Why you always transition a pets diet
Posted by Nathan Pearce on
This is the second piece in a two-part article sharing my personal experiences transitioning my cats: Angelo and Cam. In the previous article we examined Cam’s transition plan and how he required a little longer to adjust to a change in diet, how that was quite common and perfectly ok, and, most importantly, how to adapt to meet your pet’s needs. In this, part 2, we shall cover the importance of transition for cats that seem like, and act like, they don’t need it.
The important takeaway from this article is to be patient and allow your cats gut bacteria to change slowly with a gentle transition.
Introducing Ang (Angelo)
Ang is the charismatic member of the furfam, and he’s a bit of a celebrity in the neighborhood, greeting all the neighbors on his daily rounds. He was the runt of the litter, kicked out by his mom, and he’s had his share of visits to the vet for some heart issues and urinary tract infections, so he’s proven to us over and over that he’s a fighter for life.
If Ang made his own transition plan, it would look like this:
It was great to see him so excited about his new food, and we were especially delighted to be switching him from one of the large ‘prescription’ brands we’ve been seeing in the media with product recalls. See his first encounter to the newly introduced Balanced Blends pet food here:
The Lesson Learned
As a total amateur to pet transitioning, I took Ang’s enthusiasm as a big green-light to just go ahead and switch him over completely on day one. Maybe because I was excited to have it over with so quickly after his brothers longer transition? Or, maybe I just bought into how happy he was with the new food and I didn’t want to take that away from him? Whatever my reasoning at the time, I quickly learned that a rushed transition is a BAD IDEA.
On the second day of his rapid transition I discovered that Ang was scarfing down his food and then going outside and throwing up. The fact that he wasn’t keeping it down didn’t seem to deter him at all and his bowl was emptied clean on the morning of day two. But something wasn’t right.
I know not to panic immediately with Ang because it’s not exactly abnormal for him to discover other sources of food in the neighborhood that he returns to the world in our front yard. He’s delightful… However, I did immediately recall the second, and equally important, reason for a gradual transition.
There are two key reasons to implement a gentle transition. The first is for the pet’s adjustment to taste and texture. If their relationship with food has always been that it’s a dry, crunchy texture sprayed with attractants (ala kibble) then anything is going to be a little strange at first. Even if this new wet food that smells very interesting and is triggering their natural, primal instincts as an obligate carnivore, and a hunter, it’s still unfamiliar. The second is the for your pet’s digestive flora to adapt. “Digestive what?”, I hear you say? I’m referring to their gut bacteria.
Think about this from a human perspective. There’s plenty of data out there about digestive discomfort in humans when making significant dietary change. Take this article – How to Reintroduce Meat After Being Vegan or Vegetarian – by Carrie Forrest (MHP in Nutrition).
“Vegetarians or vegans won’t get sick when they eat meat, but they might feel sluggish or have a stomachache if they eat too much too quickly.” This is precisely what we are protecting our pets from.
With this in mind, for the greater good, I backed off on the new food and implemented the following transition plan.
I’m happy to say that with the controlled transition above, Angelo, and my driveway, have been free of stomach contents ever since. Patience and the ability to adapt are the key ingredients to getting your pet onto a species appropriate, balanced blend pet food.
NOTE: There is a small exception to this as one of my neighbors has been feeding Ang kibble, which he is barfing into neat little mounds on the driveway… I have since asked them to stop. In a future article we’ll cover the topic of dealing with neighbors who interfere with your pet’s health.