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This post was originally published October 2017. I have updated it with new information and republished because my cat is now eating raw!
Last year, I received a few lectures about feeding my cat kibble. Jaffrey (RIP) and Cosmo have eaten kibble their entire lives with no health issues. I tried switching them to raw, but they weren't interested, so I would mix freeze-dried cat food with high-quality kibble, adding meals of canned food. I thought I was doing a great job!
Nope! I was accused of loving my dogs more than my cats.
After doing my homework, I learned a lot of things (and continue to learn) about cat nutrition and started the long path of getting my cat off the kibble and on to a 100% canned food diet, with a little freeze-dried cat food tossed into the mix.
Why Kibble isn't Good for Cats
Cosmo won't drink much water on his own. I've tried water fountains, standing water, and leaving the faucet dripping. Sometimes he'll drink the water, but mostly he ignores it. Eating a diet heavy in dry cat food further, dehydrates his system and raises the risk of urinary health issues.
Turns out that mixing dehydrated raw cat food in with kibble is a terrible idea! His system loses tons of moisture trying to hydrate all this food and make it easier to digest.
Although a species appropriate diet for cats would be raw – just like with my dogs – Cosmo wasn't interested in transitioning to a raw food diet. Quality canned food is the next best thing. I still add freeze dried cat food, hydrating the food and mixing it into the canned food. He loves it.
He loves it.
But getting here took several months and it wasn't easy (or cheap).
1 – Make Sure Your Cat Likes Canned Food
I kept buying quality canned food – Bravo and Addiction sent me a case of all of the canned food options they offered – and Cosmo wasn't interested. I was expected Cosmo to quit kibble cold turkey and he wasn't having it. Someone recommended the unthinkable – feed him Fancy Feast to make sure that he will eat canned food.
Feed my cat a Purina product? But I'm a raw feeder!!!!
I went to the grocery store wearing a big hat and huge sunglasses and bought a couple of cans of Fancy Feast. After weeks of my cat turning his nose up at everything except kibble, I was stunned to see him devour a can of Fancy Feast and then demand more.
Fine! He'll eat canned food.
2 – Find the Proteins and Texture Your Cat Likes
Of course, figuring out that my cat WOULD eat canned cat food wasn't the only thing I needed to do. Figuring out the texture that he liked was the next and most difficult step. I read that cats don't like pate, they prefer chunks of food, but this isn't always the case so not only did I have to find the right brands, but I had to find the right textures within each brand.
On top of that, he's very picky when it comes to proteins.
I printed out a calendar and wrote down what Cosmo ate each day, crossing out the food he didn't like. I did this for a few months until I narrowed down what he'll eat.
I found that it's best to buy canned food a couple of cans at a time instead of getting confident and emptying a shelf. Cosmo would love a food for a day or two and then never want to touch it again – even if I was alternating the recipes.
3 – Shake the Cat Food Cans
This was a tip I received from my local pet store. I spent many days at the pet store going through each can and shaking them – looking for the cans with the most moisture. This served two purposes:
- Making sure my cat had plenty of moisture in his diet.
- Making sure that the food wasn't completely solid; I knew he wouldn't eat it if there wasn't enough moisture.
4 – Alternate Food Dishes
During this time, I use three cat food dishes, alternating them daily to make sure that Cosmo was eating out of a clean dish – no matter how well he cleaned his dish (or Rodrigo did). This way he wouldn't be turned off of a new food by the scent of old food.
Plus it's sanitary.
Cosmo isn't a clean freak the way Jaffrey was but he does prefer a clean cat dish, and I'm okay with that.
5 – Be Patient with Your Cat
It took about three months for me to confidently say that my cat had kicked his kibble habit. He hasn't had kibble in six months! It wasn't easy, and it took a tremendous amount of patience, but he did it! In the beginning, he went on hunger strikes which scared the crap out of me, but we made it through.
When I ran out of kibble, I didn't buy another bag and fed Cosmo Fancy Feast (yep, more Purina) in between taste testing of different quality canned food brands. I was trying to figure out which food he'd eat and wouldn't eat.
6 – An Easy Step to Add Raw Cat Food
For a while, I didn't think Cosmo would go fully raw. He did seem to enjoy freeze-dried cat food, but he wasn't interested in raw. Someone gave me the tip to mix a spoonful of raw into his soft food. I did this and he ate it. So I continued doing it, increasing the amount every couple of weeks until he was eating mostly raw. Cosmo doesn't like cold food (his raw is served out of the fridge) so I continue to feed him soft food, but today it's a spoonful of soft food mixed into a dish of raw.
What Cosmo Eats Today
The ideal diet for my cat would be a diet of raw and if you can get your cat to transition to raw, you should go for it! Darwin's Pet offers a cat recipe and there are several reputable brands that offer raw cat food as well – Rad Cat and Vital Essentials Raw are two that come to mind. I've been told that younger cats are easier to transition than mature cats, but just because your cat is a senior don't assume that s/he won't love the diet.
Today, Cosmo mainly eats Weruva's BFF in the pouch mixed with Rad Cat raw cat food; I buy both by the case through our raw food co-op. And I give him supplements from The Two Crazy Cat Ladies and Mad About Organics.
Here's my cat's diet:
– Rad Cat Raw Cat Food – I'm stunned by how much he LOVES his Rad Cat raw. He enjoys it and if I don't add it to his dish, he'll follow me with a vocal protest.
– Weruva BFF (Best Feline Friend) Grain-Free Cat Food – he prefers the pouches to the cans. Weruva offers several recipes, but Cosmo will only eat the BFF recipe.
Supplements for Cats
I add the following supplements to Cosmo's meals:
– CATalyst by The Two Crazy Cat Ladies – this is an all-in-one natural supplement that supports joints, kidneys, digestive health, skin and coat health, and it reduced free radicals (protecting our cats from cancer).
– OxyCAT by The Two Crazy Cat Ladies – this is a natural anti-viral and anti-fungal that balances the pH in our cats' guts while also promoting healthy gut flora which, as we're learning, helps to extend the life of our pets.
– a teeny bit of spirulina – he loves it and a little goes a long way for his immune system. My kitty isn't getting any younger.
– a scoop of Mad About Organics Oral Care – I only add this to his meals 2-3 days a week and I still saw plaque flaking away from his teeth! No more expensive dental cleanings for my kitty.
Now that Cosmo is on a 100% off of kibble, he's at a healthier weight, his teeth don't have the same plaque build up that it did on a kibble diet, and he LOVES HIS FOOD! A year ago, I thought it would be impossible to switch him to a canned diet or a raw diet but wanted to give it a shot. After losing Jaffrey suddenly, I wanted to make sure Cosmo had the healthiest life possible.
Now he does.