How to transition your cat to a BARF Diet

Do you hear a yowling meow when you don't give your cat what they want? Well, that is normal if you change their meals or introduce something new.

Cats are generally picky eaters, which is why they will throw tantrums when exposed to new foods. Introducing the BARF diet to your cat will be a challenge, and you'll need to be prepared, persistent and patient. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you make the transition.

BARF Diet
Photo by Inge Wallumrød

Introduce the BARF diet in smaller portions

BARF is known as 'Biologically Appropriate Raw Food' and this diet is made up of raw foods like raw meat, bones and fresh vegetables. Since cats are stubborn creatures, moving them to the BARF diet will take some effort, if you have been feeding them with dry food; but it will be worth it!

First, identify your cat's meat preferences. Some cats enjoy lamb, while others despise the smell. Also, cats are imprint eaters, meaning they learn about food from birth.

When a cat imprints on a meal, it develops a lifelong preference for the meal's flavor, warmth, and texture. After identifying their favorite meat, adapt it to their BARF diet, and the menu should make up 2% to 3% of its body weight daily.

Start scheduling two meals a day

As cat owners, we normally leave a bowl of dry food for our felines to eat throughout the day. However, when we change their diet, we must stop doing it because grazing on a food bowl gives the cat too much flexibility over the diet and eating schedule. Therefore, the best way is to remove the food after 30 minutes on every serving.

Moreover, you are making your picky cats hungry before the next meal. Thus, when you serve the BARF diet to them, they will cave in and try it out. The goal is to get your cat to eat complete meals twice a day, on schedule. 

BARF diet feeding combination

To practice BARF, you need to follow these ratios. Start with 80% regular food and 20% BARF meat. This way, your cat gets used to the unique taste. You can also use BARF minced beef instead of whole chunks. 

Gradually increase the BARF meat intake and add some fresh vegetables and fruit. It is best to feed pureed plant-based ingredients to help your cat's digestion.

Kibbles and BARF

Kibbles are high in carbohydrates, even if they are grain-free. If you mix proteins and carbs in the same bowl, one or both will be digested less efficiently. This will result in less overall nutrition for your pet. When transitioning a kibble-fed cat to a BARF diet, introduce some BARF meat with a mix of kibble for a week or so.

To wean a cat, start with the ratio of 1/7 BARF and 6/7 kibble, for 2-3 weeks. Put a small amount of BARF meat next to their regular food to familiarise them. Then, gradually increase the amount of BARF while decreasing the kibble. As for kittens, they quickly adapt as it is in line with their natural desires.

Wet Food and BARF

Try feeding your cat some fresh chicken, turkey, or chicken liver and observe their behavior. If they are reluctant to try, you can always combine their wet food and BARF meat.

It's fine if they don't eat it. The goal is to get them used to the smell and associate it with their meal. You may have noticed that fresh BARF meat has a faint odor, and cats prefer canned food smell. Hence, they may not recognize the meat as edible at first. 

Make sure the BARF meat is at room temperature. Do not microwave it as it destroys nutrients and cooks the meat. Instead, place it in a zipper bag and put it in warm water for 5 to 15 minutes.

If your cats are already eating a BARF diet, start adding meaty bones to their meals because cats need to chew on the sides of their jaws for dental and muscle health. Other than that, you can introduce different proteins into their feed. Here are the top 4 proteins that you can add to their diet:

  • Chicken meat 
  • Fish 
  • Lamb or beef meat (small quantity) 
  • Turkey thighs 

You can try out “PetCubes Raw Cat Food”. We have a wide variety that you can choose from. Apart from that, you wouldn't have to worry because PetCubes uses the best ingredients to prepare a wholesome meal!  

Remain consistent with the new diet

Consistency will help your cat adjust to a new diet. Changing your cat's diet frequently can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Also, do keep in mind some cats will starve if they are not accepting the new food. This will cause hepatic lipidosis, a potentially fatal condition.

If your cat goes more than 24 hours without eating, you should be concerned, and it will be best to contact the vet immediately.

Conclusion

Remember that transitions are unique to each cat. So, if your cat has trouble digesting a particular meat, slow down and do not force them to eat it. If you notice your cat is responding well to the new food, make sure they are digesting everything well, and have well-formed stools, then you know it is good to go!

For more information, read Raw Feeding Guide For Cats.

Reviewed by: 

Dr Francis is one of the top wildlife nutritionists in Asia. Originating from Montreal, Canada, he left at 21 to pursue his Masters and subsequently a PhD in wildlife nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Instead of taking the path of common animal science to learn about farm animals, or through the veterinarian space and taking a certificate in nutrition, he took the road less travelled to dive deep into the world of animal ecology, metabolism and nutrition.

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