Transitioning Your Cat to Raw

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By James Hartmann

Cats are obligate carnivores and thrive on a raw food diet. Kittens usually take to raw food immediately, however the same is not always true for adult cats fed a kibble or wet food diet through adolescence and into adulthood. Some cats transition to a raw food diet in a single feeding. This typically is not the norm. Most cats take a little longer and in many cases this process can take a few weeks or even a few months.

Whether you have made the decision to feed a pre-made frozen diet purchased at a local pet food store or have decided to make your own, you may encounter some obstacles in transitioning your adult cat to raw. Cats fed kibble are often the most difficult to convert as they become very familiar with the texture of the kibble.

Here are some helpful hints to get you started if you currently feed kibble. Gradually add small amounts of raw food on top of the kibble. Over the course of 2 – 4 weeks eventually convert fully to raw. If after 2 – 4 weeks this does not work, begin to convert kibble eaters to a better quality canned food. Mix the canned food into the kibble over time until they are eating all canned. Introduce the raw food by gradually transitioning the raw into the canned until your cat is eating an all raw diet. This process may take 2 – 4 weeks, and will vary by cat.

If your cat is already fed a canned food, the transition to raw may be a little easier. Gradually convert canned food eaters to raw by slowly mixing the raw food into the canned food. Over the course of 2 – 4 weeks fully convert to the raw.

During the conversion process, feed 2-3 times per day. Remove the food after 20 minutes. Dispose of any uneaten food and feed fresh again for the next meal. Consider adding some salmon oil to the top of the raw food to entice trial. Cats love it and it’s a great source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. A slow conversion is recommended for cats whose immune system has been compromised or for cats experiencing other health issues. For those cats with immune or health issues, it is recommended to consult a holistic veterinarian or other veterinarian experienced in raw feeding.

Once you have converted your cat, begin a rotational feeding schedule between proteins. This will enable your cat to benefit from the diverse nutrition sources. Be advised, as with any raw meat product, surfaces, food & water bowls, and meat containers must be washed with warm soapy water, after use.

Congratulations, you have successfully made the switch to raw. Now how much should you feed as a whole meal? When determining how much to feed your cat, you must consider age, health, activity level, and weight, while closely monitoring their dietary intake and adjusting as necessary. Using a percentage of body weight as a guideline, feed approximately:

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  • Adults 2.5% to 3.5% of body weight per day
  • Pregnant or Lactating 4% to 6% of body weight per day
  • Kittens (8wks-10wks) 6% of body weight per day
  • Kittens (11wks – 12 months) 4% of body weight per day

Finally, don’t forget raw meaty bones. When adding bones to the feeding plan, always ensure they are served raw (never cooked) as cooked bones can splinter. Often referred to as “nature’s toothbrush”, raw meaty bones can be introduced a few times per week. Chicken necks and chicken wings are small enough for cats to chew on and work quite well. These consumable bones are a great source of calcium.

With your transition game plan in place you are set to begin. Stick with it and be patient, the health and well-being of your feline companion is worth it!