What is involved in Transitioning Cats to Raw Food?
The Masters’ Journey …
If your cat has been eating a steady diet of commercial junk food his entire life, it’s important to realize up front that transitioning him to a raw diet might take some time as well as some persistence, perseverance, and above all, a good bit of patience on your part.
Each cat is different. Some will take to raw as if they’ve simply been waiting their whole lives for their humans to figure out what they really should have been feeding them all along. For these cats, the transition to raw is relatively simple, quick and easy. Other cats may be a bit slower to make the switch, and still other cats may take even longer, particularly if they’re older or perhaps more set in their ways. Cats that have become very addicted to the carbohydrates in low quality kibble or canned cat food are the ones that may take the longest time to transition to an all raw diet. These are cats that will require a bit more determination and effort on your part to help them make the switch to raw. Rest assured, this transition can and will happen, as long you’re ready and willing to do your part. All it takes is a firm but gentle resolve and some patience on your part, along with as much time as your cat needs to get with the program.
If you’re reading our blog, hopefully you’ve reached the point where you realise how important it is to feed your beloved pet a species appropriate raw diet, and you’re ready and willing to do what it takes to help your cat make the change to a more healthy and natural way of eating.
Those with kittens will most likely find that these little ones make the transition to raw almost immediately, with little or no hesitation whatsoever. Sometimes the younger the cat, the more quickly and easily the transition to raw will happen. Very young cats know instinctively what their bodies need, and most often will take to eating raw food like a fish to water.
Now, transitioning a senior or adult cat to raw is not a simple walk in the park. With kittens, whole different discussion. This step-by-step approach, and patience, will work for nearly every cat.
We’ll look at the transition process for cats in three stages:
- From dry food to canned;
- From canned to raw;
- Adding raw meaty bones
The key to any transition your master, is patience. The transition can be fast or very slow. We typically find that depending on how active his master is, and whether his master still gets his or her paws dirty, transitioning can take from 5 seconds for some of them to three whole months for others. We know of cats that took a year to transition … lots of patience! However long it takes yours, stick with it, it’s worth it.
How old is your cat? Three years? Five? Seven? Nine? Eleven?
- At three years old, your cat is the equivalent of 28 human years;
- At five, that human equivalent is 36 years old;
- At seven years old, the human equivalent is 44;
- At nine, it’s 52;
- At 11, your kitty is the equivalent of 60 human years.
So if all you’d ever eaten for 20 to 60 or more years is dry cereal or canned stew, how would you feel about a salad when offered one for the first time? It looks funny! It has almost no smell, and yet even that smell is funny! The texture is wrong. The temperature is wrong. Yuck. Have you ever gone through a pizza binge – and then craved “real” food? Fruit, salad, fresh, home-made food?
If being introduced to fresh real food for the first time, after years of processed food saturated with fake flavouring (think the cheese sprayed onto Cheetos, the taco flavour sprayed on to Doritos, “sour cream and onion” flavoured potato chips, or the “flavour blasted” gold fish), it’s only natural to expect it will take some time to accept a salad without a pile of dressing, cheese and bacon bits or whatever “toppings.” With time, you’ll likely come to LOVE salad. And you most likely know from your own experience that you’ll feel FAR better eating salad. You sleep better, your moods are more stable, you’re … happier! Many of our cats feel just like this about that weird stuff you’re offering them as “food.” Yet with time, they come to love it.
The goal is the long term health of our cat. So whether it takes two weeks, two months, 12 months or two years, take it at your cat’s pace.
Special Note: Any change in a cat’s diet can bring stomach upset. Even if a cat loves their new raw diet immediately, they should be transitioned slowly. If they transition too quickly, any stomach upset may result in the cat soon rejecting the raw diet because they link their stomach upset to the food.
The transitioning tips below use the slow, gradual method. It usually works. Usually. For some cats, nothing seems to work. Give these methods a try and don’t give up too soon. We usually don’t advocate using hunger to help transition your cat, other than the normal mealtime hunger of 12 hours or so, but you can try it if your cat is particularly stubborn. If your cat is adult, healthy and not obese, you can wait her out longer if she refuses to eat either canned or the raw. However, we do not recommended this stand-off with your master to go longer than 36 hours though. This has worked for some people. Be aware that any cat, especially an overweight cat, is at risk for hepatic lipidosis if they don’t eat every day.
Whatever your cat eats at present, it’s always worth a try to just offer her some raw. Your master may surprise you! See if she will eat some cut up raw chicken, or some raw chicken liver. If she does … well, this may be easy.
To summarise, the basic steps to encourage them are simple:
- Turn off your clock. There is simply no way to predict when a cat will go from “not liking” or being cautious about a new food to gobbling it up. YOUR patience is the most important ingredient in transition success or failure.
- Feed meals. Transition to timed meals and phase out free-feeding. With free access to food, kitty has no motivation to try the new food. Use hunger as a motivator – more below;
- Be consistent. If you are serious about transitioning your cat to raw or home cooked, offer just a little bit with every single meal you give your cat. If she won’t eat the food she normally eats with the SMALL BIT of new food mixed into the old food or in the same dish, put it next to the old food, or on a separate dish. But have it within smell and sight at EVERY meal.
- Use enticement toppers if they do not “like” the new food at first.
- Introduce new proteins properly. Treat each new protein as a new introduction. Introduce each new protein slowly. Once introduced, you can rotate at will. With raw, they need the variety, so introduce at least three proteins, and switch it up!
- Go at your cat’s pace. Watch the litter box. If the new food or the amount of it as a proportion of the meals does not agree with your cat, back up a bit and slow down. Again – if you ate only dry cereal or canned stew for years, and then all of a sudden started eating only fresh fruit and salad, or switched very quickly, your body will most likely freak out. So take it slow, and don’t be surprised if there are a few problems along the way. It doesn’t mean the food isn’t good for your cat or doesn’t agree with your cat. It means you need to slow down.
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