Finicky Cats: Transitioning to Raw
Dogs have owners. We have staff – Cat
As almost every cat owner knows, cats can be the most finicky, picky, fussy, complicated taste tester and food critics in the world. When we have new customers looking to switch over to raw from another type of food such as kibble or can foods, the biggest and most common concern is “Will my cat eat this?”
Even though raw food is hands down, the most healthy and natural way to feed cats and dogs, some of our customers unfortunately have a difficult time feeding raw to their pets because their pets just won’t eat it. With cats we always say, be patient and understanding. Almost expect your cat not to eat the new food when you first bring it home.
Cats are Imprint Eaters
We decided to write a post to help our customers make the switch with their “finicky” cats. But cats aren’t really finicky. By this we mean that most often, it’s not because they are finicky that they will refuse to eat a certain food, it is because they do not recognize it as food. Cats are known to be imprint eaters. They remember the smell, texture, taste, and even temperature of the foods that they are used to eating. This is why when cats are offered something completely new, they will stare at it and then walk away because they may not recognize the new food as being edible.
There are other reasons for cats or dogs to be picky eaters too. Finicky appetites are sometimes a result of being fed the same kind of food for a long period of time. Most kittens and puppies who start on raw when they are young and are fed a various diet of different animals and meat parts rarely become finicky eaters when they become adults. Since many pet owners looking to make the switch to raw have pets who are already past the kitten or puppy stage and have been eating one or two types of food for all their lives, they can be seen as picky. This also leads to people being accustomed to feeding only one type of food for their pets because they feel that is the way to feeding a healthy diet and not upsetting the tummy. Nothing could be further from the truth and we always advocate for variety over time for the healthiest diet.
Knowing this, we can use some tricks to help us transition our cat’s diet to a new food. We split the section in to before, during, and after the start of the addition of the new food.
Before Making the Switch to Raw
Try the cold-turkey switch! Sometimes cats love it right off the bat! It must be their instincts.. But if this doesn’t work, it’s okay, we have a guide laid out for you.
If you already know that your cat is especially finicky, there are some steps you can take to make the change to raw a little bit easier. Going from dry kibble to raw food is quite a drastic change. Raw food has very little to no sugar, carbohydrates, and other taste enhancers such as brewer’s yeast (found in many cat kibble products). You can take smaller steps to make your way to similar foods to raw foods before making the big leap. From kibble, you can gradually change their diet to canned foods. When your cat is accustomed to canned foods, you can gradually change their diet to freeze dried or dehydrated raw foods. When these dried raw foods are re-hydrated with water or goat’s milk, they hold a similar texture to canned food and raw food. From there, changing their food to a fresh raw food should be easy!
If you don’t want to take it step by step, you can help the change by wetting the kibble the cat is eating, to make it a little bit more similar to raw food. Also if you plan on using a different bowl, place mat, or a feeding location when you start feeding raw, you should make those changes now to make the change more gradual for your cat. If you are free-feeding your cat by leaving out a bowl of kibble for them during the day or night, stop this and start feeding them at regular times. Free-feeding cats can cause stress on their pancreas and digestive system and will also make transitioning to raw more difficult.
Adding the Raw!
There are many different philosophies out there. Some people say never mix kibble and raw, some people will do raw food for one meal, kibble the next meal, or some people will mix the kibble and raw in one meal. For transitioning your cat to raw, we recommend adding a very small amount of the raw food to their current food. We want the cats to atleast be used to the raw food being in their bowl. Even if they eat around it, don’t be discouraged! Simply add less next time or try hiding the raw food better in the old food.
*Many customers ask us how exactly they should do the above practice when the raw food will only last for about 3 days in the fridge while thawed. If adding small amounts of raw in to your cat’s old food is causing the rest of the raw food package to go bad, simply freeze the remaining food before it goes bad. People have negative connotations about re-frozen meats but they only really affect texture, as long as they are refrozen before the meat spoiled. If you thaw out a single patty of raw food and then keep half in the fridge and put the remaining half in the freezer to freeze it again, this is no problem at all.*
Now, if your cat is eating the small amount of raw food in the old food, that’s great! You and your cat are one step closer to a raw diet! From this point, you can start to increase the amount of raw food in the bowl and decrease the old food. What you can also do if you feel confident, is to offer them an all-raw bowl to see if your cat will eat it! If not, then you can sprinkle the old food on top or go back to the regiment of mixing the raw and the old food.
After the Raw: Troubleshooting and Tips
So you started adding raw in to your cat’s diet but it’s not going as easy as we make it sound. That’s okay, and we want to remind you that making a switch in the diet can be stressful to your cat as well. We have a list of tips you can try to entice your cat to start eating raw.
- Warm up the food: Usually when you take out the thawed raw food from the fridge to feed your cat, it will be cold. Try warming up the raw food by running the packaging under warm water or adding warm water to the meat. Cats are hunters by nature and prefer food to be room temperature or “prey-temperature” – that’s the body temperature of animals they hunt. * Be careful as to not cook the bone when you are warming the food! Bones become harder and brittle when they are fully cooked compared to when they are raw. Microwaving is risky as well because it could cook the bone fragments without you knowing.
- Play with the food: This may be gross but it works best with dried raw foods or other dehydrated treats. Let’s take duck foot as an example, you can take this duck foot and play with your cat. Play fight with it, stroke your cat, try to get your cat to bat it or bite it. In this process, your cat becomes familiar to the foot and won’t look at it with suspicious eyes when she finds the duck foot in her bowl when the next meal time comes.
- Play with the cat: Play with your cat before meal time! Get him jumping, running, sneaking, and bouncing. Getting your cat to be hungry before meal times is a great way to make the change easier.
- Smear the food: This method has been very popular with finicky cats. You can take the raw food or any new food or treats you want your cat to eat and smear it on their front paw. What do cats do to clean themselves? They will lick their paw, and as they lick their paw, what will they get in their mouth? The new food! By getting it in there this way, they will feel the texture, taste, smell, and temperature of the food. Next time they come up to their bowl and see the same food in there, they will recognize it, and eat it. If this method doesn’t work, we recommend trying it a few times. Not too often though! If you keep smearing food on your cat’s paws more than 2 or 3 times a day, your cat may get irritated and learn to hate the food!
- Check the Bowl: Sometimes, changing the bowl can do the trick. Often with kibble, it will mound up in a bowl where the cat can eat it without having their whiskers touch the sides of the bowl but when you feed raw, it will slop down to the bottom of the bowl and all of a sudden, your cat now has to lean in to the bowl to eat. Many cats don’t like having their whiskers touching something while eating. If you feel this is the case, try using a plate or a lower rimmed bowl.
- Check the old food: If you are switching your cat cold-turkey from kibble to raw, your cat may know that you still have the kibble hidden somewhere. Cats have an amazing sense of smell and they may just be holding out for you to give up and feed them the kibble. Many lower quality kibbles can be like a drug – they get cats addicted to them with the high sugar and carbs content along with other artificial and ‘natural’ flavorings. Hide your old food by putting it outside or putting it in a freezer. If this doesn’t work, you may need to start the slow gradual change to raw food.
- Try a topper: If your cat still doesn’t want to eat the raw food, try using a topper. Sprinkle what ever your cat likes on top of the raw food. Cat treats such as fish bits, bonito flakes, shrimp, powdered liver, or even parmesan cheese have been known to work well in enticing cats.
- Be Consistent: By consistent, we mean consistency in your behaviour. If you usually put the food in the bowl, set it down, and walk away, you want to continue to do this. If you add raw to the bowl for the first time and you are hovering around excitedly to see whether your cat will eat it, your cat could become extra cautious with the food.
- Don’t Fight the Hunger Strikes: Unlike dogs, when your cat goes on a hunger strike demanding their old food, don’t stand your ground. We feel missing one or at max, two meals is okay for cats. If your cat is still refusing to eat by the second day, you want to give your cat the old food that they will eat. Sure this can teach your cat that if he or she holds out, they will get their regular old food, but this is better than your cat getting permanent liver damage from fasting for too long. If your cat won’t eat the new food, try adding in a little less and add more of the old food, and of course try all the tricks to try to get them to eat.
Keep Calm and Feed Raw
It’s not too rare that customers come back to our store, frustrated and stressed out that they are having a hard time switching over their cat to eating raw. On the one hand, they want to feed their cat raw to provide them with the healthiest diet but on the other hand, they miss the convenience of kibble or can foods.
Some of our customers and even staff members here took up to 3 months of effort in transitioning their cats to raw! Of course we have the luckier folks who had cats that took to raw the first day they tried it but we always want to remind people, keep trying, and keep at it. The amazing results will be well worth it and once you get your cat eating raw, you will be able to see and feel the difference you’ve made.
As always, please feel free to let us know if you have any questions! We can be reached by phone during our business hours or by email. Come by for a visit and let us know you’ve read our blog! We love to help our customers through difficult problems and situations!
-The True Carnivores Pack