It’s now time to talk about transitioning and troubleshooting when it comes to raw feeding. You must look at your companion as an individual. Each is different thus some may easily transition to raw while others take months to fully transition. It is most ideal to start your companion out on raw as young as possible. Many breeders for example nowadays are weaning their kittens, puppies and baby ferrets to raw.
There are many factors that may affect transitioning your companion to raw. It heavily can come down to personal preference of your companion.
Some companions are finicky when it comes to texture. If your companion has previously been on a kibble diet it may be strange to eat a food that isn’t dry, hard and crunchy. If your companion was previously on wet or canned food, eating food that isn’t one conglomerate texture, or a mixture of chucky and soft or one mixture with a gravy may be strange. So experiment with soup mixtures, grinds and chunks to see which your companion prefers.
Some companions may have difficulty transitioning to raw due to flavor. Wet and commercially produced dry foods often have added flavors or are sprayed with animal fats to make it appealing to our companions. Raw food is like a salad compared to kibble or wet food which is more like fast food. Often starting with a protein source that your companion likes may be a first step for companions that are picky with taste. Some companions will eat liver but prefers it to be chicken versus say venison. Every animal is different so one protein may be savored by your cat, while the dog absolutely hates it.
You may also experiment with adding fish, tripe or bone broth which may spike the taste buds.
Depending on what your companion is used to chunks and bone may be foreign to them. You may have to experiment with different sized chunks of meat, organs and bones to entice them to eat them.
Some companions simply do not like certain combinations of ingredients. Some may even not like a combination say of raw eggs mixed with sardines, but will happily eat them separate on their own. It may take some trial and error to figure out what your companion does and doesn’t like, but there are endless combinations, cuts and proteins to try.
Temperature especially in cats can make transitioning a challenge. Cats often like warm moist foods. Some companions will eat their food after it’s been served right out of the freezer, some will prefer it right from the fridge, others need it served at room temperature (which is closest to their naturally served diets)
One thing never to do is microwave the food. Microwaving and for that matter cooking can easily denature and destroy essential nutrients raw foods provide. Furthermore it can create hot spots which can burn your companions mouth. If you need to warm up the food you can add a warm bone broth or set the container of food in a lukewarm bowl of water to defrost or reach room temperature.
Some animals feel too much in the open. Raw meat is a novel item for your companion especially for those fed a commercial diet previously so they may feel competition if you have other companions. Serving meals to your companion in a separate room or in a carrier/crate can help ease your companion’s anxiety.
Deep bowls can bother cats because their whiskers are being compromised. Providing a bowl that is shallow and large, even serving on a plate is ideal for cats.
Some companions don’t even like using a bowl. Some will want to eat right on the floor often times on the carpet as it will provide more grip than a laminate kitchen floor that may cause their food to slip and slide around. Try serving food on an old towel or a textured rubber mat.
Based on observations of animal behavior, other companions in your household can influence eating behaviors. In some cases, other companions can be distracting to your companion and inhibit meal consumption. In other cases, other companions can appear to be competition and induce your companions to quickly consume their meal or hoard their food. Remember especially in the beginning you are providing a new novel food especially compared to a kibble diet.
Another common issue is companion animals not liking organs especially liver. Whether it's taste or texture this is a tricky one for most and unfortunately liver and organ meats are essential in the diet. There are several tips and tricks one can use to get their cat, dog or ferret to eat organ meats:
1. Blend together
2. Blend with egg, sardine, tripe or bone broth
3. Smear a TINY bit of wet canned food on them
4. Quickly sear them, reducing the searing little by little until they are eating it raw
5. Freeze it
6. Freeze Dried (account for moisture lost)
7. Try live from a different protein source
8. Try a thicker, less squishy liver (calf, venison, goat etc.)
9. Blitz freeze dried liver in a spice grinder and mix with 100% meat baby food (Beechnut is a great brand)
At times you may just have to be creative with serving your companions food in the beginning as they get used to a raw species appropriate diet. Eventually they will more than love this new and healthful diet!