Podcast: Why Cats Should Eat Wet Food

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cats should eat wet foodThere is no shortage of cat food options to choose from, but plenty of reasons to choose one over another.

Wet food is great for all cats, but is especially great for male cats due to their increased risk of developing a urinary obstruction, which is the condition that actually lead Dr. J to start Preventive Vet!

Obstructions are incredibly painful, and extremely life-threatening if not taken care of immediately, so any steps that you can take to prevent it from happening in the first place — like giving your cat wet food — is highly recommended.



Instead of using wet food as a "treat" or as a supplement to your cat's dry food, it should really be the other way around. Use a little bit of dry food as a treat, or put it in an interactive toy for your cat to hunt throughout the day, and let the majority of most cats' daily caloric intake come from a high protein, low carbohydrate canned cat food.

And why is this so important?

The Solution to Pollution is Dilution

The main reason cats benefit from wet food is hydration. Yes they came from the desert and their kidneys are really good at concentrating their urine during times of low water availability, but they no longer live in deserts and there is no need to put that type of stress on their kidneys.

Unfortunately, in Dr. J's experience, a lot of cats are walking around dehydrated and are at greater risk for developing, or worsening, bladder inflammation, urethral obstruction, urinary obstruction, you name it.

Cats tend to drink as much water as they need in the moment, but this is one of those situations where, within reason, more can be better.

There's a saying in veterinary surgery, "The solution to pollution is dilution."

So if a cat has an inflamed bladder, or potentially has higher concentration of minerals that could gather up into stones and cause inflammation or an obstruction, the more water you have passing through their kidneys, bladder, and urinary system, the more often they'll be flushing that out and decreasing those inflammatory mediators, decreasing those concentrations of minerals, decreasing the grit, and decreasing all of the things that can cause problems.

wet cat food is important for urinary health

Just like us humans, water helps flush toxins out of our cats' systems. Water is vital to all of our bodies, and wet food is an easy way to get it into your cat.

Another reason why canned food is Dr. J's preferred way for your kitty to dine, is because the ideal meal for a cat is a mouse, and canned food generally replicates that food structure over dry kibble.

Most dry foods are filled with carbohydrates, and it's not that cats can't digest carbs, but they tend to do better on higher protein and even higher fat diets.

The ideal macronutrient composition for cats is about 50-60% protein, 30-40% fat, and less than 10% carbohydrates.

A diet composed of this type of ratio can help prevent and combat obesity in cats, which will also help to prevent cat diabetes.

But even if your cat has diabetes, a diet of canned high-protein, low carb cat food, can actually resolve their diabetes, either on its own or in conjunction with insulin — but even then, over time they get over their need for insulin.

And as just a reminder (and something that's fun to say) — cats are obligate carnivores, which means they must eat meat and cannot survive on a vegetarian and especially not a vegan diet.

For anyone who feeds their cat kibble to "help" clean their teeth, I've got bad news for you (don't worry, you're in good company, I gave the bad news to myself a while ago too).

The reality is that a lot of cats barely chew their kibble (which is also a reason for what is lovingly referred to as "scarf and barf"), and even if they did chew it, the size of the kibble is usually so small that there isn't a lot of mechanical action taking place to properly clean a tooth.

There are dry food diets that are specifically formulated, either because of kibble size, composition, types of fibers, orientation, or treatment with special compounds, that can help bind the different factors of the saliva that can increase dental disease. And you can use those as their treats!

What Dr. J likes to tell people is that veterinarians can anesthetize a cat to have a dental, and that's exactly what should happen. But vets can't anesthetize a cat and clean out their kidneys (or they could, but you would never want to have to!).

cat kibble junkie

Dealing with a Kibble Junkie

If you have a kitten, now is the time to start getting them used to eating canned food because kittens will form a preference and associations with the texture of their food.

So a cat who has never tried canned food before (or dry food for that matter) may be more difficult to transition. It can be done, but it will likely take more time and effort.

Dr. J's cat, Smudge, was a kibble junkie, but with time (a few months!) and persistence, he was moved to predominately wet food. The goal is just to get them moving in the right direction. Slow and steady. Before you put down their kibble, put down the wet food for them to explore.

product Purina Fortiflora Cat Probiotic Powder Supplement

You can also use some tricks to make the wet food more palatable. Adding a little extra warm water to your cat's wet food will not only increase the hydration, but should also bring out even more of the food's smells.

Cats also tend to love Purina's FortiFlora nutritional supplement, which is a win-win because it's a probiotic that is good for their tummies, and also an attractant you can add to their wet food.

How Long Can You Leave Wet Food Out?

Conventional wisdom says an hour or two at room temperature. The reality is, it'll probably be left out longer than that. It depends a lot on the heat and humidity in your home, but 4-6 hours left out would probably be ok.

Depending on your home setup, and the amount of time you'll be away from home, you may even want to try freezing your cats food and leaving it out so that by the time they're ready to eat it, it will have thawed out. It might also be something cool to try giving your kitties as a summer treat 😎!

How to Choose the Right Canned Food for Your Cat

Highest quality is not always related to price or how pretty the label looks. In that respect, it's like certain booze. I mean HELLO, have you met my very good friends Charles Shaw and Jim Beam?

The goal is to find what your cat thrives on. What diet gives them energy, makes their coat shine, gives them healthy poops, and doesn't make them vomit? All of this is very important, and just like humans, every cat is different and has their own preferences.

When your cat has their lab work done every year, or every other year, check out the results! How do their kidneys look? What are their liver values? All of these things come into play.

Unfortunately when it comes to comparing wet food and dry food nutritional makeup, it's like comparing apples to oranges. What you have to do is convert the percentages in the canned food, (which is As Fed), to dry matter.

And then you can compare the macronutrients to find out if you're getting the correct 50-60% protein, 30-40% fat, under 10% carb ratios.

Did your brain just explode, because mine certainly did. Math is hard.

Need help figuring out how to transition your cat from dry food to wet food? Check out this cool video from Jackson Galaxy (who basically says exactly what we do, but with much cooler facial hair).


Thanks again for reading and listening!

About the author

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Mia Horberg

Mia Horberg is a Digital Strategist at Preventive Vet, and when she's not working she is watching Jeopardy! with her wife, planting flowers and veggies, and hanging out with her senior rescue pug Mabel Petrillo, and exotic shorthair kitty, Mazel von Schmear Visage. A lover of all animals, Mia is also lucky enough to volunteer at a rescue where she gets to hang out with goats and sheep every week.