Step By Step: How To Safely Change Your Cat’s Food

  • Time to read: 14 min.

We love our cats and want to do our best for them. This includes grooming, medical care, and of course, diet. Choosing the right food is not always easy, and sometimes you may need to change food to facilitate your cat’s health. There are many warnings about feeding cats and changing their diets in various internet articles. What is the truth, and what is the best way to make a dietary change for your feline companion?

Changes to a cat’s diet must be made slowly over the course of at least one week, but it may be necessary to extend this period. Start by adding only a little of the new diet. Slowly increase the quantity of new food and decrease the amount of old food until the cat is eating only the new food.

This article will consider how to change a cat’s food, why you would change the food, and discuss some pitfalls that can cause you problems. We will also look at choosing a good cat food and other issues related to feeding your cat.

Is It Ok To Change Your Cat’s Food?

It is perfectly acceptable to change your cat’s food. There may be a numerous reasons why it is necessary or preferable to change your cat’s food.

  1. As cats progress through various life stages, their nutritional needs vary. It is best to feed them cat food appropriate to their life stage. Kittens need to change to adult food at one year. Adult cats over seven years should be fed senior diets.
  2. Your cat may develop an allergy or illness which needs to be treated with dietary modifications.
  3. Your cat may not be thriving on the current diet, and a diet better suited to the cat’s

needs must be chosen.

  1. You may have been feeding the best food you can afford, and now you have a pay increase and can buy better food. Sadly, in the current world economy, the reverse situation also often occurs.

Do Cats Get Sick If You Change Their Food?

There is no simple answer to whether cats will get sick if their food is changed. A lot depends on the individual cat and their health status. Generally, though, it is best to change food for cats slowly over time. Sudden dietary changes can cause the cat to become ill and may even be life-threatening under certain circumstances.

Sometimes a vet may recommend changing the cat’s food as quickly as possible. In this case, try to achieve the changeover within one week. Discuss the transition period with your vet to see if they have any tips or advice for you.

What Are The Steps In Changing A Cat’s Food Safely?

  1. Add a small amount of the new food to the cat’s regular food. If the cat accepts the food and eats it, continue adding this amount for all meals for the next two days.
  2. If the cat does not touch the new food, you may need to persist in feeding the cat this ratio of new to old food for a few days until the cat begins to eat the new food.
  3. For very fussy eaters, you may need to offer a small portion of the new food first while the cat is ravenous. Once he has eaten the new food, give him the remainder of his meal consisting of the old food. Allow the cat ten to thirty minutes with the new food. If he does not eat it, then feed him his regular food.
  4. Another tactic is to mix the new food very well with the original food. Use a small enough quantity so that the cat does not object to the introduction of the novel taste.
  5. Once the cat has accepted eating a small quantity of the new food, increase the amount to about one-eighth of the cat’s meal.
  6. Increase the amount of the new food to one-quarter of the meal. Check your cat is not having any adverse reactions to the new food and feed this ration for two to three days.
  7. Increase the quantity of new food to half of the cat’s meal. Feed this combination for two days.
  8. Give a further incremental change up to three-quarters of the meal.
  9. Finally, feed the cat complete meals of the new food you have chosen.
  10. Monitor your cat closely for the first month or two of feeding a new diet.
  11. Playing with your cat or walking your cat before feeding can stimulate your cat’s appetite and encourage him to eat the new food.

Changing From Dry Cat Food To Wet Cat Food.

Changing from dry cat food to wet cat food is often necessary for medical reasons. However, it can pose a problem as everything about the food is different. The texture, smell, and amount of liquid in the food are all different. As we have mentioned, cats like consistency. There are some techniques to try with a cat resisting the change to wet food.

  1. Mix the dry and wet food.
  2. Sprinkle kibble over the top of the wet food.
  3. Grind the kibble into a powder and add this to the wet food so that there is still a familiar smell from the kibble.
  4. You can also add a probiotic to the wet food to improve the flavor. Many veterinary probiotics come in flavors that are appealing to cats.

If My Cat Won’t Eat New Food, Can I Leave Him Until He is Hungry Enough To Eat?

It is imperative to note that cats who go more than twelve hours without food can develop health problems. Cats have a highly acidic stomach. In order to manage the acidity, they need to eat regularly. If the stomach is empty for too long and the acidity in the cat’s stomach spikes, the cat becomes nauseous and unwilling to eat, which can be disastrous.

A cat that has not eaten for three or four days is at risk of developing hepatic lipidosis. This condition, also known as fatty liver syndrome, occurs more often in cats that are obese or overweight. The cat’s body begins to break down the fat supplies when there is no food being eaten in a process known as ketosis.

Ketosis releases fat from fat storage cells, which the liver must metabolize for use in the body. The liver becomes overwhelmed by the excessive amount of fat. It does not function correctly, storing the fat in the liver cells and the intercellular spaces. This causes further deterioration in liver function.

The cat will be highly nauseous and will resist eating. The eyes, mucous membranes, and skin will become yellow as the liver continues to fail. The yellowing is known as jaundice or icterus. If there is no veterinary intervention at this point, the cat will certainly die.

What Is The Treatment For Hepatic Lipidosis In Cats?

A cat suffering from hepatic lipidosis will need to be hospitalized as the condition is life-threatening. The veterinarian will insert a feeding tube through which the cat will be fed. The tube may be inserted via the esophagus or the stomach. In some cats, the feeding tube may need to be left in for seven to eight weeks. Your cat will come home, but you will need to continue feeding through the tube in accordance with the vet’s recommendations.

The primary aim in treating hepatic lipidosis is to get the cat to eat independently again. To facilitate eating, anti-nausea (anti-emetic) medicine will be given. Medicine and supplements to support the liver and a specialized diet will be prescribed. Medication aimed at clearing the underlying problem will also be provided.

How Long Does It Take A Cat To Get Used To New Food?

Cats are often fussy about their food. They don’t like changes to their routines, and this includes their diet. Some cats may quickly acclimatize and may even prefer the new food. They could be eating the new food within a week. Others may take up to a month before they accept the new food. If your cat will still not accept the new diet after a month, you may need to change your tactics or consider another type of cat food.

Is There Something I Can Do To Make Changing My Cat’s Diet Easier?

When changing your cat’s diet, it is critical that you keep everything else in the cat’s routine constant. Use the same bowl, feed at the same time and in the same place as you always have done. Do not introduce a new food to your cat when there is a new animal, baby, or person in the home. You will, in all likelihood, not succeed.

If you move homes, keep everything as familiar to the cat as possible until it is well established in the new house. Only once the cat is comfortable in the new environment should you consider making dietary changes.

Cats Are Stimulated To Eat By Smell

Cats need to smell their food to encourage them to eat. Choose food that has a stronger smell if your cat is refusing the new food. Another trick is to mix in some wet food if you are changing a kibble diet. Wet food often has a more appealing smell than dry food.

Warming the food will also make the smell of the food more potent. It is critical not to use boiling water to heat food as this can denature the proteins making it difficult for the cat to digest.

Will My Cat Eat Different Food During Hospitalization?

Getting hospitalized cats to eat is one of the complex problems veterinarians face when treating cats. Fortunately, most vets have a few tricks for dealing with this problem. It is worthwhile mentioning what food your cat is fed so that the vet can feed your cat this food if he refuses everything else.

Vets will administer medication to reduce nausea and stimulate the appetite. The owner may be asked to visit the cat and bring his bowl, which may help if the cat is resistant to eating. Maintaining hydration and a good electrolyte balance will also promote eating.

Should I Send Tasty Food With My Cat When Staying In Cattery?

Staying in a cattery while you are away can be stressful for cats. They do not like change and can object to the new environment. It is best to keep the diet the same as what you feed at home. The cat will be more likely to eat something he is familiar with.

If you routinely use wet food or mix in tastier kibbles to encourage your cat to eat at home, then you can send this food to the cattery. Maintaining the same diet like the one the cat eats at home will allow the cattery owners to monitor the cat’s health without the confusion that a new diet could bring.

Sometimes My Cat Begs For Food But Then Won’t Eat – What Do I Do?

Cats that are begging for food and then refusing to eat may be experiencing dental or gum problems. Often a cat with oral issues will try to eat one or two mouthfuls but give up because the pain is too great. A veterinary check-up is recommended.

What Are Food-Related Issues That Influence A Cat’s Eating?

Cats are clever, sensitive animals that like routine and regularity in their lives. They can develop eating problems for various reasons that are not related to an infection or specific illness. There are three categories:

  1. Feeding Related Practices
  2. Diet Related Problems
  3. Nutrient sensitivity

Feeding Related Practices

Different homes and owners develop feeding habits to suit their families and work schedules. They respond to their cats individually, and these can also cause problems sometimes.

Some general rules for feeding cats include:

  1. Feed your at in a quiet area.
  2. Do not feed your cat where he can be interfered with by dogs or children. In multi-cat households, some cats may be bullied and need to eat separately from the other cats. The cat must feel safe.
  3. Do not feed your cat near a litter tray.
  4. Wash your cat’s bowls between meals. Dirty, rancid food dried on the edges of bowls can deter your cat from eating.
  5. Dish selection can be critical. Some cats do not like to feel their whiskers brushing against the sides of a bowl. Choose a flat bowl or saucer to feed your cat.

My Cat Only Wants To Eat Treats – How To Fix The Problem.

Sometimes cats try to get treats instead of their food. They constantly beg for food but turn away when offered a bowl of their regular diet. This habit can evolve into a problem where the cat only eats treats that do not form a well-balanced diet. Unfortunately, usually, owners are complicit in the development of this behavior.

The answer to this problem is to feed the cat at set times in the day. If necessary, you can mix some treats into the cat’s regular food to encourage eating. Do not give any treats in between meals, enabling the cat to continue begging and reject its balanced diet. Reduce the number of treats in the meal until the cat eats most of his balanced regular food.

Should My Cat Be Allowed To Eat On Demand?

Some owners leave their cat’s food out for the cat to eat on demand. This habit may work in some homes and for some cats. In other homes, it may cause a problem for several reasons.

Bowls left out attract cockroaches and ants. If you do not look carefully, you may not notice the ants in your cat’s bowl and will wonder why your cat is refusing to eat. Some cats may not care about ants, but others will not eat from an ant-infested food bowl. Cockroaches leave a foul-smelling scent behind when they move. If they have been feeding on your cat’s food, the cat may refuse to eat.

A cat may refuse to eat if the food is not fresh enough or warm enough. Leaving food in bowls can result in it going off or cooling too much. The fussy cat may not eat these offerings, preferring his food to be freshly prepared.

Another issue with leaving cats to eat on demand is that it can be challenging to determine if your cat is eating. This is especially a problem in multi-cat households or homes where there are dogs present. Wild birds and other creatures may eat cat food left outside for the cat to eat on demand. Regular mealtimes help the owner to detect health issues quickly.

How Often Should I Feed My Cat?

Cats should be fed a minimum of twice a day with twelve hours separating the meals. If you are home more often, you can provide food three times a day. Feeding more than twice a day is not strictly necessary unless the cat has a health condition that requires it.

Kittens should be fed four times daily when they are between eight weeks and twelve to sixteen weeks. If your kitten is leaving food and is disinterested in a meal, you can drop the number of meals to three times a day. Kittens will still need feeding three times a day until they are six to eight months old.

Diet Related Problems

Not all cat foods on the market offer a balanced diet. Cats do better on a diet high in animal protein, with lower amounts of carbohydrates. In some cat foods, carbohydrates are the predominant ingredient. This can cause various health problems as the cat may struggle to digest this food.

Additives and fillers that are added to cat food can also cause health issues. Foods that have carbohydrates as the main ingredient are often not appealing to cats. The cat may refuse to eat his meals and supplement his protein intake by hunting birds and mice.

Nutrient Sensitivity or Allergies In Cats

Due to selective breeding and possibly inbreeding, some cats have developed food allergies or intolerances. True allergies have a rapid onset of severe symptoms. Food intolerances usually take a while to manifest symptoms, and it may seem that your cat was fine with the food and suddenly developed symptoms.

A cat that is allergic to certain ingredients may have gastrointestinal, skin, and respiratory issuesAllergies develop when the immune system erroneously identifies a food item as a harmful pathogen. The body begins to react, releasing histamines and attempting to expel the allergen.

Allergies and food intolerance can be distressing for both the owner and the cat. If you suspect your cat is allergic to or intolerant of an ingredient in his food, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the problem. The vet may suggest an alternative food or, if the problem persists, do blood tests and elimination diets.

What Symptoms Show That the Food Is Wrong For My Cat?

Gastrointestinal disorders are the most frequently seen symptoms of a diet that doesn’t suit a cat. Frequent vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation can indicate that the cat is not processing the food correctly.

Some foods may irritate the gastric lining, which will result in diarrhea, and there may be borborygmus. Borborygmus is squeaking and gurgling of the stomach. Persistent flatulence may become a problem. Although many people dismiss it, flatulence can make a cat very uncomfortable and distressed.

Dry, flaky skin and a coat that sheds excessively can also indicate the diet is not appropriate for the cat. This is often seen in diets low in fats or those that include plant-based fats instead of animal fats. Severe skin reactions can consist of wet and dry eczema, which can cause secondary bacterial infections.

Severe food allergies can also cause respiratory distress. Respiratory symptoms are mostly seen with a true food allergy and not often with food intolerance.

What Diets Are Good For Cats With Allergies?

Cats with food allergies need specialized help from a veterinarian in determining what the cat is allergic to. The most common allergies are fish and chicken. They develop when a cat has been exposed to the protein and may develop if that is the only food the cat has ever eaten.

Sometimes food containing proteins that are hydrolyzed can be helpful for allergic cats. Hydrolyzing the protein changes its shape. The cat’s body does not recognize the protein as the same one that causes the allergy.

Cat food containing novel proteins such as venison, duck, or ostrich can help cats become allergic to other more common proteins. The idea is that the cat has not been exposed to these proteins before and will not be allergic to them.

Interestingly, veterinarians are beginning to recommend that puppies and kittens be exposed to a wide variety of foods to prevent the development of allergies and food intolerance. This recommendation is in direct contrast to the wisdom of many previous decades, which advocated only feeding one kind of food all the time.

Conclusion

Changing your cat’s food can be a tricky task. Never starve your cat to try and persuade him to eat the new food. This practice can cause disastrous and even fatal results. Patience and persistence must be used, with a good dollop of trickery, to encourage your cat to eat new food. If your cat must change diets rapidly due to medical reasons, ask your vet for input on changing the food and an appropriate transition time for the change.

Keep all other factors in the cat’s life as constant as possible when feeding your cat new food. Any changes in place, time, and even bowls can make your cat more resistant to the new food. Feed your cat in a place where your cat feels secure and unhurried when eating. Your relationship with the cat is critical. Sometimes, your presence or hand feeding the cat will be enough to encourage eating.

References