Are my cats addicted to carby grains?
August 10, 2011 10:56 PM   Subscribe

Should I force my cats to switch to the healthier food or let them continue eating the not-so-great stuff they seem to prefer?

So yesterday I went into the local pet store on a whim and grabbed a couple bags of some of the grain-free award winning "biologically appropriate" sustainable and regional high protein low carb naturally ph balanced (I could go on and on) cat food. This stuff looks like it should be great, right?

But my cats have been living off the not so awesome grocery store pet-isle foods for so long that they're turning up their noses at this healthy stuff.

They have barely touched their new food.

Is there a proper way to introduce the new food? Mix it with the old crappy stuff? I've just shoved out a bowl of each of the new ones so they'd have a choice of which they'd like best (but it's looking like the answer is neither).

Should I just let them continue living off of the less than stellar stuff they prefer? Or should I make them make the change?
posted by addelburgh to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The usual way to do the introductions is to do a 25% new stuff increase per week, or until the cats eat regularly. So 25% week one, and if they are eating ok, go up 25% in week 2 to 50% good stuff, 50% grocery store. Stay at whatever percentage until the cats eat predictably. That is the way I have always done it and learned to do it from the cat rescue people I work with, anyhow.

I think the argument for the good stuff is that the cats end up eating less of it in the long run, and is therefore cheaper for you, actually, it is easier on their bodies and therefore can help them live better and longer, it is better for their teeth, their poop smells better and is firmer, and you can avoid certian urinary and GI issues.
posted by oflinkey at 11:06 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been through this very recently with my cats. My experience is, once they get hungry enough, they will eat the new stuff. But they may never really like it. I ended up letting my cats go back on their "favorite" food when one of them got sick and stopped eating altogether (nothing to do with changing their food, this was months later) -- I was just trying to get him to eat something. Once he regained his health, I found that seeing both cats really enjoy themselves at the food bowl again made me kind of rethink the whole "forcing the healthy stuff" on them. That was my experience, yours may be very different. I also tried mixing the old in with the new -- cats are pretty smart and mine just ate around the new food and wolfed down the old. The only way to get them eating the new was to give them no choice.

Of course, we can't really be expected to answer this question fully without pictures of the cats in question.
posted by stennieville at 11:13 PM on August 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I think the regimen is to mix the new stuff in gradually. That should get the acclimated. If it doesn't work, though, I don't really see a great detriment in feeding them whatever cat food you found. If they seem to prefer it, it's better than not eating at all, right?
posted by Gilbert at 11:22 PM on August 10, 2011

Ugh. Kitties are so stubborn unless it was recommended for health reasons I'd let them eat what they like. Mine have rejected all kinds of stuff - like canned 95% chicken - that seemed like it would be nice than the nice crunchy kibble pellets.
posted by oneear at 11:28 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you're going to switch them to a new kind of food, I'd strongly suggest high-quality wet food. It is far better for cats than dry food; cats are obligate carnivores, not omnivores, so they can't thrive on carb-heavy diets the way dogs (and we humans) can. They don't have a strong thirst drive, either, which means they don't get enough moisture from dry diets. Kidney failure is a leading cause of death in older cats, and is often due to this combination of too many carbs and not enough moisture in the diet. Giving your cat subcutaneous fluid injections is not fun, for you or the cat (and yes, wet food is more expensive... but I've spent enough on kidney-related vet bills to have bought a top-quality lifetime supply, and I'm not alone in that).

Otherwise, oflinkey has it. The usual trick is to mix the new food with the old food, a little at a time, and introduce more as the cat adjusts. Note that this is especially important when switching from dry to wet food: this needs to be done gradually to prevent stomach upset. See the links above for suggestions. You might want to experiment a bit, too, if your cats don't take to the new food. Cats tend to be picky -- some of the quality brands/flavors are not as popular with mine as others.
posted by vorfeed at 11:54 PM on August 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I tred the same thing with our little monsters, but they would have none of it.

They now eat supermarket crap. They're healthy and happy and that's what really matters.
posted by guster4lovers at 11:54 PM on August 10, 2011

I concur with the suggestions to gradually mix in the better quality food. My cats have always been so picky, and any sudden change throws them into a tailspin! Mixing it little by little has worked best for me, too.
posted by lucy40 at 3:36 AM on August 11, 2011

I hate eating "health food" so I don't, and I allow my cats the same privilege.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:00 AM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

High quality food is not "health food" in the same sense that Obscure Reference means (presumably yummy hamburgers vs. boring salad or whatever) - higher quality food is more appropriate and generally more palatable for animals (part of how they make the supermarket crap palatable is by spraying it with a flavor enhancer). It's more like the difference between the cheapest frozen mostly-filler burger and a home-made or great restaurant burger (although balanced and complete).

Cats are obligate carnivores, if you're going to feed them dry (and the current thinking among feline specialists is that canned is better), it should be grain free and high protein since cats are obligate carnivores. Supermarket and any lower end cat food is very high in grains and carbs, the opposite of what is best for cats (which is "Catkins" - high protein and very low carb). From your description, you chose Orijen (or Acana), which is one of the best dry foods on the market, but it's useless if your cats won't eat it, HOWEVER, there is likely a grain free food out there that they WILL eat. Most better quality foods are guaranteed, so if they won't eat it, take it back and get something else.
posted by biscotti at 6:29 AM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Just as a general statement, cats are incredibly conservative, they want everything today exactly like it was yesterday--unless THEY decide on change. But they haven't prospered this long by failing to be adaptable. They're learn to eat the new stuff. They may look at you funny for a long time, but they'll learn to eat it.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:07 AM on August 11, 2011

"They'll . . . "
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:08 AM on August 11, 2011

Um, no offense, but have you met any cats? I haven't met a single one that responds well to change or to food that is "better" for them. You can try an extremely gradual switch, but in my experience they'll eat what they want, and nothing else. They have a keen sense of smell and they seem to know when you're trying to pull one over on them.

Cats aren't like dogs; even a few days without eating can be physically dangerous to them, especially if they're older or experiencing health problems. As others have suggested, if you try to wean them to the new food and they don't eat for a few days, I'd strongly encourage you to return to what they will eat.

The best food for a cat is the food they'll eat; the "best" food they won't eat isn't really the best.
posted by answergrape at 7:44 AM on August 11, 2011

People told me that if I just waited my cat out, he would eat the new food. That turned out to be patently untrue. He would not eat, got into the habit of not eating, and I had to take him to the vet where they gave him a steroid shot to give him an appetite. Now I feed him what he likes, even though he's a picky pain in the ass.
posted by Kimberly at 7:57 AM on August 11, 2011

Best answer: Um, no offense, but have you met any cats? I haven't met a single one that responds well to change or to food that is "better" for them.

Just as a general statement, cats are incredibly conservative, they want everything today exactly like it was yesterday--unless THEY decide on change.

Yep, I have met my cat, and he will eat an astounding variety of food. He goes for cantaloupe, broccoli, pasta, cheese, and of course the usual meats. He roams the kitchen counters looking for food. Yesterday I was rather surprised when he ate a grape.

He is not a picky cat about what he poops in either--I switched from World's Best (not) to Tidy Cats all at once. He did not seem to notice.

When staying at a friend's house, he prowls around for awhile and meows loudly, then he settles in and comes in at night and attempts to sleep on his temporary master's head.

Try switching your cat's food. Not all cats are as set in their ways as people make them out to be. That said, anything in a bag is not "biologically appropriate" and I'd be surprised if it's truly grain free. (Some "grain free" canned foods have potatoes instead--wow, what an improvement.)
posted by massysett at 8:24 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

First, pictures must be included with every cat question. It's the law.

Please don't think that they'll get hungry eventually and eat the new food. Cats are extremely stubborn and will practically starve themselves rather than eat something they don't like. Even if they do eventually eat, the damage may have been done.
posted by desjardins at 8:42 AM on August 11, 2011

We switched our cats from Science Diet Indoor to this new (I forget the brand) totally grain-free high protien food. We mixed it with their old food until it was gone and then went straight to this stuff. Only one thing to tell you: be prepared for the nastiest kitty poos EVER. High protien food makes the cats poop smell so awful I can barely stand it. I am talking epic smelly poop. Just so you know.
posted by ForeverDcember at 8:53 AM on August 11, 2011

When we moved Zenith and Quasar to a grain free food we did a really slow mix until the ratio was 100% the new stuff.
posted by Zophi at 9:11 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Check out Natural Balance dry cat food. My cat loved it even more than her Purina One.

I will say I might be in the minority, though. My cat is super laid back. I should have switched gradually but I didn't. One day she had Purina One, the next Natural Balance. Didn't even faze her.
posted by Falwless at 9:50 AM on August 11, 2011

Blend the junk with the good stuff. Then they can have what they want, and you get what you want.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:42 AM on August 11, 2011

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