From time to time, for health or some other reason, a cat’s diet may need to be changed. For example, the pet may develop hairball problems and require a hairball formula diet. Or, it may need a special diet for kidney problems, weight management or food allergies. Unfortunately, because cats tend to be picky eaters, it can be quite challenging to transition them from one diet to another. Many cats will simply refuse to eat the unfamiliar food. This can become dangerous because cats have especially high nutritional requirements for protein, essential amino acids and essential fatty acids and need to eat regularly. If they don’t get regular nourishment cats can develop a potentially dangerous condition called hepatic lipidosis, or “fatty liver syndrome.” This condition is especially common in overweight cats that suddenly become anorexic.
How to Change a Cat’s Diet
Owners should not try to “wait it out” until their cat gets hungry enough to eat a new diet. A much safer technique is to gradually mix the new cat food in with the existing diet and slowly being increasing the percentage of the new food over time. This may take several weeks, so be patient. A slow dietary transition will also help the cat’s digestive system adjust to the new food gradually without causing indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea or other gastrointestinal upset. In some cases, cats just won’t like the taste or texture of a particular food and never will accept it. If that happens the owner may have to switch to a different brand, aroma, or flavor of food. Remember, cats have a highly sensitive sense of smell and a less well-developed sense of taste. They tend to prefer canned food that is served at or slightly above room temperature, and they almost always turn their noses up at food that is served straight out of the refrigerator in a chilly clump. Of course, like all pets, cats should have free access to fresh water at all times, unless a veterinarian recommends otherwise for some health-related reason.