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How To Switch Your Cat to a Natural Raw Diet

Posted by Jessica McCarthy on

This is by far our most frequently asked question.  Cats are notoriously fussy (actually they’re biologically programmed that way – read our blog about it to learn more!) and this can make their humans very anxious when it comes to changing the cat’s diet. Some cats take to raw easily, and we do suggest you try a straightforward switch first – just take away the old food, put down the raw, and walk away without making a fuss.  If your cat gives you The Sceptical Face and refuses to touch the food after the first 30 minutes, put it back in the fridge and try some of these tips.  Don’t be scared or stressed out if kitty doesn’t say YAY right away – we’ve gotten a great many cats and their humans through the switch, and not one has regretted putting in the patience!

 SMELL

Whatever you’ve been feeding up til this point, get it right out of kitty’s range of smell.  Best practise is to get it out of the house completely, but hiding it in the fridge is a good bet too.  If they can smell the food they’re used to, they’ll go on hunger strike until you give it to them!

 TIMING

cat licking paw

If you’ve been free-feeding (leaving a bowl of dry food out all day) then kitty will need to get used to eating at specific mealtimes.  Start with two meals a day, and resist the urge to treat them in between – it’s good for kitty to be a little hungry at dinner and breakfast.

Mealtimes will be weird for your cats at first if they’re used to an open buffet, but you can’t leave a bowl of raw meat out all day so it’s important to help them acclimatise.  Never leave the food out for more than 30 min at a time – if your cat hasn’t finished, or even if they haven’t touched it, pick it up and try again an hour later.  You can safely fast your cat completely for up to 24 hours if needed – don’t let your nervousness make you give up on the change.

TRUST YOUR CAT

Cats are very good at self-regulating, so trust them on how much they want to eat.  Our blog about how much to feed is a guideline only – every cat is different, and their eating habits will change season to season as well (they always eat more in Winter) so don’t stress too much if kitty doesn’t finish the portion.  Just adjust down a little for the next meal.  Watch the waistline if you’re worried – the best way to know if your pet is hungry is by their body shape.  Read more about that here.  Also remember that cats are naturally nocturnal eaters, so expect them to eat a bigger portion at night. Some won’t eat in the daytime at all.

human hand giving cat a bowl of raw food

BRIBERY

If your cat refuses raw point-blank after a day of trying, try putting something with a tempting smell on the food.  You won’t believe it but a sprinkling of parmesan cheese works wonders!  Or a bit of liver gravy, fish oil, or even a spoon of warm water to bring out the meaty smells.  Some people even find that mixing our dried tuna treats into the food can help!

WARM PREY

wild cat eating raw prey

In nature, your cat would hunt and eat straight away while the meat was still warm.  Because of this some cats are put off by the food being fridge-cold.  Never microwave the food to warm it up, as this will denature the calcium content and nuke some of the other vital nutrients in the food too.  Instead you can put a tablespoon or two of warm water over the food, or even put the whole bag of food in warm water before you serve, just to help bring it up to room temperature.  Some cats are so particular about the freshness of their prey that they won’t eat food that was defrosted yesterday today – if you have one of these purists, check out our brands that package their cat food in convenient 100g portions so you can defrost and serve one meal at a time.

TOO MANY CHANGES AT ONCE

cat looking shocked

Although we recommend a varied diet of different proteins in the long run, it’s best to start off with just one.  Kitty may already be suspicious, and having too many different things thrown in at once may be too much for them.  Our most popular kitty protein is chicken, so we usually start there.  Having said that, a lot of cats pick a favourite food and refuse the others, so if you’ve tried chicken for a week or so with no success, chat to us about trying a different protein next.  Different brands also have different recipes, and our fussy felines often choose one and remain brand-loyal!

NERVOUS MUMS AND DADS

woman looking stressed

Top tip – don’t stand nervously watching kitty, hoping they’ll take a nibble! Pets pick up on human anxiety far more than you might think.  If you can’t be in the room without trying to send mental messages to convince them to eat, rather put the food down and walk away!  We know it’s just your love of them that makes you nervous, but you can accidentally put them off by stressing.

GIVE NATURE TIME

Above all BE PATIENT!  It takes most cats a week to ten days to acclimatise.  Some take months, but the humans who have stuck it out all say it was worth it for the health and quality of life improvements raw brought to their cats.  If you do have a reluctant cat, don’t let them starve themselves by refusing food for longer than 24 hours – if the only way of getting them to eat at all is to mix a bit of the old food in with the raw then do that as a last resort.  But never give them the old food without the raw mixed in too, or they’ll never make the change.

 

You can tell we’ve been negotiating with cats for a while!  If you’ve tried all of these tips and are still seeing no change, don’t give up.  There are more things to try, and we are here to help.  Reach out to us - helping your cats get used to their new lives of the best and healthiest food ever is our top priority!

cat eating raw food out of human's hand

Jessica McCarthy

Jess is a founding member of Natural Born Pets, and has been a writer and an animal lover all her life. A Cape Town gal and a lover of nature, the mission to bring proudly local and naturally healthy living to your pets is very dear to Jess's heart. Whether she's researching and writing non-fiction articles and social posts, devising full-length plays or short stories, or writing one of her infamously long and colourful emails to friends, Jess is happiest with a pen in her hand and a pet on her lap.