Recommendations for transitioning
from other foods
There are several methods for transitioning cats to a raw-meat diet. A cat’s natural instinct is to ‘fixate’ on food, which helps kittens to learn what is food and to recognize it when they see and smell it. What is sometimes referred to as a cat being ‘finicky’, is really a manifestation of this natural tendency.
Some cats require a gradual transition to a raw diet, while others take to it immediately. Use the method that seems to fit the cat’s personality best.
When changing to a raw meat diet, we recommend eventually stopping all feeding of dry food – completely.
· Transitioning cats currently on a dry food diet only: Begin by offering a small sample or wetting the dry food with raw milk or water. If they taste the sample at all, begin offering small amounts as a treat in the morning and evening. Gradually reduce the quantity of dry food left out for the day. Move toward one set meal in the morning and one in the evening with the raw and dry food, slowly increasing the raw portion and decreasing the dry food until the cat is completely transitioned.
Another option is to transition to a commercial canned wet food, then transition to the raw diet from the canned food.
· Transitioning cats currently on wet food only: Begin a feeding schedule of twice per day. Place small amounts of the raw diet next to the regular diet, or mix with their current wet food. Gradually begin increasing the ratio of raw to canned until the transition is complete.
· Transitioning cats currently eating both dry and wet food: Move to a feeding schedule for the wet food of twice per day, and eliminate or reduce the amount of dry food left out during the day for grazing. Add small amounts of the raw diet to the canned wet food, or offer as a separate treat at meal time. Gradually begin offering dry food only at during meals, and eventually not at all. For cats that have trouble recognizing a raw diet as food, and are completely ignoring it all together, here is something to try: Place a tablespoon of raw food next to their regular food. This will let the cat begin to associate raw food with their meal time. It may be a slow process, with the cat only sniffing it at first, but gradually, they begin to decide this might also be food, will taste it, and eventually begin a transition.
Bill Piechocki and Diane Suddath are co-owners of Fiesta Pet Deli in Festival Flea Market Mall at 2900 W. Sample Road, Pompano. Bill Piechocki has a degree in animal science and 40 years experience in the pet industry including working as a pet nutritionist. He has raised show dogs and also trained dogs. Dr. Diane Suddath has a DVM as well as master’s degree in Parasitology and Public Health. She also served as a Veterinary Medical Officer for the FDA and USDA for 10 years. Currently she consults for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries. You can contact them at: 954-971-2500, petdeli@BioVanceAH.com or www.realfood4pets.com
Additional Notes on feeding
• Feed adult cats approximately 1/4 to 1/3 lbs. (4 to 6 oz.) twice per day based on the cat’s age, size and activity level. Younger cats should have slightly smaller meals, approximately 4 oz of food twice per day. Weaned kittens should be fed multiple small meals throughout the day.
• It is best to serve food at room temperature. Use a double boiler or fill a sink with hot water and place the food in a container in the water. The food cannot be microwaved. Microwaves change the structure of the fat.
• Raw chicken or turkey necks are great treats for exercising those chewing and gnawing muscles. The cartilage and bone are added nutrition for cats. Unlike the softer nature of raw bones, cooked bones are potentially hazardous because they can splinter. Raw bones are a natural part of a cat’s diet. Some cats may reject pieces of chicken necks and act like they don’t know what to do with them. If this happens, try again every few days or once per week. A raw diet brings back some of that carnivorous instinct. When cats eventually ‘get it’, they really enjoy them.
Some changes to expect
• After a full transition to a raw diet, cats typically will drink less water. Cats in the wild get most of their water from their food. A raw meat diet naturally contains more moisture than dry or canned food, so cats may be less thirsty, yet be getting plenty of water.
• There may be a change in the odor and color of feces. It will stink less! It may also be somewhat harder and dryer, and be colored shades of dark and light brown. Much of the crude protein and crude fiber in commercial dry and canned cat foods are not digestible and thus, left to stink-up the litter box. Along with the assurance of knowing that all the food that is ingested is being digested, the reduction of odor is a nice side-benefit.
• Overweight cats tend to lose weight. However, weight loss must be closely monitored. Rapid weight loss can lead to serious health problems. A nutritionist or holistic veterinarian who is skilled in transitioning to raw diets can provide the best advice, especially when transitioning a cat with chronic health issues.
• Lethargic cats start to play more and may even exhibit hunting behavior. Cats are healthiest when fed a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. When cats aren’t experiencing the metabolic highs and lows associated with high carbohydrate sources, such as grains, they begin to use protein as their energy source, as they were designed by nature to do. This tends to provide more sustained energy throughout the day and reduces the need to “graze”.
• Allergies tend to clear up, which may be a result of less exposure to potential food allergens. Many cats have allergies to grains that can range from very mild to severe. These allergies can manifest on the skin, can affect digestion, and also contribute to runny nose and eyes. The reduction in allergic symptoms may be a result of not only a reduced exposure to allergens from a higher quality food, but also from a stronger immune system. The more nutritious the food, the stronger the immune system will be.
• Fur becomes incredibly soft and shedding is reduced. This may be the result of better nutrition and is typically one of the initial benefits observed after changing cats to a raw diet. There may also be a reduction in human allergic reactions to cats due to the reduction of dander.