There are many excellent reasons to change your pet’s diet from processed foods, especially dry foods (kibble) and the lesser brands of mass manufactured foods. But the primary reason I hear from informed people for *not* changing their animal companion’s diet is “But Fluffy is such a picky eater – she only likes X Brand of food, and won’t touch “people food,” so what can I do?”
Well, there are a variety of options, approaches, and even tricks you can try to retrain your pet to accept raw foods. With diligence, only a very few of the most stubborn, and older pets will hold out and refuse to convert their diets. Essentially, it is like retraining a child used to junk food and McBurgers to prefer healthier food and snacks.
And with that in mind, it is also important to understand that it is the natural, healthy state of a cat or dog to prefer a meaty, moist diet that they eat in a sitting rather than to graze on cereal all day, the “free feeding” method that has become convenient and prevalent, despite all reason and logic.
So you have your raw food, whether made yourself, or bought from one of the many available sources. How to make it appetizing for your pet with the specific tastes?
Dogs are generally easier to adapt to dietary change than cats, stereotypical though it may seem. That said, these suggestions can be adapted to dogs if perchance yours needs convincing.
The main goal is to get your pet used to the new food so that they will be inclined to embrace it. For this I recommend a couple of options.
If your pet only eats kibble, you can begin by mixing small amounts of raw into the kibble, whilst gradually feeding less kibble. Also, instead of leaving the kibs out all day, leave them out for a short amount of time, and then remove the food. This will help retrain the “free-feeding” habit. This can perhaps be done by placing the food in the morning when you get up, and then removing it before you leave for work. The pet will relate the time the food is out with the already familiar routine of your preparation for work, and come to understand that is the proper time to eat in the morning. A similar routine can be adopted for evening.
A quality canned food can also be introduced with the kibble, with an increasing proportion of raw food to the canned. Some pets tend to relate the more pungent smell of the canned food to delicious, and will be drawn to that. Similarly, a pet that already eats canned foods is easier to convert, as proportions of raw food can be introduced into the canned, until only the smallest amount of canned is left in the mix, if any at all remains.
For the most stubborn resistors, there is the baby food option. In general, only the sickest of pets will turn their noses up at chicken or turkey baby food. Just make certain that the kind you get is not made with onions – pets don’t digest them well! A dollop of baby food can be placed on top of, or mixed into the raw food. A pet may try to eat only the bbf at first, but will usually warm to the raw diet.
Speaking of warming, heating the raw food just a bit never hurts, as it makes it both more fragrant AND more appetizing to most pets. Just make certain you don’t make it *too* hot, and burn your pet inadvertently, thus creating an even greater aversion. About 12-14 seconds seems to work well, and a finger on the food to test the temperature doesn’t hurt.
It may take diligence or stubbornness of your own to convert your finicky eater, and it could take some time. But the benefits, from major ones such as long term health, to minor ones such as less stinky waste, are worth the effort and time. And chances are, like the child who eventually comes to love apples, your pet too will come to love their raw food diet!