New Year Nu-trition

Mollie knows the good stuff!

Putting the brakes on kibble consumption is the first step toward improved health

If you do nothing else for your cat in the New Year, think about how you can improve her diet.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you should be aware that dry cat food is falling out of favor quicker than the snow fell during the Blizzard of 2010. More and more, dry food is being fingered as the cause of obesity, diabetes and allergy-related illnesses. Cats are carnivores; they do not require corn- and grain-laden kibble to achieve optimum health.

The job of corporate marketers is to build brand loyalty. The idea that our cats should be fed one brand of food and that brand only is a myth. It’s no secret that what’s in the bag doesn’t necessarily correspond to the photos on the package. With the pet food industry under fire as a result of the recalls (the most recent being foods carried at Kroger, a variety of foods should be fed if only as a hedge against nutritional disaster. Tests have shown that pet foods can have an excess of vitamins or minerals to the point of toxicity, or they can be deficient in key nutrients. By feeding a variety of foods, you’re at least you’re lowering the chance that any one food may cause illness. Moreover, you’re preventing your cat from becoming the classic finicky eater.

So how do you make the switch? After you’ve experienced the “ah-ha” moment, your first inclination is to cut the kibble, cold turkey. However, you can be sure that will meet with mighty resistance: Kibble a/k/a kitty krack, has a powerful hold on the feline psyche. Think French fries and Cheeze Doodles. Even after years on a raw diet, my cats will stampede at the rustle of a cellophane bag of treats or a sample of dry food.

If your cat is on a dry food-only diet, start by offering one small meal of canned food. Most cats will see that as a treat and scarf it down. If you’re free feeding, switch to timed feedings. Twice a day is usually recommended, but I find that a small meal before bedtime staves off early morning pleas to be fed.

When you’re making the switch to canned food, start with anything the cat will eat, then gradually introduce a variety of higher quality foods. She may turn up her delicate little nose at your initial efforts, but remember that you’re the boss. Grind up some kibble in a coffee mill or food processor and sprinkle it over the canned food; dried bonito flakes and Halo’s Chicken Liv-a-Littles are also good bribe foods.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try some of the pre-made raw diets. Oma’s Pride, Bravo, and Nature’s Variety are only a few of the many available today. Because a raw diet does not have the added flavor enhancers, it may not be immediately appealing. Again, it should be introduced in small amounts and the bribe foods can aid in generating interest.

To take things even further you can make your cat’s food, something that’s probably more economical if you have multiple cats. The benefits of a raw diet far out weight any concerns about salmonella; the Feline Nutrition Education Society is dedicated to spreading the word about the benefits of a raw diet. There are plenty of recipes on the Internet, so be sure study them thoroughly before taking the plunge. And, finally there are sources such as Hare Today that sell whole prey … something that’s not for the faint of heart!

Your first step, however, is to break the kibble habit!

You may notice some change in your cat’s stool as she adjusts to the new food, but in the end, a better quality food results in better absorption of nutrients and less waste. You’ll also notice a livelier personality, brighter eyes and better coat, and less nagging to be fed.

Remember that the extra money spent on food will be reflected in the health of your cat.


About ExclusivelyCats
Sally Bahner is an expert in all aspects of cat care: Writer, consultant, speaker, instructor.

4 Responses to New Year Nu-trition

  1. carolyn. says:

    After reading this blog I converted my 4 cats;3 of which are pedigrees to a raw food diet. I must admit that it was a bit of a battle of the wills. As after 3 years of mainly kibble, 3 of my babies,all males,were not impressed. But just 24 hours after beginning, my females stools improved,her coat became softer and her usual eye discharge that has hampered her since she was 2, has lessened in severity by 50%. I am very happy with this change in diet and they have all improved greatly in health and energy in just one short week. Many thanks for this information.

    • exclusivelycats says:

      Thank you for your comments, Carolyn. This is what convinces people to change their cat’s diet. I’m sure people are surprised at how quickly the change takes place.

  2. Ingrid King says:

    I’ve had my cats on grain-free canned food for several years, and the improvements with just taking the grain completely out of their diet were dramatic: no more hairballs, no more vomiting, no more diarrhea (one in particular had recurring GI issues prior to the switch). Allegra, my current cat, has been on raw food for the past six months (she’s 18 months old). She’s my first raw food kitty, and I’m amazed at the difference even compared to the cats who were on grain-free canned food. I’ve never had a cat with a coat as shiny as hers, she barely sheds, no ear or eye discharge, and, bonus: no smelly stools!

  3. exclusivelycats says:

    It’s so funny that the improvement in “output” is what amazes people! Raw feeders brag about quantity (little) and quality (less smelly).

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