Cats have a natural distrust of new foods, so don't take it personally if yours snub healthy food at first. Take a step back, and look critically at just why your cats don't seem to care that you almost dislocated your shoulder wielding a cleaver/hatchet to chop meat and/or built up muscles like Popeye stirring meat and what not for them. Bottom line with cats there are 3 practical reasons for lack of acceptance aside from general suspicion related to change -- smell, taste, and texture.
Smell - Are they not fond or the particular type of meat or is there an addition putting them off?
Even meat that smells fine to us could perhaps not be fresh enough for their sensitive noses to pick up on it. If making food at home, spring for the freshest meat possible, and if buying pre-made, check with suppliers/distributors/retail outlet to ensure this. One of the reasons pre-made food in particular can put off cats is the time it takes for it to get from manufacturer to your cat's plate.
Any additions to the mix e.g. strong-smelling vegetables such as asparagus, cruciferous (broccoli, cauliflower etc.) which some cats love can turn some cats off even if it's just the recommended <5% of the mix.
Supplements especially strong-smelling ones such as B-Complex, and certain brands of fish oil can also be off-putting as well for some cats. (Note: freezing seems to blunt the Vit B smell, and if you cat hates fisn oil, consider krill oil, which some cats including mine, love)
All this of course means if one can't even get a kitty to approach their food bowl, it's game over. However, all is not lost. This is where bribe foods or condiments as John and I refer to them, come in . These can be sprinkled on top or mixed in food. Check for ideas here.
One can also lightly cook the meat on the outside, or mix with more recognizable smellier food e.g. canned/kibble for a slower transition.
Texture - Cat preferences for ground vs whole small critters vs bone-in cut-up pieces of larger animals
Suddenly plonk a mouse or piece of bone-in meat on a kibble head's plate and most times, they'll make you feel like a big fat idiot A kibblehead in all likelihood's going to balk at being presented food that not only doesn't stink but also looks and feels different.
Also, some cats don't like ground food especially if it's been ground too finely making it gummy. In cases like this, there is no point in replicating canned food. For cats like these, either use the largest-holed plate on your grainder to make the mix coarsely ground. Next, try small pieces of raw or lightly cooked boneless meat from various animals.
Once they accept boneless chunks, they can graduate to bone-in pieces e.g. necks, or even mice and small birds such as quail. In other words, you can simply skip canned and move straight from dry to raw.
Taste - Type of meat/animal, ground-up bones vs boneless, and additions to meat in the mix.
If you lose on points 1 and 2, then 3 is moot of course because they're not even going to deign to give your (non)cooking a chomp let alone a lick. But if you are lucky enough to get to #3, now consider the mix of veggies/fiber course you put in + any supplements. Some cats hate veggies others dislike psyllium, so adjust your recipe accordingly.
Also experiment with various meats whether feeding ground or whole because cats have different tastes; some love rabbit and others won't touch it. You'll soon find out what gets your kitty's juices going.
At any stage, don't consider yourself a failure if you have to encourage your cat to eat. To that end, check out the article on treats/bribes.
No one ever said it was going to be easy though it is just that with some cats, thank goodness. But it'll be worth it as it will pay rich dividends - healthy kitties brimming with good health and energy:)
Don't give up! Need help? Check the Well-Fed section of our site and join us at the Holisticat Forum to keep up with all things cat.
And remember to never let a cat miss more than 2 meals. Make that 1 meal for an overweight cat. On my list/forum, we have seen problems (particularly related to the liver) if cats don't eat.
More crazy ideas
And how about using some of their own cat rules to foil them? For example, we all know that when food falls off a plate, the increase in taste is exponential. It just has to be chased around and pounced on, and when it is captured, it is wicked tasty. However, had the mouse/food stayed on the plate all along it would have been just okay.
Ditto if food is stolen from a kitty sibling, or is caught vs. served on a plate. If feeding ground, you can make meatballs, then roll one on the plate a bit, and eventually have it fall off so it catches their attention. One of mine (Pigpen) would only eat necks if I wrapped a string around it so she could play with it like her favorite toy 'Da Bird'.
If your cat prefers playing with mice, tie a string around a real (not live, frozen) mouse/critter/RMB and watch it arouse your cat’s prey instinct.
Also experiment with food temperature, size/shape of food plate/bowl, and soupiness of food. All seemingly minor things that aren't so for cats. Last but not least, try begging. Just kidding, what I mean is think positive. Don't assume your cat won't like his/her food, be positive. Prepare and present the food not just with love but also confidence.
What have you got to lose by trying any or all of the above other than looking like a dope? Hey your cat won’t care, so go for it!