Cat Transition Guide
By Lyndsey Eldridge
Edited by Emily Hendren
Some cats can be very difficult to transition to a raw diet. Please do not get discouraged or frustrated as we are here to help at any set back!
Some things to consider before switching your cats to raw are:
Switch cats off free feeding.
Have set meal times and feed them in the same spot.
Tough love CANNOT be used on cats or kittens. Never let your cat go over 24 hours without eating.
Taurine is extremely important for cats which is found mostly in dark meat and hearts.
Important Note about Taurine:
Taurine is an essential amino acid needed to maintain proper eye and heart function in a cat, but it’s also important for many other vital functions including fetal development, growth, reproduction, sight and hearing. In short, it’s vital to a cat's well-being and lifelong health. Cats can’t create their own taurine from other amino acids, unlike many other carnivores, so it’s vital that you ensure you’re providing adequate taurine content in a raw diet. Read more on Taurine here.
Adult Cats are fed 1-2 meals a day at 2-4% body weight. Kittens free fed 3-4 meals a day.
The end balanced goal is 80/10/5/5.
80% Muscle meats
5% Other Secreting Organ
To get started first see if your cat will take to the raw food by offering a piece of chicken. If they eat it up you may be in for a smooth transition! Head to the Simple Transition section. If those steps don't work and they're on kibble or canned food start from those steps.
Transitioning From Kibble:
While the end goal is to get your cat to eat the raw healthy food, the first goal is to get them to trust it! One of the best ways to build trust in the new food is to familiarize your cat with the new food. Sometimes if a cat has been fed kibble for a long time, it is best to transition them to canned commercial food first, and then onto raw.This can take some time so please be patient and try not to rush!
* If the cat is free fed kibble, reduce their meals to 2 or 3 a day.*
First, you’ll want to get them accustomed to eating a wet food. Start this process by adding water to the kibble a little at a time.This will add the moisture they need and help them get used to the wet texture. Adjust the amount of water you add every 1-3 days until they’re eating only mushy kibble.
Once your cat is eating the mushy kibble well it’s time to start introducing canned food. Do this in ½ teaspoon increments. Every 1-3 days increase the amount of canned and decrease the amount of the wet kibble until they’re eating solely canned food.
*Please Note: Some adjustments may take a week for the extremely fussy cats*. Once your cat has become familiar with eating the canned food it’s time to start introducing raw. See Transitioning From Canned to continue your journey.
Transitioning From Canned:
Start with just one protein. Chicken is usually good as an introduction. Begin by adding chopped or minced chicken in ½ teaspoon increments to the canned food. Increase the amount of the chicken every 1-3 days while decreasing the amount of canned. Once your cat has begun eating the chopped/minced chicken well begin to introduce it in the form of chunks gradually over a few days.This will help them learn to chew properly and build up jaw strength. Eventually you want them eating mouse sized chunks or strips.
All going well? See Simple Transition to move to the next steps below.
Simple Transition for Kittens or Cats who take to raw quickly:
Start with plain boneless chicken thighs in chunks. This will help teach chewing and build up jaw strength. You may have to start with super small chunks or ground and work your way up to bigger pieces. After a few days start adding in bone such as wings or necks. Once they are handling this it’s time to add some variety!
Start slowly adding red meats and hearts! Hearts are an important source of taurine and nutrients start small and add some to the bland meats they are accustomed to and work up to replacing the meat portion of the diet with all red meats and up to 20% hearts. To get the bone portion you will need to still use white meats as size can be limiting. Chicken, Rabbit, Quail, Mice and Rats can all be great options for bones.
Finally start adding liver. Start with a sliver as organs are very rich and can take time to adjust to. Once you get up to the 5% liver then move to another secreting organ the same way by starting small. Kidneys are typically very easy to source.
Whole eggs are a great addition and have been shown to reduce hair balls.
A slight caution when feeding raw fish to cats:
Fish is also a great addition once fully transitioned. However, here's some things you need know and research. The reason for feeding fish is to provide Omega 3’s to balance Omega 6’s, it is also a good source of vitamin D and selenium. Some raw fish contains Thiaminase which can lead to thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiencies if high quantities are consumed. Cooking fish destroys Thiaminase but does not destroy the omega 3’s so it is better to feed cooked or tinned fish for cats. When feeding tinned fish ensure that no sodium has been added to the product. We recommend providing fish cooked, dehydrated, or tinned in water with no added salt.
Alternatively, you could feed Fish or Krill oil daily or on non-fish days to add omega-3's (read more about Fish Oil and Other Oils here.)
Reducing or removing chicken will reduce omega-6’s in the diet. It is recommended to limit fish to 10% of the diet as it is deficient in certain minerals such as calcium and iron (See our Fish Feeding Guide for more info.) It also contains excessive amounts of phosphorous. Do not feed fish if your cat has kidney issues. Avoid all tinned fish in vegetable oil. High amounts of polyunsaturated fats can result in pancreatitis. A cat suffering this condition can show signs of anorexia, depression, poor fur quality, abdominal pain, hypersensitivity and this disorder can be fatal. If you feed solely pasture fed and wild meat you need to feed less Omega 3 than someone who feeds grain fed chicken and other grain fed meats.
Fish that DO NOT contain Thiaminase are: Atlantic salmon, trout, sprats – OK to feed raw.
Fish that DO contain Thiaminase are: smelt, mackerel, herring, and sardines – Feed tinned or cooked only
• Remember it can take some cats months or even years to fully transition, it’s really worth persevering!
• If the transition method above appears not to be working try a different protein, but don’t be too quick to chop and change as you are trying to build up trust
• Before starting the transition method, test your cat with different proteins to see which gets a hint of a reaction and go with that protein
• Remember at any point and time your cat seems to change their mind and decide they don’t like raw food you cannot use tough love on a cat. They need to eat something even if it means needing to use somecanned grain free food on top their raw and decrease it gradually again.
Some cats will not take long to transition while others may be a bit difficult. Remember to only move at the pace of your cat and do not allow your cat to go without eating for more than 24 hours. If your cat is not accepting the changes in its food, make adjustments until your cat accepts the meal. Watch poops and make changes as needed. Take longer if your cat is having troubles accepting new proteins and go slow! And as always come to the group with any and all your question or concerns.
You can also check out some Troubleshooting tips here for some extra help.