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How to switch your cat to a new food

Perhaps you received a special prescription diet from your vet, your cat’s favorite food is always out of stock, or kitty has just grown tired of the same old thing. No matter the reason, transitioning your cat to a new food needs to be done carefully in order to avoid a trip to the vet for an upset tummy. Here’s how it’s done.

Compare the quality of the food

Even though all commercially available cat foods must meet a certain standard, not all cat foods are alike. Richness, flavor, and consistency are probably the main differences that you and your cat will notice as soon as you open the can. You can compare ingredients between your old and new foods by reading the labels, but it can be hard to understand what the terms mean unless you’re already familiar with them.

Websites such as BestCatFoodForCats.com and CatFoodDb.com have analyzed every ingredient for you. Therefore, when you look up your cat’s brand of food and flavor, you can get a better understanding of what is in your cat food and where it came from. This can be particularly useful if you’re trying to avoid certain allergens in your cat’s diet. You should aim to switch your cat to a food that is of the same quality or better.

Slowly taper off the old food

The first time you introduce the new food to your cat, you should start with a well blended mixture of three quarters to half of the old food and one quarter to half of the new food. This can help ease the transition, especially if you were feeding a palatable food before and your cat is hesitant to try something new.

More importantly, cats who have been eating the same food for a long time need to slowly build up the proper balance of gut bacteria and enzymes in order to digest the new food. Most pet food manufacturers recommend gradually reducing ratio of the old food over the course of a week.

During that time, keep an eye on your cat’s behavior and litter box usage. If you notice loose or foul smelling stool, spread out the transition process over a longer period of time. If your cat starts to seem irritable or stops eating the food, your cat likely has an uncomfortable and upset stomach. Talk to your vet and/or switch back to the old food.

Add a probiotic

Supplementing your cat’s food with a probiotic can help ease the upset stomach than can come from switching to a new food. Probiotics encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your cat’s intestine. They are available from purchase at your vet’s office, or you can consult with your vet about the probiotics that are available in pet food stores and online.

Does your kitty have special feeding considerations? Be sure to let your pet sitter know! Our sitters are happy to specially mix your kitty’s favorite meal as per your instructions. Contact us to find out more about what our sitters can do for you.


Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

photo by SchweitzerKarl on pixabay

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