If you could do one simple thing that would improve your cat’s health for the rest of her life, wouldn’t you want to do it? Well, there is. Stop feeding dry food.

Dry food is the equivalent of junk food for cats

Dry cat food, even the high-priced premium and veterinary brands, is the equivalent of junk food for cats. It’s really not all that different from feeding sugared cereals to kids. Cats are obligate carnivores: this means they need meat not just to survive, but to thrive. 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 few or no carbohydrates in their diet. Feeding foods high in carbohydrates can lead to any number of degenerative diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Dry food is the leading cause of most urinary tract problems in cats

Cats need moisture in their diet. 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. For more on why this happens, please read Dr. Lisa Pierson’s comprehensive article Feline Urinary Tract Health:  Cystitis, Urethral Obstruction, Urinary Tract Infection.

Studies substantiate that moist is better

When I first started speaking out about the dangers of dry food, I felt like a bit of a lone wolf (or tiger). The major pet food companies certainly don’t support this view, with their seemingly endless array of bags of dry food, all touting the nutritional balance and completeness of their contents. Thankfully, I’m not alone anymore. More and more studies are substantiating that a species-appropriate diet high in meat and moisture with few or no carbohydrates is the right diet for our feline family members.

As far back as 1998, a study conducted by Dr. Tony Buffington at the Ohio State University on the effects of diet on lower urinary tract diseases in cats came to the conclusion that high moisture content of a cat’s diet can reduce the recurrence of idiopathic lower urinary tract disease in cats by more than half.

A more recent study conducted at the University of California-Davis concludes that cats eat less, lose weight and maintain healthy body composition when fed wet diets. The UC-Davis researchers also found that the cats in the study preferred canned food to either freeze-dried or dry food.

Another study, conducted at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University in The Netherlands analyzed the diet of cats living in the wild. Not surprisingly, researchers found that feral cats are obligatory carnivores with a diet high in protein and fat, but low in carbohydrates (only 2% of daily energy). I was particularly delighted at the conclusion the authors of this study arrived at: future research should focus on the value of feeding a natural diet of whole prey as an enhancement of feline health and longevity.

Make the switch to canned or raw

If your cat is still eating dry food, I urge you to consider changing to either an all canned grain-free diet, or to a raw diet.

Photo: istockphoto

154 Comments on More Reasons to Stop Feeding Dry Food to Your Cats

  1. Hi! Since I found your website I follow all your tips and recommendations, so far my cats are in wet food, and I’m on the transition to change from fish-based wet food (that they love) to more chicken and rabbit. Also, I was trying some raw food so far they love primal! It’s a little bit expensive for me but I’m trying to add a little bit of that to their diets with the wet food. However, my older cat (2 years old) is very stubborn and every night he does his tantrums (rolling on the floor, crying out loud) so I give him some cereal. I put headphones and try to not look at him but my husband always end giving him some cereal…. What do you think about that (a bit of cereal at nights)? is less than a 1/2 cup and it’s only a few because without that he doesn’t go to sleep (he is so spoiled lol!) What do you think? Thank you

    • Good for you for transitioning your cat to wet food, Carmen! Cereal is not an appropriate food for cats, not even as a treat. Your cat would probably be much happier if you played with him at night to tire him out rather than feeding him treats, and it would tire him out so he wouldn’t have any energy left to roll around and cry! If you must give him some treats at night, try freeze dried chicken treats. 1/2 cup of anything as a treat is way too much, though – a few pieces are plenty!

  2. Wow, I’m surprised by the number of people who say their cats won’t eat wet food! I have NEVER had any of my cats turn their nose up at an offering of wet food. I started feeding my 2 cats wet only about a year ago because my 16 year old siamese just can’t chew the dry kibble pieces anymore. I had always fed a combination of both wet and dry prior to this. Neither of my cats is overweight, in fact my senior siamese could stand to gain some. Problem is I’ve tried everything. I’ve added everything from extra proteins to extra fat to his bowl. He’ll eat it all but just never really seems to gain. If I give him more than a half a can 3x daily he vomits. I’ve had his thyroid checked (it’s ok), I had him checked for diabetes (doesn’t have it). The only other thing I can think of is possible kidney problems or cancer. Oh, he’ll eat anything and everything (even veggies and fruits etc)…crazy I know but he’ll vomit if it’s too much and he still has a hard time gaining weight.

  3. I would LOVE to feed only canned or raw to all my cats. But I do cat rescue and I have around 10 cats at any one time. At what point do you say I am not feeding the best diet, but these cats are alive and not dead in the shelter because I’m not feeding the best diet? Well, I guess I’m saying it now.

  4. I switched a 7 year old cat from dry food to wet and it was best decision ever. It took a lot of patience and hard work, but just one year we see a huge difference in his health. No vomiting, few hairballs, great coat, more energy, and a happier cat. It is expensive to feed grain free wet food but in the long run it is cheap. He is a good weight and has no medical issues. I alternate between duck, chicken, lamb and venison, all limited ingredient recipe, from nature balance.

    • larry, don’t do it! unfortunately bacteria sets in really quickly when you get dry pet food wet. it’s fine for dogs who gobble up their meals quickly but unsafe/uncomfortable for kitties.

      • You are absolutely right, Chris. It also does nothing to increase the quality of the dry food, it’s still too high in carbohydrates for an obligate carnivore.

        • unfortunately Ingrid regardless about all the hype of wet food being better, I have researched that what is put in wet food is not high quality. Just because they claim to use only the best ingredients is a myth, like organic food claims. just an excuse to raise the price

  5. My cat was a feral kitten who now lives indoors and is 7 or 8 years old. He eats a can of wet food, Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers which is very wet every morning and an expensive dry food with a very small kibble in the evening. It is mostly protein and cost a $20 a bag but it’s the only one he keeps down. My question is this, isn’t it important for their dental health to eat a crunchy or dry food. My cat has NEVER had a urinary problem and barely sheds with a gorgeous coat.

    • The myth that dry food keeps teeth healthy is one that just won’t die. If it were true, dentists would tell us to eat hard pretzels. Dry food does not clean pet’s teeth. 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 leaves a carbohydrate residue in the cat’s mouth that actually encourages growth of tartar and plaque.

  6. Ingrid,
    While I appreciate your findings about wet catfood and cats needing moisture, I have always made sure there was plenty of water for them to drink. I feed them dry food as wet food is very expensive, and I know the cheaper brands have fillers and junk in them that I refuse to give my cats. I do give them the occasional wet food as a treat. I don’t see the difference in wet and dry unless the cats don’t drink their water.Now if you can tell me a brand that will last as long as a 20 lb bag that costs 20 plus dollars I would be interested. thanks

  7. I almost lost my Snowball to a urethral blockage. Our vet told me to stop feeding dry cat food. We did and he has been fine since plus lost a few pounds (which he needed to lose). I totally agree with your points int his article!

  8. For all these years, I’ve somehow missed that dry cat food is not healthy for our cats; and here I’ve been feeling guilty that I transitioned my cats to wet food in May!

    I have a nine month old kitten, Costello, who has not been able to poo on his own since being weaned from momma cat. After x-rays and ultrasounds, 4 water enemas and a very intrusive deobstipation, the vet started him on Cisapride and Miralax 3 times per day. If it didn’t work, we were facing surgery to remove his colon. The vet actually hinted it was ok if I wanted to have him put to sleep – he weighed 2 pounds at the time and the vet felt the surgery was too risky and difficult on such a small body. Needless to say that was not an option!

    Costello had his first successful poo on mother’s day! What a gift! He has been on Iams Veterinary Formula Intestinal Plus Low-Residue and now Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal High Energy HE (I also add 1/4 cup of water to every meal).

    I transitioned my other cat, Elvis, to wet food at the same time because he really preferred it anyway and it was just easier to manage (there might have been some guilt in there too). Wet food has helped Elvis also, he is prone to hairballs and vomited almost every day; he vomits less than once a week now.

    A friend convinced me to take Costello to a chiropractor, who says his sacrum was out of alignment, and after several adjustments, he suggested I take him off the medication. I’ve weaned Costello down to one dose of Cisapride per day and two doses of Miralax per day, but I’m terrified to stop it all together.

    Will raw food or pure protein wet food be more difficult to digest and potentially cause him constipation issues again?

    I’ve also looked into probiotics, and much of the information says it helps with diarrhea. Again, I worry this would cause constipation issues in a cat that is on the other end of the spectrum.

    I appreciate your feedback on this. Thank you.

    • Raw food will reduce the size of stools as compared to dry food. Raw and canned food are generally easier to digest because of the added moisture. I’m not sure what you mean by “pure protein” wet food – do you mean grain-free?

      I think probiotics are the most important supplement you can give cats, especially cats with digestive issues. The product I like and recommend is a combination probiotic and digestive enzymes: In addition to promoting healthy gut bacteria, probiotics can also help increase motility and strengthen the immune system. I hope this helps!

  9. Our 11 year old cat had diabetes that he got when we started feeding him food that the vet recommended for cleaning his teeth. It was Science Diet, and was FULL of corn. He was on insulin for over a year before we switched his diet to a dry all meat diet. When we told the vet about how we switched his diet and how his insulin levels were balanced she was furious with us for taking him off of the expensive vet food that made him sick in the first place! We stopped going there and have told others about her reaction. Now we have a feeder that feeds him every 6 hours, so I’m not sure how wet food would work for him. The only time that my BF or I are home are for the 6am and 12am feeding. We refill it after we get home from work after 6pm. I’m not sure if wet food would be good to leave out for an entire day, I wouldn’t want kitty to get sick from raw meat sitting out all day! The food we are currently giving him is Taste of The Wild. He loves it, and ever since switching his diet he’s been full of energy and loves to run around and play!

  10. My cats eat dry food, but it’s soaked in water overnight, so it’s not “dry” anymore. I use a high quality grain free food (Now!) and soak it in water and mix it up to make it mushy. They’ve done really well on it. I had to start this because my 11 year old cat had all his teeth removed at 1 year of age due to severe stomatitis. He’s not fond of canned food and most raw food it too chunky for him to eat. I did do raw for awhile, but he lost weight because he had a hard time eating it without teeth. Right now, it seems to work and none of my cats (8 over the past 20 years) have had UTIs. All males except for my current 1 year old female cat.

    • Soaking dry food in water does not improve the nutritional quality of the food, even though the additional moisture does help. You can try pureeing the canned or raw food if your cats don’t like the chunks.

  11. My cat is almost 9 years old. She will not eat wet food. Ever. She doesn’t like table food either. We have tried to fed her chicken n beef. She gags and runs away. What should I give her

    • Even grain-free dry food is too high in carbohydrates for an obligate carnivore like the cat, and it’s just as low in moisture as all other dry foods.

  12. Hi There,
    Thank you for posting this article. I have a 9 month old kitten who doesn’t really eat much dry food so I think it would be easy to wean her off. However, my question is, how often would you say to feed her? Currently I feed her breakfast and dinner and she only munches if she gets hungry which is rare. Just curious if I should be giving her a before bed snack or something? And also, how much size wise? I’m looking into the FreshPet line.

    Thanks again so much for this helpful article!

    • Feeding two meals twice a day is fine for a 9 month old kitten, Kayla. The average 10 pound cat will eat 2-3 ounces of canned or raw food per meal.

  13. I successfullyweaned my cat of all dry food, and he is on a grain free wet food diet with some freeze dried treats. Unfortunately he is beginning to throw up after eating maybe once a week, this is a new thing, his vet stays he is ok. he does have a hairball now and then but they are greatly reduced d his throw up does not contain a hairball. Any ideas on what could be causing the throw ups, i do not feed any tuna or fish in the wet food.
    i feed Merrick cowboy cook out and Weruva funk in the trunk chicken.

  14. We have been progressively moving Bonny away from any dry food and towards more of a raw food diet. We’ve reached a point when we’ve been feeding her 1.5 oz raw mixed with .5 oz canned (she wouldn’t eat the raw without it being mixed) twice a day. We’ve gone from 1/4 c dry food twice a day to two teaspoons twice a day. She still cries (sometimes quite a lot) for more crunchies but shows no signs of any other type of distress. She is still active etc. We wondered if it might be easier now for her to just cut out the dry food entirely and up her raw/canned food mix to 5 oz per day. Also, we realize that we inadvertently set up a bit of a pattern, where she has her wet food and then we put the crunchies in a ball. she clearly enjoys “part two” !! Are there any healthy treats we could substitute for the fun of the crunchie ball? Thanks so much for all your wonderful and helpful information. Liz

  15. Thanks Ingrid for informing people of your vast knowledge on cats and what’s really good for a cats health. I was so uninformed years ago and probably lost a few too early because I didn’t know back then. Your doing cats and their people a great service!! Thank you!! Love this website!!

  16. Hi Ingrid,

    I have a 5 year old female tabby who has urinary tract issues. She has been urinating on the dog beds, couch and our bed (thank god for waterproof liners!) and we took her to the vet who put her on antibiotics for 21 days. This has happened twice so I assume we are doing something wrong. She used to eat nothing but dry before I got her and she was declawed also before I got her. She is spayed. We switched to Fancy Feast (2 cans a day) and we are using Tidy Cats litter. I know Fancy Feast is not a good quality food but I am at a loss. I live in a very very small town in Texas. Our feed store only carries Nutro, Blue Buffalo and Wellness. Which should I feed and how often? She weighs 10 lbs. I read somewhere that the kitty litter on declawed cats could be an issue? What litter do you recommend? I thought at first she was stressed because we recently got a german shepherd puppy but they LOVE each other so I don’t think that’s it. I’m at a loss and I don’t know what to do to help her. I don’t want anymore urinary issues but I’m limited on resources in my area. Ordering online takes forever. I have my dogs on Nutro Ultra. Would this be a good choice? Sorry for all the questions! I appreciate it in advance!

  17. Ingrid,
    I just wanted to say thank you so much for all this information. You have helped a lot of people and it’s wonderful to have wise and kind people like you informing others. Please continue to do what you do 😉
    I’m myself a Momma to 3 cats, Leon (CRF kitty), Sam (fat cat) and Iggy (Megacolon cat) ha…yes, they all have their challenges (don’t we all?)
    I didn’t realize with Leon that dry food wasn’t good so unfortunately, he’s dealing with the consequences now but I’m doing my best to rectify that – or at least make his last years comfortable (he’s 15) and Sam (all my cats are rescues) got so fat on dry food – even high protein brands like Orijin, Acana, Before Grain, etc. so the wet good (I’ve had them exclusively on it for one month now) is helping. And Iggy…ah..Iggy…a $300 vet bill a month ago told me he had megacolon, and despite what the vet told me (and sold to me at the time because I was scared – Science diet…BLECK) I have him on wet food as well. I think ANY wet food is better than dry.
    For anyone reading…I do not think there is one specific brand of wet food out there that is better than the other but here is what I have found works.
    *keep in mind any fish may cause an increase in UTI’s so please feed that sparingly.
    Wellness – Chicken/Turkey
    Fussie Cat – never heard of it before but I found it on Amazon – great stuff.
    Tiki cat – very cool and good for you cat
    Chicken soup for the soul – my cats don’t like this but I found the ingredients good
    I’m trying some cheaper brands as back up (although Wellness on Amazon Prime is reasonably priced)
    9 Lives – ground chicken or turkey
    Friskies – special diet
    Fancy Feast

    Okay there you have it. Best to you again Ingrid and thanks for all that you do.
    Momma to Leon, Sam and Iggy 😉

    • Good for you for educating yourself to provide the best possible nutrition for your kitties, Kat, and I’m so glad my site was helpful to you in the process!

  18. I have been wanting to switch my cats over to canned for so long now.. Right now they get about 1/8 or more ( depending on the cat) of dry Orijen grain free twice a day and then all four split a can of food ( i get weruva, BFF, and Addiction brands) once a day. I just haven’t switched because it would cost soooo much more to feed them on,y canned,, but I feel bad because I know I am not doing what’s best for them! If I was to switch,, how much canned would you say I will need to feed extra in place of the dry I was feeding ? Thanks!!

    • The average cat will eat 3-4 ounces of canned food per meal, Sarah – so 6-8 ounces a day. You’ll have to adjust based on your cats’ size and weight.

  19. I have dry food for my cats but I also give them high quality wet food regularly. One reason I have not fully switched to wet cat food is my cat, Jak-ke, hates wet food. I have tried almost every brand and flavor and she hates it all. She does not even taste it, she just looks at me and walks away.

    • Keeptrying, Kahla. Making the switch away from dry is one of the best things you can do for your cats. It can take patience and time, but it’s worth the effort.

  20. This article is so true!! When I switched my cats from dry food to wet a few years ago all of my cats health problems went away including allergies and diabetes. My boy Arnie went from 27 pounds down to a healthy 15 pounds. He’s always been a big boy but now he’s a healthy big boy!!

  21. I have a 10 year old cat that I have fed only dry his whole life. He started acting strange and not eating his dry food. I started doing research and now realize I want to switch him to wet for all the reasons outlined. Ive tried the varieties you recommend. He wont touch them. He likes cooked chicken and sliced deli turkey meat. I tried mixing that in with the canned food. He still wont touch it. Any suggestions?

  22. I don’t understand when people say they have a hard time getting a cat to switch from dry to wet. My cats now only eat the gravy type wet food and they go absolutely bonkers for it. Especially my newest one Chiquito, he adopted me a few years ago and I had to take him to get his teeth cleaned from dry food build up. I also recently buried one of my sister’s mane coon after having to euthanize him because of complete kidney failure, so that was another reason to ditch the garbage dry food, it’s all she feeds her numerous cats.
    Chiquito and my other two, also love the grilled chicken that comes in my chick-fil-a salads. That’s an easy solution to getting them meat they need in their diet.

    • I’m glad you didn’t have a difficult time switching your cats to wet food, Chris. A little cooked chicken can be a good addition to their diet as well, but I recommend making sure that it’s organic and antibiotic free. I’m not sure whether Chick Fila’s chicken meets those requirements.

      • It happens unfortunately. I’ve had cats who wouldn’t go near canned food but by using FortiFlora, a probiotic they love the taste of I got them all to love wet food! Most cats will switch easily though.

  23. I have a new kitten. He is four months old and the breeder raised him on dry food. He doesn’t seem to want to eat any wet canned food. He doesn’t like tuna so I can’t put that on it to try to get him to eat it. What do you recommend?

  24. My Ruby (also a tortie girl!) was diagnosed as diabetic this past Christmas. I didn’t know any better about dry vs. wet food. After extensive research online, I started testing her glucose at home. We spent 2 months on PZI and when that didn’t help regulate her glucose levels, switched to Lantus. I followed the Rand protocol and after another 5 weeks Ruby is officially diet controlled and no longer needs insulin shots! It never would have happened if I had kept feeding her dry. She’s down two pounds, now ringing in at 12lbs. She’s got more energy than I’ve ever known her to have.

    I will never feed another animal dry food again!

  25. Hi Ingrid,

    I’m not sure if you are into dogs at all, but we also have a 9 year old mix, lab, german shepard, and I was wondering if you know of good dry food for him? He always has gas lately, so we are looking to switch his food to something with less fillers, if any.

    Thanks again.

    BTW…Jasper, my kitty LOVES the food!!! 🙂

    • I don’t know as much about dogs as I do about cats, but I do recommend grain-free canned or raw food for my dog clients as well. One of my clients just recently switched her very gassy yellow lab from dry to raw, and the difference has been amazing.

      I’m so glad Jasper loves the food!

      • Thank you Ingrid for the info on dogs. Jasper is loving the new food, he has lost a few pounds and isn’t drinking hardly any water….is this normal? Also, I bought one kind of the Weruva, it’s an Australian fish mix, with sardines etc. in it, and I opened one can and noticed that is has a ton of small thin bones in it. Is this ok, or should I send it back?


        • Renee, yes, it’s normal that Japer would be drinking less water, since he’s getting the moisture he needs from his food now.

          I’m not sure about the bones in the fish mix, I would contact Weruva customer service and ask them.

          • Ok, great!! My baby looks sooo healthy now!! Thank you sooo much for all of your advice and expertese!! I will contact CS. 🙂

  26. Thank you!!! I ordered new food, vitamins and the probiotics!!! Thank you!!! I’ll keep you posted and let you know how he does. I greatly appreciate all of your help!! 🙂

  27. Hi Ingrid,

    I love your article about dry food. I used to feed my 3yr old 16 lb tabby free dry all day, 24 hour access. I noticed that he used to drink alot of water and vomit quite often. Since reading your article last week, I have weened my kitty off of dry food, and am feeding him only Fancy Feast Elegent Meadleys. Thing is now, I do not now how much to feed him per day. I started with one 3 oz can, and he was always hungry so I went up to 2 cans, just started that yesterday. I don’t want to starve him. I just read the labels on the food, and I noticed that there are meat bi products in it, so I will be looking for a new food. So my question is, how much should I be feeding him per day, and do you recommend any wet foods?

    Thank you so much for your valuable information. 🙂


    • I’m so glad you weaned your kitty off of dry food, Renee!

      For canned food, I like Weruva, Nature’s Variety Instinct, and Nature’s Logic. If 16 pounds is a healthy weight for your boy that he needs to maintain, he should probably eat about 8-10 ounces of food a day (more if you’re feeding the Weruva, as it’s lower in calories than the others). The recommendations on the food are usually higher than what most cats need to maintain their weight. I’d start with 8-10 ounces a day. See if he stops acting hungry. By feeding the better quality brands, you’ll get better quality protein (and no by-products), which should help him feel full longer.

      Let me know how he does!

      • Thank you so much Ingrid!! I am looking online for the food now! 🙂 Do I need to give him a multi vitamin now, or will he be ok with just the food?


  28. So for my kitten (which I get next month ) – I should stay well clear of dried food such as Royal Canin Kitten 36

    despite it being highly rated by reviewers on several sites

    • Congratulations on your new kitten, Alex! I would most definitely steer clear of dry food, for all the reasons outlined in this post.

      The first few ingredients in Royal Canin Kitten 36 are Chicken meal, brown rice, corn gluten meal, corn, chicken fat, chicken, dried egg product, natural chicken flavor, wheat gluten, dried beet pulp. Ingredients are required to be listed with the ingredient with the highest concentration first. Chicken doesn’t even show up after corn gluten meal and corn. A good canned cat food should list meat (not meat by-products) as the first ingredient, and it should be grain-free.

      • Thanks Ingrid, very good insight & discussion on the whole dry vs wet food argument – I’m going to abandon the dry food route & see whats best for the new little one.

        If there are any UK based readers here, any suggestions for wet food products one can purchase this side of the water for a 4 month plus kitten?

  29. Thanks to you they have been switched over for about 6 months. They have always had a gorgeous coat-so I cannot say I noticed a difference-the cat sitter has noticed a difference.

    no more dry food for my babies.

  30. Kibble free since 2007 here! Actually we were kibble free before that then I lapsed and went back to dry before wising up again.

    The change helped my one cat with digestive issues as well as my 3 adopted sugar cats (diabetics) with my recent 2 being diet controlled. In fact Poughkeepsie went off the juice (insulin) after having been on it for over 5 years and switching from dry to canned.

    Great post!

    • I always love hearing about cats whose diabetes goes into remission with a simple diet change, Dawn. I’m so happy for you and Poughkeepsie!

  31. I totally disagree with feeding an all can food diet. The only thing it promotes besides moisture is bad TEETH. I had worked in a multi Vet Hospital for more than 8 years. What you promote is bogus. We sold Science Diet Cat Food which all in itself is a very bad diet.

    • Debbie, see my response to Heather above as to why dry food does not help keep teeth healthy. Sadly, far too many vets still promote this myth.

    • Well Debbie, I do know that when I take Bella & Shadow to the vet I am told their teeth are in excellent condition. We are now transitioning to raw as the chunky wet food is getting expensive.

      • Same here. Never a problem with one bad tooth and I have a 21 year old. I do feed my cats dry treats occasionally but other than that it’s wet food all the way. They love their crunchy Greenies as an occasional treat. Best thing you could ever do for your cat is wet food!!

    • I feed an all wet diet with a few crunchy Cat Greenies dental treats.bout 4 treats a day. It’s my cat’s favorite treat. Solves that problem if what you say is true. I have a 21 year old super healthy cat even my vet can’t believe her age.

  32. I confess…I feed dry food. 100% dry right now.

    We’ve had an on again/off again relationship w/ wet food in this house. The problem is that wet food can’t stay out, and one of my cats becomes a BEAST if there is not food always available. Plus, he will eat ALL the food and not share with our other cat if I don’t free feed them.

    On top of that, my girl cat has a very sensitive tummy. Not to grains — but to protein! She spent the first 2.5 years of her life with her first family eating very low-quality, high-grain dry food (Meow Mix and the like). It’s taken her about 6 months to be able to tolerate a low-grain food (Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Formula). Even now, she can only tolerate the Sensitive Stomach formula.

    I just don’t foresee a time, ever, where I could go 100% wet food with my lot.

    • Lisa, if this diet works for your girl, then definitely stick with it. You might want to read the article on inflammatory bowel disease and diet I linked to in my response to JL Smithson’s comment above – perhaps exploring some of the suggestions in the article might also help your girl.

      • I don’t think it’s IBD…it’s actually more of a problem of (TMI) …it coming right back up.

        She’ll throw up and then…(more TMI) ..uh…re-consume it. And THEN it stays down. (gross. I know.)

        This used to be a daily problem…then it became more like every 3 days…then every week…every other week…and now it very rarely ever happens (finally) even though we did wean her very slowly to the new food.

        Neither of my cats are super-huge, but they’re definitely a little plump. More so the orange tabby than little ms. tortie with the sensitive tummy lol.

        I suppose I could at least start giving a little wet food twice a day again so it isn’t 100% dry and reduce the amount of dry that I leave out. I wonder if there’s a wet that includes a probiotic (which is what the dry has in it that helped Luna out).

  33. Thanks for this great post. Growing up I had a cat that was fed exclusively wet food – crap 9 lives – but still only wet.

    When we adopted Shadow from the SPCA, he had been eating dry food. They gave us some when we took him home. The next day, I went to the store and bought some wellness kitten (wet) as I knew that dry food was bad for cats. Well, one bite of the wet and Shadow never went back to dry. He won’t eat it at all. Our other cat Bella, will nibble a bit of dry – I leave out about a tablespoon in the morning and about half of it is still there when I get home at night.

    One of the vets at the clinic we go to advised that I need to feed them dry food for their teeth. When I said they won’t eat it – she said “force the issue”. I was stunned. Needless to say, when I call to make a vet appointment now I ask for a different vet.

    • The myth that dry food helps clean cats’ teeth just won’t die, Heather. Good for you for asking for a different vet. It’s one of the most persistent beliefs when it comes to pet food. Most cats don’t chew their kibble long enough, if at all, 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 the chewing longer, but many cats swallow even those larger size pieces whole. Additionally, dry food leaves a carbohydrate residue in the cat’s mouth that actually encourages growth of tartar and plaque. And seriously, if it was true that dry kibble cleans teeth, wouldn’t human dentists recommend that we eat dry cereal to keep our teeth clean?

      • I agree. I have a degree in dental hygiene and have done dentals on dogs and cats and think the “dry food is needed for the teeth” argument is poppycock. I like Dr. Billinghurst explanation for raw helping the teeth in an article I read in Whole Dog Journal where he said the chewing through the raw food helps remove the plaque because of the chewing that is needed. Kind of like dental floss.

        Besides most of the animals that come in for dentals I did were fed dry food. And trust me some of those mouths were pretty bad…

        • Raw whole food definitely helps keep teeth clean, Dawn. So does chewing on raw, meaty bones (not cooked – cooked bones can splinter and perforate the intestinal tract). And of course, brushing your cat’s teeth is the best defense against dental disease!

      • Ingrid – I read the column you suggested to me about vets and pet food companies. I totally get it. Before I became a cat-sitter, I was a manufacturers representative working for dental companies for over 20 years. I know how all that works! I wish more people understood this. I will share that article on my Facebook page – Gold Coast Cat Care. I try to share as many informative articles as I come across, and many are yours! You have become my hero. You may already know about Dr. Barbara Royal – she wrote a great book about feeding of cats and dogs. Also Dr. Becker, another veterinarian that has done her research and is on the same page we are. We need more like those two. Thank you again – you are an inspiration!

        • Aww, thanks, Kate. To be mentioned in the same context as Dr. Becker and Dr. Royal is an honor. Thanks for sharing my articles on your Facebook page, and all the other great information you share.

  34. Ingrid,

    thank you for staying on the bandwagon. When I first became a pet owner, I listened to my vet. No one ever told me they are not nutritionists (neither is your human doctor, that is why they refer you to a nutritionist when you have dietary questions beyond the basics)

    I had a few people mention a raw diet to me long before I got on board, but none of them could explain why it was better. it would be like my saying to you butter is healthy for you and leaving it at that.. sound ridiculous doesn’t it?? I mean we all KNOW butter is bad for you.. right?

  35. Such a timely article!

    We’ve got a kitten who seems to have a sensitive digestive tract. I thought it might be due to the kitten food being so rich, but nothing has changed after weening her off and getting her on adult food. Getting her gut settled down is our main project right now–fingers crossed this could be the answer!

    One question–We travel occasionally and feeding a wet diet isn’t going to be an option a few weeks a year. How do you suggest we handle those times?


    • Shannon, I would recommend adding a good probiotic to your kitten’s food. That, combined with getting her on a good grain-free canned food, may take care of the problem.

      I’m not sure why a wet diet wouldn’t be an option when you travel? Is the kitten traveling with you?

      • Luckily we’ve got a GREAT independent pet store in town. I’m there after work to do some shopping!

        When we’re gone for more than a couple of days we’ll have a sitter stay with the kids. But if it’s an overnighter than we generally leave a bowl of dry food for them and someone comes over to check on them. In that case, it’s not really feasible to keep to a scheduled canned-food feeding…. I’ll look for a probiotic, too.

        Maybe I should just start taking the crew with me! 😉

    • I’ve dealt with almost 300 kittens in the 10 years I have been fostering, and I always find the “kitten food is too rich” comment interesting.

      I find when I have a kitten with diarrhea and the stool has been tested several times to make sure there are no internal parasites (they don’t always show up, so it is a good idea to get it tested more then once for chronic diarrhea) that a good clean raw food diet with out all of the fruits and vegetables usually clears them up in a day, sometimes it takes two if it is really bad.

      I’ve had one kitten that was so bad she leaked stool where ever she sat.. a mom kitty who did the same and her kittens got diarrhea once they started weaning on to a grain free canned food. I got them all on a raw diet and things cleared right up. I tried again on a meat only canned food and diarrhea came right back.

  36. Ingrid,
    We switched our 3 Ragdolls and 1 Tabby over to moist food from a dry food. It’s prescription food and is really expensive. The boys all love it, but they are now whining for food even an hour after being fed. They are on a low fat, intestinal pro-biotic food but they never stay full for very long. We didn’t have this problem when we were feeding them dry food and we never free-fed them. I mix a little dry food in with the wet food to hopefully keep them a little more satiated, but it’s not working. Any ideas?

  37. I have to say I was feeding raw – but life changes and it is not doable at the moment. I even broke down and was buying the preground raw for a bit. I do feed canned everyday but had to start on dry kibble again as I felt the littler ones were not getting enough food through out the day. I still give treats of raw meat – when I am cooking. I think sometimes it comes down to affordability. I spent for 5 cats about $200.00 or more on food per month. I am not sure what it was with the raw (franken prey), the premade was more. My Ragdolls are a bit fussy when it comes to variety and most refused to eat the necessary organ meat for the franken prey model to work so I was supplementing with canned anyway. The other downfall of the raw was the constant cleaning up after (they live to “kill” first and drag the meat all over the house). I can honestly say that I feel they were healthy (not that they are not healthy now) when on the raw with the supplement canned, but I just can afford and do not have the time that at this moment.

    • Rebecca, I always tell people to feed the best food they can afford to feed. Raw food can be more expensive than canned or dry, and if you make your own, it does take up some time. I like that you’re still supplementing with the occasional raw treat, that way, if and when you’re ready to go back to all raw, it won’t be a difficult transition.

  38. Ingrid – I have recently switched my crew from dry food over to canned food, and the results are amazing! Their coats are so sleek and silky now. KC had a bad case of dandruff, which seems to have cleared up, and Zelda, who was constantly scratching, has now stopped and her bald patches have grown back in. The only down side is that I seem to be feeding them more often right now because I’m trying to figure out how much they need to consume in a 24 hour period, as opposed to just refilling their bowls twice a day. Still, it’s definitely worth it!

  39. While I trust you and know this to be the case at the same time it frustrates me. Cody has food allergies and there is virtually NOTHING that I can give him!!

    He does eat Royal Canin Veterinary formula canned rabbit and their dry green pea and rabbit. He is limited to a 1/4 cup of dry food per day (and occasionally he will get a few as a “treat” because he cannot eat traditional “treats”)

    He is always soooo hungry because I have to give him a 1/3 of a can of food twice a day (to watch his weight)…so, with allergies and no dry food, what could he be given that would be considered to be a treat?

  40. We listened to our first veterinarian, who said ‘feed ’em whatever you want to’. Once our boy Chucky developed crystals in his urine and then a later bladder infection, we switched to canned food. The process was not easy; when I had tried a year earlier, our girl Angel refused to eat for days, and I finally relented because I was sure I was killing her! (Not to mention my DH who didn’t want the hassle of cans). But, a random comment from a blog months later led to me sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on the wet food. The cats took to it immediately! The cheese is salty, but I put less and less on the food and before I knew it…they were eating wet food!

    Now, the hard part…my outdoor ferals. How do I feed them wet food in the coldest part of Winter, or the hottest days in the Summer? It’s been a challenge, and they still get some dry food but they always have fresh water. Lucky for me, they will eat canned food straight from the icebox, so I can use up leftovers. They are as dear to me as my inside kitties, and I mix in L-lysine and Vitamin C from time to time to help their immune systems. The wet food is perfect for adding the vitamin powders.

    Thanks again Ingrid, for an insightful article. I dream of the day when I make my own cat food. A vegan cooking meat for her cats!

    • I’ve not tried using Parmesan cheese to entice cats to eat a new food, but I’ve heard from lots of people that it works really well.

      Your ferals are a challenge when it comes to feeding canned or raw food. I’d make sure that the dry food you feed them is one of the grain-free varieties.

      I’m mostly vegetarian, Victoria, and initially, switching to raw food took a bit of a leap for me – the idea of having to handle raw meat wasn’t all that appealing. But with the commercially prepared frozen raw diets, it’s really no different than opening a can.

      • Ingrid – I appreciate your column so much! I am a professional cat sitter, and it’s hard to see what some of my clients feed their cats – especially the free feeding of dry food. My own three cats have been on a commercial raw food (Rad Cat – the best I’ve found) since only three or four months old. As a treat I give them a few pieces of freeze dried organic chicken. I have even discovered that some of the canned veterinary diets (Purina for senior cats, as an example) has carrageenan as an ingredient, which is a known carcinogen. Unfortunately, the foods recommended by veterinarians often contain by-products and unhealthy grains. I am very frustrated by this, because people are unwittingly giving their pets food that is not good for them, when all they want is to do what’s best for them! Dry food is NOT a natural diet, it’s a manufactured diet. Cats getr addicted to it, and it’s hard to convert them, but it can be done!

        • Thank you for your comment, Kate! I always catch a lot of flack for talking about the dangers of dry food for cats because so many veterinarians still recommend dry food and highly processed diets with questionable ingredients. It’s always nice to hear from someone who also understands this issue!

          • Yes, and it IS a issue.

            I’m no radical, just a seeker of my own truth. It’s no wonder that the vets are misinformed. Physicians learn very little about nutrition and between the food industry and the drug industry, we are literally eating ourselves to death. The current information about fat, cholesterol, and drugs like Lipitor is all wrong, but it’s hard to fight the system. These professionals are just following what they’re taught, and our schools teach us hard. I’m already used to “the system,” and can at least feed myself what I deem right. I think I feel worse for the kitties, in that they have no choice in their food and, without doing research to find what’s right for our little ones, it’s easy to “go with the flow” of the advertisers and even the vets we trust.

            All we can do is our best to get the word out, and little by little, we can make a difference. A cat is NOT a small, furry dog, and we can’t feed them like that.

        • Kate- can I ask what our monthly or weekly food costs for your 3 cats eating RadCat? Curious as I have 3 cats also.

          • Ingrid – thanks for your response. It’s something that I’m having a hard time with. I refer a client to my vet, and they recommend a food with questionable ingredients. What to do?? I don’t try to tell my clients what to feed their cats unless they ask me for advice. But, do I try to speak to my vet about the food they are selling?

            Karen – It’s expensive – about $300 a month. I found a supplier, who was about a 45 minute drive from me, so I would buy a month’s supply (it is frozen in 24 ounce containers and I’d purchase 20 @ $13.80 each), and I got a 10% discount for buying a case (12) or more. A pet food store just opened in my town that can get it for me, so I may start to purchase every two weeks. They love it, by the way. I feed them one third of a cup each, twice a day. The food is totally consumed in five minutes. This is how I justify it: if my cats stay very healthy and don’t become ill and require vet visits, medicine, etc – all of which can become very costly (I don’t have pet insurance), then it really isn’t costing me more than feeding them a less expensive food. If you decide to give this a try, do visit the Rad Cat website and read about transitioning to raw food. They are a great company! I can also advise you on how I’ve worked out having thawed food ready and available as needed.

          • I think you’re doing the right thing by only offering advice to our clients if they ask, Kate, even though I know it must be so frustrating to have to feed what you know is not good for cats! I would start a dialogue with your vet. Some vets are receptive. Here’s an article that provides some insight into why so many vets don’t really know that much about nutrition, and why so many of them sell these diets:

            My girls love the Radcat, too. In most cases, the increased cost of feeding a premium diet will result in lower veterinary bills because cats will be healthier.

          • Thanks Kate! RadCat is made here in Portland where I live which I love because I like supporting local businesses. I might take you up on the thawed food issue once I do a little more investigation. The little pet store less than a mile from my house sells it and I’m sure they’d work out a deal if I buy a lot.

  41. I adopted a 7 yr. old shelter cat, Dec. 2011. She was there 2 mo. She would only eat dry food. The shelter gave me her remaining food, Science Diet. Being a new kitty, I took her to my vet for a check-up. Ear infections and chin acne. The vet said to only use stainless steel feeding bowls and instructed me on dry food. No Science Diet. I came away with a $50.00 bag of pure rabbit food, no gluten, no fillers, no corn meal, no sugars…you get the gist. Subsequently, I went to a specialty cat store. Bought dry food similar to the rabbit food and cans and cans of super-dooper high quality wet food that cost me a bundle, like .80 per can. I bought lots as going away=$100.00. My kitty reluctantly finally ate the dry food but NO to the wet food, can after can of different varieties. So! I admit I did buy Iams dry food and Fancy Feast, foods my former cats lived on for years…before I knew of the good, healthy stuff. And my new kitty gobbled them up…purring! I know, I know. Guilty of treating my kitty…& taking the easy way out to see her eating. I do still feed her the healthy foods but I know going back and forth is not right. THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE. I KNEW CATS WERE PRONE TO KIDNEY/URINARY TRACT DISEASE, BUT THE COMPREHENSIVE INFO HERE DID IT FOR ME.

    • Good for you for switching your cats over to good quality food, Ronnie. It’s important that cats don’t stop eating, and sometimes, that means resorting to “junk food.” Just keep trying to get her on better quality foods, and once she eats them, try not to go back to the others.

  42. Thank you once again, Ingrid, for this very insightful and precious article! Zoe is unfortunately one of the hard-core dry food addicts (my fault), because being an only-cat she was always just trying some of the food and leaving most of it… and she got more and more difficult (because she had the choice, I realize now!!). And of course feeding her dry food was easier for me. My fault was I didn’t know about the dangers of dry food back at that time (I listened to the manufacturers!) and so she is addicted by now. It will take all my strength to transition her to grain-free. She only likes tuna, maybe I can start with that? Thank you for the link to your previous post!
    When I’m back in Italy (I’m in Rhodes, Greece now) I will start the hard task! 🙂
    BTW, Zoe is with her Grandpa (my father) while I’m away, he loves her a lot and spoils her to bits! 🙂

    Kisses from Rhodes, Greece!

    • Anna, tuna is okay as an occasional treat, but it’s not a good idea to feed it on a regular basis. You can try to use the water from the tuna and a few morsels to entice Zoe to accept the new food.

    • Anna, I have a 21 year old cat. She would never go near canned or raw foods. That was until I read about a product made by Purina that I could sprinkle on the canned food to get her to eat it. After only one month of doing this my cat just loves her canned food and I have never fed dry food again. It’s been 5 years now on canned. My other cat Arnie was a dry food addict at at 6 years old got up to 27 pounds. Way too heavy. I also switched him to canned but he was not a problem. He just had to get used to eating 2 to 3 portions a day instead of free feeding. He is now no longer overweight or diabetic. I caught his diabetes relatively quickly and the diabetes was due to feeding dry food. Because I switched his diet quickly to canned he never had to take insulin. I just monitored his blood sugar. Putting an obligate carnivore on canned or raw food is the best thing you could ever do to prevent disease, obesity for some cats and have them live super long lives. My 21 year old still plays like a kitten at times, has no arthritis, thankfully no cancer or hyperthyroidism etc. I’ve lost too many cats too soon because of feeding dry cat food. Never again!! BTW, the product that has helped my resistant cats slowly learn to love canned for of all types is called FortiFlora. It’s a probiotic, good for the digestive tract and many cats love the powers taste. You just sprinkle a bit on top of the food at watch your cat eat, For the first two weeks you may have to sprinkle a few times during the meal just to get them to keep going but it really won’t take long till you can reduce the amount and watch your cat eat just the canned food all by itself. My cat was so finicky she wouldn’t eat canned food, any type of meat like chicken table scraps, nor would she touch tuna, milk or anything else other than dry cat food and water. Now she’ll experiment and eat a little of these things as an occasional treat only. She loves her canned cat food now though!! It can be done. I bought my FortiFlora for cats online at There’s a good website called that has great info about this topic. It’s written by a vet. Good luck whatever you do.

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