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How to Get Your Cat to Eat a Fresh Diet

Monday, May 21, 2018
By Dan Massey

You love your cat and you want her to be happy and healthy. Providing her with a fresh diet, full of the right nutrition for her health is a key step in that direction. However, one way that cats and kittens are definitely like their pet parents is that they can be picky about what they eat and stubborn to accept change. It is not a matter of individual personality; felines are naturally neophobic, which means they resist changes to their environment and routines. While this may cause a small bump in the road, and you should not worry too much if she rejects new pet food at first, taking steps to make this a smooth transition can help stave off the discomfort of what might otherwise be a sudden, cold-turkey change in diet.

Why choose a fresh diet?

Of all the various methods you could choose to feed your cat, why go totally fresh? Any healthy feline diet worth its salt content (or lack thereof) tends to work with several important truths in mind:

  • Fresh food with fresh ingredients, just like mother nature provides. Your cat is still related to cats in the wild, and her ancestors were wild once, too, and they eat their meat fresh. Cats are natural carnivores and need the nutrients in meat like taurine, arachidonic acid, and pre-formed vitamin A, all of which support healthy organ function.
  • Naturally hydrating. Cats and kittens get much of the water they need through the pet food that they eat, so options like dry cat food can lead to issues of dehydration, a condition that can worsen issues with the kidneys or urinary tract infections. Proper hydration also supports healthy skin, aids in digestion, regulates body temperature, and so much more.
  • Good for healthy weight. One in three house cats are obese. A fresh, pre-portioned meal can prevent health risks associated with excess weight such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes.

Knowing these cat nutrition basics, the next step after making the switch is to help it happen smoothly. Consult your veterinarian with any concerns you may have.

Fussy Transition Steps

You're on board and ready to switch your cat's diet, and it's important for your cat and her peace of mind to make it easy on her. This can involve more than just changing what food you give her, such as small changes to your routine.

  • Create a consistent feeding schedule. Cats should eat twice a day, every 12 hours. This means that if you feed them at 7:00 am before you leave for work, then plan on feeding her at 7:00 pm that night. Not only does this create a pattern, but this can cause them to be hungry when they should be. This also helps to prevent overeating, because a house cat is not usually active enough to eat every few hours like a wild cat does, but they will if you let them.
  • Play with your cat before dinner. Activity usually stimulates an appetite, and play simulates the hunting she would be doing out in the wild. Reward the capture of her favorite toy or that elusive laser dot with an equally rewarding meal.
  • Transition to new food gradually.

If she is fussy about moving to the new diet, there are a few steps you can take to help her adjust:

  • Step One: Offer a small spoonful first; if they like it, start offering it as a treat.
  • Step Two: Place small amounts of the new food next to regular diet or mix into current food. This will allow her to begin associating the smell of her new food with her meal time.
  • Step Three: Gradually reduce the amount of their old food and move towards one full meal of the new food and the other meal of old food.
  • Step Four: Slowly increase new food and decrease old food until the transition is completed.

Consistency is key in making this work. If your cat continues to reject the new food after following these steps, you can withhold the old food entirely for a meal or two, only offering the fresh food. If your cat does not eat for a full 24 hours, give them a meal of the old food, then try again. Do not exceed 24 hours, though.

Fussy Cat Feeding Tips

Sometimes the easiest little changes you make to help the transition along can make for a smoother experience overall. Try little tricks like:

  • Remove the smell of the old food. Cats have a really good sense of smell, so get rid of the old cat food. Wash the dish and the surrounding area where she eats as thoroughly as you can. If she can smell it in her periphery, she will expect to be fed that old favorite.
  • Stop sharing people food. You're feeding her the good stuff, now; she doesn't need yours. If you share your occasional snacks with your cat, it's time to stop. However, if you do have to wean her off of this habit…
  • Pretend to eat the new pet food. If she hesitates to try something new, she may be more curious if she's used to begging for your snacks anyway. Pretend to eat a little, then offer it to her.
  • Warm it up. Heating up her food in a warm water bath can also help entice your cat to try her new pet food. The stronger the smell, the more attractive it can be.

As mentioned before, what helps your cat the most in making this switch toward a healthier diet is if you and the rest of your family stick to the new rules. Contact your vet to discuss other transition tips.

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