The Truth About Dry Cat Food

dry-cat-food

Grocery and pet store shelves abound with a dizzying array of cat food.  For decades, kibble has been the preferred choice for most cat owners. After all, the bags say it’s “complete and balanced,” it’s easy to feed, and most cats seem to like it. Unfortunately, dry cat food, even the high-priced premium and veterinary brands, is the equivalent of junk food for cats. Feeding dry food to cats is no different than feeding sugared cereals to kids.

Cats are obligate carnivores

This means they need meat to survive.  They cannot get enough nutritional support from plant-based proteins such as grains and vegetables, because, unlike humans and dogs, they lack the specific enzyme that processes plant-based proteins metabolically.  They need little or no carbohydrates in their diet.  Feeding foods high in carbohydrates leads to any number of degenerative diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Free choice feeding leads to obesity

Many pet owners feed dry food because it can be left out during the day without spoiling while the cat is left at home alone. This method of free choice feeding is one of the leading contributors to obesity in cats.  Cats, by nature, are hunters, and it does not make sense that they should need access to food 24 hours a day. Feeding two or more small meals a day mimicks their natural hunting behavior much closer, and by feeding controlled portion sizes rather than leaving food out all day long, calorie intake, and weight, can be controlled without the cat going hungry.

Dry food is the leading cause behind most urinary tract problems

Dry food is the leading cause behind most urinary tract problems in cats. While cats who eat only dry food will generally drink more water, they still don’t get enough moisture to support all their bodily functions and essentially live in a constant state of low level dehydration, which can lead to bladder and kidney problems.

Dry food can lead to diabetes

Due to the high carbohydrate content, dry food dumps unnaturally high levels of sugar into the cat’s bloodstream, which can lead to an imbalance of its natural metabolic process. In extreme cases, this can, and often does, lead to diabetes.

Dry food does not clean teeth

The myth that dry food cleans teeth is one that just won’t die. Most cats don’t chew their kibble long enough for any of the scraping action that is the theory behind this myth to kick in. What little they do chew shatters into small pieces. Some pet food manufacturers offer a “dental diet” that is made up of larger than normal sized kibble to encourage chewing, but in my years at veterinary practices, I’ve seen many cats swallow even those larger size pieces whole. Additionally, dry food actually leaves a carbohydrate residue in the cat’s mouth that actually encourages growth of tartar and plaque.

Eliminate all dry food from your cat’s diet

The one best thing you can do for your cat is to stop feeding dry food and feed a meat based, grain-free raw, homemade or canned diet which is consistent with the needs of a carnivore.

You may find that some cats are very difficult to wean off dry food, further supporting the junk food analogy. They’re literally addicted to the carbs and additives used in these diets. During the manufacturing process, substances called “digests” (fermented by-products of meat processing with no nutritional value) are sprayed on the outside of the kibble to make it more palatable to the cat.  Most cats wouldn’t touch dry food if it wasn’t for these flavor enhancers.  For these hard-core addicts, you will need to transition them to a healthier diet somewhat slowly.  Never let a cat go without food for more than 24 hours.

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125 Comments on The Truth About Dry Cat Food

  1. Ace
    April 15, 2011 at 9:45 am (6 years ago)

    Cats in the wild eat the whole animal — bones, stomach and intestinal contents and all– this way they get their roughage, their beneficial bacteria and their meat.

    Domestic cats NEED meat — and the better canned foods on the shelves of your grocery store (! yes there are some good ones there, for folks watching their budget) or pet stores, DO have alot of the proper nutrition that cats NEED to LIVE a normal life.

    Would you send your kids to school with 8 hours worth of dry cereal and expect them to grow properly? If you did that they would become obese, face diabetes and possibly kidney problems Then why feed your cat dry food? There is barely enough nutrition in that food already — the corn is an allergen, the sprayed-on flavor is only there to make it palatable; if your cat shuns wet food, just add some to the dry food and gradually add more and more.

    My cats get two meals a day of wet food– I even add a little water to their food so they get more hydration. As for Dental Diet– it MAY be helpful — but all I give them is THREE pieces (which DO seem to help with the tartar) with each wet-food meal — I’ve seen how they can get Impacted from eating too much dry dental food.

    To their wet food I sometimes add Digestive Enzymes for Cats — or else a little olive or cod liver oil — or powdered vitamin C. Is this too much work? NO– I have 2 jobs but I make time to do this twice a day for my cats– after all I have to feed myself and that is much more of a chore than feeding a pet.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 15, 2011 at 10:45 am (6 years ago)

      Ace, I often use the sugared dry cereal analogy when I explain this to cat parents. What pediatrician would tell you to feed your kid one brand of dry cereal for the rest of his life, right?

      Reply
  2. michael hendrick
    March 31, 2011 at 4:54 pm (6 years ago)

    so why does the vet tell me my cat has urinary problems from canned food and that i should keep her on all dry food. this is a professional i have been taking my cats to since 1986…my cats like the canned food but since i got them off it, there are no more clear puddles of urine on the floor when i wake up…can you explain why canned may be a bad thing?
    btw, there are some good, organic dry foods out there that cats love and are not junk food…
    please reply because this bugs me a lot…i want my cats to be healthy!!!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 31, 2011 at 5:32 pm (6 years ago)

      Michael, there are quite a few studies that show that increased water consumption helps prevent urinary problems in cats. Since cats tend to not drink a lot of water, feeding canned food is the easiest way to increase their water consumption.

      As you can see in my article, there are many reasons why dry good is not good for cats, the dehydration issue is only one of them. And while some dry foods are better than others, they’re still too high in carbohydrates to meet the dietary requirements of an obligate carnivore.

      If your vet’s recommendations work for your cats, then you should probably stick with that. It is, however, counterintuitive to everything I’ve come to learn about feline nutrition, and it’s also the opposite of what every vet I’ve ever worked with recommends in these cases.

      Reply
  3. Teri and the cats of Curlz and Swirlz
    March 31, 2011 at 3:30 pm (6 years ago)

    Concatulations on the recognition of a great educational article! My 5 cats made the transition this year to all canned twice a day feedings with not much whining at all. I feed them about a tablespoon of dry a day as a treat (I call it chumming for cats as I toss a spoonful on the floor and they all grab for it, hahameow!). I feel so much better knowing I am now feeding as a cat should be fed, not as ‘marketing’ or habit or fear of change would dictate.

    Ps: I caught a typo: ‘constant state of low level dehydration, which can lead to bladder and *kindey* problems.’

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 31, 2011 at 4:08 pm (6 years ago)

      Thanks, Terri! When I first switched to grain-free canned and raw food, I still used dry treats for a little while, but I’ve since started using freeze-dried chicken and salmon as treats. They’re crunchy, but they’re pure protein, and Allegra goes nuts for them.

      Thanks for catching the typo – fixed!

      Reply
  4. Laurel
    March 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm (6 years ago)

    What do you do about cats who won’t/can’t eat canned cat food? Two of my cats love it, but another one won’t touch it and his sister throws up every time she eats the canned variety.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm (6 years ago)

      Laurel, it can take a long time to transition some cats to canned food. For the one who won’t touch it, have you tried gradually mixing it in with his dry food? If he won’t touch the dry food that way, I’d keep offering a small amount of canned food in a separate dish next to his dry food every day – a teaspoon is enough. You may end up throwing it out for quite some time, but eventually, he may decide he’ll eat it. I’ve heard of stories of people doing this for months before the cat finally realized that hmm, maybe this IS better for me!

      For the girl who throws up each time she eats canned food, my question would be which type of canned food are you feeding? Typically, this doesn’t happen with grain-free food.

      Reply
  5. Dee
    March 14, 2011 at 11:55 am (6 years ago)

    I think this post should be recommended reading for all cat owners.

    I have three cats, two males and their mom. They’re all adult cats now. In between their regular wet food meals, we were giving them dry food snacks. One of them became overweight, then developed Urinary Tract Disease and had to be rushed to the ER. The crystals in his tract blocked him completely, and he was in agony b/c he couldn’t pee. The doctor was going to operate (which would have cost us between 6 and 8 grand). Just before the operation, the cat peed.

    Both vets I took him to said the cause was the dry food. They said wet food is what they’re supposed to have, and dry food is both fattening and leads to blockage, which can be fatal, especially for male cats.

    I have eliminated the dry food snacks from my kitties’ diet (they will complain, but they WILL get used to diet changes you impose). Now, my cats are healthy, they’ve lost weight, and their urinary tracts haven’t been a problem since. Like Ingrid said, the extra expense of wet food is worth it when you consider vet bills and ERs.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm (6 years ago)

      I always love hearing stories of cats whose health improved after dry food was eliminated from their diet. I’m so glad to hear your two completely recovered and are now thriving, Dee.

      Reply
  6. Florence
    March 7, 2011 at 10:07 am (6 years ago)

    Great. Thanks so much!

    Reply
  7. Florence
    February 24, 2011 at 6:10 pm (6 years ago)

    California Naturals has recently come out with a grain free dry food. what are your thoughts about this new product? I know that dry foods are not ideal for cats and mine do get wet food twice a day as a sort of treat, but there are too many to feed only wet food – some slowly nibble and some inhale theirs and try to move onto their neighbors portion – and i only have two hands! I’ve had cats all of my life and most of the ones I had growing up ate whatever dry food was on sale at the grocery store. Unless they met with untimely demises, they all grew to very ripe old ages and did not get morbidly obese or have urine crystals like cats seem to suffer from these days. Did dry cat food of the 1970s contain more meat or approriate protein and very little carbs compared to the cat foods on the market today? It doesn’t make much sense that what I would consider cats of middle age (9-10) seem to be suffering from more ailments these days. It’s just very puzzling. Do you have any thoughts or opinions about this?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm (6 years ago)

      I don’t think cats are suffering from more diseases now than they did in the 70s, I think veterinary medicine has become more advanced and illness is diagnosed earlier and more accurately now.

      We know so much more about nutrition, both for cats and humans, now than we did in the 70’s, and that’s probably changed how commercial foods are manufatured now compared to thirty or forty years ago.

      If you have to feed dry food, and I understand that in some situations, it’s the only solution, both logistically and economically, grain-free is the best choice. However, not all grain-free foods are created equal. Take a careful look at the labels. With more and more pet food manufacturers jumping on the grain-free band wagon, some are cutting corners (protein is more expensive than grains) and they’re substituting other carbs for the grains in those diets, such as potoatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas, etc. While they may be slightly better than grains, these diets are still too high in carbs to be considered ideal for an obligate carnivore like the cat.

      Reply
      • Florence
        February 25, 2011 at 9:17 am (6 years ago)

        Thanks. I understand that with the strides made in medicine and the knowledge gained in th last 35 years, that animals should be much, much healthier and living much longer lives these days. I just don’t see it happening that way. Perhaps there was more meat protein at less carbohydrates in pet food long ago. I noticed that the CN grain free has peas listed as an ingredient, which would probably raise the protein percentage and as well as the carbs, but I guess there isn’t any way to determine what percentage of protein comes from meat vs. pea, is there? Do you know if there are any websites or other resources that would list the approximate carb content of foods? Even an approximation would be a good guide. Thanks for your insights.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          February 25, 2011 at 10:39 am (6 years ago)

          The best way to calculate approximate carbohydrate content is to add all of the listed nutrients and subtract the total from 100% – this will give you a fairly accurate number.

          There’s a site with a comprehensive listing of widely available canned cat foods with carbohydrate contents, but it appears that the information on the chart has not been updated since 2008, and ingredients for some brands may have changed. Here’s the link: http://binkyspage.tripod.com/CanFoodNew.html

          Reply
  8. Diana
    January 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm (6 years ago)

    Just when it seems I have a good plan in action, I read something disturbing… 🙁

    Earlier today, I was chatting with some fellow Ragdoll owners about food, and mentioned that I had recently switched my boy over to Wellness Core dry (grain-free), with occasional treats of the Wellness Core wet (canned or bagged, also grain-free). He has been doing very well on it, since I changed a few months ago, and he likes it.

    Someone, however, suggested that I Google “Wellness Core” and “struvite crystals”, as she had been doing some research on the subject. I did… and what I read has me very, very worried. There seems to be considerable anecdotal evidence that the high level of ascorbic acid in Wellness’ foods may be causing an excessive amount of urinary crystals to form, resulting in many cases of dangerous urinary blockages.

    Could this be a likely cause-&-effect, given the amounts of certain key ingredients in the food? And, if so, what would you recommend as a better option? My boy is, of course, worth more than gold to me, and I only want to take care of him in the absolute best ways possible!

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 17, 2011 at 6:42 pm (6 years ago)

      Diana, anecdotal evidence is always a tricky thing, you have to carefully consider the source before making up your mind. I know it’s frustrating, especially since there is so little research on species-appropriate foods for cats.

      I just don’t like dry food for cats at all, not even the grain-free varieties (and CORE is one of the best ones out there), although if you must feed dry, then grain-free is better than the other options. Switching a cat to canned food is one of the best ways to prevent urinary problems.

      If you’re truly concerned about the CORE food, I’d switch to another grain-free brand. I like the Innova EVO and Natures Variety Instinct brands. I’m also hearing great things about the Ziwi Peak brand. It’s also a good idea to rotate brands and flavors – not only will it not make kitty dependent on any one flavor or brand, but by ensuring variety, you may avoid problems linked to one particular food.

      I hope this helps!

      Reply
  9. JB
    January 12, 2011 at 6:10 pm (6 years ago)

    We feed our kittens grain-free dry food. Which brand(s) would you suggest are the best?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm (6 years ago)

      JB, I’d really enourage you to consider switching your kittens to a grain-free canned diet, or a raw diet – for all the reasons mentioned in the article. That being said, the two brands I recommend for grain-free dry food are the Wellness CORE line (not the regular Wellness line), and the Innova EVO Cat and Kitten food (with the caveat that Innova was recently bought out by Procter & Gamble, and I am concerned that they will change the formula).

      When it comes to grain-free, not all foods labeled grain-free are the same. Since meat/protein is more expensive than carbohydrates, a lot of the pet food manufacturers that have jumped on the grain-free bandwagon are cutting corners and are substituting grains with other carbohydrates such as potatoes, peas, etc. This is not the case (at least not yet) with the two brands I mentioned above, but in all cases, it always pays to read the label.

      I hope this helps!

      Reply
  10. Nikita Cat
    November 29, 2010 at 11:16 am (7 years ago)

    Very interesting.

    I admit to being troubled by this, as will my Human when I show it to him.

    I have been a dry food cat all my 12 years, and am a healthy, 16 lb, main coon mix.

    Me big boy, but not chubby! ;-D

    or I was mostly healthy….

    As an only cat Daddy set a cup of dry down and let me eat when I chose, refilling when the bowl was empty, usually once a day.

    Then we rescued a kitten last july, and daddy feeds us once in morning, once at night, sort of.

    Works fine for her, proper training, & alll, hee, hee. (Natures’s Best Kitten dry.)

    Daddy picks my bowl up, and will set it down again when I request a nibble.

    Not an ideal situation, w both know, but…

    Now We learned I have arthritis, and switched me to a vet Recommended Sci-Di J/D Dry.

    I like the wet version OK, and the little one likes certain wet, and Daddy is wondering if we should gradually switch to wet all together.

    Our concern is my constantly pestering to be fed.

    Is that the carb addiction affecting me?

    All in all a great article, with, um, a lot of food for thought. ;-D

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 17, 2011 at 6:34 pm (6 years ago)

      I don’t know how this comment escaped my notice, Nikita – I’m so sorry for the late response.

      I would definitely encourage you to switch to all canned food. I’m not a fan of the j/d diet, I think there are better ways to address arthritis in cats. I’d encourage you to switch to a grain-free canned diet and transition to meal feeding twice a day. No snacks (I know you’re not going to be happy about that!). For the arthritis, I’d add a glucosamine chondroition supplement, and some Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil).

      Reply
  11. Layla Morgan Wilde AKA Boomer Muse
    November 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm (7 years ago)

    Ingrid, it’s no wonder the consumer is confused if the vet community isn’t on the same page and the pet food industry is more interested in their bottom line. All we can do is get the word out about the perils of a high carb diet. I’ll FW this on FB.

    Reply
  12. obsidian kitten
    October 21, 2010 at 12:52 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Ingrid! It’s not that I ever suspected that vets were driving around in free Mazeratis or flying to tropical islands because they ever sold that much food, but those incentives are (or were) out there. Free lunch sounds a lot like the kind of thing that pharmaceutical companies do for medical offices. But it is interesting that the companies themselves sponsor the nutritional courses in vet schools…which doesn’t necessarily have to be an all-bad thing, but certainly could lend those courses a bias.

    Reply
  13. Ingrid
    October 19, 2010 at 9:17 pm (7 years ago)

    I’m glad the article was helpful, Nan.

    Obsidian kitten, the other piece to the connection between the large pet food companies and veterinarians is that most, if not all, nutritional courses in vet schools are sponsored by the major pet food companies. However, as a former veterinary practice manager, I can assure you that there aren’t that many vets who get trips and luxury cars from these companies. The most we ever got from pet food companies was lunch for the entire staff 🙂

    Reply
  14. obsidian kitten
    October 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm (7 years ago)

    I do think it’s exciting how much more educated we as pet owners have become on this subject, though, in the past 10+ years. The choices of foods and treats available for our cat and dog companions are so much better now than they were just a short time ago, and huge strides have been made in labelling as well. I’m sure our pets are happier, too!

    Reply
  15. obsidian kitten
    October 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm (7 years ago)

    The dry food model for our domestic pets comes from farming, and it is actually the Department of Agriculture that still oversees the manufacture of pet food in the USA (the FDA does not). At some point, it was assumed that if grain-based feeds were sufficient were cows, pigs, chickens, etc., then surely they could also be formulated to meet the dietary needs of dogs and cats (and rabbits, gerbils, birds, and so on):

    “Purina traces its roots back to 1894, when founder William H. Danforth began producing feed for various farm animals under the name Purina Mills. The predominant brand for each animal was generally referred to as “Chow”; hence there was “Purina Horse Chow”, “Purina Dog Chow”, “Purina Cat Chow”, and even “Purina Monkey Chow,” “Purina Rabbit Chow” and “Purina Pig Chow.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purina)

    Although I do believe veterinarians are becoming more educated about nutrition, I do find the sale of pet foods in veterinary offices to be problematic, as they provide financial return for the veterinarian while lending “scientific” and/or “medical” legitimacy to the product(s) just by their placement. It then combines product promotion (for example, special-diet dry food) by the vet who should (and very well may) have a pet’s best interest at heart but is also trying to move product…which in some cases involves sales incentives in the form of trips, luxury cars, etc.

    Thanks for a great post on this subject.

    Reply
  16. Nan
    October 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm (7 years ago)

    I was always told that wet food was bad for cats, now I know I was being fed a tale. Thanks Ingrid, this article was incredibly helpful. 🙂

    Reply
  17. Ingrid
    October 2, 2010 at 8:37 pm (7 years ago)

    Sue, as I mentioned in the article, it can be challenging to transition some of these hardcore “carb addicts” to a canned or raw diet, but it can be done. One of the best articles I’ve seen about how to do it right is on the Feline Nutrition Education Society website, here’s the link: http://feline-nutrition.org/nutrition/how-to-transition-your-cat-to-a-raw-diet

    It’s going to take patience, but you’ll be doing a great thing for your cats’ health. Let me know if you have any other questions, and keep us posted on your progress!

    Reply
  18. sue
    October 2, 2010 at 8:13 pm (7 years ago)

    would like some suggestions on how to get older cats to eat canned or raw when they are so used to dry?

    Reply
  19. Diana
    August 21, 2010 at 11:38 am (7 years ago)

    Thank you so much!!

    I’m going to search out the brands/formulas you’ve recommended, and work on switching him over. (Although I already know from past experience–when switching from kitten food to adult food–that this process will take even longer than 10 days… we take it *very* slowly around here. :))

    Again, your help is so very appreciated! (And I’m looking forward to having good things to report back on in the future…)

    Reply
  20. Ingrid
    August 20, 2010 at 8:24 pm (7 years ago)

    Diana, the HealthyPet.Net food is a decent brand, although I believe the dry formula has grains in it.

    Since your boy is such a dry food devotee, I’d start with switching him to a truly grain-free dry food. The brands I like are the Wellness Core line, and the Innova EVO (the latter with the caveat that the brand was bought out by Procter & Gamble earlier this year, and it remains to be seen whether the integrity and quality of the formula will be maintained). Another brand I like the Nature’s Variety Instinct, although it appears that only the chicken formula is truly grain-free, the other dry formulas have tapioca in them.

    If you decide to go with one of the grain-free dry foods, in your case, I’d recommend making the switch very gradually, over a period of about 10 days. Start with adding only a small portion of the new food, and gradually increase that amount and decrease the old, all the while keeping an eye on his stools. If they get runny, back off and stay with the same mix for a few days, then start increasing the new food again. I’d also recommend adding a probiotic supplement.

    After you’ve successfully switched him to a better brand of dry food, I’d start offering tiny amounts of a grain-free canned food – again, keeping an eye on his stools and backing off if they start getting runny.

    It can take a lot of time and patience to make the switch, but you may also find that once you take all the grain out of his diet, you won’t have the problems with his stool at all.

    I hope this helps.

    Reply
  21. Diana
    August 20, 2010 at 7:30 pm (7 years ago)

    Ingrid, the #3/4/5 ingredients listed in his dry food are all grain-based. (If it isn’t a problem to name names, we’ve been feeding him Drs. Foster & Smith Adult Lite formula for the past couple of years, with a few pieces of Life’s Abundance from HealthyPet.Net mixed into each serving… sounds strange, but that mix typically keeps the waste issues in check.) So, clearly, we could be doing a lot better for our baby, regarding the amount of meat in his diet.

    Of the canned foods we had tried (again, just a tiny spoonful of) one brand WAS grain-free (Instinctive Choice from HealthyPet.Net) and one was NOT (Drs. F & S Country Classic Dinner).

    Do you have any recommendations for what brands and how we might attempt to make the switch? We will do anything in the world to create a healthier lifestyle for our boy!! 🙂

    Reply
    • Susy
      March 31, 2011 at 7:51 pm (6 years ago)

      Our Ragdoll boy is addicted to Friskies Dental Diet, which seems to help his gingivitis, but they’ve stopped making it & we only have a few bags left! He will eat a little wet Fancy Feast, too.

      Reply
  22. Ingrid
    August 20, 2010 at 1:58 pm (7 years ago)

    It sounds like you have a little hard-core carbohydrate addict on your hands, Diana 🙂 – some kitties can be very hard to switch from dry to wet food.

    Was the canned food you tried to feed your boy grain-free? You may not have the same problems with a grain-free food. I totally understand about the “logistics” involved with diarrhea and long-haired cats, though!

    Reply
  23. Diana
    August 20, 2010 at 12:24 pm (7 years ago)

    Unfortunately, we have been unable to ever switch our boy to wet food. There’s no problem with him being finicky; he has no interest in any human food, but has always happily eaten whatever cat food we’ve offered. The problem is that even so little as a teaspoonful of wet food (which is all we’ve ever tried to give him!) causes him to have litterbox problems (diarrhea), and, given that he’s a Ragdoll with very long fur, that issue poses a greater problem for all involved than if he were a short-haired breed.

    We would LOVE to be able to feed him either an all wet-food or at least half-wet diet… we just don’t know how to effect the change without making all of us miserable. 🙁

    Reply
  24. Cherie K. Miller
    June 24, 2010 at 11:54 am (7 years ago)

    One of my pet peeves is dog and cat food companies that are only out for the almighty dollar and don’t have our pet’s best interest in mind when preparing formulas.

    Aarrrgggh….

    Reply
  25. Leslie Kaufman
    June 15, 2010 at 8:59 pm (7 years ago)

    Ingrid, I wish every cat person who feeds his cat dry food would have the opportunity to read your post. Let’s just keep spreading the word. Thank you.

    Reply
  26. Ingrid
    June 15, 2010 at 8:52 pm (7 years ago)

    Jack, dry food is the least desirable diet option for cats, regardless of whether the food is grain-free or not. However, if dry food is the only option, then the grain-free varieties are preferable to others. Be aware, though, that not all grain-free foods are the same. Since meat is the most expensive ingredient in cat food, some manufacturers will use carbohydrates other than grains (such as sweet potatoes, green peas, and other vegetables) instead of grains. This allows them to call the food “grain-free,” but it increases the level of carbohydrates in the food, often to levels that are not optimal for an obligate carnivore.

    Reply
  27. Jack Furgason
    June 15, 2010 at 7:00 pm (7 years ago)

    I have been looking around the net for info on dry foods. There appear to be several brands that do not use grains and have meat as their main ingredient(s).

    Are you saying that even these products are inadequate and/or improper for a cat’s nutritional needs?

    Jack

    Reply
  28. Ingrid
    April 8, 2010 at 6:19 pm (7 years ago)

    Lisa, it sounds like your cat might be a great candidate for a raw diet since he’s already interested in sneaking meat off your plate. However, it does not mean to just feed him raw chunks of meat. It needs to be balanced to a cat’s particular requirements. You can find more information on feeding raw in a recent article I wrote here: http://consciouscat.net/2010/03/08/feeding-raw-food-separating-myth-from-fact/

    There’s also lots of great information on raw feeding for cats on the Feline Nutrition Education Society’s website at http://rawfedkitty.org

    Reply
  29. Lisa
    April 8, 2010 at 6:13 pm (7 years ago)

    I feel dumb for asking this, but what do you mean by raw diet? I should feed my cat raw chunks of steak or something like that? How would I even know how much meat he needs? Funny enough, he seems to LOVE meat! Whenever I have anything with meat in it, he always tries to sneak some off the plate…

    Reply
  30. Ingrid
    April 8, 2010 at 5:54 pm (7 years ago)

    Sounds like your kitty has you, his very own personal chef, well trained, LAW 🙂

    Reply
  31. LAW
    April 8, 2010 at 1:21 pm (7 years ago)

    I’ve got an older cat (13ish) with the associated finicky eater syndrome, but the FF Appetizers, the pure tuna – those are what he wants now, and gets, 2x a day. he does get dry food, he nibbles on that – he’s never been heavier than 8.2 lbs, and his lowest was 7.8 lbs. Treats – are a different dry cat food and sparingly given. Any real designated treat in a bag, he’s urping! the best treat of all, cooked chicken. he’ll do anything for cooked chicken, but won’t eat the chicken Appetizers… spoiled? yes, yes he is.

    Reply
    • Nina
      March 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm (6 years ago)

      read the ingredient panel.. does it say poultry byproducts or meat byproducts? your cat knows..

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        March 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm (6 years ago)

        It does sound as though he’s figured out what’s good for him 🙂

        Reply
  32. Debbi
    April 7, 2010 at 2:02 pm (7 years ago)

    As you state Ingrid, everyone has to do what works best for them financially and the ability to get cats to eat certain things is frustrating. This has always been a very confusing issue for me. I free feed dry and my cats aren’t food crazy and only eat when hungry and I give canned food also. Many water bowls in the house and clearly water is consumed so I think I’m okay. May try raw sometime to see how they take to it.

    In reference to the question about vaccines for indoor cats. I do a titer on my cat every year (I’m told by a reliable source that it only needs to be done once every two years) to check immunity and Abbey hasn’t had vaccines, other than rabies, in 3 years now. The test isn’t as much as all of the vaccines would be. Hope that helps CC.

    Reply
  33. Leslie Kaufman
    April 7, 2010 at 7:15 am (7 years ago)

    Bravo, Ingrid! I talk to my clients every day about dry food, stating all the reasons you do here. And isn’t it ironic that there are prescription dry foods for diabetes and urinary tract problems?

    I plan on talking about this on my blog soon – perhaps you can add your 2 cents there, as well.

    Thank you – will be in touch.

    Reply
  34. Bernadette
    April 5, 2010 at 5:45 pm (7 years ago)

    No one would ever think you were criticizing, Ingrid–only offering the best advice! It’s always a quandary with multi-cat households and shelters. The only solution to that is reducing populations, but that’s another lesson for people to understand.

    We’re looking forward to your article on vaccines.

    Reply
  35. Teri and the cats of Furrydance
    April 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm (7 years ago)

    Good post!

    How I describe the “Catkins Diet” to people is this way…the amount of grains that are in a mouses stomach is about how much grain a cat needs…not much, hahameow.

    Reply
  36. Ingrid
    April 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm (7 years ago)

    CC, the American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that most vaccines are only given every three years or even less frequently. Research has shown that immunity for most vaccines extends far beyond three years, and most likely, for the lifetime of the cat.

    I’ll be happy to do a more detailed post about the topic, it’s on my list.

    In the meantime, if you’d like to read the AAFP’s guidelines, here’s the link:
    http://www.catvets.com/uploads/HTML/VaccineSummary.html

    Reply
  37. CC
    April 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm (7 years ago)

    I have a question for you that not really related to food, but is to cats overall health. I get mixed messages depending on the vet. My cats are indoor only. Never ever go outside or have contact with outside animals. I always make sure their Rabies vaccine is up to date and they get a yearly physical, but they don’t get all the other various vaccines. In the past I have had cats that got all the vaccines available and none have ever lived as long or had as good of health as my current felines. ( Maybe it was the cat food.) I’d love to know what your take on vaccines is? Maybe you could do a post for us it.

    Reply
  38. Ingrid
    April 5, 2010 at 3:03 pm (7 years ago)

    Bernadette, I do agree that feeding canned or raw tends to be more expensive, but the savings come in the form of lower vet bills.

    I want to be clear that my intention is not ever to make anyone feel bad about what they’re choosing to feed their cats. I’ve fed dry food to my cats for many years, including veterinary diets, because that’s just what I thought was the right thing to do. After all, it’s what my vets recommended. It wasn’t until I started working in the profession, and subsequently started to educate myself more beyond what’s offered through the major pet food companies, that I began to genuinely understand cat’s unique needs.

    My only goal is to educate other cat owners in hopes that more will realize that cats are carnivores and as such, need protein, not grains. Not everyone is going to want to feed raw, and not every cat will accept canned or raw food.

    Reply
  39. animalartist
    April 5, 2010 at 1:08 pm (7 years ago)

    I agree fully with the protein-based grain-free diet, and the negative health effects of a constant dry diet. For me cost is the one prohibitive factor.

    Years ago when I was casting about for a diet to suffice for my block-prone male kitties, choices were slim and I discovered a dry food with cranberries and blueberries and a quality protein content, all sourced in the US. No more blocked kitties, good health and long lives, and the food has not changed formulation. My seniors get the canned variety of the same food, now available, but getting the whole house on it was a little expensive. Right now I supplement with a raw meal once a week, plus water bowls all over the house–and those famous morning drinking sessions at the bathroom faucet.

    I’m going to keep working on the canned food, but we all need to bring more awareness to the issue of feeding only dry food, especially ones using grains as protein sources. Imagine how many more kitties would have better health and longer lives–and perhaps not end up in shelters because of undesirable or expensive health issues–if we could explain what “obligate carnivore” really meant.

    Reply
  40. Ingrid
    April 5, 2010 at 12:01 pm (7 years ago)

    I’m glad the article provided food for thought, CC.

    Reply
  41. CC
    April 5, 2010 at 9:52 am (7 years ago)

    I have to admit this post really shocked me. Of the 6 vets I know, they all recommend dry cat food. I have two cats that are very healthy, one is almost 16 this year and has always been slim and never had any health problem what so ever. The other one is only four but he is also a normal weight with no health problems. Neither of them care for canned food or even treats.

    I appreciate the informative post. It’s food for thought, but I think I will stick with what has always worked for mine.

    Reply
  42. Ingrid
    April 5, 2010 at 8:30 am (7 years ago)

    Marg, if you can’t switch your little carb addict over to canned food, you might want to at least consider switching to a grain-free dry food. It’s not ideal, but it’s still better than the ones containing grains.

    Reply
  43. Marg
    April 5, 2010 at 7:44 am (7 years ago)

    If you think about what cats that don’t get cat food live on, it is all meat. They eat birds, mice, squirrels etc. So it makes a lot of sense to give the cats the raw food.
    I do have one cat that I don’t think would eat canned food. I have tried very hard to switch him over and he just walks away. Guess he is addicted to the carbs in the dry food.
    Great information. Thanks

    Reply

6Pingbacks & Trackbacks on The Truth About Dry Cat Food

  1. […] honored that my article The Truth About Dry Cat Food won a Petlitzer Prize! The article won in the category for persuasive […]

  2. […] she knew were feeding dry food.  So Gates began to do research.  The first thing she learned was how unhealthy dry food was for cats.  Then one day, while making dinner, she found herself shooing her cats away when they begged for […]

  3. […] Cats should not eat dry food.  Cats need moisture in their diet, and feeding only dry food is considered to be one of the most common causes of bladder and kidney problems.  Even though cats who eat a predominantly dry diet will drink more water, they still only get half the amount of water a cat eating canned food will get, even after adding all sources of moisture together.  If you must feed dry food, at the very least, consider feeding one of the grain-free varieties, and supplement with canned or raw food.  […]

  4. […] any canned food, and grain-free dry food.  I do not recommend dry food containing grains (read The Truth About Dry Cat Food for more  on why this is not a good choice).  But even within these parameters, the available […]

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