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Cat Tip: How to Switch Food with Minimal Issues

Just like our K9 friends, it is often necessary to switch our cat's food type/brand. This can be for a number of different reasons: from the normal transition from kittenhood, into adulthood, then senior status, to conditions or illnesses that require therapeutic diets. However, this transition can be messy for everyone. Stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhea can all be symptoms of changes made to what they're eating. So how do you make a food switch safely, for your cat's sake as well as yours? We found an interesting article that address this topic with the help of some vets.

“Any changes in diet need to be gradual,” says Kathryn Primm, DVM, owner of the Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, Tennessee. “Cats process stress in different ways, and a sudden change in diet can be a big deal to many felines. That’s because you can cause an imbalance of bacteria in the gut and cause your cat to vomit or have diarrhea or hairballs.”

Another thing to note is that the makeup of the food can also affect sensitive tummies. Sean Delaney, DVM, board-certified veterinary nutritionist and founder of the Davis Veterinary Medical Consulting, Inc. in Davis, California, says:

“Sudden increases in dietary fat, moisture and fiber are the most likely to cause GI (gastrointestinal) upset even in healthy adult cats. Thus, switching to canned food suddenly from dry food might be more challenging than switching to another dry food with a comparable fat and crude fiber level.”

So how should you introduce new cat food into your furry feline's diet? The article states that many veterinarians support what is informally known as the 3-3-3 method. In general, they recommend that for the first few days give your cat two-thirds of their current food mixed in with one-third of the new food. During the next three days, switch the amounts to one-third of your cat’s current food and two-thirds of the new food. Within seven to 10 days, most feline digestive systems are ready to receive meals completely comprised of the new food.

Dr. Primm says "“The bacteria in a cat’s gut can be pretty picky. You may want to consult your veterinarian about supplementing your cat’s diet with probiotics and prebiotics to ensure there is a bacteria balance that is a key to your cat’s overall well-being.”

As stated above, if your cat has been diagnosed with an illness or condition, your veterinarian may recommend that you switch your cat to a therapeutic diet. Most of the time, the switch should follow the 3-3-3 rule, but there are exceptions.

“If the current food is making the feline patient ill actively (such as a food allergy), a sudden and immediate change is done knowing that GI upset might be a side effect but likely not worse than what is already occurring,” Dr. Delaney says. “Your veterinarian will help guide the speed of transition as well as prescribe any concurrent medications to help ease the process.”

The main takeaway: Gradually introducing new food to your cat may minimize unwanted diarrhea, vomiting and stomach issues and, as always, CONSULT YOUR VET!

You can find the full article we quoted from here:

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