How to Transition Your Cat to Raw Food

How to Transition Your Cat to Raw Food

by ScritchSpot

Whether it’s because of reported contamination problems with various brands, or just to steer clear of overly processed foods, you might be considering switching your cat to a raw meat diet.

Raw meat diets are those that include uncooked ingredients from mammals (cow, lamb, goat, rabbit), fish or poultry, as well as eggs and vegetables, plus vitamins and minerals. Some commercially manufactured foods even include such exotic ingredients as kelp, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate.

There are many brands of raw foods available. For example, Darwin’s sells raw pet foods that are 100% meat and vegetables and are free of antibiotics, hormones, steroids, grains and fillers. The meat is sourced from grass-fed cows and lambs, cage-free chickens and turkey, and the vegetables are organic. You can custom-order based on your pet’s weight, which means you’re less likely to waste food or feed your pet too much. 

Benefits of a raw diet

Your mini predator is built to eat meat protein, and there can be benefits to making the switch. Those include healthier skin and a shinier coat, maintaining a healthy weight, increased energy, and better digestion. Better digestion translates to less waste in the litter box, which means less scooping required. There is less odor as well.

But how do you go about switching to a raw diet, especially if your cat has become accustomed to eating kibble? If you just plop down a bowl of completely different food that has an unfamiliar smell and strange texture, your cat may look at you with an expression that says “What’s this stuff? Hey, you eat it.” 

Making the transition

The transition must be gradual and requires your patience. Some cats might dive right in while others may take months before they are eating only raw food. Any time you transition from one type of food to another it should be done over a period of weeks, so your cat can adjust. Do it too fast and he may refuse to eat, or he will get diarrhea, and that’s unpleasant for everyone. Going without food for too long can be dangerous and could lead to fatty liver disease.

  1. Establish regular meal times. The first thing to do is stop free-feeding dry food. Let your cat get used to being fed at mealtime (two to three times a day), instead of all the time. He may complain loudly that he is clearly starving, but you must be strong. He will adjust. 
  2. Offer a small sample of raw food. If your cat enjoys it, offer small amounts in the morning and evening as a treat. Gradually reduce the amount of kibble as you increase the “treats”.
  3. Mix a little raw food with his current food. At mealtime, offer the raw food along with the dry food or mix it in with his wet food. Decrease the amount of dry/canned food each day until you end up feeding only raw food. If your kitty continues to hold out for kibble, try crushing some of it and sprinkling it on top of the raw food to entice him. 
  4. Make raw food more enticing. You may also want to brown the raw food to unlock the smell. Cook it in a pan for less than a minute, then mix the food with water. As predatory animals, cats prefer their food at ‘body’ temperature so it’s best to warm it before serving.

Always practice safe handling with raw cat food by washing your hands and thoroughly cleaning any surfaces and dishes that came in contact with the food. 

After fully transitioning to a raw diet, your cat will likely drink less water because he is getting the hydration he needs from his food. Raw food contains more water than dry or canned cat food. 

Finally, it’s always a good idea to weigh your cat regularly to make sure he’s maintaining a healthy weight. Weight loss is often one of the first signs of illness. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian if you notice any negative changes or if you have questions about raw diets for cats.