When you have the luxury of time, you can slowly transition your four-legged family member to a new cat food. Maybe Mr. Tribble started out on a dry food diet, with no canned food at all. Once your vet explained the importance of canned food to your cat's health, she taught you that cats aren't great water drinkers. Because of this, some cats are more prone to developing urinary crystals and even kidney problems. Canned foods are an important part of keeping your feline healthy.
Your Cat = A Creature of Habit
Kittens get used to eating a certain type and possibly even brand of cat food. While you may worry that your cat might get bored eating the same type of food day in and day out, he doesn't care about this. He's used to what he's used to--period, end of story.
If you try to change him from dry to wet, you will pay! (In his mind, at least.) Or, if you try to change from one brand to another, he may be able to detect those minute differences in taste. It's difficult, though not impossible to get him to make the change. Just stock up on your usual stores of patience. You'll need every single bit of that virtue.
If you're thinking of starving him into submission, toss that right away. He can develop what's called hepatic lipidosis, which is "fatty liver." It's potentially life-threatening. If you've managed to get him to eat even a little bit of his new food, he's still not eating enough and is at risk for developing this illness.
Your cat may be eating whenever he wants to. Before introducing the new food (and the risk of a cat food strike), change him over to scheduled feedings. Feed him up to three times every day. Once he's done, pick up the bowl of food. This should take about 30 minutes, max.
Once he's reliably eating scheduled meals, begin mixing a small quantity (less than 25 percent) of the new food into his old food. All together, the new and old foods should equal his usual food portion. By removing all his food once he's done, you're trying to make him hungry enough that he'll actually give the new stuff a chance.
Important Intestinal Bacteria
Dogs and cats have beneficial intestinal bacteria that help them to digest their meals more easily. It's easy to understand that, if you change his food over, with no transition time, your kitty could end up getting sick. As in, developing diarrhea or even vomiting. You don't want to deal with those messes!
A good rule of thumb in making the change is to follow this schedule:
√ Days 1 to 3, give Mr. Tribble 75 percent of his old food with 25 percent of the new food mixed in.
√ Days 4 and 5, decrease the quantity of old food to 50 percent. Increase the quantity of new food to 50 percent. As you make these changes, watch him closely for any signs of gastrointestinal upset. Watch his litter box and, as you scoop it out, look for signs that he's got the runs. If this develops, go back to the Days 1 to 3 feeding proportions.
√ Days 7 through 9, increase the new food to 75 percent and dial back the old food to 25 percent. Continue watching Mr. Tribble closely for signs of illness.
On Day 10, you should be able to give Mr. Tribble only his new food. What happens if he continues to have stomach and/or bowel issues? Call your vet. Mr. Tribble may have something else going on and his vet is the best qualified to diagnose him.
Precaution one: Don't increase the overall quantity of food you give Mr. Tribble.
Precaution two: Any time you see signs of illness that may be connected to the new food, take Mr. Tribble back to the earlier days of your food introduction schedule. His system may be more sensitive than other cats, meaning he needs a longer time to get used to the new nosh.
Look for Signs of Trouble
If you're wondering what symptoms you should be looking for, here they are:
º Soft stools
º Decreased appetite
I'm going to repeat this: If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, decrease the amount of new food and increase the amount of old food that you were giving him. Stretch out the transition schedule for your kitty so his tummy and intestines can get used to the new food. You may need to put Mr. Tribble onto a sensitive tummy food formula, which may contain egg, turkey, rice, chicken or oats.
Is it a good idea to transition slowly between different flavors of the same food? This depends on your cat. If you know he's more sensitive to changes than other cats, then a modified introduction schedule from, say, beef to turkey could help. Give this three to five days and see how he responds.
Not too many cat parents know that between 25 and 50 percent of their cat's daily calories should come from canned food. Again, this goes back to cats not being great water-drinkers--and because their bodies are about 75 percent water.
Why Canned Food is So Important
Many, though not all, cats are finicky. They don't like water so they don't drink enough of it, which puts them at risk of developing lower urinary tract disease. Canned cat food helps to keep their urine from becoming too concentrated. Highly concentrated urine can lead to your cat developing painful urinary crystals.