Cats have a reputation for being finicky eaters, but that’s just how they’re made. Unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores; that means they require meat to live. It also means that Fluffy may be a bit pickier than Fido as she has a more specialized digestive system. It’s important to switch your cat’s food carefully, both to ensure that she accepts it and to avoid some unpleasant repercussions of swapping foods too quickly. (No one appreciates cat gas, including cats.)
For the first day of feeding the new brand of food, mix about a quarter of new food into the old food. Adjust the proportions for each feeding over the course of two or three days. If you feed your cat twice daily, two days will probably be enough to make the switch; once-a-day feedings may take a little longer to swap completely. If your cat turns up his nose at too much of the new stuff, keep the blend at the same proportions for a feeding or two until he gets used to the taste.
Don’t be afraid to illustrate to your cat how good the food tastes (though you can stop short of actually tasting it yourself). Cats aren’t immune to good advertising; like many of us, they want to try something that has good buzz. Make a few “om nom nom” noises as you’re dishing up the cat food, exclaim about the good smell, ooh and ahh over it a little. Talk pleasantly to your cat as you set the food down. If you feel silly, just think of it as making a little light dinner conversation.
Wet to Dry
It’s easy to coax a cat to switch to wet food if she’s used to dry, but the reverse is a tougher sell. If you’ve been feeding your cat canned food exclusively, she may have a hard time adjusting to dry food. Mixing foods helps, but if your cat still refuses to eat dry food alone, try moistening pure dry food with a little water at first. You can also microwave it for a few seconds; cats appreciate a hot meal. If your cat doesn’t eat the dampened food within half an hour, throw it out and try again later.
Remember to keep an eye on the water bowl when switching from canned food to dry food; your cat will need more water once she makes the transition to dry food.
Give It Time
Cats don’t need much variety in their diets; all those different flavors on store shelves appeal to cat owners more than to cats. If you’ve recently switched your cat’s food and he doesn’t seem too happy about it, let him get a little hungry rather than buying a different flavor right away. Give your cat the chance to get accustomed to a new flavor or texture before you buy more. Forgo giving treats or scraps while you’re switching foods, too. If he never gets hungry, your cat can’t tell if he genuinely dislikes the new food or if he’s just too full to eat another bite.
Whether you’re switching your cat’s food to a new formula because of cost, convenience, or new nutritional needs, look for foods labeled “100% Complete” or “Nutritionally Complete.” While not as entertaining to your cat as setting mice free in your house, nutritionally complete cat foods will give your obligate carnivore everything he needs to thrive.
Source: Food and Drug Administration (FDA), FDA’s Regulation of Pet Food, Sharon Benz, Ph. D