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How To Introduce A Raw Food Diet To Your Cat

A grey tabby kitten is eating raw food from a small grey dinnerplate.

Switching a dog to a raw food diet? A breeze. Put the new food down and 99% of the time they'll eat it, no problem. Switching a cat? Ouch. Cats are so incredibly stuck in their ways and convincing them to try new things is tough even when it's in their best interests. While raw food is an incredible diet for them, it's not covered in processed gravy or additives like commercial food so it doesn't appear as appetising to them at first so it can take them some time to adjust. (Thankfully this does not apply to kittens, they're so resilient you can usually switch them right over.)

Before we start, you may want to read The Benefits of Raw Feeding - it applies to cats as well as dogs. If you're already on board but just want to know how to approach transitioning your cat, I'll detail below exactly how I did it with our cat, Loki, when he was 2 years old.

Step 1: Stop free-feeding

You can't free-feed raw food and leave it out all day like you can kibble so you're going to have to get your cat eating set portions at set times. If you already feed portioned meals at set times, skip to Step 2. If not, I would do the following:

- Work out the measurement of how much your cat eats daily. If it's 2 bowls full, weigh them out.

- Put down half that amount at breakfast, leave for one hour, then take away

- If they didn't eat it at all, return it 30 minutes later. Take it away for good a further 30 minutes later

- Repeat at dinner time

To get a cat eating portioned amounts of food at set times they do need to get a bit hungry and realise that food isn't going to be around whenever they want, which will encourage them to eat when food becomes available. Step 2 involves feeding wet food and some cats find this valuable enough to eat the second it's put down, you can use this to aid your portion feeding adjustment.

Important: Do not let your cat go more than two days without eating.

Also important: You're going to need to make sure everyone in the house is on board and nobody is sneaking your cat treats.

Step 2: Feed them a high quality wet food

Raw food is very different to kibble, and wet food acts as a nice middle ground for transitioning. A high quality wet food, like Applaws or Thrive, will have a high meat content which will make the step to raw much easier. This step isn't technically compulsory and if your cat absolutely won't go for wet food then you can try skipping it or try using tuna, but it does help. We fed Loki a set amount of kibble in the mornings and a high quality wet food in the evenings when we transitioned him to raw.

Step 3: Introduce raw chicken breast- tiny pieces

It's finally raw time! This step will tell you how easy or hard a time you're going to have. Pick up a chicken breast from the butchers or supermarket and dice it very small. Mix four or five tiny pieces into your cat's wet food and see if they eat them or not. Loki cherry-picked them out instantly which was a great sign for us. If your cat avoids all of the chicken, try covering them in the sauce of their favourite wet food or even in tuna.

(Optional) Step 4: Testing new proteins

This step is optional and depends on how fussy your cat is and also how much you want to play around before fully feeding raw. Once Loki was eating chicken chunks regularly with his wet food we repeated step 3 with beef mince and chicken liver.

Step 5: Balanced raw feeding!

Now that your cat is nibbling away on raw meat mixed into their food, it's time to get your balanced raw meal in play. I'd recommend starting with an 80-10-10 and very slowly mixing it into their wet food. The sauce of the wet food is going to help you in a big way here. I'd mix your raw into wet food as follows:

Day 1: 75% Wet, 25% Raw

Day 2: 50% Wet, 50% Raw

Day 3: 25% Wet, 50% Raw

Day 4: 99% Raw, 1% Sauce from wet

You may need to prolong some of the days or add in smaller increments, but this is what we did.

Loki's all-time favourite raw is the Finer By Nature Cock and Bull 80-10-10 and I buy a 12kg box of them direct from Finer By Nature for both Loki and our new kitten, Cucumber. (This is not an ad)

Step 6: Bones

If you'd like to get your cat eating bones (great for their teeth), we achieved this by buying a cleaver and a heavy duty chopping board and dicing up chicken wing tips. Be careful not to crush or splinter the bone, you want a nice clean cut. We diced them into roughly 3cm chunks and added a few to Loki's food so he could get used to chewing them.

And that's it! Some steps may take you longer than others and you may need to go back and repeat steps sometimes. It is vitally important that everyone in your house is sticking to it, sneaking a cat treats is going to fill them up and ruin their appetite. You also may want to order a fridge whiteboard so you can keep track of where you're up to.

Happy Raw Feeding!

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