Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to change your cat over to a high-quality canned cat food in order to prevent feline diabetes, obesity, UTIs, kidney problems, and other health issues.
But your kitty isn’t quite on the same page as you. In fact, she’s not on the same page at all! She won’t touch it! Now what?
Your Kitty Is A Creature Of Habit
Cats are notorious for getting stuck in a rut. They really don’t like change. The world would be a boring place if cats were in charge, because things would ALWAYS be the same!
If your kitty has always had dry food, she’s more than likely not going to be very adventurous in her dietary preferences. She’s used to crunching down on her favorite dry kibble. And you can’t blame her. Why? Well, grain-based food isn’t too attractive to a meat-eating animal, so pet food manufacturers had to figure out how to get cats to eat it. Their solution is to coat the food with a tasty “meat digest” that’s made from a blend of fermented animal entrails.
It’s on the same line as sugar-coating kids’ cereals to get them to eat it. What kid (or adult) wants to eat something healthy after eating junk? It’s the same way with your kitty. If she’s been eating junk food all her life, it’s going to take some time and patience to switch her over to a healthier diet. How much time? Possibly two or three months, so don’t give up!
How Can I Change My Cat’s Ways?
Dr. Lisa A. Pierson has written a great article, Feline Diabetes and Diet: The High Carbohydrate Culprit. She’s had quite a bit of experience with changing cats’ diets, and goes into a lot of detail as to how to do it. I’ll hit some of the high points here for you.
The first thing to do is to stop leaving dry food out. I used to leave dry food out in a feeder all the time and wonder why my cat was getting pudgy. Contrary to what the pet food manufacturers tell us, cats don’t need food available 24/7. You need to establish set mealtimes. Twice a day works fine.
Remember that cats don’t like change, so expect that your cat will not be pleased with this change in her routine. She’ll probably try to convince you that she’s going to die of starvation in front of you. But don’t fall for it. You do have her best interests at heart, although she’ll disagree with that!
Feed her a set amount of dry food in the morning, and again at night. Once she’s used to eating twice a day, you’ll be ready for the next step, which is to cut back on the amount of dry food, and replace it with a little canned food. Remember that if she’s never had canned food before, she may not even recognize it as food, so be patient. Hopefully she’ll try eating it. If she does, gradually increase the amount of canned food and decrease the amount of dry food until she’s eating all canned food.
Sometimes it’s not that easy, though. If you have a dry food addict on your hands, you may have to try something more drastic. Just give her canned food at one feeding with no dry food. She may not eat it. If she doesn’t, pick it up and try again in a couple of hours.
You might want to try a different flavor or a different brand. Personally, I wouldn’t. I don’t want to encourage finicky eating behavior in my kitty, so I make sure she eats what she has in her dish before I give her anything else. When she’s hungry, she eats it, and it usually doesn’t take more than an hour or so. But it’s up to you. Whatever you do, though, don’t give up and give her dry food yet.
If you have a particularly stubborn cat, and she hasn’t eaten anything in 18 hours, go ahead and give her about 1/4 cup of dry food. It’s never a good idea for a cat to go more than 24 hours without eating, especially if she’s on the heavy side, as she could develop hepatic lipidosis, which is potentially fatal.
Does this sound heartless? Maybe. But I’d rather be a bit heartless at this point than be faced later on with having to test my cat’s blood sugar a couple times a day and having to give her insulin injections. Preventing feline diabetes is much easier now than having to treat it later, or having to put your cat down because you can’t afford the treatment.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series, What You Need To Know About Feline Diabetes.