Guest Contributor— Answers Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Doug Knueven, veteran among veterinarians, examines raw nutrition as a healing power of pets and works to ensure an all-encompassing true health (physical, mental and spiritual) regimen in veterinary medicine for animals. Apart of his work with Answers Executive Veterinary Program, he’s a consultant for Answers product and program development, lecturer, and participant on panel discussions.
How to Transition Your Finicky Cat onto Answers Raw Food
Adult cats tend to be very finicky about their foods. In fact, cats become imprinted on the food they are first fed. They can even become addicted to the shape of the kibble. That’s why each pet food company makes their kitty kibble in distinct shapes.
The companies also spray the surface of the kibble with “animal digest” which is similar to MSG and has a taste cats can’t resist. I liken this to Doritos. I personally do not care much for plain old corn chips. However, when those same chips are sprayed with that delicious, orange, Doritos coating, I can’t resist. Similarly, the cat’s natural proclivity to eat a healthy diet is hijacked by the technology of flavor enhancers. Many cats out there will only eat dry cat food.
I have personal experience with switching finicky, dry-food-only felines to raw. Several years ago, I inherited my parents’ cats and these kitties were dry food junkies. When I put raw food in front of them, they looked up at me and said, “We can’t eat this. Are you trying to kill us?” Well, my other cats were all eating raw food, so I told the newcomers, “You’re going to have to eat this food like everyone else.” Each morning and evening, I put a bowl of raw food in front of them, and each time they turned their noses up.
By day three of their hunger strike I think I heard them say, “We’d rather die than eat that raw food.” By the way, although a healthy cat can miss a meal or two, even a healthy cat that does not eat for three days can go into liver failure and die, so I do not recommend the starvation method of food transition. Because of my learning experience, taught by a couple of pros, I have come up with the following finicky cat transition technique.
Easy Steps with Lots of Patience
The first step is to get your cat on a twice-a-day feeding schedule. No matter what your cat may tell you, they do not need a bowl full of food sitting out all day. If cats were in the wild, they would not have dead mice lying around to eat. In fact, cats would have to get their butts off the couch and catch a mouse. And, if they missed that mouse, they would go without a meal.
So, first thing in the morning, you put ½ of your cat’s daily ration in the bowl and put it down for them to eat. If your cat is like most, they are likely to eat a few pieces and walk away, confident it will be there later. But it will not be there later because you are going to let the bowl of food stay down for only 15-20 minutes and then put it up and away.
Then, in the evening when you put a bowl with the other ½ of the daily ration down, your cat is very likely to finish it off. Your cat will quickly (within a few days) get into the new rhythm of eating on schedule. If you have more than one cat, I recommend that you feed them separately, and in different rooms if necessary, so you know if, and how much, each is eating.
It may be best to start the feeding schedule during the week when people are not in the house to hear the cat complain about the lack of readily available vittles. And, if you are home for the transition and your cat does complain, do not give in. Giving your cat food when they get loud and obnoxious will only reinforce the unwanted behavior. You must resist the temptation to give in to your cat’s demands.
Now that your cat is used to eating morning and night, it’s time to start adding the Answers raw cat food. With each feeding, put a teaspoon of raw food on the bottom of the food bowl and put the dry food of top. That way, your kitty won’t have to touch the raw food, but will smell it with every bite of dry food they take. Considering the sensitivity of the feline nose, this is a big step.
Once your cat adjusts to the new aroma, mix the raw food in with a small amount of the dry on the bottom of the bowl. That way, if your cat wants to get a whole belly full of food, they’ll have to eat some that is touching the raw food. Now, very gradually mix in more and more of the raw and less and less of the dry. After a month or so of this process, you should have a totally raw-fed cat.
If your cat likes canned cat food, then switching can be even easier. First of all, be sure to eliminate any dry food, then basically follow the procedure above – get kitty on a feeding schedule and very gradually mix in the raw food. You may need to start with a teeny, tiny, little portion of Answers raw. And remember, most cats can stand to miss a meal or 2 so don’t give in too easily.
For many cats, the owner has to really want their companion to eat a healthy, raw diet. It takes persistence and a slightly deaf ear, but it can be done. If I can make raw eaters out of my parents’ cats, I know you can do the same for your kitty.