Is changing my cat's diet while I go on vacation a bad idea?
July 23, 2007 10:30 PM   Subscribe

Is it reasonable to change my cat from wet food to dry food for a few days while I go on vacation?

We put our kitty on a new diet about a month ago. He went from all-you-can-eat dry food to 1/3 can of wet cat food 2x daily. He's getting on a little in age, and he'd put some extra weight on. With the new diet he's definitely slimmer and friskier, so it's worked out really well.

In a couple of months I plan to go on about 4 days of vacation, which will require me to have someone come to feed him. It would definitely be more convenient for whoever might end up doing me that favor if he was eating dry food at the time. Also, kitty wouldn't be thinking he might starve to death because nobody's home to feed him. Moving him to a bowl of dry food might be more comforting for him (he freaks out when we're away overnight, I guess he thinks we're not coming back). But I worry that messing with his diet will either cause him to have some sort of gastric distress, or cause him to put on some of the weight he's lost.

I'd want him back on wet when I get home, so that'd mean changing it again.

I don't want to screw my cat up just for my convenience. But I'm thinking he might be happier if he had constant access to food while we're gone.

Any ideas / advice / experience most welcome.
posted by FortyT-wo to Pets & Animals (12 answers total)
I'm not seeing why it would be so much more convenient for the person feeding him to use dry food instead of the wet food you've just switched to. Just open the can, spoon 1/3 out, cover the can with plastic wrap, stick in the fridge - what's the inconvenience? I'm not a vet, but I wouldn't switch the food back. You being absent is change enough.

More important to your kitty's mental health, I think, would be to have someone visiting who's willing to stay a while and pet, play with and/or talk to him. A half hour twice a day would do a lot to relieve kitty's loneliness. As they leave, they can put a small dish of dry food out for kitty to snack on if he gets hungry again. But let him eat the wet stuff first.
posted by mediareport at 10:38 PM on July 23, 2007

If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying that it'd be easier for the person feeding your cat to just feed him large amounts of dry food rather than having them come in twice a day to feed them wet food? I wouldn't do that. Sure it'd be easier for your friend, but your cat is going to gorge out on that dry food and that isn't good at all. You're better off just asking your friend to come in twice a day. Do you get a morning paper? You could ask your friend to come in the morning and pick up the paper (and oh yeah, feed the cat) then come back at night just to check on the place (and oh yeah, feed the cat).

Or you could just get an automatic dry food feeder and not worry about anyone feeding your cat. They sell them at petsmart.
posted by puke & cry at 10:49 PM on July 23, 2007

Sure. Won't hurt the cat a bit. Get him used to the dry food ahead of time, though.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:51 PM on July 23, 2007

It's reasonable, but it might be a good idea to do a "dry run" before you go away, so that if there are adjustment issues they can happen before your trip.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:16 PM on July 23, 2007

He doesn't actually have any health problems, was just a little overweight? Yeah, I'd say go for it. I do agree that you should switch him back a couple of days ahead of time.

It's only 4 days, he'll be fine. Leave him a new scratching post and some catnip to keep him occupied.
posted by miss tea at 4:42 AM on July 24, 2007

I might slowly adjust him to it before you go away--an abrupt change has always given my cat stomach issues.
posted by jdl at 4:45 AM on July 24, 2007

I probably wouldn't if this were my cat. In an older cat, the stress of your leaving on top of the stress of a food change may be a problem - aside from which, the cat may not eat the dry food at all and this can cause serious problems in cats. I'm also with mediareport in not seeing why it's harder to feed wet than dry, unless you're thinking that they can get away with only coming once a day. For only four days of vacation, I wouldn't switch the food.
posted by biscotti at 6:36 AM on July 24, 2007

They make these feeding contraptions with timers on them that you can set to open 12 hours later (or any amount, up to 72 hours I think). Your friend could come once a day to refill it, and keep the food from going bad by putting a little ice pack snuggled against the dish. I'm actually doing this right now for a friend's high-maintenance cat and it's working out fine.
posted by apostrophe at 6:40 AM on July 24, 2007

I don't see why it's that much more convenient for the person feeding him to do dry food vs wet, unless they're only coming over once a day.

If that's the case, then I'd have them leave dry food out, and feed him wet food the one time a day when they come over.

It doesn't have to be 100% wet food or 100% dry food, he can have one meal of wet food when the person comes over, and eat his other meal of dry food at his leisure.

If he's had weight problems I wouldn't leave out a TON of dry food (we used to do the all-you-can-eat thing for our cats also, and when they get older it stops being such a great idea) but I don't think you need to cut off the wet food cold turkey.

I'd tell the person feeding him to give him a third of a can of wet food when they come over (or whatever his normal ration is) and then refill his bowl of dry food while he's eating. That way he can munch on the dry food in lieu of the other meal. I think he'll quickly come to understand that wet food happens when the humans arrive and not otherwise.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:55 AM on July 24, 2007

I just got back from a weekend trip where I used one of the timed feeding contraptions that puke & cry and apostrophe mention (from PetSmart), and my cat only eats wet food.

The night before a trip, I dole out each food portion, make five little "burgers" that will fit the feeder slots, wrap each separately in plastic wrap, and pop in a ziploc in the freezer. Then the morning I leave, I set up the feeder with the ice packs that it comes with, and the frozen patties of cat food. It helps keep the food fresh for about 3 days, especially if the feeder is in a cool place. I also leave out one unfrozen serving of food, in case the first one doesn't thaw in time.

Works fine, though by the fifth meal, it really needs to be cleaned out and changed. (eww)

It's also a good comfort to know if your cat sitter can't be there at an exact time, the cat will still eat on schedule.
posted by limeswirltart at 9:44 AM on July 24, 2007

This really depends on your cat. My cat really loved "different" foods, and always preferred new food to the same old boring stuff. She would be happy if we switched food on her every day. Your cat? You'll have to find out...
posted by mbrubeck at 8:24 PM on July 24, 2007

If you're actually shifting the cat to dry food, make very sure the cat has a source of fresh water. Do not count on "the well." Years ago, one of our very first cat sitters used the john and put the lid down, cutting off the cat's source of water. Luckily, we were only gone two days. Unless you can also guarantee the cat has water, make the cat sitter feed the cat wet catfood with dry on the side in case of the munchies.
posted by realjanetkagan at 11:11 PM on July 24, 2007

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