BARF! You’ve done all the research, considered all the options, and have decided to start feeding your cats BARF (Balanced Raw Cat Food) homemade cat food. You run out and buy everything you need. You spend a couple of hours getting everything just right. You put out the food…and only two of you cats start eating! The rest of them look at you as if to say ‘Where’s our food?’.
Take heart, You are not alone. Many cats initially refuse to eat new food. Cats do not like change and raw meat will be new to them. Some may resist for weeks, especially if they are used to free feeding on dry cat food. There are a few things you can do to make the transition easier for both you and your cats. Here is what we did…
First, we stopped free-feeding our cats dry cat food. They were also eating canned foods twice a day so we stopped the dry food ‘cold turkey. At first, they missed the kibble but after a couple of weeks, they were satisfied with just the canned food.
During this period, we bought some chicken thighs and breasts. We cut the meat into bite-sized chunks and began feeding it raw to our cats. This is a good way to see how your cats take to raw meats. This will also help you to see if your cats have a preference for dark meat or light meat.
We put the chunks of chicken meat in a baggy and warmed it in a sink full of warm water. We put some of it next to their canned food, like a side dish. We also provided dishes of canned food mixed with raw meat chunks. We gave them the raw meat this way for several weeks.
Some of our cats took to the raw meat right away. Others took a while before they would eat it. They would only eat the canned food with no chicken chunks in it. A few refused to eat even the canned food without the chunks if it was next to the raw meat.
For the cats that refused to eat anything, we gave them canned food they liked and fed them in another room. We started by putting one piece of raw meat in their food. Once they started eating the single piece, we started putting in two pieces, then three, and so forth until they were eating a 50-50 mix of canned food and raw meat chunks. We then let them rejoin the group at feeding time.
Once all of our cats were eating at least a 50-50 mix of canned food and raw meat, we started making the actual BARF homemade cat food.
We then mixed the homemade cat food in with the canned food at a 50-50 mix and also fed it as a side dish, placing it next to canned food mixed with raw meat chunks. After about a week, we began cutting down on the canned cat food until all of our cats were eating 100% BARF homemade cat food.
We spent about 2 months transitioning our cats to raw meat cat food. With new arrivals, we start by feeding them raw meat food. Most take to it with gusto. If a cat won’t eat the raw meat food, we mix it with canned food. If a cat continues to refuse the food, we mix it with some chicken baby food. This usually does the trick!
Before you actually start making BARF homemade cat food, you may want to try a pre-made BARF cat food. Feline’s Pride (will open a new window) uses a recipe similar to the one we use. The food is flash frozen and shipped frozen. They make chicken, turkey, Cornish hen, and duck. Start small and try a few flavors to see which ones your cats like.
We have tried all of their flavors of BARF cat food and our cats really like them. We would buy from them more frequently but, as they are on the east coast and we are on the west coast, shipping makes it too expensive to feed all of our cats Feline’s Pride foods regularly. We do get the duck from them on occasion just to give our cats some variety. They think it’s a real treat!
Another good substitute for making your own food is Prowl from Honest Kitchen. It is high in protein, healthy for your cats, and nutritionally comparable to raw meat food. It is dehydrated and can be fed as is or you can add meat, canned food, etc. as you like. The consistency is similar to baby food making it great for convalescing or older cats that have trouble chewing.
Our cats now love the BARF homemade cat food now. They prefer it to canned food. A few try to steal the raw meat as we are preparing the food. We even had one of our cats run off with an entire chicken thigh!
Whatever method you choose, transition your cats to a BARF homemade cat food slowly. Don’t be discouraged if your cats won’t eat it right away. Give them a chance to come around. They will! And soon you will be bragging about how healthy and happy they are!