How Do I Get My Cat to Eat New Food?

Be Consistent — and Patient

Really stubborn cases will need more effort. It is important to be patient and methodical. Most of my clients who get through this process with the least stress are those who take a systematic approach to making the switch. Those who get frustrated and start making random, desperate changes to how and when they're feeding their cats fare the worst.

Start by putting your cat's new food down for a half hour. If she won't touch it during that time, pick it up, and give her a small meal of her usual food. Pick it up when she stops eating and walks away, and don't leave any other food out where she can get it. Repeat this two or three times a day for a couple of days. Very often by the third day, the cat is eating the new food.

If that doesn't work, try putting a very small amount of the old food on top of the new food. The cat will smell and taste the familiar food and a tiny bit of the new, and may then make the association that the new stuff is also food. Slowly increase the new and decrease the old, until the cat is eating only the new food. You can also try warming the food and adding tuna juice during this phase.

Ask Your Vet for Help

Sometimes a cat has to be transitioned immediately, such as when there is a serious health problem or the cat's food has been discontinued or recalled. In those cases, you may need to let your veterinarian hospitalize your cat and force-switch her.

I had to do this for one of my patients once. We put her new food in a blender with warm water, and fed it to her out of a syringe into her mouth, very carefully, with very small amounts at a time to avoid choking or gagging. It took three days, but by the time she went home, she was willingly eating her new therapeutic diet, and in fact, became much less finicky about her food from then on.

Above all: Practice patience and persistence, and stay in touch with your veterinarian throughout the process. You'll both get through it.

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