Transition to Healthy Options
While this isn’t always easy, especially if you have a cat over 6-8 years of age, you’ve learned how very important it is to feed a species appropriate diet. So, if it’s tough to make the switch, you’ll just take baby steps, and get it done. The rewards are too great to not do this, and the disease likelihood too high if you stay with kibble.
Let’s get started.
1. If you feed a dry food, start by moistening it before the meal is offered.
Goal: Make it moist, more like prey for the desert predator you “own.
(if you feed dry food free choice, start with this important page. It’s your best couple of first steps.)
An equal amount of water can be poured on the food a few minutes before offering it. The aim is to get a canned food consistency, not a soup.
What if you now have a cat who stares up at you and won’t eat this new, improved version of victuals? Hang tough. Have patience. Know that, in the long run, your cat will come around and be grateful for what you’ve offered. Right now, he’s just not hungry. (More on that here.)
2. Add some healthy canned food or raw meat.
Goal: Expand the food choices, decrease grain and starch present in that dry food.
Whether you use healthy canned food or raw meat depends on how entrenched your cat is on dry food eating. Try raw bits of turkey first, or hamburger. [Qualms about raw food?] If no luck, start instead with a healthy can or two.
There are many healthy canned foods on the market now to choose from. Pet Guard, Nature’s Variety, Precise, Wysong, Spot’s Stew, and many others. Be a label detective, though. You need to avoid these ingredients in the canned food:
- Meat and animal byproducts.
These are the toxic protein sources you can read more about here. They come in many names. Animal digest, meat and bone meal, poultry byproducts, etc.
You want to be able to recognize the meat source. Like chicken. Beef. Venison. “Meal” is just ground meat if it’s source is named, e.g. “chicken meal.” See the recognizable meat source before the “meal” word? That’s okay. Is it unrecognizable, like “meat meal” or “meat and bone meal?” Leave it on the shelf and keep looking.
These are the sugar sources, like potato, sweet potato, tapioca, pea, and grains like corn, wheat, millet, and rice.
3. Gradually increase the canned/raw and decrease the moistened dry.
Goal: Get the carbs out. Get “life” in.
If it takes a few weeks of transitioning, that’s fine. Remember, we’re taking baby steps here, right?
4. When you get to all healthy canned, do the same switch to raw as above, by adding increasing amounts of raw meat to the healthy cans.
Goal: Get in the life that raw food has that cans do not.
5. If you get on 50% raw meat, you need to get that balanced.
Remember, raw meat is NOT balanced raw food.
(What predator just eats the muscles and leaves the rest?? Crazy, right?)
Goal: balanced raw food, mostly closely mimicking prey.
You can now start grinding up chicken frames, legs, wings, beef and it’s bones, and following a recipe.
Or, for easy offering, buy one of the prepared, frozen raw foods, mentioned earlier.
Or, if you’ve got a cat like Texas Ray, (i.e. a cat who knows how to hunt on his own) toss him a thawed out whole quail. Pretty balanced, right? — the whole bird is there, absent the intestines.
If, at any point, Puff refuses your mix, and she’s not overweight, you can allow a meal or two to be missed. Really, clearly not overweight? Let her go a few days with her refusing game! She will not starve herself, I guarantee it.
Give her 30 minutes access time, and then whisk it away to the frig, to be brought back and slightly warmed 12 hours later for another try. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Extra Credit: Liven the Cooked Up!
While you’re transitioning to balanced raw, the ideal cat food I’d like every cat to have, you can help your cat on the path by adding an important missing ingredient.
“What? They forgot to put something in?” No, actually, they cooked something out. I call it “life.” It’s that thing that’s present in prey, but gone if the food is cooked before it’s eaten. This is explained more fully in The Missing Ingredient.
By adding some life to the food, you’ll improve the cooked portion as it becomes less proportionately, and the raw takes its place.
You’re on your way! Remember, Baby Steps Rule on this path to raw food. The older your cat, the more of a slow dance you’re going to have to get to the goal. But you can do it. Others have before you.
Here’s another resource, should you start down this path and get stuck and frustrated.