Helping Your Cat Transition to a New Food
Whether it's upgrading to a more premium cat food, a health issue or just a new phase of your cat's life, there are plenty of reasons you may want to transition from one cat food to another. Cats have discerning tastes, however, and switching cat food too quickly can make the process more difficult.
Switching cat foods can be challenging but it doesn’t have to be. Cats should gradually transition to new cat food. Follow these tips to help ensure success.
- Begin the transition by mixing both the current food with their new cat food together. Gradually decrease the amount of current cat food while increasing the amount of new cat food. Continue to do this over a 7-day period for better acceptance of the new cat food. Transitioning slowly can result in fewer digestive issues and diarrhea associated with switching food.
- Remember to be patient. For finicky, older cats with health conditions, the transition time could take 10 days or slightly longer.
- Note: In some cases, such as acute gastrointestinal issues, your veterinarian may not recommend a transition and want you to immediately start feeding the new cat food.
To help you with the switch and cat food transition, refer to the 7-Day Transition Schedule below:
Days 1 and 2
Days 3 and 4
Days 5 and 6
Special Times to Transition Your Cat’s Food
Knowing when to switch from between different lifestage cat foods is crucial:
- Kittens should switch to an adult cat food at 12 months of age to ensure they are receiving proper nutrient levels for adult cats.
- For cats who are 7 years or older, they too should change to a mature adult or senior cat food that ensures that they are receiving the appropriate level of nutrients for that older lifestage.
- Pregnant or nursing cats need energy-dense foods with increased calcium content. Be sure to transition them during this special time to a kitten food.
New Cat Food Feeding Tips
Mixing cat food brands or formulas should take time. Try to ensure your cat enjoys their eating experience as much as possible.
- Provide privacy and a quiet eating area away from loud noises and other cats.
- Hand-feed your cat, at least initially. The person offering the cat food should have a good relationship with the cat.
- Offer moist or canned cat food along with dry cat food.
- Ensure you store all of your cat foods appropriately to maintain the quality and freshness of the cat food.
Switching From Dry to Wet Food
Unless instructed by your veterinarian, wet cat food is often best as a compliment to your pet's dry food routine. If you are mixing cat foods, it is best to stick with the same brand to ensure proper digestion and calorie consistency. If your cat is new to the concept of canned food, there are some ways you can help introduce it into their diet.
- If moist or canned cat food has been refrigerated, warm to body temperature before feeding. Stir thoroughly to distribute “hot spots” that occur during microwave warming. If it’s too warm to touch, it’s too warm to feed.
- For canned cat food, offer it on a flat dish or saucer so your cat’s whiskers don’t brush against the side of the dish. It may help to initially place a small amount of warm moist cat food near the edge of the dish so your cat can lick it easily.
Switching to a Therapeutic Cat Food
If your veterinarian has recommended a special therapeutic cat food for a specific health condition, please be sure to discuss transitioning to the new cat food in detail. There could be some special considerations and your veterinarian may have additional suggestions to help you and your cat.
- Therapeutic cat foods have unique qualities and feeding requirements. If you prefer to feed a specific form of cat food (moist/canned, dry or both), let your veterinarian know so they can recommend a food that complements and addresses your cat’s condition.
- Adding cat foods from the grocery or pet food store will greatly decrease the benefit of the therapeutic cat food and may compromise your cat’s health, so be sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions when transitioning to a therapeutic cat food.
Transitiong After Adoption
While it may be tempting to transition your newly adopted cat after you adopt them, it often can be best to wait at least 30 days before switching to a food different than what they were fed at shelter. The reason for this is because your cat may likely be anxious in their new surroundings, which can cause digestion problems until they feel more comfortable. Switching food during this time can only exacerbate this issue. It might also give you a false impression as to what is causing your cat’s digestive upset, as many pet parents blame the pet food.
Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s directions and ask questions. They are there to help you and your cat be happy and healthy.