I regret that years ago I did not know how to introduce new food properly to the cat I had then, Bastet.
When she rejected the food in a sniff, I assumed “well, so much for that idea.”
I was wrong. Now I know so many tricks that can help you get your cat to eat a healthier cat food.
Switching from dry to wet, and switching to low-carb grain-free, are very healthy switches and–contrary to what your cat may have told you–it’s do-able.
Secret cat-food switching formula
The thing about cats is they are inherently suspicious of most new food: “It’s just wrong. Something must be off about it!” they say with a tail twitch.
It’s their instinct to react to unfamiliar food smells, which is why it helps to put a little of the new food on the side of their plate for a day or two.
The way this works, as I was taught by Anne Reed, DVM, is to have your cat eat their usual “happy food” while inadvertently smelling the new (oh no!) food. They are more likely to then associate the new food with happy feelings and eventually accept it as normal.
So you introduce it s–l—o—w—l—y. Cleverly, like this…
The 6-day plan
The following 6-day formula works well for us, and follows a consistent advice theme from a variety of experts.
You may need more or fewer days, depending on your cat’s sensitivity, digestion, and how radically different the new food is. If you see alarming changes in the litter box, go back to the old food and start over more slowly, or with a different food.
- First, CONGRATULATE YOURSELF! This is something to be proud of. It takes some focus, but it pays off in the long run.
- Gradually mix the new food in with the old food, following the picture below. Start with just a dab (that they probably won’t eat) on the side of their regular food. This gets them used to the scent while enjoying their usual meal.
About the Mixing:
If your cat has been eating dry and you are introducing wet food, try mixing the wet food with another wet food they WILL eat. This might mean tuna, folks. As a last resort, if you are trying to switch from dry food to wet food, mix the new wet food with the dry food gradually.
- Don’t let your cat go more than 36 hours without eating–especially if they are overweight. Have some of their old food on hand just in case. They will need to be eating at least 3 oz of protein each day during the switch to avoid hepatic lipidosis (see below), according to Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkin’s book, Your Cat.
- Do use enticements (see below)
- If all else fails, don’t give up. Try another flavor or another brand.
Irresistible food enticements for cats
Experts get results from using enticements either during or after the switch to keep the momentum up. You can then gradually taper the enticements off over a week or so.
What’s worked with our cats:
- Tuna juice is a winner, hands down
- CET Oral Hygiene Chews for Cats, crumbled up (weird, huh? They love these.)
- Feline Instinct’s Chicken Liver Powder
Feline Instincts is wonderful company that makes supplement mixes for homemade cat food. They have helped countless cats switch to raw homemade food, so they know what they are talking about when it comes to enticement tips. Here are their top enticements:
- Halo Liv a Little’s treats, crumbled on top
- Chicken Liver Powder (mentioned above)
- “Mix any kind of food they like into the meal”
- Salmon juice, tuna juice
- Mix in beef or chicken broth
What I mean by life-saving
It’s just that there are lifesaving facts about cat food switching that I did not know about for ages. Many cat lovers may not know that:
- If an overweight cat pulls a hunger strike because they don’t like the new food, they could very quickly develop hepatic lipidosis—which could be deadly if not treated soon enough. So never play the “I’ll just wait until your starving” game with a cat—especially an overweight one. I cannot overstate this.
- If an indoor cat stays on a diet of high-carb dry food, their life could be shortened by diabetes. Or they may even develop IBD—which some experts believe is a precursor to the deadly intestinal lymphoma. (You may be interested in another vet’s post about this on ConsciousCat.net too.)
Have you had switching success?
Do you have success stories about cat food changes at your home? I welcome them in the Comments below.