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What is Diet Change?

Changing a cat’s diet can be a choice made by an owner or one suggested by a veterinarian for medical reasons. Cats’ diets can be changed during transition periods in life such as from a kitten diet to an adult diet or an adult to senior diet. In addition to life stage changes, there are several medically indicated diets available for cats that a veterinarian may suggest. These diet changes may be transient, as in the suggestion of a bland diet for cases of indigestion; or more permanent, as in a hydrolyzed protein diet for a cat with severe food allergies. Changing a cat’s diet is a common practice whether an owner is hoping to provide a pet with optimal nutrition or a veterinarian recommends adding nutritional changes to a treatment protocol.  

Diet Change Procedure in Cats

Though there are many reasons that a cat’s diet may change, the process of transitioning your cat to a new food remains the same. It is important to avoid completely changing the food all at once as doing so may cause stomach upset and result in vomiting or diarrhea. Instead, it is better to slowly transition your cat to a new food over the course of several days. To transition to a new pet food, combine their old food with a bit of new food. Each day, add more new food and less old food to their bowl, repeating until the old food is completely replaced. 

Efficacy of Diet Change in Cats

Diet change is an effective treatment for many conditions and can serve as a preventive for many others. The goal of diet change varies with the condition it is intended to treat. For example, a cat with urinary stones will be placed on a urinary diet with the goal of preventing more stones from forming. The effects of diet change last as long as your cat is kept on their new diet. Diet change is often used in combination with medical therapy. While medical therapy alone may prove effective, nutritional changes often serve to enhance the efficacy of medical therapy. For example, a cat with chronic kidney disease can be managed in the hospital and released home on a kidney diet that will not create as many byproducts for the kidneys to filter, thus giving them a break and providing the cat with a longer life expectancy than with medical management alone.

Diet Change Recovery in Cats

Signs of improvement attributable to diet change vary depending on the condition being targeted. For more acute processes such as vomiting or diarrhea due to stomach upset, the effect of a bland diet can be seen within a day or two. For a more chronic process such as kidney disease or chronic allergies it may take a few weeks to see the full benefits of the diet change. 

Cost of Diet Change in Cats

Over the counter cat food can cost between $10-$40 depending on the amount and brand of food that you buy. Prescription cat food diets prices vary depending on the condition being treated and can cost from $20-$70 again, depending on the amount and brand of food being purchased. 

Cat Diet Change Considerations

There are few risks and many benefits to changing a cat’s diet. The main risks to consider are the possibility of gastrointestinal upset if the food is transitioned too rapidly and the possibility that the cat will not find the food palatable. Benefits of diet change vary based on the type of diet chosen and can range from maintenance of a healthier weight to management of chronic kidney issues.

Diet Change Prevention in Cats

Diet change is often the preventative measure used for many conditions. Good nutrition is very important in maintaining your cat’s health over the years. A specialized diet for a medical condition could also be viewed as a preventive measure such as the urinary stone diet used in combination with medical therapy to prevent surgery.