How to Get Started...
Getting your dog started on a raw diet is usually easy. Most dogs love to have something other than processed foods. Even if your dog loves the new diet, it is best to taper him on slowly so his digestive tract can adjust to the radical change. At first, add just a small amount of the raw food to each meal while taking out an equivalent amount of the old diet. Each day add more and more raw food and less and less of the previous diet. Within one to two weeks the process should be complete and your dog will be eating an all-raw diet.
Occasionally I’ll run across a dog that is not fond of the raw food. There are several ways to deal with this issue. First of all, maybe it is just the particular meat you chose. Maybe your dog does not like raw chicken but will love raw beef. Try changing the meat source. If that does not work, try lightly cooking the food (rare to medium rare). Then, after your dog is fully on the food, you can cook it less and less. If none of this works, refer to the finicky cat technique below.
Cats are totally different creatures than dogs. They tend to be very finicky about their foods. In fact, cats become imprinted on the food they are first fed. They can even become addicted to the shape of the kibble. That’s why the pet food companies bake their foods in distinct shapes.
The companies also spray the surface of the kibble with “animal digest” which has a taste cats can’t resist. I liken this to Doritos. I personally do not care much for plain old corn chips. However, when those same chips are sprayed with that Doritos coating, I can’t resist. Similarly, the cat’s natural proclivity to eat a healthy diet is hijacked by the technology of flavor enhancers and palatability.
So, I inherited my parents’ cats and these kitties were dry food junkies. When I put raw food in front of them they looked up at me and said, “We can’t eat this. Are you trying to kill us?” Well, my other cats were all eating raw food so I told the newcomers, “You’re going to have to eat this food or you will just starve to death.” Day and night I put a bowl of raw food in front of them, and each time they turned their noses up.
By day three of their hunger strike I think I heard them say, “We’d rather die than eat that raw food.” By the way, although a healthy cat can miss a meal or two, an overweight cat that does not eat for three days can go into liver failure and die, so I do not recommend the starvation method of food transition. Because of this learning experience, taught by a couple of pros, I have come up with the following finicky cat transition technique.
Finicky Cat Transition Technique
To transition your cat from dry food to raw, the first step is to get him on a twice-a-day feeding schedule. No matter what your cat may tell you, he does not need a bowl full of food sitting out all day. If he were in the wild, he would not have dead mice lying around to eat. In fact, he would have to get his butt off the couch and catch a mouse. And, if he missed that mouse, he would go without a meal.
So first thing in the morning, you put ½ of your cat’s daily ration in the bowl and put it down for him to eat. If your cat is like most, he is likely to eat a few pieces and walk away, confident it will be there later. But, it will not be there later. Let the bowl of food stay down for 15-20 minutes and then put it up and away. Then, in the evening when you put a bowl with the other ½ of the daily ration down, your cat is very likely to finish it off. He will quickly (within a few days) get into the new rhythm of eating.
It may be best to start the feeding schedule during the week when people are not in the house to hear the cat complain about the lack of readily available vittles. And, if you are home for the transition and your cat does complain, do not give in. Giving him food when he gets loud and obnoxious will only reinforce the unwanted behavior. You must resist the temptation to give in to your cat’s demands.
Now that your cat is used to eating morning and night, it’s time to start adding the raw food. With each feeding, put a teaspoon of raw food on the bottom of the food bowl and put the dry food of top. That way, your kitty won’t have to touch the raw food but he’ll smell it with every bite of dry food he takes. Considering the sensitivity of the feline nose, this is a big step.
Once your cat adjusts to the new aroma, mix the raw food in with a small amount of the dry on the bottom of the bowl. That way, if he wants to get a whole belly full of food, he’ll have to eat some that is touching the raw food. Now, very gradually mix in more and more of the raw and less and less of the dry. After a month or so of this process, you should have a totally raw-fed cat.
For many cats, the owner has to really want to see their companion eating a healthy, raw diet. It takes persistence and a slightly deaf ear, but it can be done. If I can make raw eaters out of my parent’s cats, I know you can do the same for your kitty.