Why Food Flexibility Is Important for Cats

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Human nutritionists tell us that food variety is an important part of maintaining a healthy diet, and yet, we don’t think twice about feeding our cats the same food, day after day. I can’t imagine that they enjoy this lack of variety any more than we would.

But in addition to the boredom factor, there are other reasons why food flexibility is important.

Why food flexibility?

  • Optimum and complete nutrition. I don’t believe that any one food can be complete and balanced for the life of a cat, no matter what the label says.
  • Decrease the risk of developing food allergies. Food allergies can develop when a cat is fed the same protein over a long period of time.
  • Prevent your cat from becoming finicky. When your cat eats food with different proteins, textures and flavors, she is less likely to become finicky and stop eating. If your brand changes its formula, is recalled or discontinued, you’ll find yourself without a ready alternative you know your cat will eat.

Feeding a flexible diet is also known as a rotation diet, or rotation feeding. You can rotate different proteins, brands and flavors on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Ideally, young kittens are introduced to a variety of foods and textures as soon as they begin eating solid food, beginning at the age of 4 months. By being exposed to variety at an early age, these cats will accept different foods, textures and flavors more easily than cats who have been fed the same food from kittenhood on.

How to feed a rotation diet

There is no right or wrong way to feed a rotation diet. You can feed one food in the morning, and a different one at night, or you can change foods weekly, or monthly.

Some cats may experience mild GI upset when changing foods – something that typically doesn’t happen when rotating grain-free canned or raw food. However, if your cat has a sensitive stomach, you can rotation feed over a period of a week by gradually mixing in some of the new food with the old and gradually reducing the amount of the old until you’re feeding only the new food.

Probiotics for a healthy gut

Probiotics are microorganisms, also knows as “friendly bacteria,” that reside in the digestive tract. They include  Lactobacillus acidophilus and other Lactobacillus species, certain strains of Bacillus, Enterococcus, Bifidobacteria, and Streptococcus. They promote a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, which is important for complete digestion and absorption of nutrients.

A healthy gut has plenty of these friendly bacteria. Problems begin when they are challenged or outnumbered by anything from use of prescription drugs, especially antibiotics, an inadequate diet, a compromised immune system, or stress. Additionally, environmental toxins such as pesticides or chemical pollutants can also damage intestinal health. Even natural events such as the aging process can impact the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Probiotics can help ward off any potential GI issues with rotation feeding. Regardless of whether you rotation feed or not, I recommend the use of a good probiotic on a daily basis. Probiotics have multiple benefits on not just the intestinal tract, but the immune system as a whole. I like Dr. Goodpet’s Feline Digestive Enzymes, (affiliate link*,) a combination of probiotics and enzymes.

How I rotation feed Allegra and Ruby

Allegra and Ruby eat mostly raw. Since they tend to love turkey above all other proteins, I rotate at least two different brands of raw turkey, and occasionally add duck or chicken. Every once in a while, I feed them some grain-free canned food, because I don’t want them to completely forget that that’s food, too (and in case of a prolonged power outage or other emergency, I wouldn’t have access to frozen raw food.)

For the brands I feed and like, please read The best food for your cat: my recommendations.

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*The Conscious Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.  

5 Comments on Why Food Flexibility Is Important for Cats

  1. Sharon
    December 7, 2018 at 2:55 am (6 days ago)

    Hello … I would be more than willing to feed my little one a raw diet, but I’ve always been told kitties new taurine in their diet. Is this true? If so, how do you give this to Ruby and Allegra?
    Thank for helping with this concern.
    Appreciatively,
    Sharon & Ami >^..^<

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 7, 2018 at 6:27 am (6 days ago)

      Yes, you are absolutely correct: taurine is critical in a cat’s diet. In nature, taurine is obtained from organ meat. I feed a commercial raw diet which already contains adequate taurine levels. You can find the brands I recommend here: https://consciouscat.net/2012/03/22/the-best-food-for-your-cat/ If you want to make your own food, you’ll need to use a proper recipe and a supplement that contains taurine.

      Reply
  2. Sue Brandes
    December 4, 2018 at 2:43 pm (1 week ago)

    Thanks for the post.

    Reply
  3. kat
    December 3, 2018 at 9:50 am (1 week ago)

    hi Ingrid, was reading this article and progressed to the recommended foods you listed. I have 3 13 yr old cats; have started feeding them weruva, bff, cats in kitchen foods. after reading the article abt the austraila situation, I’m concerned. asked forman previously abt feeding cats a diet of fish, there is fish in every meal of theirs. recently my cats are kinda turning noses up at these foods I’m feeding, dont know why, they previously liked them. cats wont eat raw diet, also cant get them to take/eat any meds, probiotics, nothing…they are way too smart! so, what would your recommendations be in these situations? two of my cats seem to have digestive problems, the problem hasnt been as bad on the weruva foods (raised w/fancy feast), doc put one on dry food for constipation (royal canin digestive fiber) but she doesnt eat that well anymore. my male does but hes gaining weight. just cant seem to get these guys to lose weight, docs dont help. I feed 2 3oz cans(or pkts) per day split 3 ways! 1/4 c each of dry. they constantly seem hungry. help! love your articles and advice.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 4, 2018 at 6:26 am (1 week ago)

      I’d be happy to schedule a consultation to give you advice specific to your situation, Kat.

      Reply

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