Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: July 14, 2023 by Crystal Uys
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.
Featured Image Credit: Snowice_81, Shutterstock
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.