Step-by-Step Guide: How to Successfully Transition Your Cat to a Raw Diet

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Successfully Transition Your Cat to a Raw Diet

As a feline nutritionist veterinarian, I've witnessed firsthand the profound impact that diet has on the health and longevity of our cats. Nutrition isn't just about filling their bowls; it's about providing the essential building blocks for a thriving life. In recent years, there's been a growing recognition of the inadequacies of traditional dry cat food and a shift towards more natural diets.

In this article, we embark on a journey towards the transition from dry food to a natural diet (like BARF). Through careful guidance, we can empower cat owners to make the transition towards a diet that aligns with their cat's biological requirements.

Join me as we explore the cat food transition chart to guide you through each stage of the process. By the end, you'll be ready to initiate the introduction of a natural diet to your cat on your own!

Understanding the Need for Cat Food Transition

It's crucial to emphasize the significance of proper dietary choices for our feline companions. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their bodies are adapted to thrive on a diet primarily consisting of animal protein.

However, the prevalent use of dry cat food, while convenient, often falls short in meeting their nutritional requirements adequately.

Dry cat food, with its high carbohydrate content and lack of moisture, can lead to a host of health issues in cats.

These include obesity, diabetes, urinary tract problems, and dental issues. Additionally, the processing methods used in manufacturing dry food can degrade essential nutrients, further compromising its nutritional value.

Conversely, a natural diet closely mimics the nutritional composition of a cat's ancestral diet, consisting primarily of fresh meat.

By transitioning to a natural diet, we address the inherent nutrient inadequacy of dry food while providing cats with the essential nutrients they need to thrive.

Natural diets typically offer higher protein content, essential fatty acids, and adequate moisture levels, promoting optimal health and vitality in our cats.

If you need more information about how to choose the right food for your cat, don’t miss our article Cracking the Code: How to Read Pet Food Labels and Make Informed Choices.

Ok! I agree, but… My cat doesn’t!

For cats accustomed to consuming dry food over an extended period, transitioning them from commercial dry diets to a natural one can present notable challenges, largely stemming from their entrenched affinity for the familiar aromas and flavors characteristic of dry food.

Many cats develop a sort of addiction to the specific flavors present in commercial dry food, making it challenging for owners to persuade them to try new foods. This addiction is akin to humans craving processed foods loaded with salt, sugar, and artificial flavorings.

Moreover, cats are known for their neophobic tendencies, which means they have a natural aversion to new foods or changes in their diet.

Neophobia in cat feeding stems from their evolutionary history as solitary hunters. In the wild, cats would cautiously approach unfamiliar foods to avoid potential toxins or harmful substances. This instinctual behavior is ingrained in domestic cats, making them wary of sudden changes in their diet. As a result, introducing new foods, especially ones that differ significantly in terms of texture and flavor from their familiar dry food, can trigger their neophobic response.

To surmount these obstacles, one needs patience, persistence, and strategic methods. Below, I outline a step-by-step process for achieving success!

How do You Transition Between Cat Food?

As a nutritionist veterinarian, guiding cat owners through the transition from dry food to a natural diet requires careful planning. Below, I outline a comprehensive step-by-step guide to facilitate this transition:

Step 1: Divide the Daily Portion

Begin by dividing your cat's daily portion of food into four smaller meals. Not allow ad libitum feeding.

Step 2: Transition to Cat Wet Food

Introduce wet food by mixing a teaspoon of it with the dry food during the meals. You can either mix the wet food directly with the dry food or sprinkle powdered dry food over the wet food to entice your cat's interest.

TIP! If your cat does not eat the food within an hour after it is offered, remove the bowl, and offer a fresh portion of food during the next scheduled mealtime.

Step 3: Gradually Increase Wet Food

Slowly increase the portion of wet food while simultaneously reducing the amount of dry food offered during each meal. Aim to transition your cat to 100% wet food over time.

Step 4: Transition to Raw Diet (BARF)

Once your cat has successfully transitioned to a wet food diet, you can begin the process of introducing a raw diet, often referred to as the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet.

Repeat the same gradual introduction process used with wet food, gradually substituting wet food with raw food until your cat is fully accustomed to the new diet.

Tips for Success

  • Experiment with different brands, meats, and textures of wet food to find what appeals most to your cat's preferences. Additionally, consider serving wet food warm, as cats are often more receptive to food that is closer to body temperature.
  • Choose a high-quality wet food to ensure your cat receives essential nutrients during the transition period.
  • Be patient and consistent throughout the process, as transitioning to a natural diet can take several months.
  • It is possible that your cat gets angry in some phase of the process. It is a normal cat’s reaction. Be patient and resist giving in to its persistent meowing and complaints.


How long does it take to transition cat food?

The transition from one type of food to another in cats can vary widely in duration, depending on the individual cat and the degree of difference between the foods. It's important to be patient, especially when switching from dry commercial food to raw diets, as this process can take several months to complete smoothly.

What happens if you don't transition cat food?

One common initial reaction in cats is their refusal to eat the new food due to their food neophobic tendencies. They may strongly resist this food change, expressing their disagreement through excessive meowing and other behavioral changes.

If your cat does accept the food change immediately, it may experience digestive issues such as diarrhea due to its unfamiliarity with the new diet.


In conclusion, the journey of transitioning your cat from dry food to a natural diet is a significant step towards enhancing their overall health and well-being.

Throughout this article, we've explored the rationale behind the transition, the challenges that may arise, and a detailed step-by-step guide to facilitate the process.

From dividing the daily portion and introducing wet food to gradually transitioning to a raw diet, each step is aimed at providing your cat with a diet that nourishes them from the inside out.


Neus Torrent

Veterinarian & Animal Nutritionist

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