Dietary conditioning & food acceptance:
Why cats are so ‘difficult’
Cats exhibit highly sophisticated senses of smell and taste, helping to ensure their survival in the wild. Any smells and tastes that a cat has not grown up with will initially be regarded as strange and therefore ‘dangerous’. This conditioning is unique to cats and is responsible for their ‘fear of new things’ in their bowls. It is this primal instinct that often makes the process of switching a cat’s food difficult and time-consuming.
We humans are inquisitive and enjoy experimenting with different foods. Cats are different! It is important to understand this special dietary conditioning and to let your cat take their time. To enable cats to enjoy a long and healthy life, it is also essential that their diet is completely species-appropriate and close to nature. Alongside a species-appropriate recipe with an extremely high meat content, a few small tricks can help ease the transition.
HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY SWITCH FOODS
Vet Hanna Stephan has some tips
TIP 1: RECONDITIONING
Place a bowl with the new food alongside the old food (which the cat should continue to eat for the time being) for a few days, allowing the new smell to be incorporated within the cat’s ‘prey spectrum’. As such, the rejection or ‘fear’ of the new food will gradually be diminished until it is no longer regarded as ‘strange’.
TIP 2: STEP BY STEP
Once the cat has got used to the new smell, small amounts of the new food can be mixed into the old food. The pace at which this is done depends on the cat concerned. The more critical the cat is by nature, the smaller the initial concentration of the new food. If the cat shows great interest in the new food or prefers it to the old food, the ‘mixing in’ process can go at a faster rate or even be skipped.
TIP 3: FEEDING INCENTIVES
Gently warming up the new food or – depending on your cat’s preferences – adding a small amount of salt, fish oil or Parmesan for a short period can help to make the new product even more appetising.
TIP 4: PEACE AND QUIET
Ensure that your cat has a quiet feeding place where they can eat and sniff their food without being disturbed. Some cats feel even happier and safer in raised feeding places.