Switching your cat to a raw diet can feel like you are trying to move a furry mountain at times.
As a cat owner, you can understand how finicky and fussy cats can be at times. They are creatures of habit and don’t like or are unwilling to accept change.
If your cat is very adaptable, you’ll be the envy of many cat owners globally.
For the majority of cat owners out there, this article will help with transitioning your cat to a raw diet while still maintaining your sanity.
Benefits Of A Raw Diet For Cats
There are many myths and misunderstandings regarding raw food for cats.
Many cat owners feel that feeding raw will do more harm than good to the cat. Nothing can be further from the truth.
By feeding your cat raw meat, you are enabling them to get sustenance and protein from their most natural diet.
Check out our comprehensive guide about feeding your cat a raw diet.
Cats are obligate carnivores and require a diet that is high in animal protein.
Here are some benefits of a raw diet:
- Improved digestion
- Strong immune system
- More energy
- Better weight management
- Better dental health
The reason why so many cats suffer from chronic illness as they get older is due to a poor diet.
By providing your cat with its natural diet, you are giving it the best chance of living a long and healthy life.
The best time to make the switch is when your cat is still a kitten as they are less fussy and more open to new food choices.
Think of all the unnecessary vet bills that you will save as well!
Furthermore, if your cat is FIV or FELV, having a good diet is so important for cats dealing with an immune-compromising virus.
There is no point in giving your cat the best supplements if its diet isn’t able to nourish the body at the highest level.
My cat has been FELV positive ever since I adopted him and he had a few close brushes with crossing the rainbow bridge.
I’ve experienced first-hand how this diet has changed my cat’s life for the better.
Know Thy Cat’s Diet
Like humans, cats have unique personalities and this information is important when switching your cat to a raw food diet.
How does your cat like its food? Warm, straight from the fridge or at room temperature?
What food texture does your cat prefer? Chunks? Mixed with water or broth? Minced?
How many times a day does it like to eat? One big meal or a few small ones daily?
Is your cat a slow eater or food gobbler?
Once a cat has developed a fixed set of preferences on how it likes its food, it usually sticks with the cat for the rest of its life.
With this information, we can have a good idea of how to incorporate raw food into your cat’s daily meal plan.
How To Make The Switch To Raw Food?
There are various ways that you can try to encourage your cat to start a raw food diet.
A lot depends on your cat so it might take some trial and error to get there.
1. The Cold Turkey Method
This method is good for cats who are adaptable and not fussy about their food.
Kittens that are starting on solid food will also make good candidates since they are yet to get addicted to dry food or kibbles.
All you need to do is switch out your cat’s regular food with a serving of raw food.
It would be good to gradually rotate the different meats like chicken, beef, rabbit and lamb to gauge their preference or if any allergies exist.
If your cat takes to raw food, then consider adding some raw organ meat like chicken gizzard over the next few meals.
Don’t worry about getting the supplementation and balance right the first few meals.
It takes some time for cats to develop any deficiencies in their diet.
But if your cat takes well to raw food quickly, you should be able to include all the important elements of a raw food diet within a week or so.
2. The Slow And Easy Method
This method will be the one most cat owners will be using given the fussy nature of cats.
Cats are what we call ‘imprint eaters’. Your cat will not want to change what it has been eating ever since it was a kitten.
The aim is to slowly introduce raw food into your cat’s current diet over a period of time until it becomes the norm.
Depending on how fussy your cat is, start by substituting 10% of the meal with raw meat.
Chicken is palatable for many cats and you can feed some boiled chicken breast.
But do not feed your cat canned chicken as it isn’t as healthy for cats as many pet owners think.
If your cat is fine with the change, keep at this percentage for a few more meals before increasing the ratio.
So it can be something like this:
- Day 1-3: 90% old diet, 10% raw
- Day 4-7: 75 % old diet, 25% raw
- Day 8-10: 50 % old diet, 50% raw
- Day 11-13: 20% old diet, 80% raw
- Day 14 onwards: 100% raw
If at any point you find that your cat is not eating much due to the amount of raw food, then scale back a little.
Or increase the number of days before you up the raw meat ratio.
You can also feed your cat raw food mixed with some organ meat.
Small raw meaty bones can also add some texture to your cat’s meal. But never feed your cat cooked bones as it is very dangerous.
Please do not starve or force your cat to adapt to the new diet before it’s ready.
Doing so will leave an adverse effect on your cat and undermine your efforts.
Be patient and take it slow.
3. Vary The Type Of Meat
Chicken always comes to mind when we think about what type of meat to feed our cats.
Our cats can eat a lot more variety than just chicken meat.
Some cats prefer beef or lamb which you can throw into the mix. The aim is to experiment and see what your cat likes best and take it from there.
Check out this article which explains the best type of meats that will work for your cat.
4. Additional Tips To Quicken The Process
If you are having trouble transitioning your cat over to a raw diet, these tips might help with the switch.
Stop Free Feeding
Many kibble or dry food feeders will fill the food bowl to the brim with kibble and let the cat eat as and when it wants.
This is a bad practice and can lead to obesity.
Furthermore, by doing so, it makes transitioning to raw food even harder since your cat will hardly be hungry.
What you need to do is to stop free-feeding your cat and start a fixed feeding routine be it once, twice or thrice a day.
Your cat will know to start looking for you when it is hungry.
Switch To Wet Food First
If you have been feeding your cat dry food for most of its life, transitioning to wet or canned food first might be easier.
The texture of canned cat food is a lot closer to feeding raw hence your cat will be able to make the switch faster.
Follow the earlier proposed ratio when it comes to mixing dry with wet food.
One thing to note is that your cat might not like the canned food that you have bought.
The good thing is there are many good brands and types to choose from to fulfill his finicky palate.
Once your cat is eating 100% canned food, you can slowly start to incorporate raw food with canned food.
Choosing A Good Canned Food
Make sure the first few ingredients are identifiable meat like chicken or beef and no by-products or grain fillers.
Also, make sure that no harmful chemicals are added to the canned food like Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) or Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT).
These chemicals can cause health problems for your cat.
Always check the ingredient list to be sure
If you are not familiar with any of the ingredients, just do a quick search on the internet to make sure.
Are There Risks When Feeding Raw?
There are some risks when feeding your cat raw but you can keep your cat safe by following the below tips.
Buy Good Quality Meat
Don’t try to save money by buying meat that isn’t too fresh or prepared in unsanitary conditions.
You don’t have to use organic meat but meat from the supermarket or local butcher is good enough for your cat.
Clean Your Hands
Don’t start touching your cat’s food without washing your hands first. Dirty and damp hands can easily contaminate the meat.
Don’t Leave Out The Food For Too Long
Once the raw food is served to your cat, it is on a timer. I don’t suggest leaving it out for more than 1-2 hours, depending on the weather and humidity.
Most cats can finish their food within an hour.
You don’t want to risk your cat eating raw food that has been contaminated.
Switching your cat to a raw diet can be a frustrating experience for a cat owner, especially if your cat is very particular about his food.
That being said, there are many cat owners out there who have stuck with it and managed to convert their cats to 100% raw food.
Be willing to go one step forward and two steps back if needed.
It won’t be long before your fur kid is chowing down on his new raw food.