For an animal that likes to eat rodents, cats have surprisingly sensitive stomachs. Most cat owners have experienced this before. Your cat eats something unfamiliar and before long they’re vomiting somewhere inconvenient- somehow, they always seem to find a carpeted spot to do it on.
While their upset stomachs are often caused by eating strange items found outside, or scraps from the dinner table, they can also be caused by cat food.
Any sudden change in your cat’s diet can cause nausea and vomiting, which means that when you find yourself needing to change their cat food, you have to manage that transition carefully.
Since most of what your cat eats is their cat food, their digestive system is used to a very consistent diet with very little variety. This is why their stomachs can be so much more sensitive than ours- if we ate the exact same thing for every meal, for years, our stomachs would be easily upset, too.
You might also want to know about the best cat food for kidney disease, that can keep your cat healthy in old age.
Why Would I Need to Transition Cat Food?
There are many reasons you might need to transition cat food. Some are simply practical, and some are necessary for your cat’s health. Here are some of the most common reasons you might have to transition cat food:
Age is one of the most common reasons to transition cat food, especially if you get your cat as a kitten. Kittens actually have different nutritional requirements from adult cats. They need more protein, fat, and calories overall than an adult cat does.
The extra calories, fats, and proteins support healthy growth. It should also have more calcium to support healthy bone growth, and will usually be very easy to digest.
Adult cat food is better suited to a cat whose growth has slowed down and is designed to help maintain its health rather than support the rapid growth of a kitten. As they age, it may become necessary to transition to a food formulated specifically for senior cats.
These foods may be included additional antioxidants, joint support, and be lower in calories than regular cat food.
Some cats will lose interest in their food as they become older, as well. Often, their owners find that switching from dry food to wet food can get them to eat more food. Wet food has a much stronger smell, and is, therefore, more appetizing to a cat than dry food.
There are several health conditions which could require a change in diet. One of the most common is obesity. Overweight cats are becoming more and more common, and a change in diet can be a very effective way of helping them lose weight.
Weight-management foods are lower in calories than regular cat food, so making the switch to these foods can help your cat lose weight quickly and keep it off, provided you don’t let them eat anything else.
In some cases, your cat might develop an allergy or food sensitivity they previously didn’t have. Itchy, red skin, breathing problems, and digestive problems are all signs that your cat has developed an allergy or food sensitivity. Your vet can help you determine which ingredient in the food is causing the problem, which helps you to know which food to buy for the best results.
Some manufacturers will discontinue cat food that isn’t selling well. In this case, you’ll have no choice but to switch to new cat food. You may be able to find something similar to the discontinued product, which might make the transition easier.
How to Transition Cat Food
1. Dry Food to Dry Food
Dry food is the most common form of cat food, so it’s most likely that, if you’re transitioning cat foods, it’s from one dry food to another dry food. Fortunately, this is very easy to do. The key is simply to make the transition slowly.
If you just give the cat a full serving of the new food, there’s a good chance you’ll give them an upset stomach, too. The sudden change in diet is quite a shock to their digestive system, which is used to getting the same food very consistently.
The best way to do this is to do it gradually. Replace 25% of each serving of their old food with the new food at each feeding. The next day, increase the percentage of new food to 30%. On day 3, increase it to 40%. Day 4, 50%. Day 5, 60%. Day 6, 75%, and on day 7 you can serve them only the new food.
2. Wet Food to Wet Food
Wet food is more common with cat owners than dog owners, likely because cats tend to be pickier eaters than dogs, and many cats simply have no interest in dry food. If you need to transition from one wet food to another, the process is just like the one for switching from one dry food to another.
Over the course of 7 days, you slowly replace their old food with the new one. You begin on day 1 by substituting 25% of the old food in each feeding with the new food and increase the percentage of new food daily, following the same schedule as with the dry food.
3. From Dry to Wet Food
This can be a challenging transition. Cats don’t like change, and switching from dry to wet food is a very big change. It’s made more difficult by the fact that dry food is sprayed with flavor coatings that make it especially tasty to your cat.
The transitions from dry to wet food can take as long as 3 to 4 months. First, you’ll have to stop putting their full daily portion of food out all at once. Split it into two feedings, and put them out at specific times. One in the morning and one in the evening.
Leave the bowl out for about 20 minutes, and at the end of 20 minutes put it away, even if there’s still food in it. Keep this process up for about 2 weeks, to get your cat used to the new feeding schedule.
If they start begging for food between feedings, you can offer them wet food. Some cats will gladly eat it, but some of them are more stubborn and will refuse to eat the wet food at first.
Once the cat is used to the new meal times- you’ll know this happens when they stop begging for food between mealtimes, and only do it at or right before mealtimes- you can start giving them a little less dry food at each meal, and offering a bit of wet food.
After a couple of days of this, replace one feeding of dry food with wet food. If they refuse to eat it, don’t give in. Give them 20 minutes, and if they haven’t eaten, take the food away and don’t offer anything to eat until the next mealtime.
Eventually, they’ll gladly eat the wet food at one of the meals. Only offer them dry food again if they go for 18 hours or longer without eating.
Once they’re happily eating wet food for one of their feedings, you can replace the other feeding of dry food with wet food as well.
4. Wet Food to Dry Food
When switching from wet food to dry food, the procedure is the same as switching from dry food to wet food. You might be able to speed up the transition by mixing a bit of dry food into their wet food at each feeding, to help them get used to the texture and flavor.
You might also like to read our recent publications how many days can a cat go without food? This resource helps you to keep your cat up and healthy all the time.
Successfully transitioning cat foods isn’t as hard as it seems. It just takes a bit of perseverance and patience. As long as you go slowly, your cat will be eating their new food and feeling great in no time.