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'Transitioning'

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Transitioning? So You Want Your Cat to Eat Better Food?

This business of transitioning a cat from one food to another takes a lot of intentionality and patience on your part. Be prepared for weeks and possibly months of real inconvenience for you as you continually express your dedication to your cat’s healthy future by staying the course.


The First Law of Cat Transitioning  -  Expect Rejection.


Law Two? The straightest path to rejection is to bring home an entire case of the new stuff.


Facing each other over the empty cat dish you think, "Will my cat eat it this time?" We've all been there! Transitioning your cat to eat a new food can be bewildering, challenging, confusing, daunting, disconcerting dismaying, discouraging, disheartening, dispiriting, demoralizing, frustrating, perplexing, troubling, unsettling, and upsetting.


However, there are other words which will lead you to success in transitioning your cat to a new food. The words determination, patience and perseverance come to mind.


Ready for the challenge?


Like two Japanese heavyweight sumo wrestlers stepping in to the ring, you line up across from your cat prepping yourself for the challenge. Meanwhile, season ticket-holders (your family and friends) are lining up ringside to place their bets on the final outcome.


To repeat from above, transitioning first requires patience. It also takes money. Somewhere in the transitioning process you will begin to ask yourself why you are putting, perfectly good, nutritious, expensive cat food - food your cat has rejected - down the garbage disposal. You’ll begin to ask yourself questions like, “Am I out of my mind?”


It seems like cats either have an extreme food affinity or an extreme food addiction!


If you are committed to your cat's healthy future, live by the Star Trek® saying... "Resistance is futile." Decide that your cat is going to convert his or her diet no matter what.


Some cats jump right in and gobble up their new food. Other cats will only nibble - sometimes. Many cats reject anything ‘different’ that is put on their dish.


Some cats are resistant to eating new foods, no matter how good the food might be for them. Cats are especially resistant to transitioning to wet food after having eaten dry food. (It seems cats just can’t resist the synthetic, chemical flavorings sprayed on dry food. They love it. When you read the words 'synthetic, chemical flavorings' do alarm bells start going off in your mind? Don't be like an ostrich with your head in the sand ignoring these words. Transition from dry to wet food or your cat will suffer in the long run. Refer back to this page about Dry Food.)


Free Feeding


Most experts agree... that the first step in getting your cat to eat a new food is to stop 'free feeding.' Free feeding is putting out food on the plate for your cat to access anytime he or she wants. People mistakenly think that providing their cats with an ample amount of kibble all day long is the way to feed a cat. WRONG! Eliminate free feeding and set fairly consistent feeding hours for your cat(s). Most cats do best with 3-4 small meals a day.



Transitioning a cat to new food is a matter of time / amount / smell / texture / temperature.


•  Give it time

You can’t just bring home one can of food and expect your cat to like it right away. It takes multiple feedings, over time, for a cat to finally accept a change in food. After all… How long has your cat been eating his or her present food? So the first element in transitioning is time. Sometimes it can take MONTHS.


• Amount/Smell

Most people say to start with small amounts of the new food - maybe a teaspoonful. I say go even smaller. Start with pea sized - maybe a half a teaspoon.


The reason for such a small amount? Before any other factor (amount/texture/temp) you are introducing your cat to a new smell and you don’t want the new smell to be overwhelming.It’s the smell/odor of the new food that a cat will encounter long before he or she takes a bite. After your cat accepts the smell, he/she may begin to nibble. Once your cat takes a nibble at the small amount of new food, he or she will undoubtedly begin to accept it as real food.


• Texture

There's generally nothing one can do to affect the texture factor, especially if transitioning from dry to wet or raw. The only remedy for this situation is time. Give you cat time to make the changeover.


• Temperature

A seldom though about factor in transitioning is temperature. Plunk down a cold new food into your cat's room-temperature older food and you are probably not supporting the desired effect.


You probably dislike many kinds of cold food, and the same is so for your cat(s). Put the (initial) small amount of food you have taken out of the refrigerator, put it in a small ziplock plastic bag, and dunk it in a glass of water from the hot water tap on your sink. You don’t want boiling water. Hot tap water is sufficient, and you only need to leave the plastic bag in the water for a couple of minutes.

So time, amount, smell, texture and temperature all affect this thing called 'transitioning.'


Another thing that I have learned is to not give away rejected cat food cans too soon. The very food that my cats have turned up their noses at today may become one of their favorite foods tomorrow. You'll see.


ONE THING YOU DON'T WANT TO DO IS TO STARVE YOUR CAT(S) INTO SUBMISSION


Jenny Cook from the Facebook group CatCentric is someone I admire greatly. She gives reliable, consistent advice to hundreds of people daily. Here's what she has to say: 

  • "Just a word of caution about why tough love is not a good approach for cats.
  • Cats should consume at least 50% of their required calories daily. Tough love can work with dogs, but it doesn’t work well with cats because cats metabolize food differently than people and dogs.
  • Cats are in a constant state of glucogenesis and are unable to down-regulate their need for amino acids. They shouldn’t go more than 12 hrs without food and after 24 hrs things can get dangerous very quickly. 
  • Going two days is simply too long. Cats in this group have ended up with feeding tubes in that amount of time and are lucky to have survived.
  • People who have used tough love and their cat did not experience a problem after more than 24 hrs without food simply got lucky.
  • Overweight cats are also at a higher risk. It’s impossible to predict whether a cat will be ok up to 48 hrs and seeing cases where they haven’t is heart wrenching. It’s more about calories than bites so in that situation make the bites count if that makes sense. Vet advice I’ve read states cats should not exceed 12 hrs without food."


Your Commitment to Your Cat:


To conclude this page on getting your cat(s) to eat new foods: The trick is to stick with your intention of transforming your cat’s health. Stand firm in your quest, and you will reach the goal line. Cave in early, and you will not.


Go through the transitioning process long enough, increasing the new food while decreasing the old, and you will eventually come to achieve better health for your cat(s). And that’s what it’s really all about isn’t it?

Another thing I have observed about transitioning

Don't try to introduce a new food to your cat(s) when they are not hungry in the first place. You'll misinterpret the results by thinking the cats don't like the food. Put the food back into the can, cover it, and try again later. You may be surprised at the results!

From The Conscious Cat with Ingrid King

Here an article about Transitioning featured on the website, The Conscious Cat.


Written by  Ingrid King, a certified veterinary journalist and a professional member of the Cat Writers Association, Ms. King addresses 'Transitioning a Finicky Eater to a Healthier Diet.'


She begins, "There aren't many things that are more frustrating than a cat who is finicky about her food. The problem is compounded when you've educated yourself about what construes a healthy diet for cats, but your fussy kitty will only eat dry food or highly processed wet food. What's a cat parent to do?"

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From The Conscious Cat with Fern Slack, DVM

Here an article about Transitioning featured on the website, The Conscious Cat.


Here's a post by guest Fern Slack, DVM, titled 'Ask a Cat Vet: How Do I Transition My Cat to a Healthy Diet?


It begins, " You have done your research. You know that cats are obligate carnivores who need meat in their diet, not just to survive, but to thrive. You understand why cats should never eat dry food... Now you have a case or a frozen bag of this great new food - and your cat "won't eat it." He puts up his nose and walks away, and you are left with a stack of useless cans or bags and a strong sense of annoyance."

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Transitioning from Dry Food to Wet Food

Pam Johnson-Bennett writes in CatBehaviorAssociates.com about 'Transitioning Your Cat From Dry Food to Wet Food.'


"Cats are creatures of habit and making any type of significant change can be tricky. Making a food change requires extra care because of the potential health complications that can occur if done incorrectly or abruptly."  Read more here.

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Transitioning Feline Dry Food Addicts to Canned Food by Lisa A. Pierson, DVM

This is just part of Dr. Pierson's article at CatInfo.org. Read the full article here.


This is the hard part. Cats, like children, often resist what is best for them.  The two most frequent comments that I hear from people when trying to convince them to feed their cats a healthier diet are “my cat won’t eat canned food” and “but my cat really likes his dry food.”   Children really like potato chips and ice cream but that certainly does not mean those food items constitute optimal nutrition.


The transition process often involves much more than just plunking down a new food item.  Time, patience and tricks are often required.


One reason that cats like dry food so much is because the pet food companies do not play fair when manufacturing this sub-optimal food source.  They coat the kibble with extremely enticing animal digest sprays which are very pleasing to a cat – making a poor quality diet very desirable to the target animal.


In addition to the aforementioned coating of dry food with animal digests, another issue  is one of a crunchy texture which is very different from canned food.  Cats are very resistant to such a drastic change in the texture of their food.


If you are convinced that getting your cat off of dry food is the way to go, read on for some tips on how to accomplish this.


The key is to do it slowly and with patience and incorporate various tricks for the stubborn cats. The most important issue is actually making the change, not how fast you accomplish it.

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Here's Some Transitioning Advice From Some Pretty Smart People

Transitioning Cats to a Healthier Diet with Dr. Becker, Jae Kennedy and Adrienne Lefebvre

Dr. Becker Interviews Tracy Dio About Transitioning Cats to a Raw Food Diet

Jasmin Bedria - at Cat Lady Fitness - discusses How to Transition Your Cat to a RAW FOOD DIET & Healthy Cat Feeding Tips

Transitioning Advice from Jackson Galaxy

Here's a vid from Darwin's Natural Pet Products - Transition Cats to Raw Meals. Here's a little more info from Darwin's.

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