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How to Switch Cat Foods: Tips For Transitioning Your Cat’s Diet

Whether it’s because you don’t think that your cat’s current food has enough nutrition, it’s become impossible to find, or your pet simply refuses to eat it anymore, sometimes you have to switch your cat to a new brand.

It sounds simple. All you have to do is buy a different food, right?

As it turns out, it’s somewhat complicated. Here, we show you exactly how to transition your cat to their new food with as little fuss and muss as possible.

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Why Do You Have to Transition at All?

Humans love variety when they eat. If we didn’t, there would be far fewer restaurants, and grocery stores would only need two or three aisles to sell everything suitable for our consumption.

It’s easy, then, to assume that our pets are the same way. Cats, however, are generally perfectly happy to eat the same thing day in and day out (assuming that they like it, of course), and their bodies get accustomed to that regularity.

If you make a massive change to their diet without warning, it can throw off their entire digestive tract. This includes disrupting their intestinal bacteria, which are beneficial bugs that help with everything from digestion to boosting their immune systems. That could lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and a refusal to eat — none of which you want to deal with.

The refusal to eat may sound like the best scenario of the three, but it’s not: A sudden refusal to eat that lasts for longer than 24 hours could lead to fatty liver disease, a potentially fatal condition.

It’s extremely important, then, to make the transition slowly and handle it with care.

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Make the Change for the Right Reasons

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Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

You should never change your cat’s diet simply because you think that they’re bored with their food. That’s unlikely to happen.

However, there are definitely good reasons to switch cat foods. Here are a few of them:

  • Your cat has stopped eating their old food.
  • They have a health condition that necessitates changing their diet.
  • You want to switch them to a higher-quality food.
  • You can no longer afford (or can’t find) their usual food.
  • The quality of their current food has changed for the worse.

Assuming one of these reasons is true, go ahead and make the switch. However, if you’re making the change because your cat has stopped eating their old food, you should take them to the vet first to ensure that nothing else is going on that would make eating uncomfortable for them.

You should use this opportunity to switch them to the healthiest food that you can afford (and that they’ll eat). Switching foods is something that you may only do a few times in your cat’s life, so you should try to give them the healthiest diet that you can as soon as you can.

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Take It Slow

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Image Credit: meineresterampe, Pixabay

Now that you know that your cat’s digestive health (not to mention their precious intestinal bacteria) is at stake, let’s look at the proper way to transition them to a new food.

The whole process should take around 7-10 days. In some cases, you may need to take longer than that, especially if your cat is a finicky eater or has preexisting digestive issues. In rare cases, the transition could take as long as a month, but that’s typically only for cats with serious stomach problems or other health issues (as always, talk to your vet before changing your cat’s diet).

You should start by mixing a little bit of the new food in with the old. The first day should be about 25% new food and 75% old food — do this for all meals if you feed your cat multiple times a day.

From that point on, gradually increase the amount of new food each day until you’re feeding them the new stuff entirely. This should take at least a week, but you can drag it on a bit longer than that if you want to make absolutely certain that there won’t be any issues.

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What Problems Could You Encounter Along the Way?

Assuming that you transition your cat slowly and steadily, there shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you try to go too fast, your cat may suffer from digestive issues.

If your cat starts vomiting, has runny stools, or stops eating entirely, you should reduce the amount of new food for a few days. You should stretch out the transition period even longer, perhaps for 2 weeks or more. If after that, your cat is still having issues, you should consult your vet.

Sometimes, your cat won’t even try the new food. If that’s the case, you might need to trick them into giving it a little taste. You can drizzle tuna juice or something similar over the kibble or mix in wet food to get them started. You can discontinue this once they get accustomed to it, but it’s an easy way to jump-start the process.

If after all this, the cat still won’t touch the new food, that may mean they simply do not like it. It may be time to punt on the new food and get something different (and start the transition process all over again).

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A Well-Fed Cat Is a Happy Cat

If you’re ready to switch your cat to a new food, following these steps will help you do so without having to clean up any messes (or put your cat’s health at risk) along the way.

Luckily, making a change in your cat’s diet is fairly simple and painless; as long as you’re not impatient, you shouldn’t have too many issues.

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Featured Image Credit: sweetlouise, Pixabay