How to Change Your Cat’s Diet

So—Your vet has told you that you need to get a special diet for your cat.  Are you dreading having to switch foods for fear that your cat will rebel and stop eating?

Where's the beef

Photo: Michele Cole

A few things to keep in mind:  Make sure you follow your vet’s instructions.  Don’t be afraid to check with your vet regarding any changes in behavior or habits. Cats are creatures of habit and by slowly making changes you can successfully change your cat’s eating behaviors.

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Here are some tried and true tips for changing your cat to a new diet:

  1. This is not the time to change your cat’s eating area or to get new dishes. Keep everything the same for now and focus on the food.
  2. Be sure your cat is in good health and not sick when you are trying new food.
  3. Use the 80-20 rule.  Start with 80% of the current food and 20% of the new food.  Continue feeding until your cat eats all of the food.  Over the course of several days, (and it may take several days, up to 14 for some cats) increase the amount of new food your cat is eating.
  4. Consider warming the new food if it is canned or adding some water to dry food to see if your cat likes the option.
  5. If your cat is not eating the new food consult your vet (I have had cats pick out the old food and leave the new food) wait a few days and try another brand. Remember, any sudden changes in diet can also cause gastric upset in some cats, so take it slowly.
  6. Do not starve your cat and think that he will get used to the new food.  You can usually tell within a few days.
  7. It may take a few tries, but working with your vet and paying attention to your cat’s diet is the key.