Transitioning cats

The best way to feed your cat raw food.

Transitioning your cats? Learn how to introduce your kitten or cat to a raw diet?

If you’re a cat or kitten parent and have tried transitioning your cats to a new diet, you know it can be difficult. But it’s not impossible. If you keep a few things in mind, it can go relatively smoothly. What you must understand before you start off is that cats are not as easy to transition as a dog is. Cats are imprint eaters, which means they will usually only eat food that they know and trust. A new diet falls under the category of food that they don’t trust nor recognize. Do you see the challenge here? Have a little patience, and, believe us, you will be more successful.

Let’s understand the raw model:

The first thing about feeding the raw model is getting the proportions right. Each meal must include 80% muscle meat, 10% edible bone, 5% liver, and 5% of another secreting organ. If you have a kitten, you can go a little higher on the bone content since a growing kitten needs more calcium. You can work with 75- 80% muscle meat, 10-15% bone, 5% liver, and 5% of another secreting organ for a kitten. Your adult cat should be fed 2-4% of its body weight in one day, and this must be split between at least 1-2 meals. Kittens are hungry fur babies, and they must be allowed to eat as much as they wish to, and at least 3-4 times a day. They are growing rapidly and since they play a lot, they are burning energy that must be replenished. Do take these as basic guidelines and you can adjust according to your cat’s individual preferences. Some cats eat more, some less. The bottom line is that they should be healthy and active.

Let’s get started

Is your cat free-fed, or does it have access to its food 24x7? Then the first thing you must do is introduce set meal times. Put the food down and give the cat 20 minutes to have its fill before picking it up again. Introduce at least two set feeding times. This way your cat will learn food is offered only at fixed times and it must eat it then. This is also particularly helpful in the case of raw meat that cannot be left outside uneaten. When you’re starting off on raw, begin by offering your cat some boneless and skinless meat. Chicken is a good option because it’s easily available and easy on the palate. Give the thigh as it has higher taurine content (we’ll talk about that in detail later). You can choose other proteins too, such as rabbit, quail, turkey , or pork. If your cat accepted the chicken then you’re off to a great start and you can follow the steps for an easy transition. If not, don’t worry, we’ve got your back further down.

Making a simple transition:

  • Continue with the boneless skinless meat for 2-3 days to make sure they are tolerating it. Stools should be a good indicator of that. Firm and less odorous stool mean you can move to the next step.
  • Now you can begin to add bone. Chicken necks or even minced carcass or skinless wings are soft enough as your cat builds its jaw strength. You may need to bash them up a bit initially.
  • Next, introduce new proteins. Replace some of the original protein with the new protein, building up slowly until you are feeding just the new protein with the bone. Do this for a few days until your cat is comfortably eating the new protein.
  • Continue introducing newer proteins until your cat is eating 3-4 different proteins without making a fuss. Red and dark meats should be included, and 50% is a good amount.
  • If your cat is eating all the proteins happily, it’s time to introduce liver. Begin with really tiny amounts and slowly build-up to the 5% dietary allowance. The liver is a nutrient-dense food and can become excessive if too much is introduced too quickly.
  • After the liver has been accepted, you can move on to the second secreting organ. Kidneys are also a good option since it is easily available. Follow the same pattern as you did with the liver.
  • At this stage, you can confidently say that your cat has transitioned to the raw model. It’s time to introduce fish and eggs.
  • Fish or other omega-3 sources and eggs can also be quite rich. Start small and build up slowly. Don’t feed more than one chicken egg per week for your cat. Take care when feeding fish as some can contain thiaminase which can affect a cat if given in large quantities. You could also opt for a fish or krill oil also instead. If your cat has any kidney issues, avoid fish altogether.

Transitioning your cats from commercial food:

As an imprint eater, your cat will most often not even recognize raw meat as food if it’s been fed a commercial diet. Kibble can tend to become addictive and it is quite difficult for cat parents to break this habit. You have to focus on getting your cat to trust the new food as food. If you’re feeding your cat dry kibble, start from the beginning. If you’re transitioning your cats from wet food, you can go directly to step three.
  • The first step is to make your cat accustomed to a new texture of food. Start by mixing small quantities of wet commercial food with the dry kibble. Increase this quantity slowly and decrease the dry food until your cat is only eating wet food.
  • In case your cat refuses the mixed wet food you can change the texture of the dry food by adding a little water or broth. Increase the liquid quantity slowly until the dry food is slushy. Once your cat is eating that, you can slowly introduce wet food until the cat starts to eat only the wet food.
  • Give your cat a few days to get comfortable and now introduce the boneless skinless raw meat. Add small chunks or mince, and slowly build upon how much raw food is added to the wet food. Continue this transition until the cat is only on raw. At this stage, you can continue the transition as spoken of above.

Some out of the way methods for transitioning your cats:

  • During feeding times add a small bowl of the raw food next to the bowl of the current food for 1 week. This is done for extremely fussy cats so that the cats get used to the smell of the new food.
  • Transition guidelines should be:
  1. Feed 75% of the old food + 25% of the new food for 2-3 weeks after following the steps mentioned above.
  2. Then feed 50% of the old food + 50% of the new food for 2-3 weeks after completing step 1 above.
  3. Feed 25% of the old food + 75% of the new food for 2 weeks after completion of steps (1) & (2) above.
  4. You can then feed 100% of the new food after completing the above steps.
These methods have worked for a majority of cat owners having fussy cats.

A little word on taurine

Taurine is an essential nutrient in a cat's diet and is found in all animal flesh. However, it is present in higher quantities in muscle meats, such as the heart, thighs, tongues, etc. If you can feed these, great. But don’t fret if you can’t. Most cats can get by with the levels of taurine most meats have (except chicken breast).

A final note:

Cats are NOT natural grazers and hence they should not be left to free feed or graze on their food, especially the raw diet. A cat is a fussy creature of habit and you must respect your cat's space. If it refuses something, take a few steps back until it’s eating again and then carry on again. Truth is, some cats transition easily and some can take months. It might seem long-drawn and tiresome, but believe us the end result is just fabulous. You just need to have some patience while transitioning your cats.