How to Put Your Cat in the Carrier
How to Put Your Cat on a Limited Ingredient Diet
A limited ingredient diet is used to diagnose food allergies in cats and dogs. The ingredients most likely to cause food allergies in cats are protein sources: beef, milk products, chicken, and fish. Food allergies can make a cat feel very itchy around its head and neck.Although feeding your cat a limited ingredient diet will take time and patience, this diet will help you identify and eliminate the ‘culprit’ ingredient so your cat can feel less itchy.
Choosing a Limited Ingredient Diet
Talk with your vet.A limited ingredient diet has ingredients to which your cat is not allergic. For cats, this diet typically contains a novel protein, which is a protein your cat has not eaten before. Examples of potentially novel proteins are venison (deer) and kangaroo meat.When you talk with your vet, tell them the protein source in each food you have fed your cat. That way, your vet can recommend a diet with a novel protein for your cat.
- Your vet will need to knowallof the proteins your cat has eaten, not just the one in your cat’s current diet.
- Novel proteins are not the same for all cats. For example, venison may be novel to one cat, but not to another cat.
Purchase a prescription diet through your vet.Prescription limited ingredient diets are available through your vet. Most of these prescription diets are specially formulated to contain a novel protein. Some prescription diets, though, may contain a hydrolyzed non-novel protein instead. A hydrolyzed protein is broken down into parts that are too small for the immune system to detect.
- A hydrolyzed diet would be good if your cat has already eaten a variety of proteins.
- Prescription diets may also contain a novel carbohydrate source.However, because carbohydrates usually don’t cause food allergies in cats, a novel carbohydrate is not necessary.
- Prescription diets are more expensive than commercial diets. However, prescription diets are manufactured more carefully, meaning they are less likely to be contaminated with common protein sources.
Do not select a commercial diet.Commercial diets are those that you can purchase at a pet store without a prescription from your vet. Although commercial diets are less expensive than prescription diets, their ingredient labels are not as reliable—the company making the cat food may change the ingredients without actually changing the ingredient label.
- If the ingredients are changed, but the label stays the same, the commercial food could contain common protein sources that could worsen your cat’s food allergy.
- Commercial cat food bags may be labeled with words like ‘natural’ or ‘organic.’ Do not be fooled by these terms—the food may still contain allergy-inducing proteins.
- If prescription diets are too expensive for you, your vet may be able to recommend a high-quality commercial limited ingredient diet.
Talk with your vet about homemade diets.A homemade limited ingredient diet would allow you to know exactly what you are feeding to your cat.As with prescription or commercial diets, the homemade diet would contain a novel protein. Your vet would be able to recommend which protein to feed your cat. Purchase the protein source from your local grocery store.
- Be aware that, if your cat is used to eating dry food, it may not want to eat pieces of real meat or fish.If your cat eats canned food, then switching to pieces of real meat or fish may not be a problem.
- Making a homemade diet could be time consuming. If you do not have a lot of extra time, consider feeding your cat a prescription or high-quality commercial limited ingredient diet instead.
- Because homemade diets may be missing important nutrients, they should not be fed for the long term.
- If you have a young cat, consult with your vet before feeding it a homemade limited ingredient diet. Your vet may recommend a prescription or commercial diet to ensure your cat gets all the nutrients it needs as it grows into an adult.
Feeding the Limited Ingredient Diet to Your Cat
Introduce the new diet gradually.Cats are very routine oriented. Suddenly changing your cat’s diet could be stressful to your cat. In addition, quickly changing the diet could upset your cat’s digestive system and make your cat sick. To ensure a smooth transition, take at least one week to switch your cat from its original food to the limited ingredient diet.To make the transition:
- Add a small amount of the new diet to the old diet.
- Every few days, increase the amount of the new diet and lessen the amount of the old diet. Continue until your cat is eating only the new diet.
- If your cat doesn’t seem to like the new diet, increase the amount of the new diet more slowly.
Feed only the limited ingredient diet.This is very important! The only way to identify the allergy-inducing ingredient is to completely eliminate all allergy-inducing ingredients, then reintroduce them after the food allergy symptoms have improved. Once the transition period is complete, discontinue all treats, supplements, or flavored medications.
- Do not give your cat any table scraps.
- The flavored supplements or medications could contain the ingredient causing your cat’s food allergies.
- Talk to your vet if you don’t know whether your cat’s supplements or medications are flavored. If your cat takes a flavored medication that it can’t do without (e.g., thyroid medication), ask your vet if there’s a non-flavored formulation of the medication.
Feed the limited ingredient diet for at least eight weeks.Your cat will need to be on the limited ingredient diet for at least eight weeks, but may need to be on it for up to about twelve weeks.Your vet will determine how long your cat should be on the diet. Eight weeks may seem like a long time, but it may take at least that long for your cat’s symptoms to improve.
- If your cat’s symptoms are severe, the limited ingredient diet may not be enough to resolve them. If this is the case, your vet will prescribe a skin treatment (e.g., topical antibiotics) that you will use while your cat is on the diet.
Watch for improvement of symptoms.If your cat has a food allergy, its symptoms will start to improve as it eats the limited ingredient diet. You will see this improvement (less itching around head and neck) one to nine weeks after you start feeding the new diet.If there is some improvement, your vet may recommend feeding the diet for another few weeks to see how much the symptoms can improve. If symptoms don’t improve at all after about eight weeks, then a food allergy is unlikely.
- If the limited ingredient diet is not effective, you can discontinue feeding it to your cat. Your vet will test for other allergies to determine the cause of your cat’s itchiness.
Rechallenging with the Old Diet
Decide whether to rechallenge.To rechallenge, you would feed your cat its old diet to see if the allergy symptoms come back. If they come back with the old diet, the rechallenge confirms the presence of a food allergy. Once the food allergy is confirmed, you would feed the limited ingredient diet again to make the symptoms go away.
- Since a rechallenge could cause a cat to become itchy all over again, some cat owners prefer to skip the rechallenge and keep their cat on the limited ingredient diet.
- You may not want to make your cat itchy again. However, without the rechallenge, you would not know exactly which ingredient caused the allergy, making it difficult to figure out the ideal diet for your cat.
Rechallenge with one ingredient at a time.To figure out which protein source caused the allergy, add back one ingredient at a time. Ingredients to add back include chicken, beef, and fish. Add one ingredient every two weeks, since it can take anywhere from two days to two weeks for allergy symptoms to reappear.
- You will likely need to use fresh meat for the rechallenge. Your vet can give you specific instructions on how much of the protein source to add back to the diet.
Watch for food allergy symptoms.Each time you add an individual ingredient back to your cat’s diet, observe your cat for itchiness around the head and neck.Whether the symptoms reappear will let you know which protein source is causing the allergy. Continue adding the ingredients until the symptoms reappear.
Feed your cat a diet without the protein allergen.Once you and your vet have identified which protein source is causing the food allergy, you can select a diet for your cat that does not have that protein source.If you can afford it, you could feed a prescription diet without that protein source. Or, your vet could recommend a high-quality commercial diet.
- If you want to keep your cat on a homemade diet after the allergy-inducing ingredient has been identified, seek nutritional guidance from a veterinary nutritionist.
QuestionWhat is the average weight for a Bombay cat? My cat is 13.2.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe average weight for a Bombay cat is 2.5 kg to 5.4 kg. Your cat is more than double the average weight. Maybe you could cut back how much food you give it daily. Or feeding your cat only canned or raw food has been shown to help cats lose weight, A ratio of 50% wet food to 50% dry also works well.Thanks!
- Food allergies are the third most common type of allergy in cats, behind flea and environmental allergies.
- Because cats are reluctant to change their diets, it may be difficult for you to put your cat on a limited ingredient diet.
- Even if you remove one protein source from your cat’s diet, your cat could become allergic to another type of protein over time.
- Limited ingredient diets can be nutritionally unbalanced. Fortunately, adult animals on a limited ingredient diet will not become nutrient deficient, as long as the diet is not fed for the long term.
- Grains are an uncommon source of food allergies for cats and dogs. Therefore, cat food labeled as ‘grain-free’ will not benefit your cat if your cat has food allergies. The ‘grain-free’ labeling is more about marketing than nutritional benefit.
- Do not force your cat to eat the limited ingredient diet by starving it (not allowing it to eat its old diet). If you starve your cat, it could develop serious liver disease.
- Do not rotate between diets to try to prevent a food allergy. Rotating between diets would expose your cat to a lot of different proteins, making it difficult to find a limited ingredient diet with a novel protein.
Video: How To Get Your Cat Into a Pet Carrier
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