Home & Leisure

You can change a dog's diet if you transition slowly

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

When my mother passed away, I inherited her cocker spaniel. He ate dog food as a puppy, but as an adult, she fed him table scraps. He eats green beans, baked chicken and turkey jerky, among his favorites. He is 8 years old, and I was wondering if it is too late to try to get him back on dog food? I have tried all the different products, but he just turns his nose away. I even leave it out all day thinking he'll get hungry enough. Is there anything I can do? -- Denise Boranian, Fresno, Calif.

Dear Denise,

I am sorry for your loss. It's great you could step in to care for your mother's dog. While your mom likely had the best of intentions with her dog's diet, I am glad you want to change it. Table scraps don't meet a dogs' nutritional needs and can even be bad for their health.

While he won't switch to dry food overnight, he may be receptive to wet food. Mix two tablespoons of wet food with the table scraps to start. You can try chicken, or other proteins like duck and bison, etc., that might appeal to him. Look for grain-free dog foods that are high in protein.

Gradually, and over the next month, increase the wet food and decrease the table scraps. Start with 20 percent wet food and 80 percent table scraps. By mid-month, it should be 50 percent wet food and 50 percent table scraps. By the end of the month, it should be 80 percent wet food and 20 percent table scraps. If he balks along the way, adjust the percentages and go slower.

After you have been at 80/20 for a week, give him the wet food without the table scraps one day and see how he responds. He should be ready to eat his canned food without the need for a green bean topping. If you want to switch him to dry food, which may be much tougher, follow the same process as described above with the wet and dry food. But you should at least be able to switch him over to wet food.

Dear Cathy,

I got a Manx female kitten from my daughter's barn when she was 6 weeks old. Her name is Lil Bit. I watched her use the litter box in the barn. The first night bringing her home, we stayed in a motel, and I took her litter box out of the carrying crate and let her roam around, and she went up to the baseboard of the room and peed. But she also periodically used the litter box, using the same litter she used in the barn.


I brought her home to a small Yorkie dog and a male cat who was also from the same barn three years before. They got along fine, but she peed against the baseboard of the master bedroom. I never saw her do it. She also used a litter box. As time went on, I had to pick up all the throw rugs because she peed on them. She pees on the bottom carpet of one of the cat trees. If a dishcloth is laying on the counter, she will pee on that. I just don't know why or how to stop her. We have carpet in the three bedrooms, but she only uses the master. We have tile everywhere else. She is so sweet and affectionate. otherwise. -- Bev Van Horn, Tucson, Ariz.

Dear Bev,

Her improper eliminations may have been the result of stress initially, but it sounds like Lil Bit also has elimination texture preferences, which means she likes the carpets more than the litter box. Keep towels off floors and counters so she can't pee on them. Hide laundry baskets in closets so she can't reach the clothes. And, remove all small carpets temporarily until she is trained on the litter box again.

Cats can be territorial, so add a second litter box (or even a third) to your home. The correct number of litter boxes is usually based on the number of cats in the home, plus one. Use the same litter and clean the boxes every day.

Don't change the type of litter right now since she sometimes uses the box. Instead, sprinkle a cat litter attractant (available online or at pet stores) to the litterbox to help draw her to the box. Let me know if that doesn't work so I can offer more suggestions. Thanks for being patient with her.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)




Poorly Drawn Lines Non Sequitur John Cole Michael Ramirez Mike Shelton Ed Gamble