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 important reasons for feeding a variety of foods, also knows as the rotation diet, or rotation feeding. You can rotate different proteins, brands and flavors on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Benefits of a rotation diet

  • 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, or is recalled, you’ll find yourself without a ready alternative you know your cat will eat.

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. You can change foods weekly, or monthly. You can feed a variety of foods throughout the week.

Some cats may experience mild GI upset when changing foods, and the general recommendation is to introduce new foods slowly and gradually. Typically, rotation feeding does not cause GI problems when in a healthy cat when you’re rotating grain-free canned or raw food. 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 can help ward off any potential GI issues. 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. My favorite probiotic is Dr. Goodpet’s Feline Digestive Enzymes*, a combination of probiotics and enzymes.

How I rotation feed Allegra and Ruby

Allegra and Ruby eat a combination of raw and grain-free canned food. I rotate different brands and proteins for their meals, usually chicken, turkey and duck. Most days, they get one type of raw food in the morning and a different type of raw food in the evening. Two or three times a week, they get canned food in the evening.

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

Do you feed a variety of foods to your cat?

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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 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.

This post was first published on June 14, 2012 and has been updated.

30 Comments on Rotation Diet for Cats

  1. How does one do this with a cat on a Rx diet?
    My Baby Boy doesn’t like the Rx wet option and chows down every day.
    His house mate gets an occasional wet dish, which he ignores–so at least 1 of my babies “rotates” every so often.

  2. I surely can not speak for other people or there cats . but when I go to feed my cat other food of the 2 kinds of dry food that I feed her. she won,t eat it and goes to the canaster puts her paw on it . to tell me that she wants that food the same with the wet she just goes in the room that I keep it and stands near the shelf.

  3. A few weeks ago I began transitioning one of my cats from Royal Canin canned food to RadCat. He seemed to like it, but then suddenly stopped eating it. I thought perhaps I hadn’t transitioned him slowly enough, so I tried giving him his old food, and now he won’t eat that either! I’m not sure what to do. He is otherwise acting fine, and he shows interest in food, but clearly isn’t happy with what I am providing. Help!

    • I would try a different flavor Radcat, or a different brand of raw good. My cats used to love Radcat, but stopped eating it when Radcat changed the formula. I now feed Darwin’s, which they absolutely love.

  4. Hello Ingrid,

    How would you suggest starting food rotation with an adult (6 years old) cat ?

    It turns out our cat wasn’t doing well on moist Ziwipeak venison, at least, we hope it’s just that, but it would be too big a coincidence since we went from small, crumbly stool (Tiki Cat) to soft/blandish stool twice a day as soon as we fully transitioned him on Ziwipeak. After 6 weeks, a normal GI panel/T4 result, we decided to slowly get him off the Ziwipeak to see if his stools gets back to normal. If not, we still have the endoscopy/biopsy as a last resort. Anyways, we started the introduction to Primal raw rabbit. Not only is he not that crazy about it (hopefully, he will eventually) but I’m concerned about the bone content since he always was on the slightly constipated side before the Ziwipeak, so I’m even more eager to give him some variety if possible. How and when should I start feeding him different proteins, brands, types (raw, canned) ?

    Also, what do you think about raw bones (like Primal’s) as a treat to help with teeth cleaning ? Or is there another healthy alternative? I already clean his teeth on a regular basis but I can see that they’re not as good since I got him off kibbles.

    • This article offers tips on transitioning to a better diet:

      It’s hard to predict whether the bone content in the Primal diet will be a problem for him. I’ve found that Radcat can be a great diet for starting the transition to raw food, it does not have bone mixed in and cats seem to take to it very quickly.

      As for cleaning teeth with raw bones, it’s a good option, but I have to be honest, it exceeds my comfort level – mostly because my cats dragged the bones all over the house! Brushing is really the best way to keep your cat’s teeth healthy, and it’s not as impossible as it sounds:

      I hope this helps. I’d be happy to schedule a phone consultation with you if you’d like more detailed answers. Good luck with the transition, Jessica!

  5. Although I make my Cats raw food diet I sometimes feed commercial raw food for a change of protein, both Primal and Natures Variety make raw Venison for cats, and all of my cats consider this their favorite,… even more so than rabbit, which was their favorite before they tasted Venison…..Lol

  6. Just thought I might add….. Primal sources their rabbit in the USA, Natures Variety sources their from China. This info was given me directly from the manufacturers.

    • That is correct, Merrily. According to Nature’s Variety, they employ a US trained food scientist to oversee rabbit sourcing, but I still prefer to feed foods with no ingredients from China. I believe all other Nature’s Variety proteins are sourced in the US.

      • Hi Ingrid, first thanks for such a wonderful n educational site for r babies. Second, Vera has tummy issues n been trying her on the Nature’s Variety Instant chik, beef n turkey as well as Merrik. She will up chuck them sometimes so I try to feed her small amounts at a time since she is 12-13yrs old. I just bought 2 small cans of the Solulistic chicken n she kept wanted more n more. I was for sure she would be upchucking but not one bit, Yippy!!! I guess I will try n get some more for her. She could use some weight on her too for she has lost a few lbs. I am afraid try Lamb for it may be too greasy for her tummy. What do you think?

        • Thank you for your kind words about my site, Debbie. I’m glad the Soulistic is working for Vera. It is pretty low in calories, so you’ll have to increase the amount you feed her since weight is an issue for her. Also, if you’re not already doing so, I would add a good probiotic to her food every day. My go to product is I’m not sure about lamb for her. It tends to be higher in fat, but for most cats, that’s not a problem.

          • Thanks Ingrid, I got the lamb confused with the duck for I think the duck is too much on her tummy. I also got her started on the Bene-Bac Plus. May have to get the one u recommend if this one don’t help.

  7. I have always fed my cats a variety of food. I never knew it had a name…rotation diet! I don’t like to eat the same thing every day, so I figure my cats don’t either. They all get different varieties of grain-free canned food (I tried raw at one time, but Wally turned his nose up to it, so I went back to canned). The boys do get some grain-free dry food…that I would like to stop…but they beg for it, and I haven’t the heart to say no.


    • I feed my 2 6 yr. old female felines, Mollie and Beckie, a variety of chicken, turkey and vegetables. Canned ProPlan. If they don’t like what i’m serving, they won’t eat or they will eat dry food. Not only sisters, but twins named after my mother and her twin sister.

  8. My kitty gets all the flavors of Rad Cat … chicken, turkey and lamb. Plus, he gets probably about 4 meals per week that are from canned foods … venison, variety of fish, rabbit, beef.

    I’m not picky (neither is my cat!) about the flavor, but I am very picky about the ingredients in the can!

  9. Allie’s on a raw food diet too and she occasionally expresses interest in the canned grain free the boys eat. I like the thought of keeping her in touch with canned in case the power goes out – hadn’t thought of that!

    Once the craziness of my summer workload dies down (September-ish) I’m going to try to get the boys moved over to raw. At least they’re fully grain free.

    I rotate foods too, mainly because I’m afraid that some day, Allie will suddenly decide she doesn’t like the frozen raw nuggets any more – and then where will I be?

    I buy 3 different flavors of raw nuggets, dump them all out on my counter, and rearrange them in their bags so they’re all mixed flavors.

    I second Jenny’s question – where do you get rabbit?

  10. Hello,
    Thank you for your information posts!
    I always thought it was important to vary the food our cats eat (we wouldn’t eat the same thing everyday over and over so why would they?).
    One of our three cats is on a strict diet of S/O urinary though (has been for several years now) and every time he eats a bit of something else, he has severe urinary problems. But of course, lately, he’s been reluctant to eat. We tried dry and wet S/O, dry in water S/O, it worked for a couple of weeks, but then it is evident that he eats reluctantly.
    The food for our other two cats is out of his reach but he always asks for it. Vets have been telling us that there is no other food option. But it pains me to see him eat reluctantly(he would meow and meow again to us for food and only touch his food when he sees that’s the only option).
    Would you have any suggestion?
    Thanks in advance!

    • No food is a good option if your cat won’t eat it, Carine. Since you said that he had severe urinary problems in the past whenever he stopped eating the S/O, I’m hesitant to recommend switching him to a regular, grain-free canned diet. I would suggest working with a holistic vet on formulating a diet that works for his urinary issues. Dr. Lisa Pierson offers remote consults, she may be a good option if you don’t have access to holistic vets locally.

      In the meantime, to try to entice him to eat at all, you can try mixing a little bit of tuna juice in with the S/O, or sprinkle some crumbled up freeze dried chicken treats on top of his food. Some people also have good luck with grated Parmesan cheese to entice finicky eater.

      • Thanks a lot!
        I will indeed try the tuna juice that I gave to one of our other cats before. Should have thought about it! And look into the holistic vet option.
        Thanks again 🙂

  11. Oh boy do I. Hanx gets freeze dried raw, regular raw, grain free canned and budget friendly grain free pouches. He rotates between maybe 4-6 brands of food and a myriad of textures. If he ever gets finnecky I will be baffled!

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