How to Switch Your Cat’s Food (and Keep them Happy!)

There’s a reason why cat food manufacturers have picked names like ‘Choosy’ and ‘Fussy Cat’ for their brands over the years. Cats can be creatures of habit, especially when it comes to what goes into their bowls.   

There will be occasions when you’re going to need to change their daily dietary ritual, perhaps for a medical reason or if the maker of their favorite variety ceases trading. 

There’s no need to panic because making changes at mealtimes can be surprisingly easy. You just need to know how to do it. Read on to find out.

Key Reasons To Make Changes to Your Cat’s Diet

Kittens become adults and adults become seniors. The moment there’s a key change in growth and maturity, the ingredients of the food your cat eats should change too. 

For example, kitten food tends to be higher in calories and contains more fat and protein to help the growth of muscle and fuel a young cat’s energy.

Once kittens reach maturity, they’ll need fewer calories to maintain their ideal weight. In a similar way, cats over the age of seven may do better on cat food that supports their joints and immune systems. Here’s a rough cat’s diet timeline checker:

  • Kittens should switch to an adult cat food brand at around 12 months of age
  • Cats that are 7 years or older should change to a senior cat food 
  • Pregnant or nursing cats need energy-dense foods rich in calcium 

Your Cat Needs to Lose Weight

Overweight cats may also need to go on a different diet to keep them healthy and help prevent them from getting conditions such as diabetes and heart problems. 

Always check with your vet for their recommendations. They can advise you about specific treats that are appropriate for your cat too. They’ll know what will work best to help your cat reach and maintain their ideal body weight. 

As a rule of thumb, it should be possible to feel your cat’s ribs relatively easily when you stroke their body lightly. You should also be able to clearly see a waistline when you look at them from above.

Your Cat Has A Health Concern

Apart from weight, you may need to deal with other types of health issues by making changes to your cat’s food. For instance, if your cat suffers from a sensitive stomach or has dry, itchy skin, a special kind of food formula may be most appropriate. 

Outdoor v Indoor Cats

It could be that you’ve taken in a rescued outdoor cat and intend to keep them indoors. If so, it might be advisable to use a cat’s food brand specially formulated for indoor cats. Indoor cats are prone to being less active compared to those that go outside. They’ll therefore need a reduced calorie intake.

Indoor cats also tend to get more hairballs than their outdoor cousins. Again, a change in diet to a specific brand of cat food designed for indoor cats may be beneficial to sort out any issues they experience. 

How to Change Your Cat’s Diet and Food Brand

A sudden change in the type of cat food you feed your cat can cause problems from an upset stomach to a bout of vomiting. When these types of issues happen, it does not usually mean that your cat has a complete aversion to the product. 

However, because of these kinds of symptoms, some cats may be wary of eating the same food again. Some owners may also think twice about refilling the bowl at the next mealtime with the same perfectly good food. 

A Gradual Approach

Understanding how to switch cat food is the key. Take things very slowly. You should make a gradual transition from old to new food over a week to 10 days. This is especially important if you are changing food due to weight or health issues.

A gradual transition will mitigate the chances of an upset to the digestive system and will give your cat the chance to adjust to new smells, tastes and textures. You want to offer both the old and new foods initially (in separate bowls), and gradually change the ratio of old to new food. Here’s a standard plan to follow:

  • Days 1 & 2: 3/4 of the normal quantity of current food + 1/4 of the new food 
  • Days 3 & 4: 50 percent of the current food + 50 percent of the new food  
  • Days 5 to 7: 75 percent of the new food + 25 percent of the previous food 
  • Days 8 to 10: 100 percent of the new food  

This transition process will work whenever you need to change your cat’s food. You will need plenty of patience. Some fussier, older cats or those with health conditions, may need a little longer to switch than 10 days.

Should your cat have any kind of digestive upset during these initial 10 days or if they don’t seem to care for the new food, extend the transition period by several more days. 

You might also want to consider consulting your vet for advice, particularly in cases when any digestive upset persists or your cat refuses to eat completely. 

Some Extra Tips for Switching Cat Food

Always give your cat plenty of privacy in a quiet area where they are unlikely to get disturbed when you feed them. You should also try hand-feeding your cat, at least in the first instance. This helps build trust between you and your cat.

If any dietary restrictions or requirements allow, give your cat a mixture of wet and dry foods. Store cat food correctly so that it keeps its freshness. If you’ve been storing cat food in the fridge, remove it well in advance so that it has a chance to reach room temperature. 

Place cat food on a flat plate or saucer so that your cat’s whiskers don’t touch the sides of the dish. Some therapeutic kinds of cat foods have very specific feeding requirements. 

A Little Time and Patience

It’s highly likely that you will have to change the brand or type of cat food that you feed your pet at several points in their lives. Following a gradual plan and exercising a degree of caution and patience will help.

Do you still have any questions about switching your cat’s food? Then schedule a video consultation with one of our qualified vets! 

We’ve plenty of other useful pet food-related articles in our blog section too. Find out here about whether it’s ok to feed dog food to cats.

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