How to change your cat's food 

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Introducing your cat to a new food should be done slowly, to avoid any potential stomach upsets. Follow our simple, seven day guide to ease your cat onto their new diet safely and carefully.
Norwegian Forest Cat sitting in a kitchen eating from a feeding bowl

Why might you change a cat's food?

There may be an occasions when you may decide it's time to change your cat's diet. There could be a number of reasons for this transition, including

  • Your kitten is ready to move on to adult food
  • Your cat's health requirements have changed
  • You'd like to transition to a wet, dry, or mixed feeding plan

At Royal Canin, we know the importance of complete well-balanced foods adapted to each cat's age, physiological status, and lifestyle. While changing your cat's food should be done carefully, it's important that you feed them a diet that gives them all the nutrients they need at each stage of their lives.

Why is it important to change a cat's food carefully?

The type of food a kitten eats early on in their life will have a big impact on the type of food they prefer as they grow. This is why it is important to find out what sort of food a kitten was given before you bring them home – they will adapt to a new environment more easily if their food is familiar.

 

Any change to your cat's diet should be made gradually. Faced with a new sort of food, some cats can be wary, especially when faced with a stressful situation such as moving homes. This can lead to 'food aversion', which is why it's better to introduce new types of food in stages and avoid additional stress factors.

Do cats get sick if you change their food?

If you follow our transition plan, you are contributing to making the diet transition a positive one for your cat. You should still, however, pay close attention to your cat's behavior, body weight and appearance as they transition to their new food.

Cats are very sensitive to changes in diet, so if you transition too quickly, it can cause issues. If you notice any changes in your cat's appearance, body weight, and stool quality, you may need to slow down your food transition or contact your veterinarian for assistance.

What happens if I switch my cat’s food too fast?

If you switch your cat or kitten’s food too quickly, they may simply avoid eating it or eat less than they did before. If you're transitioning to wet cat foods such as our Kitten Thin Slices, they may make your cat feel fuller, so it may seem like they're eating less. However, if they start losing weight, you should seek advice from your veterinarian.

More seriously, it can cause issues with digestion, especially with kittens, whose immune systems are still developing. Changing cat food too quickly can cause:
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced appetite
  • Stomach pain

If your cat has any of these symptoms, please consult your veterinarian.

How to change your cat's food

It's best to introduce a new food to your cat gently, over a period of at least a week. This may help to avoid digestive upset and food avoidance for your cat.

Begin by introducing small percentages of the new diet, gradually increasing the ratio until your cat has completely transitioned onto their new food. Here's our 7-day transition plan:

Day 1 & 2 - 75% previous food + 25% new food
Day 3 & 4 - 50% previous food + 50% new food
Day 5 & 6 - 25% previous food + 75% new food
Day 7 - 100% new food

It’s a good idea to maintain your cat's regular feeding routine, sticking to the same mealtimes and eating environments to minimize change and keep your cat comfortable through the transition to a new diet.

Tips for switching cat foods

Despite our recommendations, the experience of switching food will vary from cat to cat. Some may find it easier than others to transition, so it’s important to be aware of your cat’s behavior and adjust your plan as required. If you’re struggling, we recommend:

  • When transitioning from dry kitten food to wet food, try mixing the two together. You can sprinkle dry food on top or even crush it and mix it with wet food. However, always remember to factor in the calories for both foods to avoid overfeeding.
  • Warm up wet food to make it more palatable for any particularly fussy kittens or cats.
  • Play games with your cat just before meal time to increase their appetite and the chance of them eating the new food.

Is it OK to change a cat’s food?

There are many circumstances where it is necessary or recommended to switch your cat's food. In any case, it's certainly ok to do so. However, you must be patient with your cat and not rush them into changing what they eat. You should never starve them into changing food and you may need to extend the transition period recommended above if required.

Do cats hate when you change their food?

Cats are sensitive animals and can be particularly sensitive about changes in their diet. So, if you don’t follow a transition plan, your cat may become irritable or change their usual behavior. If you notice any changes in behavior, try to slow down the transition. If their change in behavior persists, you should consult your veterinarian.

How often should you change your cat’s food?

As your cat grows from a kitten to a cat, you will need to change what food they eat as they move between developmental stages. These stages are categorized as:

  • Birth to 8 weeks: Your kitten will need their mother's milk or kitten milk replacer in their early weeks and will begin weaning at 4-4.5 weeks. During the weaning period, they may eat a mixture of solid food blended with water or kitten milk replacer.
  • 8 weeks to 4 months: After weaning, your kitten can be transitioned to a diet of solid, wet or dry mother and baby cat foods.
  • 4 months to 12 months: Over 4 months they'll transition to kitten food. If spayed or neutered a specially formulated kitten food may be recommended to help them maintain a healthy weight and body condition.
  • 12 months + (or 15 months+ for breeds such as Maine Coons): Your cat will start an adult diet.

Find out more about your kitten’s development in our article, when does my kitten become a cat?

You may also need to switch your cat or kitten’s food if they have a particular health condition or nutritional need.

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