If raw food seems like a good idea, but you worry that your pet won’t take to a raw food diet, read on! The benefits of a raw food diet can be astounding, and if you make the commitment and persevere, your pet can greatly benefit from your efforts. Here are some tips to get you started:
Take Your Time – Incorporating raw food into your pet’s diet is a big step, and your pet’s digestive system and palate need time to adjust to the change. Plan to transition your pet over a 2-4 week timeframe, depending on how picky your pet is and the state of their health. Gradually increase the proportions of new to old food so your pet’s system has time to adjust. If you are concerned about your pet not getting enough to eat while they are trying raw food, alternate meals, giving raw in the morning (when appetite is keenest and pets are usually most open to whatever you offer) and give the usual canned or dry at night.
Skip the Stress! – Some pet parents unknowingly ruin the “fair trial” experiment with new foods with their own anxiety. Your pet picks up on your mood and subtle body language signals when you offer them a new food. If you are feeling anxious or worried, your pet may think, “Mom sure is worried about this food – now I’m a little worried myself!” Not every pet will like every food, but remember to act and talk positively when you are giving your pet a new healthy food. Say “Oooh, what a lucky one you are! You get some raw food today!” Then retreat from the kitchen and let your pet try out your offering without your hovering anxiously nearby!
Taste Test First – You don’t have to go all out and buy pre-packaged raw pet food from the get-go! Try giving your pet a small bit of raw meat when you are preparing meat for family meals – this can give you an idea of how receptive your pet may be to a raw food diet. Try different meats and see if your pet has a preference. Often a pet that dislikes raw beef will take to raw turkey or chicken. Many cats prefer small “game” meats like chicken, duck or rabbit that are most like what their wild ancestors ate.
Whet Your Pet’s Appetite – If your pet is used to free feeding (having dry food left out all day), start by cutting back to two or three meals per day. This is healthier for your pet’s digestive system, and will increase your pet’s appetite – and usually, their willingness to try whatever you put down at meal time. You can also try adding a tasty “topper” to encourage your pet to try something new. We have many excellent freeze-dried treats and our Only Natural Pet Health Meals Freeze-Dried Patties that can be crumbled on top or mixed in with raw food to get them more interested. Also, canned tripe foods or freeze-dried tripe treats can help whet your companion’s appetite for raw or any new food. Even just a tasty natural canned food can do the trick. We especially like Merrick, Nature’s Variety, Natura (Innova & California Natural) and Weruva for fresh flavors that help pets transition to raw foods.
Take Baby Steps – Especially for picky pets, a change to raw food may best be done gradually. Start out slow, and try mixing a bit of raw meat into your pet’s usual canned food or kibble. Many pets will accept raw food more easily if you warm it up, or even cook it lightly first by pan searing the outside to release the aroma. Over time, you can cook it less until your pet accepts it raw. Also, consider that raw doesn’t just have to be meat. Many dogs and some cats eat salad greens – especially when tossed with a bit of salmon oil or canned food “dressing.” Try fresh or steamed veggies and even fruits – we know of one cat that is crazy for cantaloupe! Keep trying – the results are worth it!
Raw food can enhance your pet’s quality of life and overall health, and help them live a longer life. It’s easy to take our pets for granted, and investing in a raw food diet is one of the best ways to give back to your pet for all of the love they give you every day.