(FAQ) (KB) Transition Management

Transitioning your Canine Family

A change of diet ..

The hard part is making the decision, then sticking to it. It is important to know what may happen and be prepared. Healthy fur kids may go through the transition without a hitch, but some may be more picky or sensitive than others and there may be a few bumps along your journey. In the long run, the feeding regime becomes second nature. Your fur kids will enjoy the food and most importantly you will both enjoy their improved and healthy life.

  • Be positive: dogs and cats are very sensitive to apprehensions or scepticism. Being confident will reassure your fur kids about your choice to change to a new diet.
  • Go slow with older dogs: the older the dog (or the longer it has been eating kibble), the longer you should take to transition to the new diet.
  • Choose one meat to start: while variety is the key to good health when feeding a raw diet, it’s best to start with one type of meat during your transition (preferably the same meat type you are currently feeding). This will make it easier on your fur kid's digestive system.
  • Fast your dog the night before: your fur kid will have a greater interest in the new food the next morning and this also gives their digestive system a chance to rest.
  • Limit treats during the transition: especially flour / grain based ones, to increase your fur kid’s appetite for its meals.
  • Provide access to plenty of clean water

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Who Can Transition?

As a rule of thumb every cat or dog will benefit immensely from a raw diet. Of course the younger and healthier your fur kids, the easier the switch. Puppies and kittens will have the easiest time, especially if they have never eaten anything else and can see their mom doing the same. Remember THIS IS natural for them. Fur kids who have been fed commercial food all their lives may be reluctant to change their habit and may require some help and "persuasion". Cats (and some dogs) are known to be a little fussy when it comes to their food so again some patients and maybe cunningness may be necessary. For very old or sick fur kids more care should be taken. If in doubt it is always advisable to consult with a pet health professional that has experience in the subject. Some vets are not yet open to the raw food diet, and naturally will not be able to provide positive advice.

From our own experience, it is often harder for the human involved than the animal ...

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Cold Turkey Or Slow?

Once you have decided to go forth, comes the question: how do we make the transition? There are probably as many answers to that question as the number of pets who have made the switch, but there are two main methods: "cold turkey"and "slow".

  • The fast method: The 'cold turkey' (fast) method is simple: up until yesterday your fur kids ate commercial food, from today he or she will find raw food in his bowl. Countless are the stories of a dog sniffing and licking, and after some hesitations gobbling it all as if there is nothing more natural .. and there isn't... The fast method works best for dogs who are habitually omnivores. If you have the kind of dog who will munch on anything you throw his way anyway, he will probably not even think twice about some raw meaty bones. Most hungry, healthy pets (hungry being the operative word) will give whatever is given to them a chance. Now, letting your fur kids be hungry, although against your "parental" instinct, is not cruel, it is something they are naturally built for. Wild animals cannot order their prey on regular hours and may go days if not weeks without food. We do not advise to starve your pet, but a day of fast is in many cases even advisable. In fact some will say that a day of fast every week is good practice for a healthier digestion system. Most pets are in the habit of eating more then they need and the problem of pet obesity is the best evidence. A day of fasting will let your fur kid, literally, get that commercial food out of his system, and, make him much more receptive to trying a new menu.
  • The slow method: This involves some kind of gradual transitioning from one type of food to the other. One way is give both at the same time, either mixed to one consistency, or side by side. The idea behind this is that the taste of the old food will still be there and therefore will seem familiar. The portions of the mix will slowly shift towards the raw until it will all be raw. The downside of this method is that you are feeding two foods with very different digestion times and may cause an upset stomach, more than just switching "cold turkey". If doing this DO NOT try to wet the dry kibble, it will make it into a soup of bacteria and fungi in a very short time. A second way is to alternate meals: One meal of, whatever he is used to, and one raw. The objective is to slowly eliminate the old meals and stay with the new. If your fur kids does well with this method, chances are he would have been fine with going "cold turkey" anyway and it was mostly to YOUR benefit. A third, for people who feed home-made cooked food, is to slowly reduce the cooking time until it is eliminated altogether.

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Transitioning Puppies to a Raw Food Diet?

Puppies will generally have healthier digestive systems, and therefore will tolerate a more rapid switch (1 or 2 days) with no trouble. Start by substituting ¼ Raw Meal for your puppy’s current food in each meal, gradually increasing the Raw Meal while proportionately decreasing the kibble until the transition is complete.

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Transitioning Healthy Dogs to a Raw Food Diet?

Younger and healthier dogs can transition more quickly than older dogs or dogs with digestive issues. If your dog has no signs of illness or digestive difficulties such as loose stools, constipation or occasional vomiting, then you may be able to transition them in 5-7 days. This gradual transition aids in helping your dog’s gastrointestinal system adapt to the new meals:

  • Begin by substituting 1⁄8th raw meal for your dog’s current food.
  • After three meals, double the raw meal portion (to ¼), while reducing the kibble by the same amount.
  • After three more meals, double the raw meal portion again (to ½) and reduce the kibble again.
  • After feeding ½ raw meal for 3 meals, give them a full raw meal.

If your dog tolerates this well with no digestive upset or other symptoms of discomfort, you have successfully switched your dog!

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Transitioning Picky Eaters and Older Dogs to a Raw Diet ?

Picky eaters or older dogs may turn their noses up at the smell and texture of their new food. Don’t worry, as this is a common occurrence (particularly with smaller dogs) and is usually easy to address by following these steps:

  • Eliminate treats during the transition
  • Fast your dog the night before starting the transition
  • Serve the meal in an appealing manner in a new place or “safe” area of your kitchen away from foot traffic.
  • Add flavour “bribes” such as cheese or an egg yolk
  • Last resort, gently cook the raw meals to release the flavours and aromas of the food by lightly baking the meal in a toaster oven or poaching it quickly on the stove.

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Transitioning your Feline Family

Transitioning Cats ...

If your cat has been eating a steady diet of commercial junk food his entire life, it’s important to realize up front that transitioning him to a raw diet might take some time as well as some persistence, perseverance, and above all, a good bit of patience on your part.

Each cat is different. Some will take to raw as if they’ve simply been waiting their whole lives for their humans to figure out what they really should have been feeding them all along. For these cats, the transition to raw is relatively simple, quick and easy. Other cats may be a bit slower to make the switch, and still other cats may take even longer, particularly if they’re older or perhaps more set in their ways. Cats that have become very addicted to the carbohydrates in low quality kibble or canned cat food are the ones that may take the longest time to transition to an all raw diet. These are cats that will require a bit more determination and effort on your part to help them make the switch to raw. Rest assured, this transition can and will happen, as long you’re ready and willing to do your part. All it takes is a firm but gentle resolve and some patience on your part, along with as much time as your cat needs to get with the program.

If you’re reading our blog, hopefully you’ve reached the point where you realise how important it is to feed your beloved pet a species appropriate raw diet, and you’re ready and willing to do what it takes to help your cat make the change to a more healthy and natural way of eating.

Those with kittens will most likely find that these little ones make the transition to raw almost immediately, with little or no hesitation whatsoever. Sometimes the younger the cat, the more quickly and easily the transition to raw will happen. Very young cats know instinctively what their bodies need, and most often will take to eating raw food like a fish to water.

Now, transitioning a senior or adult cat to raw is not a simple walk in the park. With kittens, whole different discussion. This step-by-step approach, and patience, will work for nearly every cat.

We'll look at the transition process for cats in three stages:

  • From dry food to canned;
  • From canned to raw;
  • Adding raw meaty bones

The key to any transition your master, is patience. The transition can be fast or very slow. We typically find that depending on how active his master is, and whether his master still gets his or her paws dirty, transitioning can take from 5 seconds for some of them to three whole months for others. We know of cats that took a year to transition … lots of patience! However long it takes yours, stick with it, it's worth it.

How old is your cat? Three years? Five? Seven? Nine? Eleven?

  • At three years old, your cat is the equivalent of 28 human years;
  • At five, that human equivalent is 36 years old;
  • At seven years old, the human equivalent is 44;
  • At nine, it’s 52;
  • At 11, your kitty is the equivalent of 60 human years.

So if all you’d ever eaten for 20 to 60 or more years is dry cereal or canned stew, how would you feel about a salad when offered one for the first time? It looks funny! It has almost no smell, and yet even that smell is funny! The texture is wrong. The temperature is wrong. Yuck. Have you ever gone through a pizza binge – and then craved “real” food? Fruit, salad, fresh, home-made food?

If being introduced to fresh real food for the first time, after years of processed food saturated with fake flavouring (think the cheese sprayed onto Cheetos, the taco flavour sprayed on to Doritos, “sour cream and onion” flavoured potato chips, or the “flavour blasted” gold fish), it’s only natural to expect it will take some time to accept a salad without a pile of dressing, cheese and bacon bits or whatever “toppings.” With time, you’ll likely come to LOVE salad. And you most likely know from your own experience that you’ll feel FAR better eating salad. You sleep better, your moods are more stable, you’re … happier! Many of our cats feel just like this about that weird stuff you’re offering them as “food.” Yet with time, they come to love it.

The goal is the long term health of our cat. So whether it takes two weeks, two months, 12 months or two years, take it at your cat’s pace.

Special Note: Any change in a cat’s diet can bring stomach upset. Even if a cat loves their new raw diet immediately, they should be transitioned slowly. If they transition too quickly, any stomach upset may result in the cat soon rejecting the raw diet because they link their stomach upset to the food.

The transitioning tips below use the slow, gradual method. It usually works. Usually. For some cats, nothing seems to work. Give these methods a try and don't give up too soon. We usually don’t advocate using hunger to help transition your cat, other than the normal mealtime hunger of 12 hours or so, but you can try it if your cat is particularly stubborn. If your cat is adult, healthy and not obese, you can wait her out longer if she refuses to eat either canned or the raw. However, we do not recommended this stand-off with your master to go longer than 36 hours though. This has worked for some people. Be aware that any cat, especially an overweight cat, is at risk for hepatic lipidosis if they don't eat every day.

Whatever your cat eats at present, it's always worth a try to just offer her some raw. Your master may surprise you! See if she will eat some cut up raw chicken, or some raw chicken liver. If she does … well, this may be easy.

To summarise, the basic steps to encourage them are simple:

  • Turn off your clock. There is simply no way to predict when a cat will go from “not liking” or being cautious about a new food to gobbling it up. YOUR patience is the most important ingredient in transition success or failure.
  • Feed meals. Transition to timed meals and phase out free-feeding. With free access to food, kitty has no motivation to try the new food. Use hunger as a motivator – more below;
  • Be consistent. If you are serious about transitioning your cat to raw or home cooked, offer just a little bit with every single meal you give your cat. If she won’t eat the food she normally eats with the SMALL BIT of new food mixed into the old food or in the same dish, put it next to the old food, or on a separate dish. But have it within smell and sight at EVERY meal.
  • Use enticement toppers if they do not “like” the new food at first.
  • Introduce new proteins properly. Treat each new protein as a new introduction. Introduce each new protein slowly. Once introduced, you can rotate at will. With raw, they need the variety, so introduce at least three proteins, and switch it up!
  • Go at your cat’s pace. Watch the litter box. If the new food or the amount of it as a proportion of the meals does not agree with your cat, back up a bit and slow down. Again – if you ate only dry cereal or canned stew for years, and then all of a sudden started eating only fresh fruit and salad, or switched very quickly, your body will most likely freak out. So take it slow, and don’t be surprised if there are a few problems along the way. It doesn’t mean the food isn’t good for your cat or doesn’t agree with your cat. It means you need to slow down.

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1st Things 1st - Close Down That 24/7 Kibble Buffet!

If you’re used to constantly leaving a bowl of dry food down for your cat to eat, one of the very first steps you must take if you’re serious about switching your kitty to a diet of raw food is to stop free feeding kibble.

Cats get addicted to dry food, so this may be the hardest step, especially if your cat doesn't also eat canned food. They become like heroin addicts on kibble, so you really need a lot of patience if this is the case. (You can do some reading here http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-03/chemistry-kibble on the topic) ..

For cats that will only eat dry food:

  • First, stop free feeding dry food. Your cat does not need to have food available at all times. Eating two or three meals a day is fine, as is going 12 hours between meals. You want your cat to associate food with a person — you — not a place.
  • Start bringing out their food at regular mealtimes. Cats will learn the new routine very quickly. Leave it out for 30 minutes, and then put it away. At first, you may have to have more than two mealtimes a day. Cut back to two or three per day after a week, once your cat gets used to the whole idea of mealtimes. Put out one bowl for each cat, in separate rooms if necessary, so each cat feels relaxed about her meal.

Your cats will get hungry, but that's good. Nothing enhances a meal more than having an appetite. Just make sure each cat does eat, every day.

Please note that this does not necessarily mean you should stop feeding kibble altogether immediately. Rather the idea is to begin weaning your cat off kibble by discontinuing unlimited access to the 24 hour buffet, and instead only letting him have access to it a few times a day for limited periods of time.

Cats that are used to grazing on doom nuggets (as they’re affectionately called by many experienced raw feeders) whenever they please are a bit like kibble junkies. And if they’re continually allowed to munch, munch, munch a little now and then to get their fix anytime they want throughout the day, they never really experience any hunger, and so may never develop much of an appetite for trying something new.

If kibble is all he eats, there’s no need to force your kitty to go cold turkey from his junk. Rather the answer is to remove that bottomless, permanent bowl of kibble from your cat’s world, and instead start getting into the habit of offering it to him only a few times a day. Only allow your cat to eat that kibble for a few limited periods of time each day, say for about 20 or 30 minutes at a go. Let him eat his fill and once he's done, pick the bowl back up and put the kibble away, out of reach.

Instead of leaving a bowl of kibble out for your cat all the time, only offer it to him for a few limited periods each day and then remove it.

Making several "meal times" like this, instead of perpetually free feeding you cat dry food, will serve a couple of purposes. First, it will put a bit of an edge your cat’s appetite which will definitely work to your advantage as you help him make the switch to raw. Secondly, it will pave the way to breaking the cycle of your cat’s addiction to the starchy grain based carbohydrates that are found in most commercial kibble – which by the way have absolutely no place whatsoever in the diet of an obligate carnivore such as a cat.

Be sure to also checkout our blog for additional articles.

Switch from Kibble to Canned as an Interim Step (If Necessary)

Since kibble is so completely different in taste, texture and smell from fresh raw meat, if dry is the only kind of food your cat is used to eating and he’s not showing any interest in raw food, it may be necessary to transition him off the kibble and onto canned cat food first. The wet texture of the canned stuff is closer to the texture of raw meat than kibble, so using this interim step can be very helpful in the transition, as it’s generally easier to switch cats from wet food to raw than it is from dry food.

If your cat eats some kibble but is already used to eating canned food too, you can most likely quit feeding the kibble altogether straight away. Otherwise, it’s generally best to gradually wean your kitty off the dry food, perhaps by mixing it in with some canned, and of course shutting down the 24/7 buffet, as this will make it simpler in the long run for him to get used to eating raw food.

Bear in mind however, that these are all general guidelines and suggestions that have worked well for other people and their cats, and are not necessarily hard and fast rules. So for instance if your cat is used to eating nothing but kibble, but then you find he’s suddenly totally on board and enthusiastically eating plenty of raw food from the very first time you offer it, then by all means don’t worry about interim steps and just go with it!

Remember, each cat is unique. For this reason your best strategy is to remain flexible, pay attention to your cat’s responses and adjust your game plan according to your own kitty’s particular needs.

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Never Force a Cat to go Cold Turkey!

One of the most important things to keep in mind when transitioning your cat to an all raw diet, and one of the reasons it can take time to do so, is that you must never starve a cat into eating raw food. This point cannot be overemphasized. Tough love is simply not an option when switching cats to a raw diet. The reason for this is because some cats that are forced to go without eating anything for more than a day or so can become susceptible to a very serious and potentially fatal form of liver failure called hepatic lipidosis.

Cats have a unique predisposition to contracting this particular ailment when they stop eating food for any length of time for whatever reason.

What is Hepatic Lipidosis?

What happens when a cat doesn’t eat for a prolonged period of time is that its body begins to tap into to its stored fat reserves in order to survive. This fat is sent to the liver to be converted into a usable form energy. But unfortunately a cat’s liver is easily overwhelmed and often unable to cope with this sudden increase of fat being circulated through it. As more fat is deposited into the liver than it is capable of metabolizing and releasing, the cells of the liver become swollen with fatty deposits which cause serious damage to the organ itself. Once a cat contracts hepatic lipidosis they become terribly nauseous, which means they have no appetite and may vomit even if they do eat, making it extremely difficult to get enough nourishment into the cat to keep it alive.

As you can see, this is something you most definitely do NOT want to risk!

The bottom line is that when you start making the switch to raw, if your cat doesn’t eat enough of the raw food you’re offering him each day, then you must continue to feed him enough of whatever he will eat to sustain him every day, even if that means continuing to feed your pet some of his old commercial pet food.

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Make the Switch to Raw at Your Cat’s Pace

During the transition period, the basic idea, as is described in more detail further on in this section, is to encourage your cat to eat as much of the new raw food as possible. If he goes for it immediately and enthusiastically, you’re on your way. But if your cat is at all hesitant and isn’t eating enough of the raw food on a daily basis to sustain him, you must continue feeding him the old commercial food as necessary to augment his diet, and only decrease the amount of commercial food as your kitty begins to eat more raw food.

Always bear in mind during the transition period that it’s more important that your cat gets enough to eat every day than it is for him to learn to eat raw food more quickly than he’s ready. Although you should always be persistent and never give up, at the same time you must take your cues from your cat, and in essence allow your pet to transition at his own pace.

Be sure to also checkout our blog for additional articles.

Disguising Raw Food – aka the "Bribe"

If you do need to continue feeding commercial food during the transition, you may need to get a bit crafty to help your kitty learn to like his new raw food. Therefore as an additional incentive you should begin to disguise the raw food as necessary by making it taste or smell more enticing to your cat, which will encourage him to be more tempted to try it. In this way, as you ‘bribe’ your kitty into gradually getting a taste for his new raw food, he’ll begin to eat more and more of it day by day. And as this happens, you can then slowly but surely begin to reduce the amount of commercial food needed to feed your kitty each day accordingly.

Compared to crunchy kibbles or cooked canned cat food, both of which are relatively pretty darn stinky, fresh raw meat has a very faint odour and quite a different texture. As a result, some cats simply won’t recognize raw meat as actually being food when they’re first exposed to it. For this reason it’s sometimes necessary to disguise the raw food and 'stink it up' a bit with another, more pungent, smell or flavour.

It’s also important to keep on offering raw food to your cat even if he turns his nose up at it at first. Some cats need time to get used to this new raw stuff, so repeated exposure can be key.

You can use whatever favourite food you know your cat likes as a bribe food to encourage him to take the raw plunge. Some possible suggestions for bribe foods are:

  • a drizzling of juice from a can of water packed tuna
  • a smear of canned cat food
  • a bit of grated Parmesan cheese
  • crumbled dried liver
  • some smashed canned sardines, anchovies or herring
  • a sprinkling of crushed kibble
  • some plain, home-made meat, bone and/or giblets broth, used as a marinade
  • whatever other favourite treat you know your kitty loves

Use your imagination and experiment with different things until you find what works. Once you find some disguises that work, then you can begin to gradually offer more raw food using decreasing amounts of the bribe until your cat will accept it without the bribe.

Some of this work was adapted from the works published by Linda Zurich, Raw Fed Cats, http://rawfedcats.org.

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The Key to a Successful Transition - The Concept of Meals!

Obviously critical to a successful transition to timed meals is getting those nibblers to eat enough food AT meals as discussed above. The components of establishing “meal time” are:

  • The Time. Establish a routine for the TIMING of meals. Determine when and how often you can feed meals based on your schedule. Feed meals as close to the same time every day as possible (at least during the transition). If you are usually home during the day, and you can feed 8 or 10 small meals over the course of a day (at first), you’ll be able to pull that free-fed kibble sooner. If you work, you may need to leave the kibble out (or out part time) at first to ensure your cat is eating enough calories daily;
  • The Place. Designate a specific AREA where meals are fed. This is part of the routine: an established place for eating meals. This should be some-place that is as different as possible from where their free-fed kibble is or was – but a place where you want them eating: a different part of the kitchen (or whatever) is fine. Do not let your master intimidate you – and do not chase after him or her to get them to eat. Meal time is at THIS time, in THIS place;
  • A Signal. Designate a “call” that signals to your cat that it IS meal time. Pick a word, phrase or sound, and get your cats associating that word, phrase or sound with coming to eat.

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Why can't I just soak the dry food in water?

From Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM (us acronym for vet), at CatInfo.org: "Dry food has a high bacterial content. Mold is also often found in dry food. There have been many deaths of dogs and cats secondary to eating mold mycotoxins, vomitoxins and aflatoxins which often contaminate the grains found in dry food. If you want to try the trick of wetting down the dry food to alter the texture, please leave it out for only 20-30 minutes then discard it. Bacteria and mold thrive in moisture."

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Patience dear, patience ...

Above all, Hang in There!

Remember, your fur kids become addicted to junk food just like we can. As a pet parent, you are in control of your fur kids' health. Our dogs don’t live in the wild making decisions based on instinct any more. They live in our modern world and don’t necessarily know what’s best for them. It’s your duty to be a firm pet parent and feed food that is healthful.

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I want to know more!

Good reference articles & videos further reading available at:

  • Article by Dr Becker on Raw Feeding - Common Feeding Mistakes That Can Harm Your Pet [ref];
  • Article published by The Raw Feeding Community on a study that was done testing the digestive times between Raw and Kibble [very interesting read]. Title is a little misleading, but the net result was that the raw food remained in the GI tract for longer periods of time than kibble, meaning that the body is able to adsorb and utilize more nutrients from the food.

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Disclaimer

PLEASE NOTE that we cannot guarantee that your pet will like or eat the food we stock and supply. Pets, more specifically cats, get used to eating certain kinds of food and it can be challenging to get them to change to something different. If your pet will not eat the food, after a lot of persuasion, and you feel the food will go to waste, we suggest donating it to a shelter. Please note that we are not veterinarians and cannot diagnose your pet or “prescribe” a diet or a supplement for your pet. Please ensure that you are familiar with our [medical disclaimer]. We can and will gladly make suggestions for your pet based on information you provide to us from a fooding perspective. We recommend you consult with your veterinarian before changing the diet of a sick animal or incorporating any new supplements, specifically in cases where medications or other treatments are already being used. You are strongly advised to consult your vet or health care professional if your animal is seriously ill.