How to Switch Your Cat to a Raw Diet

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Cats tend to be very finicky about their foods. In fact, cats become imprinted on the food they are first fed. They can even become addicted to the shape of the kibble. That’s why each pet food company makes their kitty kibble in distinct shapes.

The companies also spray the surface of the kibble with “animal digest” which is similar to MSG and has a taste cats can’t resist. I liken this to Doritos. I personally do not care much for plain old corn chips. However, when those same chips are sprayed with that Doritos coating, I can’t resist. Similarly, the cat’s natural proclivity to eat a healthy diet is hijacked by the technology of flavor enhancers.

I have personal experience with switching finicky felines to raw. Several years ago I inherited my parents’ cats (Sugar and Spice – pictured above) and these kitties were dry food junkies. When I put raw food in front of them they looked up at me and said, “We can’t eat this. Are you trying to kill us?” Well, my other cats were all eating raw food so I told the newcomers, “You’re going to have to eat this food like everyone else.” Day and night I put a bowl of raw food in front of them, and each time they turned their noses up.

By day three of their hunger strike I think I heard them say, “We’d rather die than eat that raw food.” By the way, although a healthy cat can miss a meal or two, a cat that does not eat for three days can go into liver failure and die, so I do not recommend the starvation method of food transition. Because of this learning experience, taught by a couple of pros, I have come up with the following finicky cat transition technique.

The first step is to get him on a twice-a-day feeding schedule. No matter what your cat may tell you, he does not need a bowl full of food sitting out all day. If he were in the wild, he would not have dead mice lying around to eat. In fact, he would have to get his butt off the couch and catch a mouse. And, if he missed that mouse, he would go without a meal.

So first thing in the morning, you put ½ of your cat’s daily ration in the bowl and put it down for him to eat. If your cat is like most, he is likely to eat a few pieces and walk away, confident it will be there later. But, it will not be there later. Let the bowl of food stay down for 15-20 minutes and then put it up and away.

Then, in the evening when you put a bowl with the other ½ of the daily ration down, your cat is very likely to finish it off. He will quickly (within a few days) get into the new rhythm of eating. (If you have more than one cat, feed them separately and in different rooms if necessary).

It may be best to start the feeding schedule during the week when people are not in the house to hear the cat complain about the lack of readily available vittles. And, if you are home for the transition and your cat does complain, do not give in. Giving him food when he gets loud and obnoxious will only reinforce the unwanted behavior. You must resist the temptation to give in to your cat’s demands.

Now that your cat is used to eating morning and night, it’s time to start adding the raw food. With each feeding, put a teaspoon of raw food on the bottom of the food bowl and put the dry food of top. That way, your kitty won’t have to touch the raw food but he’ll smell it with every bite of dry food he takes. Considering the sensitivity of the feline nose, this is a big step.

Once your cat adjusts to the new aroma, mix the raw food in with a small amount of the dry on the bottom of the bowl. That way, if he wants to get a whole belly full of food, he’ll have to eat some that is touching the raw food. Now, very gradually mix in more and more of the raw and less and less of the dry. After a month or so of this process, you should have a totally raw-fed cat.

For many cats, the owner has to really want to see their companion eating a healthy, raw diet. It takes persistence and a slightly deaf ear, but it can be done. If I can make raw eaters out of my parents’ cats, I know you can do the same for your kitty.

Have you switched a Cat to raw food?

13 thoughts on “How to Switch Your Cat to a Raw Diet

  1. Elinor

    Dr. Doug,
    Thank you for posting this valuable information. A few weeks ago, we adopted a three-and-half year old cat from Animal Rescue League and, as you can guess, he is quite addicted to a specific type of conventional dry food. In late July, our dear Wildboy died of a very aggressive form of pancreatic cancer at only eleven years of age (you may recall seeing him for appointment in his final stages of life) — and based on my discussions with you, as well as further readings, I am committed to moving our new cat to a raw diet. He appears, however, to be a “gobbler”, and he has vomited up undigested crunchies a handful of times. So I have been giving him his meals in small portions, about six times a day. Do you have any suggestions for transitioning a gobbler to raw food? Also, he seems to have come from a family that fed him milk from their cereal bowls — a practice we are NOT continuing. But it occurred to me he could also be receptive to the raw goats milk you discussed elsewhere on your blog. So I wondered if goats milk could potentially be part of the equation as well.
    Many thanks for any insights you can offer.
    Elinor

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      I would suggest using the process detailed in this last blog to get your gobbler onto raw. Slow and easy. If you need to feed multiple times a day that’s fine with me. The goat’s milk is a great idea for your new kitty and may aide the transition.

      Reply
  2. Sandy McDowell

    My cat is hooked on Temptation treats & will meow at me all the time until I give him these treats. He is fat and getting fatter, but when I tried getting him off these treats, he grabbed my leg & drew blood. After being abused , I gave in & fed him his treats. My question is -How do I get him off these treats? How do I help him lose weight?

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      DO NOT let your cat terrorize you. Every time you give into his demands you reinforce the obnoxious behavior. If my cat scratched me the last thing I would do is reward him with a treat. I would have a squirt gun handy and let him have it right in the face. As long as your cat is in charge there is no hope. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. It is for his own good1

      Reply
  3. Alexander Wells

    My car became fixated on treats and completely flipped out one, day running around and meowing very loudly. I thought he had a blocked urinary tract after I saw him scratching wildly at his box. I took him to the vet and got him tested. No problem with urinary tract. Even had his body scanned – very expensive! I asked the vet about the treats and he was noncommittal. He gave me some calming pills and off I went. Immediatley I took him off the Temptations cold turkey. Threw out all his beloved pouches of food Nirvana. Two months later he still begs for them! But after that disturbubg episode – no more treats. Ever.

    Reply
  4. Kristal

    I realize I created a junkie on the temptation treats and I regret giving them to him now. I have recently started moving both cats to a raw diet but Louie is so hooked he can’t focus on anything else. He will not eat his wet food and as I’m also trying to ease out the dry food, I can’t until I figure out how to get him off the “junk”. It is obviously upsetting when the little fella sits and stares at me as if to will me into opening the cabinet. The shaky treat bag has also been how I trained him to come in from outside. He’ll run through the woods like the wind when he hears me shake the bag; though, I can just call I’m now and he comes expecting his treat. Yes, he know the word to and we spell it around him. He knows that reward is there. Anyway, how do I do this without feeling as if I’m letting him down. He’s only 3 years old and I know him being young is on my side. Any advice other than me getting a therapist? !!!! :)

    Reply
  5. NM

    Wow! Somebody should really look into what is in these Temptaions treats. I decided to Google “Temptations cat addiction” because my cat has really started to turn crazy for these treats. He would just stare at me and meow, and run around and catch fits if he doesn’t get them. It came to the point something really was wrong, and now Googling it and finding the same symptoms and experiences I am really worried. I would not be surprised if there was some synthetic drug in there.

    Reply
  6. Sarah

    If you’re wondering why your pet is seemingly addicted to temptations, it’s because they are. Turn the bag over and look at the ingredients, do you see where it says “Taurine” that right there is why your cat is addicted. If you’re wondering why the word Taurine sounds familiar it’s because Taurine is one of the main ingredients found in energy drinks such as Red Bull, Monster, Nos, and others. Imagine giving your cat several energy drinks throughout the day, that’s proven to be unhealthy in humans so just imagine the effect it has on your pet. In fact, Taurine is one of the reasons why recovering addicts are encouraged NOT to drink energy drinks after their recovery because they (along with those who’ve never suffered from addition) can develop a dependence. Taurine is actually much more addicting than caffeine or sugar, try giving up your Coke or coffee or your sweet tooth and what happens? You get headaches, you feel sick, you crave it, and why? Because it’s an addictive substance, Taurine has even been compared to a modern day, legalized crack for some. Ever met someone who said they had to “give up” energy drinks? It sounds silly but do your research, taurine is highly addictive and unhealthy.

    Now some may argue that “Taurine” is healthy and safe because Taurine is an amino acid found in your body (the brain and other areas) which is true HOWEVER the taurine found in your body is naturally occurring, typically post work out and is in small quantities, where as the type of taurine found in energy drinks and temptations is not naturally occurring, is much higher in quantity, and get this, it’s synthesized from bull bile. Yep, a synthesized drug more addictive than caffeine and created unnaturally thanks to bull bile and labs. Is that really something you want to give to your cat?

    While I am no vet, I am a nutritionist and trainer and I’ve seen first hand what people’s addition to energy drinks looks like, including their unwillingness to give them up, and the effect it has had on their body, it’s no wonder cats are addicted to these treats in my opinion. Keep in mind that heavy energy drink consumption has been linked to some deaths in humans so please be wary when considering giving these treats to your fur babies. As always, I do recommend you consult with your vet first prior to changing up your pets diet, and remember that moderation is key hope this helps!

    Reply
  7. aly

    When I read on what is the best thing to feed cats based on what they do eat in the wild I was specifically told by several that blogs that taurine is a vital ingredient to cats that that is something that is found in the wild in the animals that they eat and you’re now saying that that is wrong? are we supposed to not have taurine in our pet food because honestly I can’t find a single pet food that doesn’t have it the only difference is how far down on the ingredient list I find it.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      I did not say anything about not feeding cats food that contains taurine. I balanced raw diet for cats contains taurine (Otherwise it wouldn’t be balanced).

      Reply
  8. Kathleen

    Dr. Doug, I have 2 male cats that are about 13 and 14 years old. They are peeing all over my house. The litter boxes are cleaned every day. One cat is the alpha and I am trying to stop the treats because his behavior is getting worse. Is there anything I can spray to stop the peeing? Also, should I stop the treats cold turkey and put up with the behavior for a week or 2? Thanks for your help.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      Be sure to have your cats’ urine checked for infection, crystals, and inflammation (Urinalysis). Also be sure you have 1 litter box per cat plus 1 and try different litters to see if there is one they like better. Feliway is a pheromone product that comes in a spray or plug-in that can reduce the stress that sometimes causes these issues.

      Reply

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