A cat eating a meal from a bowl

How to change your cat’s diet (without getting angry looks)

Helping your cat lose some excess weight may seem as easy as switching over to a different food or giving smaller portions. Think again. Cats are not exactly known for their flexibility when adapting to new things. So what is the best way to change a cat’s diet? Let’s dive in.

Why would you change diets?

Four types of catfood from the brand Purina
PurinaOne offers a tailored food for every stage of life: kitten, adult and senior

There are a number of medical conditions that require a specific diet change. Obesity is one of the more obvious reasons, but there are many others.

For instance, a pregnant kitty needs an energy-dense meal that contains extra calcium, whereas a senior cat with renal problems may be required to eat wet food as a way of increasing liquid uptake.

Or what if you just want to change your cats’ eating habits because you found healthier food in the store?

Why your cat may resist new food

Whatever the reason, your pet will likely need some encouragement. Old habits die hard, as they say, and that’s certainly the case whenever cats are involved. Felines really wouldn’t mind eating the same old meal every day for the rest of their lives if you let them.

In fact, their bowels adapt to a diet over time, so any radical change may upset the stomach and possibly cause unwanted side effects like diarrhea. Even changing to a different food within the same brand can be enough to upset your kitty.

1. Creating a gradual transition

Whenever you plan to introduce a different diet, do so over a period at least one week, preferably longer. Start by mixing a bit of the new food into the old one, about 75% old food and 25% new. Then mix this up well and serve.

Now what you want to do is slightly increase the proportion of new food in the meal every day over a period of 7 to 14 days. Doing so should give your cat’s body time to gradually adjust to the new food. This reduces the chance of gastro-intestinal issues.

If you notice your cat still becoming withdrawn or nauseous, you can slow down for a few days.

A chart that details how the ratio between old and new food can be changed over two weeks
This is what a transition chart for a period of 2 weeks could look like (image by petbarn)

2. Work up an appetite

A kitten playing with a feather on a string, hanging from a rod
There’ s a good chance this kitten will be hungry after play time

Have you ever noticed how your appetite picks up right after exercise? The same goes for cats. So if you’re smart, you’ll play with your kitty for a good 30 minutes or so, right before you introduce the new meal to her.

Alternatively, you could also just leave the bowl empty longer than usual. After all, everything tastes better when you’re starving.

3. Some subtle encouragement

Sometimes a bit of gentle encouragement is needed to get the ball rolling. Try giving your cat a good cuddle, then take a bit of the food in your hand and offer it.

You can also say something in a sweet tone of voice as you reach out. Just make sure no one can hear you talking to your cat, or you might become known as the neighborhood crazy person!

4. Extra tips

Some other things you can do to entice your pet:

  • Sprinkle something extra tasty over the meal, like some tuna meat or the liquid from the can
  • All cats love fish! So if you can afford it, why not add an irresistible flavor by mixing some of salmon flavored food or treats through the regular food
  • Provide a quiet eating area where people (and other cats) can’t distract
  • Mind your body language. It is best to introduce new food with an encouraging attitude
  • If all else fails, the vet should be able to supply you with a medicine that boosts appetite
  • Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments!!

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