Almost every cat owner has experienced it. You find out about a healthier type of cat food, purchase it, and excitedly give it to your cat. Then the cat just stares at you like “What on earth is this? Where is my food?” You try it a few more times and feel completely baffled. Why wouldn’t your cat want to eat something that is fresher, more species appropriate, and has less hard-to-digest junk ingredients in it? Believe it or not, there are some real reasons that your cat might resist switching to a healthy food.
Reason #1: Your kitty is addicted to junk food.
Cats can become addicted to foods as easily as humans can. The main food addictions in cats are foods that are high in fat, high in carbohydrates, high in salt, and to the shape/texture of the food. If you have been feeding your cat a diet of dry kibble all of their life, chances are they are addicted to all of these properties. When your cat sees a healthy food, they aren’t interested because it doesn’t have the things that the cat is yearning to get from his/her food.
Reason #2: You’ve changed the diet too quickly.
It can take a long time to properly transition a cat from a not-so-healthy food to a healthy food. It takes a lot more work for the body to digest unprocessed, whole foods than it does for the more nutrient deficient, highly processed foods. If your cat actually does eat the new food immediately, they could suffer from upset stomach and diarrhea. How much would you feel like eating a food again after it caused you pain the first time? A slow transition can ease this gastrointestinal irritation. Try giving the new food to your cat as a snack in between meals. Be prepared, making a full transition can take days, weeks, or even months.
Reason #3: They still have access to the less healthy food.
When a cat has access to the less healthy food they are more familiar with (and probably addicted to), they aren’t as likely to try something new. They simply don’t see a reason to bother with it. This is a big problem from people who currently free-feed their cats and who want to transition to a wet or raw food.
A word of caution – you shouldn’t let your cat go without eating at all if they won’t touch the healthy food. Cats can and will starve themselves to the point of serious illness. If a cat has received less than 50% of the calories he/she requires in a day, hepatic lipadosis (fatty liver disease) will set in.
The remedy is to start the process of transitioning with stopping the free-feeding. Start feeding the cat his/her original food on a schedule, 2-3 times per day. Talk to your veterinarian and make sure of how many calories your cat needs per day and consider that in your schedule. Bonus- this scheduled feeding can help you learn to control your cat’s weight as well!
After the cat has successfully gotten used to the new scheduled feeding, begin transitioning in the healthy food. Give 1 meal of healthy food and the rest of the meals use the original food. After this is accepted by your cat and there is no diarrhea, replace another meal with healthy food. Repeat the process until all of the original food is transitioned out.
Have you ever made the switch to a healthy food with your cat?
Steve is an advocate for healthy pet food offerings.