essential amino acids required by cats) and to supply these amino acids in the proper proportions. It is well-established that animal proteins (e.g., meat, meat by-products) have higher biological values than vegetable proteins (e.g., corn gluten meal, soybean meal, soy protein isolate).”
High quality protein is animal-based. High quality protein provides the 11 essential amino acids in proper proportions. The highest quality proteins come from fresh, raw human grade meats, not cooked meats, and not pet grade meats, which include diseased and downed animals in both canned and kibble cat foods.
So how do we know which foods are highly digestible and provide the most nutrition to our cats?
Kerr at al 2012. Apparent total tract energy and macronutrient digestibility and fecal fermentative end-product concentrations of domestic cats fed extruded raw, beef-based and cooked beef-based diets. J Anim Sci 2012, 90:515-522
Hamper et al 2015. Apparent nutrient digestibility of two raw diets in domestic kittens, J Feline Med Surg 2015 Sep 23
When discussing cat food, “high quality food” starts by being a food that is appropriate given the cat’s physiologic and metabolic needs. This is called “species appropriate” or “biologically appropriate” food. It refers to food that best resembles their natural diet, the evolutionary diet of the cat. This will place the least stress on their GI system, provide the most nutrition, and thus support their best long-term health. That diet is
The importance of feeding a cat a highly digestible, species appropriate diet cannot be ignored nor overstated, not only for its nutritional aspect, but also for the strain a highly processed diet puts on the digestive system of the cat, particularly on the pancreas, in trying to digest a food that is void of proper nutrients and enzymes, ultimately resulting in inflammation. Many of the top diseases our cats suffer are directly related to their diets and can easily be avoided by providing them with whole food-based nutrition.
You finally won the battle of wills with your cat, transitioned him to a raw diet, and all of the sudden you prepare his meal with a whole bunch of love and care only for him to sniff it and turn around – What a slap on your face you think! What happened? It’s the same food he was devouring yesterday!
Cats! You think… Raw food made my cat sick!... Hunger strike! You think... He’s Just super finicky, or he’s playing a game on me! Or he doesn’t like the food anymore… You are at a loss.
There are several possibilities to consider when a cat stops eating, especially when transitioning to a raw diet:
The first, and the most important thing to do is to rule out illness.
Prior to transitioning to a raw diet, most pet parents are accustomed to feeding their cats the same food meal after meal, sometimes for years, and their cats never get bored – so they naturally think it will be the same way with raw.
It is no coincidence that kitty never gets tired of kibbles. Kibbles, and many canned foods are meticulously “engineered” to keep your kitties eating them, by being coated with fat, having chemicals and flavors added to it that are both irresistible and downright addictive. If that was not the case, pets would not eat processed foods.
Transitioning your pet from kibbles or even canned to raw is the equivalent of transitioning an adult human, a lot of times even a senior citizen, who has only eaten highly processed foods from a can, package, or a bag his entire life to a healthy diet of salads, veggies, fruits and low fat meats. Not an easy task. It can take time, patience and perseverance…. But it’s absolutely the best thing you will ever do for your cat’s health, and a very rewarding experience for you too!
Keeping in mind that the beginning can be difficult, and sometimes it will seem you are taking two steps back and one forward, always remember two key things: This is not a race, it’s a journey, and to never, EVER starve a kitty into a new diet. If kitty is not eating and you must take a step back in the transition, take a deep breath, take a step back, and move forward. There is nothing wrong with it – as long as you keep moving in the right direction and don’t give up, you will get there!
With that said, now that you have taken that step, what can you do to keep your cats interested on raw?
VARIETY. Variety is key in keeping your cats eating a raw diet long term.
You should aim to have at least three proteins on your cats’ diet – that will provide them not only with a well-rounded nutritional profile, but will keep them from getting bored.
Once you transition your cat to raw, immediately start using that protein as a base using the slow transition technique to add a second protein to the kitty’s diet. You can then use both proteins as a base to slowly introduce a third protein to the diet.
When you have introduced all the proteins, you can switch them back and forth.
How often should you rotate proteins?
I personally rotate proteins at every meal – my cats never eat the same protein twice in a row. While EZComplete is considered almost a topper by most cats with the dried liver, GLM and yolk, variety is still essential in keeping my cats happy, and has yet to fail me in all these years.
You can also rotate daily, or every few days, but in my experience the more often you rotate, the more successful you will be in keeping your cats anxious for the next meal, and licking their plates clean.
Try a different texture - Many cats also get introduced to raw on ground meats, and stop eating... Then they are offed a chunk of meat and voila! That happened to our Food Fur Life Cats… Pretty much all of them! So if your cat is currently eating ground meat and no longer wants the food, try giving a little chunk of meat and see what happens. It might be time to take your kitchen scissors out of the drawer!
Offer a plain meal - Also part of our variety, is once a week they get one or two completely plain meals – yep – no supplements, nothing! Meat only. That makes them love both the meat and EZComplete even more!
Use healthy toppers - If you still have problems, and we all do from time to time, you can always rely on healthy toppers to entice your cat to eat. In my home, chicken is not a favorite for my cat Lucky, and I have to admit, she is a master manipulator (anyone here can relate to that?) – so from time to time I do rely on her favorite treat as a topper, which….. you guessed it – is Freeze Dried Chicken! I just lightly sprinkle it over her meal, and she licks her plate clean.
The Importance of a Routine
It’s also very important to note that cats are creatures of habit – that’s not a myth. Establishing a routine for them from the beginning is very important – from a feeding schedule, to their eating places, and even to their own plates. A set routine will impact your chances of success greatly.
Before feeding raw, I had the hardest time to feed even half an ounce of wet food to any of my cats – I would have to crawl under the bed for one, spoon feed another on the top of the cat tree… Let alone the food had to be made into a slurry on a blender and warmed up just so, otherwise they would not even consider it! Think I am lying? Watch the video below of me spoon-feeding Bugsy! This was mainly due to two things - feeding kibbles along with wet, and having no routine.
One of the most valuable advice I have ever gotten, and I got MANY, was to establish a routine right off the bat when transitioning to raw – I believe that was essential for my cats being the happy carnivores they are today. I can easily see how important this is when anything breaks that routine – they go off food until their routine is back into place. If your cat suddenly quit eating, consider if anything has thrown his routine off.
Last, but not least, please consider your kitties’ situation when you transitioned them to raw. Lots of pet parents make that transition due to an illness, specially IBD…
There is a reason why we recommend a slow transition – always. Especially on adult or older kitties, after years of eating an unappropriated diet, it can take time for their bodies to start digesting raw properly. EZComplete has both Enzymes and pancreas, which helps with digestion, but there are some kitties that make the transition with a digestive system already very compromised. These cats should be given an extra slow transition, always be on probiotics (we firmly believe probiotics are an essential part of the diet for all cats), and depending of the age or condition of the cat, they might have to start with a homemade cooked diet balanced with EZComplete, and slowly transitioned to raw. If you just transitioned to raw and feel your cat might have a tummy upset, your transition might have been be too fast. Take a step back, always follow your kitties pace, keeping a close eye on them.
Summarizing, if your kitty suddenly stopped eating:
Last week PetFoodIndustry.com published a blog post, "Simple, clean pet food labels: altering the discussion." The very premise of the article is quite ironic: consumer perception is the problem, not the pet foods. It's not that consumers are becoming better educated as to what provides the best promise of long term health to their animal companions. No, on the contrary, the "problem" is the failure of the pet food industry to properly educate the consumer about the existing ingredients in pet foods. After all, pet food is all about the science of nutrition. And, you know, "science is hard."
The author asks "So, what is driving this clean label trend?" and answers: "Like many things, it is consumer demand, driven by perception. In this case, it is backed by nutritionists who agree that eating a diet made up of whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables is better for our health. So, consumers will be compelled to read the labels of processed foods, looking for something that is as close to the original state as possible, but with the convenience of a packaged food."
Consumer demand. Driven by perception. Backed by nutritionists who agree that eating a diet made up of whole, unprocessed foods is better for our health. Well, consider substituting "education" for "perception" and "Informed by" for "backed by" and see what happens. The concept then reads "Like many things, it is consumer demand, driven by education. In this case, it is informed by nutritionists who agree that eating a diet made of of whole, unprocessed foods ... is better for our health."
Is this a bad thing, pet parents wanting to provide their pets healthy, whole foods?
Well, if you are Mars, Nestlé, or Del Monte (with what has been renamed the Big Heart Pet Brands) - the largest pet food companies in the world - the knowledge that a solely processed food diet isn't healthy for us or our pets is a bad thing. As they are all also among the largest food and beverage companies in the world, of course they want to counter the notion that homemade and fresh foods are the best foods for us - and our pets.
But if it is science they want, there is a growing body of it. Just a few weeks ago, a team of Australians from the Charles Perkins Centre and School of Life and Environmental Sciences at The University of Sydney published a report, Nutrition Ecology and Human Health. The message of the report is straightforward: nutrition science is broken. In a nutshell, while focusing on micronutrients had its place in our understanding of the importance of diet in combating disease, that nutritional model that breaks down nutrition into its components is fundamentally incompatible with the "new suite of nutrition-related diseases."
"Food science" isn't failing just human health. There is - sadly - plenty of evidence the same holds true for our pets. As mentioned in our article, Cat Food vs. Cat Health, it is a relatively recent situation that approximately 60% of pet cats in the U.S. live indoor-only. This means that our little predators are not out hunting field mice, voles, rats, or rabbits. They have become completely dependent on us for their nutritional needs. What this also means is that health problems associated with the typical commercial diet are becoming ever more apparent, especially as access to veterinary care and safety from cars and predators contributes to their longer lives. Our cats are overweight, blocking from crystals in their urine, suffering dental disease, and GI disorders are rising at alarming rates, with the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease and pancreatitis now making the "Top Ten" lists of VPI Pet Insurance. Our cats are dying primarily of kidney disease and cancer.
Surely food alone does not account for all of these problems. But at Food Fur Life we ask, how healthy would we be if all we ate was dry cereal and/or canned stew – all made with ingredients that weren’t fit for our consumption? No, Pet Food Industry, the problem is not lack of consumer education as to the "safety" of the ingredients in the diets you provide. Your problem is consumers are learning their carnivorous pets need whole, fresh, quality, species-appropriate foods for their best health, too.
This is why we created Food Fur Life - to make healthy homemade food accessible to everyone. To make it easy for the busiest of pet parents to provide their pets a fresh, truly human-grade meat-based diet based on the prey model. Blending the best of mother nature and science, whether pet parents are time constrained, and feel they don't have the time to make their own pet food all from scratch, or whether there is concern about "doing it right," we have the solution. And it really is EZ, with EZcomplete.
Most of you must recognize the word "Kefir" from the milk/yogurt isles in the supermarket.... But do you know what Kefir is?
The word Kefir derives from the Turkish word keyif, which means "Feeling Good" , and it's believed to be original from the Caucasus Mountains.
Its history is full of legends, and can be "traced" all the way to the Prophet Mohamed and mentioned by Marco Polo!
It is also believed Kefir was used as a way to preserve milk by means of fermentation, in the absence of refrigeration and pasteurization. Kefir grains were added to milk, generally in a goat skin leather bag, and hung by the door. Everyone who went by or through the door, shook the bag with its foot. After 24 hours, the fermented milk was poured, and fresh milk was added to the grains, keeping the fermentation process constant.
But just what are the Milk Kefir Grains?
Kefir grains are microbially derived protein and polysaccharide matrices that contain cultures of bacteria and yeast that are essential to Kefir fermentation.
The bacteria found in the grains depend of several factors, including the Milk used during fermentation, the fermentation process itself, and even the region where the grains originate from.
Mainly comprised of Lactobacillus, common bacteria strains include: Ref 1, Ref 2, Ref3
Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. delbrueckii, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. lactis, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus keﬁranofaciens subsp. keﬁranofaciens, Lactobacillus keﬁri, Lactobacillus paracasei subsp. paracasei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus sake, Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, Lactococcus lactis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris, Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. dextranicum, Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides
Pseudomonas, Pseudomonas fluorescens, Pseudomonas putida, Streptococcus thermophilus
Candida humilis, Candida Kefyr, Kazachstania unispora, Kazachstania exigua, Kluyveromyces siamensis, Kluyveromyces lactis, Kluyveromyces marxianus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Saccharomyces martiniae, Saccharomyces unisporus, Debaryomyces hansenii, Dekkera anomala, Torulaspora delbrueckii, Pichia fermentans, Saccharomyces turicensis, Issatchenkia orientalis and Debaryomyces occidentalis.
Depending on what milk you use and on the quality of the Kefir grains, Kefir can contain anywhere from 1 billion to 10 billion CFU of bacterial/yeast probiotic per ml (cc). That is 5-50 billion CFU per TSP!
It is important to note that Kefir grains, unlike the name suggests, are very much alive, and as such must be taken care of.... As any alive being, it must be fed - but what does it eat? That is the beauty of it: LACTOSE!
In kefir, lactic acid bacteria are primarily responsible for the conversion of the lactose present in milk into lactic acid, which results in a pH decrease and milk preservation. Other kefir microbial constituents include lactose-fermenting yeasts that produce ethanol and CO2. Non-lactose fermenting yeast and acetic acid bacteria also participate in the process. After each fermentation "batch", the grains biomass increase in about 5-7%, which is why the bacterial/yeast composition varies according to the milk and process used for fermentation.
Unlike the original days, the methods used to produce Kefir at home today differ in several ways. Of course no one is leaving a goat skin bag full of milk by the door to be pounded at, for one!
Today Kefir is mostly made in glass jars, kept out of the sunlight to preserve the most amount of vitamins as possible. With that, comes one issue - The grains only feed what they can touch.
While some will instruct to pour the milk over the grain in a jar, loosely cover it with a cheese cloth or a plastic lid, put the jar in the cabinet and forget about it for the next 24 hours, I beg it differ. By gently mixing the Kefir every so often you are making sure the grains are evenly distributed, therefore more lactose will be consumed, achieving a more thoroughly fermentation process. This is specially important for cats, which are mostly lactose intolerant.
Another way of decreasing the amount of lactose is by doing what is called a "double fermentation" - you simply strain the Kefir after 24 hours into a clean jar, this time closing the lid, and place it into a dark cabinet for another 12-18 hours. The whey will completely separate from the curd, but a smooth texture can be achieved by using a blender.
Not only Kefir is virtually lactose free, but studies show that Kefir can actually actually improve lactose digestion and tolerance overtime.
The benefits are countless - not only Kefir is a powerful, natural, live probiotic, but it also:
In multiple studies, consumption of kefir or kefiran in an animal model has been associated with an increase in microbes thought of as beneficial, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, while simultaneously decreasing harmful microbial species such as Clostridium perfringens (1, 2), Reduces the severity of Giardia , inhibits the adherence of Salmonella typhimurium and E. coli, 1, 2, 3.
Kefir has shown a multitude of antibacterial and anti-fungal activities and has been tested in disk diffusion experiments against a wide range of pathogenic bacterial and fungal species, found to have antimicrobial activity equal to ampicillin, azithromycin, ceftriaxone, amoxicillin, and ketoconazole (Cevikbas et al., 1994; Yüksekdağ et al., 2004; Rodrigues et al., 2005; Huseini et al., 2012).
Kefir also has anti-inflammatory and healing properties, and was effective in postoperative treatments and in patients with gastrointestinal disorders.
Several studies have shown Kefir to have anti-carcinogenic effects 1, 2, 3, and can also act as an anti-oxidant.
But one of the major ways probiotic products such as kefir are able to produce health benefits is through the modulation of the gastrointestinal immune system.
Kefir has shown in studies anti-allergenic and anti-asthma properties, is capable of decreasing the levels of blood glucose, improving the symptoms of constipation, among many other health benefits.
It's important to note that the quality of traditional kefir is mainly influenced by the microorganisms present in kefir grains and kefir processing conditions. Although scientists and food companies attempted to develop a commercial “kefir-type” beverage produced by different cultures and mesophilic and thermophilic lactic acid bacteria, or even pure cultures isolated from kefir grains, their success when compared to traditional kefir is limited. It is suggested that this limitation is due to the microbial diversity present in kefir grains and their interactions, which can determine the probiotic and therapeutic properties of final product, as well as peculiarities conferred by certain minority groups present in different grains.
How do you acquire Kefir Grains?
Kefir grains are passed on from friends or family, or can also be bought online in sites such as Amazon.
When consuming Kefir, you are drinking history! Think about it - you can't just create those grains out of nowhere.... They have been passed around from one person to another, until that they got to you! And the beauty of it? Every time someone used a different milk, a different processing method, temperature, etc - the microbioma in the grain has changed!
You will notice that once you start making kefir on a regular basis, your grains will start multiplying exponentially - that's why they are passed around. What else can you do with them? You can eat them - they are just about the most potent probiotic you can get your hands on!
Feeding Kefir to your Pets:
We cannot stress enough the need to start SLOWLY. And we mean VERY slowly. Kefir is a very potent probiotic, with many substances your pet has never consumed.
Give a teaspoon to a tablespoon of kefir to small cats or small dogs a day.
Medium size dogs – 1 – 2 tbsp.
Large dogs – 2 – 3 tbsp.
***Cats specially: Start with 1/8 tsp, and increase every FEW days by doubling the amounts. Give your cat only 1/2 of the dosage for at least one to two weeks before increasing to 3/4 and so on.
If your cat has any reactions to Kefir, you can try two things:
1- Do a double fermentation - still reacted?
2- Change the milk for goat milk - still reacted?
Stop giving it.
I personally had a cat react to kefir, to both Regular Cow's milk and Raw goat milk. I am giving him a break and will try a very slow introduction later on.
My other cat seemed to react when I increased the kefir to 1/2 tsp per meal, however the problem was solved with a slower introduction, and a double fermentation. She is also ok with Goat Milk Kefir.
I have substituted my cats', mine and my dog's store bought probiotic for Kefir, and everyone is doing terrific!
Kefir has been the perfect addition to the kitties' EZComplete diet - how would it not be with so many wonderful properties?