How to Transition Your Cat to a New Diet

Published: 03/11/2021
Do you have a cat showing their extra finicky side by refusing to eat their regular food? Is your kitten quickly growing and requires a move from kitten kibble to cat food for young furbaby’s? There are many reasons for changing your cat’s food, from a change in nutrition needs to a special diet for health reasons.

But you cannot introduce a different cat food overnight. It takes time for your feline to adjust to the new diet. Read on for advice from Wag! on how to transition your cat to a new diet.

Why do you need to change your cat’s food?

Changing your cat’s kibble is a decision that takes thought and maybe even a call to the veterinarian for advice.

Reasons for a change in what you present in the dish every day may be:

  • A cat with a health problem such as urinary crystals or diabetes may require a diet change as part of their treatment plan 

  • Once kittens are 12 months old, they should be switched to an adult cat food

  • Cats 7 years and older benefit from a switch to a senior or mature cat food

  • Cats that have a sedentary lifestyle due to arthritis or injury will require a new food, different from what an active cat needs

  • Cats who are pregnant or nursing need foods that provide extra energy

Make the transition slowly.

It’s essential to make the transition from one food to another gradually. When a new food is introduced too quickly, a cat may experience problems.

  • Lack of appetite

  • Refusal to eat

  • Vomiting

  • Gas

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

How to transition your cat to a new diet:

Changing your cat’s diet slowly is essential to avoiding an aversion to the food. Reducing added stress over a change in sustenance (especially if they are in the midst of a health crisis) is paramount to your furry friend's happiness, and lessening the chance of a gastrointestinal upset is ideal.

The transition can take place over a period of 7 to 10 days. This is how it’s done:

Days 1 and 2) Mix 25% of the new cat food and 75% of the usual food your cat gets.

Days 3 and 4) Change the mixture to 50% of the new food and 50% of the old food.

Days 5 and 6) Fill your cat’s dish with 25% of the old food and 75% of the new diet.

Day 7) Your cat can eat 100% of the tasty new fare!

If you anticipate a problem or your cat has special needs, consult the vet before starting. There is no harm in transitioning over a longer period, either, if that is what will work best for you and your kitty. Some cats will need 4 to six days per mix combination instead of 2 or 3.

Keep an eye on your cat’s behavior, weight, and stool quality to ensure the change is going smoothly. Of course, if your cat is refusing to eat, let the veterinarian know. Don’t let your favorite four-legger go more than 24 hours without eating a meal.

Tips on changing from dry cat food to wet cat food:

Because the texture, smell, and taste of wet food are quite different from dry kibble, you may need to do a little extra work to get your cat to transition.

  • Stick to the same feeding time and place as always. Routine means a lot.

  • Sprinkle the dry kibble on top of the wet food so your cat can adjust to the smell.

  • Try mixing the dry food into the wet food.

  • If the cat food is cold from the fridge, warm it up in the microwave. Check carefully that it is not too hot.

  • Try adding Fortiflora, a palatable probiotic that can make the eagerly awaited edibles more appealing.

  • Feed your cat wet food on a flat dish for easy licking.

  • Engage your cat in fun play or a mentally-stimulating training session to build their appetite before feeding.

  • Always store your kitty's food properly to ensure maximum freshness and quality.

In some instances, changing your cat from free-feeding to a schedule will help. Start your cat on a schedule while still feeding the old food. 

Feed your cat two or three meals daily, removing the uneaten tidbits 20-30 minutes after your cat is done. Keep this schedule going to allow your kitty to get used to it.

When you start the transition, be sure to not offer more than your cat would normally eat at one sitting. All things going well, your cat will happily eat the mixture. You can increase the amount to their normal intake as you are transitioning from the old food to the new.

Ask your veterinarian for help.
Asking the vet for help may be necessary if you are transitioning your cat to a new diet for medical reasons. Discuss the process with the veterinary team to ensure that you are making the change properly, and especially if you anticipate your kitty may prove finicky with the change. The veterinarian can provide helpful advice.
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