A raw food diet has a number of health benefits for your cat, after all, it is how and what nature intended them to eat. Unfortunately, though some people struggle to get their cat to accept a raw food diet and ‘give up’ after a short period of time.
Cats are creatures of habit and they like routine so any changes to their environment or diet, need to be introduced slowly, with patience and by following a gradual step-by-step approach. The younger the cat, the easier your transition is likely to be – so start your cats eating raw as kittens if you can.
4 Stages to Successfully Transition Your Cat to Raw
How long it takes your cat to transition to a raw food diet will depend on many things including your cat’s personality and resistance to change and what they are currently eating.
What does your cat eat at the moment? Are they fed a kibble only dry food diet, do they eat commercial canned wet food or a combination of both?
I’ve successfully transitioned the cats within our household to a raw food diet. The two boys, Max and Charlie took to raw food almost immediately – it clearly brought out the inner hunter instinct in them and meal times became exciting and something to look forward to. Their sister, Ava took a little longer to appreciate the benefits of a raw food diet, and we had to mix wet and raw food together more gradually before we could fully transition to raw. Amber’s transition to a raw food diet took the longest (approx. six months) and even today, I’ll sometimes add a couple of “bribes” on top of her raw food to make it more appealing and encourage her to eat it.
Stage 1 – Stop the 24/7 Kibble Buffet
Your cat needs to get used to regular mealtimes, so you need to put a stop to the ‘all you can eat’ 24/7 biscuit buffet. Set two or three regular mealtimes a day, leaving the dry food out for half an hour then remove it. Don’t worry, your cat will soon get used to the mealtime routine change and eat the food before it is taken away.
Stage 2 – Transition to Wet Food
Start adding a good quality grain-free commercial wet food to your cat’s daily meals along with the dry kibble. Your cat might take to wet food straight away, but if not, just persevere and be patient. You may have to try a few different proteins (e.g. chicken, lamb) to tempt your cat to eat something new and it may take time, especially if your cat has never tasted canned food before, but eventually your cat will eat both foods. Commercial cat foods with gravy are usually popular and will tempt even the fussiest cats.
Stage 3 – Wet Food Only
Once your cat is happily eating both wet and dry food, it’s time to stop feeding dry kibble completely. Again, patience is key and the trick is to find a food that they really like – in our house the broth and gravy-based foods were always the most popular. You can also top the wet food with dehydrated meat treats (known as “bribes”), which often have a similar texture to dry food and may appeal to cats that were previously eating an exclusively dry food kibble diet.
Stage 4 – Transition to Raw Food
The final stage in the transition to a raw food diet should continue to be gradual, mixing some raw in with the wet food meals as you did when transitioning from dry to wet foods. Start with raw meat that’s not too dissimilar to your cat’s preferred wet food (maybe small pieces of raw chicken or beef).
Don’t forget that a lot of your cat’s enjoyment of food has to do with how it smells, and raw food won’t smell the same as commercial wet food, it’ll be much more subtle. If your cat isn’t keen on raw initially, mixing the two foods together will help to disguise the smell and make the raw food appear much more palatable, just like the food they already know.
Food temperature is also important – cats prefer their food slightly warmed, so aim for ‘mouse body temperature’ rather than cold straight from the fridge. You can heat raw food if necessary by placing it in a ziplock bag and submerging in warm water for 5-10 minutes. Avoid the microwave, which can destroy essential raw nutrients.
Be Careful When Transitioning Your Cat to a Raw Food Diet
It can be easy to think “if he’s hungry, he’ll eat”, but it isn’t that simple with our fussy, feline friends. If your cat doesn’t eat for a period of time (don’t let him go longer than 24 hours without food), he’s in danger of developing feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease.
Let your cat determine the pace of his transition to a raw food diet, but be prepared to take one step forward, two steps back if you need to. This will ensure that your attempts to change your cat’s diet to one that is completely raw will be a resounding success. Remember, patience and perseverance are the key.
Have you successfully transitioned your cat to a raw food diet? What was your experience?
Top Image: tanakawho via Flickr