It has been my experience in life, as well for many others, that when we and our animals go to their respective health practitioners for what ails us in body, (i.e. the doctor for us caregivers or a vet for our furry friends), we are treated merely for symptoms, given a prescription and sent on our merry way. When, in fact, if we provided ourselves with proper nutrition in the first place we would have been treating the source of the problem.
There are so many different factors involved in how quickly and enthusiastically a cat will accept a new diet. If you’re still leaving dry food out at all and allowing her to "free-feed" off that, then you're not letting hunger work in your favor. You're not doing your cat any favors by feeding dry food.
Sometimes it's best to switch your cat first to a quality canned food, and then start sneaking very small amounts of the raw food into that food and slowly increasing the amount over time until the transition is complete. Get the dry food OUT of your house. Your cat can probably smell it and will hold out stubbornly if she knows it’s there.
Devoted kibble addicts often have a difficult time accepting the new food, so you have to employ some tough love, and gather your own patience while honing your feline manipulation skills to get your cat eating healthier food.
Don't be in too much of a rush to get your cat switched over. I hear an awful lot of stories of people who give up when their cats don’t instantly take to the new food. Remember -- the idea is to make the transition. Not to make it overnight. Proceed steadily in the right direction, slipping small amounts of the new food in with canned. Don’t rush things. Other people with more cats or older animals took two months or even longer to fully get their crew on all raw. Take the time you need and don't hurry.
That's a tough one to deal with in a few sentences that gives a one-size-fits-all answer. Frankly, the speed at which you should switch your cat will depend a great deal on your cat's age, temperament, health, and the diet she has been eating up to this point. If your cat has only eaten dry food previously, I strongly urge you to ease her off the dry food and get her eating regular meals of a quality canned food slowly first. The next step is to sneak in small amounts of the raw food mixed in over time.
There really is no easy answer here, but as a general rule of thumb, I suggest to people that unless they have a very young cat or kitten, it's best to go slowly. Take at least a week to ten days to fully transition an adult cat, and that's presuming the cat is at least already off of all dry food. Raw food is very different from commercial food in many ways, and it's best to give your adult cat's digestive system a bit of time to slowly adapt to the new food. Kittens are magnificent at devouring raw food in remarkable quantities and switching them over is usually fast and relatively painless.
I have certainly known people who have switched their adult cats "cold turkey" and their cats did just beautifully, seemed oh-so-grateful to finally have real food to eat, and showed no sign of anything different other than overall better well-being, "miraculously" improved stools, and satisfaction with their new food. But I have also seen instances of people whose cats took to the new food with gusto initially and then either vomited the food or had a day or two of digestive problems. In these cases, it's clear the transition was made much too quickly. Think it through and try to "see" the situation from your cat's perspective. If you have a fully grown cat that has been eating nothing but meat-flavored cereal (dry food) for several years, suddenly expecting her to be able to enjoy and easily digest a much richer food based on animal proteins--as opposed to all those plant-based proteins and carbohydrates--is unrealistic. And it can be a shock to the cat's system.
Remember, you don't want to shock your cat's system. You want to ease her at an appropriate speed on to a healthier diet. That said, don't give up too soon either. The single biggest mistake I see people make time and again is to say that their cat "won't touch" the new food and then panic and fill up the bowl with dry food. Then, shock of shocks, kitty won't be hungry when the next raw meal is offered. You need to strike a healthy balance that treats your cat's system gently enough to safely transition her over to better food.
I don't believe in starving cats into submission when it comes to eating. For a cat that's been on a high-carbohydrate diet, the risk of a cat getting hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease) from going for too long without any food is just too high for my tastes. That's why I recommend switching first to canned and then slipping the raw food into that. If I've said it once I've said it a hundred times--you have got to get the dry kibble out of your house. Remember to use whatever combination of the following works and makes the most sense for you and your cat: a reasonable amount of hunger, manipulation, trickery, and plenty of patience.
Please, please don't do that. Please. Dry food, when moistened, is essentially transformed into "bacteria soup." The bacteria load is extremely high in dry food. Add water to the mix, and you have just created an ideal environment for fungi and bacteria to multiply. When you moisten dry food, for example, you make it possible to quickly grow fungi in the food resulting in vomitoxin, aflatoxin, and mycotoxin production. Vomitoxin is a toxic substance produced by mold that can (and has) contaminated wheat used in dry pet foods resulting in serious illness and even death.
If you have a devoted and stubborn dry food addict on your hands, the first thing to do is to stop free-feeding kibble. This is absolutely essential. First, you must get your cat off of dry food. If your goal is to eventually feed raw food, then once your cat is on canned food, you can start slipping in small amounts of the raw food into the canned and then slowly increasing the amount of raw and decreasing the canned. Be patient. Be very patient. Having food available 24/7 is NOT a good idea for any cat, and if your cat has constant access to that food, you'll have a very hard time getting her weaned onto a healthier, low-carbohydrate, moist, high-protein canned food. One way to approach this is to offer two or three meals a day of a very small amount of dry food (perhaps 1/8 to 1/4 of a cup) and, after 30 minutes, take up the food she hasn't eaten. Then do not give in if she pleads for a between-meal snack. You want your cat to get accustomed to eating on a schedule this way--at mealtimes.
Yes, it takes some patience to get a cat off of dry food and onto something healthier, but think how much time it would take if your cat develops diabetes or some other disease and you're forced to spend time, money, and energy coping with that. Another trick is to dip some of the dry food into the 'juice' of canned food to begin to accustom her taste buds to the taste of the better food.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Often, cats first switched to raw will eat voraciously for a few weeks when they're first transitioned and then they level off. As a very rough guide, start with feeding about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of food per cat per day, split among two or three meals. Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is to put out as much food as your cat wants for 30 minutes, then take away what they don't eat. Very quickly you'll learn what the right amount is for your cat.
If you have a kitten, remember that she is a voracious little carnivorous eating machine and will need not only to be fed MORE times each day, but will eat more food each day in total than an adult cat. I've never had a kitten on raw (but you can bet if I ever do get a kitten, I'll start him/her on this diet from the beginning), but all the people I know who have fed raw to kittens say the little critters eat them out of house and home. Be prepared to serve food often if you are lucky enough to live with a kitten.
Two or three times a day works well.
Heck no! A healthy cat can quite easily go a few extra hours without food. You’ll come home to a hungry cat who will likely eat her meal with great gusto and gratitude. Remember, a cat in the wild isn’t getting fed on a strict schedule. Giving the digestive system a rest without the cues of smelling food is a very healthy thing to do for your cat, though she may try and convey to you that this is not the case.
That's extremely common. It's especially noticeable in cats that were previously eating dry food. Cats were designed by Mother Nature to get their moisture WITH their food. And that's exactly what happens when you feed a good, balanced raw diet. You should, of course, still have fresh drinking water available for your cat at all times.
That's common and is indeed desirable, and what you should expect to see. If you're not feeding your cat all kinds of indigestible or species-inappropriate ingredients (vegetables, grains, etc.) then your cat is going to produce less waste… a lot less waste. You'll be astonished. One of the more pleasant of surprises that comes from raw feeding is how dramatically reduced stool odor becomes when a cat is eating a raw, grainless, vegetable-free diet.
My cat’s stools are much smaller and lighter colored than before.
TThat's common and is indeed desirable, and what you should expect to see. If you're not feeding your cat all kinds of indigestible or species-inappropriate ingredients (vegetables, grains, etc.) then your cat is going to produce less waste.
I certainly had trepidations about feeding raw meat to my cats. I was terrified of Escherichia coli, Salmonella, you name it. At that time, I had only begun researching the issues related to feeding raw, and I found a very discouraging polarization that was unhelpful in making decisions: there were the "raw folks" who seemed annoyed if you even asked questions about parasites and Salmonella. They seemed overly defensive and annoyed at anyone even raising the issue.
At the other end of the spectrum were the selected individuals in the veterinary community and the pet food industry with their grave warnings about all the risks associated with raw feeding. But in all reality, cats have a much shorter intestinal tract than humans. All of these pathogens can be deadly to humans because of our long AND short intestines, giving the bacteria time to multiply into toxic levels. Cats, with their much shorter GI tract, are relatively safe from these pathogens.
Permit me a soapbox moment here: I know so very many cats these days are susceptible to infections, chronic (and expensive) urinary tract woes, skin allergies, vomiting, diarrhea, IBD, and so on. There are so many animals with very weak or compromised immune systems. What I've come around to in my own thinking is that we help to create weak cats. We overvaccinate them, we blindly follow nutritional advice from vets who are not necessarily well informed on nutrition from unbiased sources, we feed steady diets to carnivores of meat-flavored cereal laced with toxic preservatives, and we jump to immediately suppress all symptoms with drugs like prednisolone when they're sick. But if we can find a way to minimize whatever has the potential to weaken the immune system, then it stands to reason that cats will be in better shape to fight off the bad stuff thrown at them. For my money, nothing beats feeding a cat the diet that nature intended for them to eat--raw meat, bones, and organs. To be sure, feeding a balanced raw diet is not the answer to everything. However, I think you get an awful lot of bang for your buck feeding this way.
I advise anyone considering a raw diet to do as much of their own reading as possible on the issue, focusing heavily on information from unbiased sources. I suggest always asking yourself if a given raw diet recipe is truly species-appropriate or might just be an "adapted dog diet" recipe. I am a lay person--not a professionally-trained nutritionist and certainly not a veterinarian. Ideally, you should work closely with your vet on any changes you want to make to your cat's diet. Unfortunately, not nearly enough vets are well-versed in feline nutrition t o be of very much help, and many default to either reflexively dismissing raw diets or offering to sell you a bag of some prescription food.