Changing it up: Introducing your cat to new food
Do you have a kitten that is ready to move to adult food? Or an adult cat that is entering a new life-stage? Perhaps you have adopted a new cat and are introducing her to new food. Has your cat simply stopped eating her current food and seems to want a change? Or has your vet recommended a change of diet because of health reasons? Whatever the reason, sometimes you will need to change your cat’s diet.
Transitioning your cat to a new food can be a challenge at times, but there a few simple strategies you can implement that will help her get used to her new diet.
Firstly though, let’s look at the right food for your cat’s life-stage, and then we’ll look at ways to transition her to a new food.
The right nutrition for your cat
Your cat is a strict carnivore with needs and nutritional requirements that are uniquely hers.
But wherever your cat is in her life, she needs a complete and balanced diet that provides all the energy, proteins, minerals and vitamins to ensure her health, well-being and longevity.
Kittens (cats less than a year old) are in the high-growth stage of their life and need more calories and essential nutrients than adult cats. They also have a sensitive digestive system and a developing immune system. For these reasons, if you have a kitten, it’s important that you choose a food specifically formulated for this period of her life.
Adult cats (cats over a year old), that are not pregnant or lactating are said to be in a ‘nutritional maintenance’ stage. If your cat is in this stage, her diet should consist of high-quality food that has the nutritional balance to maintain her physical and mental activity. Besides, cats’ lifestyle has evolved, close to that of men: more urbanized, more sedentary. Today, almost half of all adult cats live indoors. Therefore, if cats’ initial needs have not changed, their diet must adjust to their new lifestyle.
Neutered cats can tend to be less active and more interested in food, which can make it harder to maintain an ideal body weight, especially in the 18-week period following neutering. During this period a cat’s weight will change – sometimes without you noticing. It’s important to be extra vigilant from the moment your cat comes home from the neutering procedure – weigh and physically inspect her frequently to make sure her normal weight is being maintained. If you want to be doubly sure, the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition has developed an easy size and weight evaluation you can do at home. And remember, food specifically designed for neutered cats will help with weight maintenance.
Pregnant, lactating, weaning and senior cats (cats over 7 years), and aging cats (over 14 years), all have specific dietary requirements too.
Studies suggest that senior cats have lower energy requirements than younger cats, so they generally won’t need as many calories in their diet. Therefore, it is very important to monitor your senior cat body weight, because she will tend to decrease her daily activity and it is a common practice to continue giving them the same amount of food, which can lead to weight gain, and potentially related diabetes. On the contrary, aging cats are often less able to digest and to absorb proteins and fats - and to therefore maintain their healthy body weight – so their diet needs to take this into consideration.
As always, it’s best to consult with your vet. They will be able to recommend the correct diet based on your cat’s life-stage, while taking into consideration other important lifestyle factors such as her level of activity.
Whatever you choose to feed your cat, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations; their instructions will help you determine the right quantity of food for your cat’s needs.
And finally – taste is important! Your cat should love what you feed her. Uneaten food obviously has no nutritional value.