5 Things: Proper Dietary Changes

It can be a challenge to change your cat’s food

  1. Mix things up right away and consider variety. When you’re adopting a kitten or new cat, “my best advice is to feed kittens both wet and dry foods, so they are used to both forms from the get go,” says Joseph Wakshlag DVM, PhD, DACVN, DACVSMR, veterinary nutritionist and professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “In the end, it’s hard to switch the old timers to a new form.” Mixing canned food with dry at least once a day works well (pick up leftover wet food after a few hours).
  2. Start prescription diets right away. If your veterinarian recommends a prescription diet, start it right away, especially with diseases like chronic kidney disease, with which appetite can be diminished in advanced cases. The likelihood of acceptance is higher the sooner you begin.
  3. Most dietary changes should be gradual. If your cat is used to eating the same diet every day—and your veterinarian did not advise you to feed a prescription diet—you shouldn’t make an abrupt change. Mix 25% new food with 75% old diet at first, then go to 50/50, then 75/25 before totally shifting to the new food. Be patient! “When doing the switch for the discriminating cat, it should be done gradually over a month to promote acceptance,” says Dr. Wakshlag.
  4. Make the new diet more enticing. Warming food increases its odors, making a short zap in the microwave well worth the effort. You can try tasty “toppers” such as a dab of meat-flavored baby food (no onion or garlic flavoring) or a small amount of plain yogurt.
  5. Ask for help if you need it. Prescription appetite stimulants like mirtazapine (Mirataz) can entice cats to eat. This drug can be given orally or via a transdermal ointment that can be applied to the inside of your cat’s ears.