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Answers: Getting Kitty to Like Chunky

Updated: Saturday, June 01, 2019 02:38 PM
Published: Saturday, July 17, 2010 02:01 PM
Written by Margaret Gates

Question: I recently adopted two kittens raised on raw cat food, and switched my adult cat, too. They seem to like it, but will not eat the chunks. I was wondering, do you think it is okay to just make all-ground for now and start adding small chunks? Also, I remember reading somewhere that some people freeze salmon or tuna cubes for them to gnaw on. Do you think this is a good idea?

It's great that all of your kitties are on a raw cat food diet! Getting cats that are not used to chunks to eat them can be challenging. They may avoid the chunks because they are unfamiliar – many cats are resistant to changes in their diet. Cats that have been eating dry and canned food or even all-ground raw food, have never had to do much chewing. They may avoid the chunks for the simple reason that they aren't used to having to "work" to eat their food. Chewing is important, though, and we encourage pet parents to make the effort to get their cats to eat whole foods. Gnawing on meats and small bones not only exercises their jaws, but also helps to improve dental health overall. It's worth the effort to convince your cat that chunks are the best part of their dinner.

Try adding very small chunks at first. Cut the pieces so small that they won't really notice them mixed in with the ground. Start with matchstick-sized pieces. Tip: it's easier to cut small pieces if the meat is still partially frozen. Get them used to eating these little pieces for a week or so. Then slowly increase the size. If they'll eat this slightly larger size, feed that chunk size for another week and then increase the size a little again. Plan on making gradual increases in chunk size over a few months. Take your time – this may be a big change for them.

Try different meats. I have a couple of cats that won't touch whole chicken pieces, but love pork chunks. Try different kinds of chunks. For chicken, you can try breast, gizzards, hearts, wings, livers and necks. Same for turkey, although avoid feeding larger bones. Many cats like pork loin, pork hearts, beef, beef liver or beef kidneys. Rabbit is a favorite if you can get whole cuts. You may be able to ease your cat into eating chunks by starting with a meat she particularly likes.

You can also try a bribe coating as an incentive to get your cats to start chewing on chunks. I have had some success using this method with chicken wings. Things like dried bonito flakes or Parmesan cheese work well. Just drop the meat into a baggie with the bribe and coat it. Kind of like Shake 'n Bake® without the bake!

Cats that get used to chewing and gnawing on whole foods will be willing to tackle surprisingly large pieces. This makes sense, as cats in the wild will hunt rabbits and large rodents and have no trouble making a meal out of a pretty big whole animal.

As for feeding frozen fish cubes, be careful about anything that is frozen hard as ice. This could be dangerous for your cat's teeth. If your cat will eat the food in its frozen state, you could try this as an occasional treat, but watch for stomach upset. Cats usually prefer their food slightly warm – think mouse body temperature. If you choose to feed salmon, it should be wild caught. Farmed salmon are often heavily dosed with antibiotics to deal with their overcrowded environment. Antibiotics can remain in the fish after harvesting.¹ Tuna is not recommended. There are too many possible contaminants such as heavy metals and PCBs in these top-of-the-food-chain predatory fish.² Sardines are a good fish to feed on occasion as they are full of omegas and much less likely to have contaminants than predatory, longer-lived fish.³

Note: Feline Nutrition provides feline health and nutrition information as a public service. Diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions should always be in consultation with your own veterinarian. Feline Nutrition disclaims all warranties and liability related to the veterinary advice and information provided on this site.

Margaret Gates is the founder of the Feline Nutrition Foundation.

1. "U.S. FDA Reports Show Unapproved Chemicals Used by Largest Chilean Salmon Farms," The Pew Charitable Trusts, February 5, 2009.

2. "Histamines in Fish," Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia, 2000.

"PCBs in Fish and Shellfish," Environmental Defense Fund, August 2005.

"Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish," U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

3. Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish," U.S. Food and Drug Administration.