Cats are cautious animals by nature and may not take to raw as quickly as dogs. If a cat does not take to raw meals immediately, it is necessary to do a slow transition into a raw diet. This process takes time and patience to wean picky cats off of their previous commercial dry or wet diet.
Cats can be tricky to transition foods due to their food imprinting behavior. This natural behavior makes it difficult for a cat to recognize new foods as “safe” to consume. Imprinting behavior happens over time, therefore it is best to rotate foods as frequently as possible to prevent a cat from becoming imprinted on a single food source.
When transitioning from processed cat food to fresh raw food – cats may not recognize the raw food as safe to consume and therefore will not eat it. However, cats should not go without food for over 24 hours. If transitioning foods is proving difficult due to imprinting behavior, a very slow transition approach is highly recommended.
Create a Feeding Schedule
If a cat is accustomed to “free feeding” throughout the day, it will be helpful to adjust them to eating on a set schedule before attempting to switch foods. Free feeding is not advisable when raw feeding due to bacteria growth. Therefore, taking this additional step in the beginning will make the transition to raw feeding a little easier.
Select feeding times for each meal and only offer the meal for limited amounts of time (30 minutes). This allows the cat to have times of rest in between meals. Additionally, the sensation of hunger preceding meals will encourage a greater willingness to try new foods. Feeding on a schedule will allow the cat’s body to regulate and begin producing the appropriate gastric acid that is essential for raw digestion.
Transition from Dry Food to Canned Wet Food
Step Two of the slow transition is getting the cat to accept and eat wet meals. Substituting portions of the dry food diet with canned wet food will slowly transition the cat into eating 100% wet foods. Ideally select a chunked style canned wet food rather than a canned paste.
Dry Cat Food to Canned Food Transition Speed
Some cats will not take long to transition, while others may be more difficult. Remember to move at the cat's pace and do not allow them to go without eating for more than 24-hours. If the cat is not accepting the changes in food, lower the substitution amount until they accept the meal.
Introduce Small Raw Chunks
Next, begin cutting boneless muscle meat into small, bite sized pieces to add into the canned wet food meals. Use small pieces that can be easily hidden in the chunked canned wet food. This will help disguise the raw meat pieces within the wet food.
Increase Chunked Raw
Once the cat is eating 50% canned wet food and 50% small raw chunks, start gradually increasing the size of the chunked raw pieces. Begin cutting the muscle meat in slightly larger portions. At this step, it is necessary to continue phasing out the wet canned food accordingly.
Methods To Encourage
Sometimes all it takes is adding something extra special to encourage the pickiest eaters to eat raw: Nutritional Yeast, Canned Sardine Juice, Bone Broth, Kefir, etc. are several tasty options
While imprinting behavior can make transitioning cats to fresh food difficult, a slow transition approach can help teach cats to accept new foods. The slow transition from dry cat food to raw food is broken down in multiple steps:
Once a cat is accepting raw meat in their canned food, it is time to begin step 1 of the raw feeding transition.