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I am trying to change the kind of food my cat is getting, and he is refusing to eat it. He is completely healthy, he passed his last annual physical without issue.

If I give him some of the old food, he eats it no problem. But he turns up his nose at the new food. I have heard some different schools of thought on what to do.

Some say, just give him the new food when he gets hungry enough he will eat it.

But someone else told me, if the cat goes without eating for to long it can be harmful to their health.

For a normal healthy cat: Is there sometime in a battle of wills that the owner should give up and feed what the cat wants?

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Somewhat related, I'll have time to write more in a few days: pets.stackexchange.com/a/2541/224 –  Zaralynda Jun 26 at 20:16
Of course 'if the cat goes without eating for to long it can be harmful to their health'. It happens to any animal. Aka starvation. –  J. Musser Jun 27 at 2:33

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

When a cat starves, body fat is moved to the liver for processing. But the cat's liver can't handle it, and basically destroys itself. This is "Fatty Liver Disease".

So you don't want to starve a cat, as the results might be serious.

I suggest Leigh's solution to ease in the change gradually.

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Related: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketosis –  Gary Jun 26 at 23:41
if you lightly massage the part of the abdomen where the liver is located to give the fat processing a "helping hand", if you will, is it then ok to slightly starve your cat? –  coburne Jun 27 at 18:01
@coburne I have heard similar thoughts/ideas related to rabbits, can you post your comment as a separate question? –  James Jenkins Jun 27 at 19:06

When I've had to change my cats' food and they resist, I mix the old and new foods, slowly adding more of the new food, until after a few weeks, all I'm serving is the new food. In the beginning, the cat will pick-and-choose the OldFoodBits and leave the NuFoodBits behind; but gradually he'll start eating more and more of the NuFood. And the transition will be less traumatic, less chance of damaging his health. And you can also see if the new food is really really something he Absolutlely Won't Eat, or just something he needs to slowly get used to.

I know this doesn't answer the question in the heading - how long can a healthy cat go without food - but this might help you with the transition.

(Kind of like how Ebay changed their page background from its original yellow, to white. First people shrieked, so Ebay turned it back. Then they made it a shade lighter every other day until it was white...and almost no one noticed.)

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I love the analogy... but I hate that I never noticed either –  Gary Jun 26 at 23:43
That's why they did it that way. :) Fast change, people (any living thing) reacts to. Slow change? We literally don't notice it. –  Leigh Jun 26 at 23:48
+1 for mixing it in in slowly increasing ammounts-that's actually the method described on the backs of most cat food bags (if you take the time to read those). –  J. Musser Jun 27 at 2:31

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