Cats can be very fussy and extremely challenging to tempt onto a new diet. However in many cases this is crucial for example following a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease (which involves a prescription diet) or for weight loss. Below are 10 top tips for transitioning your cat to a new diet.
- Ensure the diet’s right and you understand why
Make sure you are confident behind the reasoning for the change of diet for your cat. If you’re not convinced they need to change food you will be much less committed to ensuring success. Speak to your veterinarian about the benefits of the food recommended. For example, prescription kidney diets significantly prolong survival time for cats diagnosed with chronic renal disease so it’s worth the effort to change them over.
- Transition them slowly
Placing a bowl of completely different food in front of a cat will likely result in complete refusal and potentially a gastrointestinal upset if they do choose to eat it. The new food must be introduced over a period of a few weeks to ensure they have time to adjust to it and you can “sneak” it in. We recommend the following protocol:
- Day one – 10% new food, 90% old food
- Day two – 15% new food, 85% old food
- Day three – 20% new food, 80% old food
- Day four – 30% new food, 70% old food
- Day five – 40% new food, 60% old food
- Day six – 50% each food
- Day seven – 60% new food, 40% old food
- Day eight – 70% new food, 30% old food
- Day nine – 80% new food, 20% old food
- Day ten – 90% new food, 10% old food
- Day eleven – 100% new food and transition complete
Only progress to the following day’s combination if the cat eats the food. If they don’t, reduce the amount of new food until you find the combination that they will tolerate and slow the transition process down even further.
- 3) Think about ambience
It sounds ridiculous but cats like a feeding area that is quiet, solitary and free from strong odours. Ensure they have plenty of time to eat without distraction.
Try flat plates versus bowls. Some cats also prefer ceramic bowls or metal bowls compared to the usual plastic style. Try separating wet and dry food or putting it together.
- Food aversions
If your cat is sick or hospitalised don’t worry about feeding them the new food. Just feed them their favourites to ensure they are comfortable and eating well. For this reason we won’t transition a cat to a new food whilst they are hospitalised with and instead will provide their own diet or a bland gastrointestinal food.
- Don’t force feedh
Never force a cat to eat the new food. This will just lead to them resenting it even more! Cats need to adjust at their own pace so be prepared to demonstrate patience.
- Offer a variety
Make sure different variety of the food is offered. For example if it’s a wet food there are often different flavour options e.g. fish or chicken based. Some food also have different texture options such as a “mince” style tinned food versus a “chunks in gravy” style. If they don’t like a certain brand ask the vet for recommendations of a different brand that may have different flavour options or different size biscuits. Your vet can guide you on what proportion of wet versus dry food is appropriate for your pet.
- Determine your pet’s preferences
Every cat is different and it’s important to determine what your cat likes. For example some cat’s like their food warmed to room temperature or even warmed up in the microwave. Some cats don’t like their wet food stored in the tin so it will need to be placed in a plastic container for storage. Some cats like being petted whilst eating whilst others like being left alone. Once you know what your cat likes you can work with this to help them eat.
- Flavour enhancers
Flavour additives may be a good option to initially get them used to the new food and can be gradually removed as they settle into the new diet. Please check with your vet prior to offering these as they may not be appropriate for your pet. Examples include chicken broth, tuna juices or parmasen cheese.
- Don’t give up!
As the above has demonstrated cats are fussy creatures and can be very picky about their feeding requirements. Work with your vet to achieve the transition to ensure your pet lives a long healthy life. Multiple studies have shown that the overwhelming majority (>98%) of cats will transition to a new food eventually so persistence pays off!