Recently a reader wrote me asking for tips on how to transition her cat to a canned food only diet. I figured this information might be helpful to other readers as well, so here was my response:
Some kitties take to switching to canned very easily, while others are definitely die-hard kibble munchers! For starters, you should get the kibble completely out of the house; if the cat can even smell it in the cupboard, they will know it is there and hold out for it.
|One of Mad About Pets' cats' favorites!|
One thing I look for when buying canned foods is I don't want anything that had seafood as an ingredient. You have to check the labels because many of the foods will have seafood flavoring hidden in the ingredients to make it tastier to kitties. However, many cats develop allergies and sensitivities to seafood, or will refuse to eat anything else if they are offered seafood. Since my kitty Gabe has IBD, it was especially important for him to stay away from seafood. Most "normal" cats can have seafood a few times a week, but I prefer to just keep it out of my house altogether and try to focus on foods that would be more typical of a cat's prey like foul.
|The tasty probiotic FortiFlora|
The main thing you have to watch out for with kitties when switching to a new food is Fatty Liver Disease (Hepatic Lipadosis). If a cat refuses to eat, his liver is forced to use fat from the body for energy (which it is not very good at converting). The liver can't handle this, and essentially becomes loaded with fat. This is almost always fatal in cats without proper treatment. Cats can go about 2-3 days without eating, but after that the risk of Fatty Liver is great. As long as your kitty is eating a little, though, the body won't have to resort to using those fat stores exclusively. The best thing you can do is break the feedings up into 2-3 meals per day (preferably 3). If you give the cat a whole can of food at once, they're probably not going to be able to eat it all at once. In the "wild", a cat would eat several times a day so doing multiple feedings will mimic that. Hunger can be a great asset in convincing your kitty to switch to moist food, so if the cat doesn't eat for a day it's going to be ok. They may try a hunger strike with you and hold out for kibble, but after a day they'll be hungry enough to eat the moist whether they want it or not! Whatever you do, just be certain your cat is getting at least a little food in her system during this transitional period and always has access to plenty of fresh water.
If you're used to offering your cat a free freeding kibble buffet, you may be unsure how much moist food your cat needs on a canned only diet. The rule of thumb is this: 5-6 oz per each 7 pounds your cat weighs. Most canned food comes in 5.5 oz cans, so a 7 pound cat will eat one can per day. Weight and activity level are both factors in determining how much your cat should eat. If she's an overweight couch potato, stick with one can per day. If she's a lean and active kitty, you'll need to feed a little more. You'll want to feed at each feeding no more than your cat can eat in 30 minutes; a little trial and error and you'll figure out your kitty's necessary feeding amounts.