The article below is a very loose guideline to help those who are struggling to transition their cat/s to a raw diet. First and foremost, do your research beforehand and do discuss changing your cat’s diet with your veterinarian if you are concerned.
This is probably the most frustratingly difficult task most people ever have – switching your kibble junkie over to a raw diet. Some cats take to it quite naturally, we find this especially with younger kittens, and some cats are more adventurous than others.
And then there is Tinkerbell. Your 7-year old rescue who will only eat Hills, and will rather die before staining her dainty lips with that muck on her plate. You try enticing her in a high-pitched voice, you try dangling it in front of her, you try dropping it nonchalantly on the counter in front of her nose, you try mixing it with some wet food… And then you start grinding your teeth, and start cursing and threatening to starve her. All the while she disinterestedly carries on grooming herself, ignoring the full plate of raw food you painstakingly researched and sourced, and lovingly prepared for her this evening.
Sounds familiar? Yes? You’re not the only one 🙂
First of all, the basic guidelines:
- Don’t free feed: – If you’re leaving a bowl of kitty kibble for madam to snack on at her leisure, stop. Feed her twice a day, three times if you can. She will whine and bemoan her misery and make you feel miserable as a fur-parent, but persist. You’re not starving her.
- Understand what makes kibble so yummy: – Kibble is sprayed with animal digest – a lovely protein soup made of questionable animal carcasses (officially, it’s material obtained from hydrolysis of animal tissue). It is highly palatable to cats, and I like to call it kitty “crack”.
- Understand what makes raw food so repulsive:– You are now forcing madam to put her dainty lips on something that smells foreign. Ever seen a cat sniff… and sniff…. and sniff… yeap. They don’t leap in like dogs do – if it doesn’t smell like food, it simply cannot be anything that shall pass her lips.
- Transition to canned wet food first: This is normally the best approach especially for stubborn cats that will only eat kibble. Follow the steps below to introduce canned wet food, and once she is eating it comfortably, introduce some raw meat.
So now what?
- Start small. Don’t be very ambitious, seriously a small knife point of raw food is what you will probably have to start off with. Present it on her bowl or plate. With every meal. Don’t get discouraged, she will show interest. Eventually.
- What can I give her? Anything really – it’s easy to start off with a sliver of chicken, or a small piece of liver
- I don’t want to make it myself: It doesn’t matter what you use initially, purchase a quality premade cat raw food, defrost really small amounts at a time, and offer a small amount with her food.
- What if she doesn’t eat it – must I throw it away? Cats are fussy about fresh meat, so you will have to discard the uneaten food within 2 days, depending on temperature, or just give it to pooch who will be hovering around anyway for kitty left-overs.
- She showed some interest: Yay!
- But wait, she didn’t finish it… bummer! Don’t worry about it, offer it again for supper, breakfast etc.
- She finished it, but took a long time to eat it. It’s a start – Rome wasn’t built in a day.
- She isn’t showing any interest. Don’t worry about it – keep on offering. Do not stress yourself out about it, she will come around. Offer the same sliver of meat with the next meal, and then change it to a sliver of something else with the next meal. If you’re feeding premade, keep on offering it, and add a little topping to it which I will discuss a little bit later.
- The Great Pretender: Yes, you need to resort to tricks and sometimes pretend that you are feeding your cat something that resembles kibble, so this section is about toppings, and what you can try to make it a bit more palatable for Madam FussyPants:
- Kibble: Be sneaky, and grind her kibble into a fine powder and sprinkle it over her raw food.
- Pilchards: (Tinned is best here) Mash a tiny bit of pilchards up with her food, most kitties like pilchards. Add some of the juice or sauce and mix in well with the food.
- Full Cream Yoghurt: Cats like the creamy taste of yoghurt – try mixing a tiny bit of Greek yoghurt with her food.
- Nutritional Yeast Flakes (preferable) or Brewer’s Yeast: Brewer’s Yeast isn’t the best topping, but better than kibble. I managed to transition my most difficult kitty with nutritional yeast flakes, plus it’s rich in some Vitamin B nutrients for those worried about thiaminase from feeding fresh fish.
- Full cream cheese, especially Parmesan
- Scrambled egg in butter
- Pureed Liver (Smallest amount)
- A touch of Marmite mixed with warm water
- Extra Blood
- Get rid of the bag of kibble: Seriously, put it in the deep freeze if you have to, these feline critters can smell if there is kibble around, I kid you not.
- Ramp up on your patience, ambition and determination: You are going to have great days, and you are going to have days that you want to huddle in a corner and cry because Miss FussyPants will not touch her food. Just pull up your big girl pants, and try again. It is pointless getting angry.
- Don’t starve Miss FussyPants for too long if she’s old, overweight or not very active: Sadly, a lot of cats are seriously overweight on kibble. Although not recommended, it’s quite fine for cats to skip meals, however overweight and sedentary cats who do not eat for a couple of days, can develop a serious condition called Fatty Liver Disease (hepatic lipidosis) whereby their livers are stressed by the fat metabolisation that occurs due to lack of food.
- Go back to canned wet food: It’s not a race to get madam over onto a raw diet, for now you want to get her off the kibble, and if it means feeding canned food for a while, then that is what you have to do. Once she is fully transitioned to canned wet food, then slowly introduce the raw food again.
- It takes time and determination: It can take months to transition some cats, do not get discouraged and fall back to feeding kibble. Stick it out with wet canned food with a ratio to raw food that she is comfortable with for a week, then gradually increase the percentage of raw food. You can even resort to attaching small pieces of meaty bones to a flirt-pole and playing with her by dangling it in front of her to grab her attention. Most cats cannot resist playing with their food.
- Change the texture: Most people start off with offering ground raw food to their cats once they are comfortable with raw food. Play around with textures, and consider that your cat’s jaws might not have the necessary strength to crunch through bone. Offer chunkier food to encourage her to chew, and gradually offer tougher meat like gizzards to strengthen her jaw muscles. Some cats prefer chunky food over minced food, and vice versa.
- Change the temperature: Some cats don’t like cold food straight out the fridge, and like it at “mouse temperature”. Warm the food up in a saucer over a bowl with hot water to slightly warm it for her.
- Change her bowl to a small plate or saucer: It’s easier eating wet chunky food when it can be dragged off a plate – consider serving her food on a small saucer to prevent whisker stress which might make her more reluctant to eat if her whiskers are touching a wet food bowl.
- Be more adventurous: Change from gizzards to duck and chicken backs, chicken wings, quail and baby poussin drumsticks, breastbones to offer much needed crunching to keep teeth clean. Do monitor your cat closely, as you might have to chop the bones into smaller pieces that are manageable, but not too small for her if you are feeding a Frankenprey diet.
- Change proteins: Be adventurous with proteins, but don’t vary the recipe too much if you are making bulk batches. Stick to our guidelines here: http://wefeedraw.co.za/pmr-guide/
- Add more moisture: Raw meat is naturally high in moisture, but don’t be afraid to add more moisture in the form of bone broth, rooibos tea and filtered water. Cats don’t have a high thirst drive, and benefit from all the moisture they can get naturally from their diet.
- Watch the poo: Always monitor the litter box, it’s your first sign if something is wrong.
- Give yourself a pat on the back: Whether it’s 6 days, 6 weeks, or 6 months later when your madam is happily munching on her plate of raw delicacies, you have done it. And her beautiful silky soft fur, fresh breath and clean teeth will be the reward for many hours of frustration.
Good luck! Here are some more articles to read through: