As almost every cat owner knows, cats can be the most finicky, picky, fussy, complicated taste tester and food critics in the world. When we have new customers looking to switch over to raw from another type of food such as kibble or can foods, the biggest and most common concern is “Will my cat eat this?”
Even though raw food is hands down, the most healthy and natural way to feed our obligate carnivore cats, some of our customers, unfortunately, have a difficult time feeding raw to their cats because their cats just won’t eat it. With cats we always say, be patient and understanding. Almost expect your cat not to eat the new food when you first bring it home.
Cats are Imprint Eaters
Most often, it’s not because cats are finicky that they will refuse to eat a certain food, it is because they do not recognize it as food. Cats are known to be imprint eaters. They remember the smell, texture, taste, and even temperature of the foods that they are used to eating. This is why when cats are offered something completely new, they will stare at it and then walk away because they may not recognize the new food as being edible.
There are other reasons for cats to be picky eaters too. Finicky appetites are sometimes a result of being fed the same kind of food for a long period of time. Most kittens who start on raw when they are young and are fed a various diet of different animals and meat parts rarely become finicky eaters when they become adults. Since many pet owners looking to make the switch to raw have pets who are already past the kitten stage and have been eating one or two types of food for all their lives, they can be seen as picky. This also leads to people being accustomed to feeding only one type of food for their pets because they feel that is the way to feeding a healthy diet and not upsetting the tummy. Nothing could be further from the truth and we always advocate for variety over time for the healthiest diet.
Knowing this, we can use some tricks to help us transition our cat’s diet to a new food. We split the section in to before, during, and after the start of the addition of the new food.
Making the Switch to Raw
Try the cold-turkey switch! Sometimes cats love it straight away! It must be their instincts.. But if this doesn’t work, we have other things you can try
If you already know that your cat is especially finicky, there are some steps you can take to make the change to raw a little bit easier. Going from commercial cat food to raw food is quite a drastic change. Raw food has very little odour, unlike commercial food and therefore lacks that attractant
When transitioning your cat to raw, we recommend adding a very small amount of the raw food to their current food. We want the cats to get used to seeing the raw food in their bowl. Even if they eat around it, don’t be discouraged! Simply add less next time or try hiding the raw food better in the old food.
If adding small amounts of Raw Meow in to your cat’s old food is causing the rest of the raw food to go bad, freeze the remaining food before it goes bad. Re-frozen meats only really affect texture, as long as they are refrozen before the meat is spoiled. If you thaw out a single tub of raw food and then keep half in the fridge and put the remaining half in the freezer to freeze it again, this is no problem at all.
If your cat is eating the small amount of raw food in the old food, that’s great! You and your cat are one step closer to a raw diet! From this point, you can start to increase the amount of raw food in the bowl and decrease the old food. What you can also do if you feel confident, is to offer them an all-raw bowl to see if your cat will eat it! If not, then you can sprinkle the old food on top or go back to the regiment of mixing the raw and the old food
Tips and Tricks
So you started adding raw in to your cat’s diet but it’s not going as easy as it should be. That’s okay, and remember that making a switch in the diet can be stressful to your cat as well. We have a list of tips you can try to entice your cat to start eating raw.
- Warm up the food: Usually when you take out the thawed raw food from the fridge to feed your cat, it will be cold. Try warming up the raw food by running the packaging under warm water or adding warm water to the meat. Cats are hunters by nature and prefer food to be room temperature or “prey-temperature” – that’s the body temperature of animals they hunt. Be careful as to not cook the bone when you are warming the food! Cooked bones are NEVER to be fed to a cat as they can cause internal damage. Microwaving is not recommended as it will cook the bone fragments. A good tip is to take the food out and plate it half an hour or so before meal time, leave it out of the fridge to warm to room temperature before feeding.
- Play with the cat: Play with your cat before meal time! Get her jumping and running. This simulates hunting. Cats will happily eat their meal after a successful hunt.
- Smear the food: This method has been very popular with finicky cats. You can take the raw food or any new food or treats you want your cat to eat and smear it on their front paw. What do cats do to clean themselves? They will lick their paw, and as they lick their paw, what will they get in their mouth? The new food! By getting it in there this way, they will feel the texture, taste, smell, and temperature of the food. Next time they come up to their bowl and see the same food in there, they will recognize it, and eat it. If this method doesn’t work, we recommend trying it a few times. Not too often though! If you keep smearing food on your cat’s paws more than 2 or 3 times a day, your cat may get irritated and learn to hate the food!
- Force the Food : In the same way smearing a cat with food on their paw may work, so may forcing some of the new food into their mouth. When we say forcing, we mean putting a little on your finger and smearing it into their mouth. Do not do this with force though. Be gentle, playful and loving in your actions. If a cat feels like she is being “medicated” with the food she will reject it. Having them taste it in their mouth can trigger them to eat more. Once they taste it they realize it’s actually quite yum.
- Change the Bowl: Sometimes, changing the bowl can do the trick. Many cats don’t like having their whiskers touching something while eating. This includes the sides of a bowl. This is called Whisper Stress. Try changing their bowl for a flat plate.
- Hide the old food: If you are switching your cat cold-turkey from kibble to raw, your cat may know that you still have the kibble hidden somewhere. Cats have an amazing sense of smell and they may just be holding out for you to give up and feed them the kibble. Many lower quality kibbles can be like a drug – they get cats addicted to them with the high sugar and carbs content along with other artificial and ‘natural’ flavourings. Hide your old food by putting it outside or putting it in a freezer.
- Try a topper: If your cat still doesn’t want to eat the raw food, try using a topper. Raw Meow freeze dried treats are purrfect for this. Crumble onto and into the raw food to entice your cat to try the new food. Other topper ideas are : grated parmesan, nutritional yeast flakes, bonito flakes, crushed up kibble, tuna water.
- Try moving the Plate: Sometimes changing where you feed your cat can make the difference. Cats need to feel safe while they eat. Feeding each cat in a multi cat household somewhere safe and private is very important. Adding the stress of another cat on top of the stress of a new food can be just too much. Feeding each cat in a separate room, or on separate levels (one on the bench and one on the floor) and with each their own plate, is vital. Offering a new location with the “new” food may be the trigger needed to try the raw.
- Be Consistent: By consistent, we mean consistency in your behaviour. If you usually put the food in the bowl, set it down, and walk away, you want to continue to do this. If you add raw to the bowl for the first time and you are hovering around excitedly to see whether your cat will eat it, your cat could become extra cautious with the food. Don’t give up. It can take time. They didn’t eat it today? Ok, let them eat the old food. Offer it again tomorrow, and the next day. Be consistent. Keep at it. They will succumb. I guarantee it.
- Don’t Fight the Hunger Strikes: When your cat goes on a hunger strike demanding their old food, don’t stand your ground. A cat must eat. Going as little as 24 hours without food can cause irreparable damage to a cats liver and is NOT ok. If your cat is refusing to eat the new food, you must give your cat the old food that they will eat. If your cat won’t eat the new food, try adding in a little less and add more of the old food, and of course try all the tricks to try to get them to eat.
Keep Calm and Feed Raw
Often customers contact us, frustrated and stressed out that they are having a hard time switching over their cat to eating raw. Cats basically hate change. They are creatures of habit and any change to their lifestyle can send them into crisis. We understand that. It doesn’t mean they will never take to raw, it means it may take a little longer.
Some of our customers took up to 3 months of effort in transitioning their cats to raw! We have had many cats that took to raw the first day they tried it but we always want to remind people, keep trying, and keep at it. The amazing results will be well worth it and once you get your cat eating raw, you will be able to see and feel the difference you’ve made.
As always, please feel free to let us know if you have any questions! We can be reached by facebook message or by email. We are very passionate about our product and our cats and are always happy to talk it through with you.