Cats are complex and picky creatures, especially when it comes to their eating habits. Some cats will refuse to eat all but one type of food or only eat a particular flavor.
The easy option is to submit to their whims and give them the same food, day in and day out. Providing them with a suitable, balanced, and healthy diet that they will like can seem almost impossible—especially if it’s only dry food that they will eat.
In the past, many veterinarians recommended that it was best to keep house cats on mostly dry food diets. Experts thought that eating dry food would prevent tartar from forming on their teeth, but as veterinary medicine has progressed, they’ve discovered that’s not the case.
Many American Veterinary Medical Association members are now convinced it’s better to feed cats with more canned, wet food instead of a mainly dry food diet.
If you have a dry food-addicted cat at home and don’t know how to get it to eat wet food, check our step-by-step guide below on how to get your cat to eat wet food.
Why a Dry-Food-Only Diet Isn’t Good For Your Cat
Although dry food isn’t awful for your cat, there are some essential things to know before you completely give up on getting your cat to eat wet food.
The industry has developed dry cat food primarily to please us humans, and our fast-paced lifestyles. Such a way of feeding a domestic cat is simple, quick, and often cheaper than feeding it with quality wet food.
However, dry food only contains around 10% of water, which is way less than natural cat food (which should have about 67% of water). This means that in cases where the cat is fed only with dry food, there is a high chance of it being chronically dehydrated, leading to several diseases.
Cats are originally desert animals and have a less developed sense of thirst, so they often don’t drink enough, even though they may always have fresh water available.
Another downside to a dry-food-only diet is that it contains high carbohydrate levels, and cats don’t have a nutritional requirement in their natural diets for a lot of carbohydrates. Feeding cats with dry foods that are high in carbohydrates is linked to several digestive problems, including feline diabetes.
Benefits Of Wet Cat Food
A wet food diet is an easy way to get liquid into your cat’s body. With a balanced diet and sufficient water, it’s less likely your cat will develop diabetes, kidney problems or bladder blockages, which are common in cats.
Since dry food is high in carbohydrates, cats that mainly eat dry food and don’t get enough exercise tend to be overweight. Wet food contains a lot of protein, which supports strong muscle development and, of course, promotes lean body mass.
Cats’ nutritional requirements are 50 to 60% of protein, 30 to 40% of fat, and less than 10% of carbohydrates. Wet, canned food mostly meets a cat’s ideal dietary needs.
Just as people can get bored from eating the same food every day, cats can get bored with their food too. Adding wet food to your cat’s diet and giving them a selection of different flavors will bring some variety into it.
5 Steps For Getting Your Cat To Eat Wet Food
There are two types of cats, those who will start to eat wet food immediately and like it and those who will be very resistant and stubborn about it.
Cats fed dry food their entire life might be much more resistant and stubborn about a diet change and may take several weeks or even a couple of months before they make a complete transition to a wet food diet.
If your cat is in the second category, then you’ll need some patience, determination, and tricks. So if you decide that getting your cat off of a dry diet altogether is the best for their health, here are some tips and tricks on how you can accomplish that.
Step 1: Start Measuring Food And Establish Feeding Schedule
First, measure the amount of dry food eaten by your cat in one day and separate it into two or more separate feedings.
Don’t leave the dry food in the bowl all day round for your cat to eat whenever it wants as it’s likely it will not even try to eat the wet food. Instead establish a feeding schedule. Leave the food in the bowl for around 20 to 30 minutes, and then take away what’s left.
Many cat owners unknowingly encourage food pickiness in their cats. If your cat regularly gets a variety of treats and human food, it may have already learned that it just has to wait, and it will get something more exciting and tasty after some time.
The cat needs to realize that this is the only food it will receive daily. If we leave the choice to the cat, it will always choose the most delicious meal available, which is not necessarily the healthiest and most nutritious.
Give it one to two weeks for your cat to get used to their new meal schedule, and then you can start with mixing it with wet food as well.
Step 2: Start Adding Wet Food
Once your cat gets used to its new feeding schedule, it’s time to mix it up a little. Start giving them less dry food at feeding time. You can also put a combination of both—dry food with a bit of wet food on top.
When you notice your cat eating the meal mixed with wet food, you can slowly proceed to one meal of dry food with wet food.
If your cat refuses to eat the meal with wet food, stay patient and don’t give up. Don’t offer the dry food instead, as this will only show your cat it can get what it wants. Try different flavors or brands of wet food to see which one your cat likes the most.
Only give in, and offer dry food to your cat, if 18 hours have passed from their last meal.
Also, note that some cats might experience loose stools during the transition, which is entirely normal. If diarrhea persists, you can slow down the process of change to wet food and extend it to more than two or three weeks.
You’ll likely notice your cat starting to lose some weight during the transition period. This is actually a good thing, as many cats who have been on a dry food diet for an extended period tend to be overweight. However, if you notice a swift and significant drop in weight, you should contact your veterinarian.
Step 3. Exercise And Positive Praise
Exercise can stimulate your cat’s appetite, and when they’re hungry enough, they’re less picky about food.
A lot of domestic cats are overweight and don’t get much-needed exercise. Try getting a small laser light, perhaps, and make it chase it around the house or yard an hour or two before mealtime.
You can try exercising your cat with other toys too, for example, getting a small rope and moving around the house for them to chase it behind you.
Another important thing when getting your cat to start eating wet food is positive praise. Try stroking your cat when they’re in front of the wet food, as this may stimulate some cats to eat. Give them their favorite treat every time they eat at least a bit of wet food too.
Don’t forget that a cat’s sense of smell far exceeds a human’s. Your cat might smell the dry cat food if you keep it close to their feeding space and decide to wait it out and not touch the wet food. Move the dry food bag away from their feeding area into a cupboard, so they can’t smell it.
Step 4: Make Wet Food More Appealing
Mix different food items into the wet food, especially in the beginning. You can use a bit of canned tuna mixed with their wet food. You can also try adding a bit of chicken broth or sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese on it, which will also increase the smell and flavor of canned food.
Try warming up the canned food to mimic their body temperature. This trick will make some cats more interested in wet food.
If your cat is really stubborn about their new food, you can try hand-feeding them the canned food instead of putting it in a bowl in the first week.
Maybe your cat will not like a particular brand of canned food or flavor, so try different ones to see which flavor and brand will be most appealing to your cat’s taste.
Adding FortiFlora or fish oils will benefit your cats’ digestive system and overall health and enhance the food’s flavor and smell.
Step 5: Be Patient
Expect that you will be frustrated sometimes, especially if you have a cat that has been addicted to dry food and is also very stubborn. But it’s important to be patient and continue with the routine that you establish.
Some cats will need more time than others to adapt to their new diet, but remember, all cats will eventually start eating wet food, even if you’ve had them on a dry-food-only diet for several years. Whatever the reason for the change is, stay determined, stick to the feeding schedule, and continue adding wet food to the diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do Cat’s Love Dry Food?
Dry kibble is very appealing to cats because it has a great taste and smell because of the animal digest sprayed on its surface, which mainly serves as a flavor enhancer.
Although dry food may taste delicious to your cat, this doesn’t mean that it’s the most nutritious and healthy option for their diet.
Cats can also establish very high food texture preferences, and once the cat becomes accustomed to hard and crunchy dry kibble texture, it isn’t easy to convince them that soft and squishy food is a better option.
Do Cats Get Bored Of Eating The Same Food Every Day?
Just like humans, cats can get bored with the same food every day and might suddenly refuse to eat that one dry or wet food brand and flavor you’ve been buying for months or years, so it’s good to mix it up now and again with a can of cat tuna from the pet store or some cooked chicken.
Another reason you should occasionally switch foods is to prevent the possibility of your pet becoming allergic to what it’s eating. Cats that eat the same food every day can acquire an allergy to some of the ingredients in that particular food.
Do Cats Need Water If They Eat Only Wet Food?
Typically, cat’s need between 3.5 to 4.5 ounces of water per 5 pounds of body weight per day. If your cat is eating only wet food, they’ll get between 3.5 to 4 ounces of their required water from a single, average 5.5-ounce can. That’s almost half of their needed daily water intake just from the food.
But it’s not likely they’ll get enough water from only the wet food, so still make sure they have access to fresh drinking water at all times.
Is It Bad To Feed Your Cat Wet Food Every Day?
No, it’s not. Many veterinarians recommend that cats have a diet of exclusively or primarily wet food. Wet food contains the required nutrients and moisture to help ensure that your cat gets a balanced diet.
How Long Can You Leave Out Wet Cat Food?
Unlike dry food, wet cat food tends to get spoiled. So the maximum time that you can leave out the wet food is four hours. Even if your cat prefers to eat their food in two or more settings, don’t leave wet food out all day, as this can increase the risk of various bacterias developing, which can affect your cat’s health.
If the food has been sitting out for four hours, throw it away and wash the bowl properly with soap and water before refilling it with fresh food.
It’ll most likely take several weeks before you establish a feeding schedule and get your cat to like and eat wet food. But nothing is impossible—you just need to stay determined and patient.
Don’t forget that some loose stools or even vomit might occur during the transition, but that’s completely normal and is not a reason to abandon the wet food effort and go back to a dry food diet.
In those times when you feel frustrated, remember that you’re doing the right thing to benefit your cat’s health in the long term. Use the tricks and advice provided above, and your cat will be eating wet food in no time.