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What to do with cats who don't eat wet food?
May 29, 2008 2:54 PM   Subscribe

My cats are effectively ignoring their wet food in favour of their dry food. What can/should I do to keep them eating healthily?

I'm a very happy dad to three 7-month-old tabbies, but I'm afraid my lack of cat experience is turning me into a bit of a worrier.

The rescue foundation that we adopted from gave us a supply of food and told us to keep using it, because it's apparently primo stuff. (Wellness brand canned wet food, and Orijen brand Biologically Appropriate Real-Food Kibble)

We feed the cats wet food twice per day, around 12 hours apart. They get kibble in between, and we take the kibble away around 1 hour before wet food time.

My problem is that they don't eat the wet food. I've taken the portions down to about 4 tablespoons per day, each. They nibble at it, but they always leave the bulk of it to dry out and get disgusting in their dishes, and then they spend their time wailing at me for "Crunch Particles", which is their term for kibble, as far as I can tell.

I want to be a good dad, but I'm highly opposed to buying a bunch of brands of cat food until I find one they like, and I'm starting to feel like a real chump laying out 6 portions of ignored food every day. I don't know what to do... If I stir kibble into the wet food, it's a crap shoot: sometimes the mixture gets fully devoured, sometimes its' just a waste of kibble.

What I'm hoping is that I can simply feed them what they like (dry food) and stop feeding them the wet food they ignore, but I certainly don't want to compromise on nutrition. Ideas? Suggestions? Anything? Please? I'm freaking out over here.

Thanks in advance!
posted by chudmonkey to Pets & Animals (35 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I feed my cats nothing but dry food (Natural Balance Adult) and they've never had a problem. I just leave it out and let them self-feed, and they're pretty sane about it.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:01 PM on May 29, 2008


I don't know cats, but this technique seems to work well with small children. Try taking away the wet food completely and then surprise them with it a few days later. The short break might shake up their feeding time enough that they will become un-bored with it.
posted by phunniemee at 3:02 PM on May 29, 2008


I'm not a vet, but.. As long as they are drinking it shouldn't be a problem. Give them either water or watered down milk. Cat's rely on wet food for hydration, so make sure they have plenty to drink if all they are eating is biscuits. If you're worried they may be dehydrated pinch the skin on their back, if it doesn't spring back into position swiftly there is a chance they may be dehydrated. I wouldn't worry for now, you'll probably find their tastes will change as they grow.
posted by fire&wings at 3:03 PM on May 29, 2008


(Oh, and with the kids it's not a wet/dry food thing, obvs. More like "OMG SPELLING FLASHCARDS!!!" after you've done only math for awhile.)
posted by phunniemee at 3:04 PM on May 29, 2008


There's a lot of conflicting advice on this, but you will not kill them by feeding them decent dry food. Make sure you provide them with fresh water if you do so, however.

If you want to make sure that they eat your preferred wet food, try giving it to them in the morning after leaving them little or nothing to nosh on at night.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 3:04 PM on May 29, 2008


My 16-year old DSH has eaten nothing but Iams dry kibble her whole life. Knock wood, she's healthy as a horse. As long as you're not feeding them junk crunchy stars, they should be just fine.
posted by workerant at 3:05 PM on May 29, 2008


Your cats eat dry food? Count your blessings. It's much less gross to deal with (for you), and my cat's vets told me it's just as healthy.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:06 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Our cats live on dry food and whatever water they can steal from our glasses, the dogs water bowl, vases scattered around the house, whis whi;e having 3 waterbowls scattered around the house changed on a daily basis.

Cats are cats, as long as they are eating and drinking something on a regular basis I wouldn't worry.

If they stop being active, using the litterbox or eating/drinking then you can start to worry.
posted by iamabot at 3:07 PM on May 29, 2008


Ah, I will add that the girls have two water bowls out at all times and drink regularly.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:07 PM on May 29, 2008


When we were foster parents for some kitties, we were told by the organization that when it came to food, we were the boss, and not the kitties. We fed them twice a day, and left the bowls on the floor for about ten minutes. If the food wasn't eaten by then, oh well. It only took a few days before they ate every bit of their food the moment those bowls hit the floor. So... You're the boss! My advice: mix together (crush the kibble if need be) a set amount for each, drop the bowls at 8am, pick them up at 8:10am. Ignore kittie cries - It won't be forever. Repeat at 6pm. Etc.
posted by gyusan at 3:07 PM on May 29, 2008


My cat eats nothing but friskies, even when offered other, more expensiver, fancier and/or stinkier alternatives. No ill effects so far, though I suspect that if we ate him he’d be friskie flavoured.
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on May 29, 2008


Take the kibble away 1 1/2 hours before you add the wet food.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:09 PM on May 29, 2008


Usually it's the other way around, they only want the wet food! My understanding was that it's better for their teeth for them to have dry food, but I'm no vet. I do have a healthy 12-year-old kitty who's had nothing but kibble her whole life, and before that had a 16-year-old who also ate nothing but kibble.

You're a good dad.
posted by HotToddy at 3:10 PM on May 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't worry about it. Cats can, and my vet recommends them to, have the majority of their diet be a dry diet. You can purchase very healthy dry diets every bit as nutritious as the canned stuff. Especially as youngsters the dry helps clean their teeth and can prolong the longevity of those teeth. My 19 year old cat has a 90 percent wet diet because his teeth are not what they once were and he has a bit of trouble with the dry sometimes. But for most of his life he was a dry only guy. With canned food as a special treat sometimes.
Also a cat who has urinary issues can benefit from a mainly moist diet because of the added water content in the food. But as far as your normal kitty, I think a dry diet is the way to go. It doesn't dry out and spoil and their poops are much easier on the olfactory system!
posted by fogonlittlecatfeet at 3:10 PM on May 29, 2008


Those are indeed good brands. If you want to feed them what they want, why not? If you want them to eat the wet food only, remove the dry food. If you want them to eat both, use smaller portions, and don't give the dry until the wet is eaten. Healthy animals will eat when hungry. If they're not eating, they're not hungry, or they're sick.
posted by jesirose at 3:12 PM on May 29, 2008


Voting for dry as well. My 11 and 17 year old cats never had wet until last year when the third cat got very sick. Now they scream for it twice a day, which is generally the curse of wet food, and it's gross and horrible both before and after.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:14 PM on May 29, 2008


You all rock, thank you! Great anecdotes, great reassurance, and great suggestions. My mind is at ease!
posted by chudmonkey at 3:16 PM on May 29, 2008


My vet actually chastises people for feeding their cats too much wet food. The dry food helps their teeth as far as strength and plaque are concerned. I've only ever fed my cats (I've had several in my lifetime) dry food with the occasional wet-food-treat. They seem quite happy with the arrangement!
posted by pontouf at 3:17 PM on May 29, 2008


The rescue foundation ... told us to keep using it

Your cats don't have to eat wet food just because the shelter told you so. We would have gone crazy trying to abide by all the stuff that the shelter told us we 'had' to do, and our cats turned out to be healthy little buddies anyways.

(Incidentally, the only place that I've ever seen the food that shelter told us we needed to use was at the shelter's store. Hmm...)
posted by JohnFredra at 3:19 PM on May 29, 2008


My cat's been on (good - Nutro) dry food for 11 years without a single health problem. I think yours will be fine.
posted by luriete at 3:21 PM on May 29, 2008


I'm highly opposed to buying a bunch of brands of cat food until I find one they like

Why? Isn't that better than repeatedly throwing away a brand that I presume is relatively expensive? It's a moot point if you're happy with just giving them dry food, which seems to be fine, but I don't understand the opposition.
posted by languagehat at 3:22 PM on May 29, 2008


I have one cat that likes wet food, whereas the other one won't touch it. I give it to the one as a special treat about once/month. Otherwise they've been on dry food all their lives.
posted by desjardins at 3:27 PM on May 29, 2008


I'm highly opposed to buying a bunch of brands of cat food until I find one they like..

... I don't understand the opposition.


The opposition is mostly crotchetiness... For every brand of food I buy, I have to do research, look for recommendations/warnings, make the sure the producer is one I want to do business with. There's no guarantee I'll find a brand all three cats enjoy, and no guarantee that they'll continue enjoying it. I would happily do this if my cats needed me to for their health, but otherwise I would feel like a chump.
posted by chudmonkey at 3:27 PM on May 29, 2008


My cats refuse to eat wet food, and I have tried every different brand from ultra expensive to cheap stuff. A dry food only diet can sometimes increase chances of crystals in the urine -- one of my cats has that problem right now -- but if they won't eat wet food it's not like you can force them. I think as long as you feed a really high quality food you're doing okay. Take them to the vet and watch out for litterbox weirdness.
posted by sugarfish at 3:43 PM on May 29, 2008


The main issue is that the food you give them be nutritionally balanced and a complete diet. There are specific micronutrients that a cat must have to stay healthy (like how humans don't make vitamin C so have to consume it) as well as an optimal balance of overall nutrients that works for them. The packaging of each type of food should say if it's a complete diet or not, and if it's good quality then I expect both types you're giving are. So as long as the cats drink enough and whatever you give them to eat is balanced and complete then they're fine.

If you do need them to eat some of the wet food then stop leaving the kibble out all day. Just mix to two together and only feed them twice per day, they'll soon get used to it and eat everything. As long as they eat enough at meal times continual grazing isn't really necessary. If they don't eat enough that way you could always leave out kibble over night but not during the day or something, so then they're hungry for one of the meals but getting extra food before the other. I did this when my kitten was still growing and it worked really well. You should be able to see from their condition if they're eating enough or too much (a nice fat layer over the ribs but no big saggy bulging tummy) and can adjust accordingly.

And just as a data pint, we give our picky skinny kitten (~13 months old) and greedy fat cat (13.5 years old) dry food twice per day and wet food maybe once per week as a treat. This stops the picky kitten getting bored with everything and keeps the fat cat happy with her diet kibble. They don't share a bowl as their food is different and this allows me to monitor and adjust how much each one gets.
posted by shelleycat at 3:49 PM on May 29, 2008


Also, the NZ government put out a code of welfare for companion cats last year. It's quite good I think, shows both minimum standard and 'best practice' of what you should be doing to look after your cats, and was widely researched and discussed first. Most people will exceed the minimum easily but I think it gives a good benchmark for what is necessary, and found it put my mind at ease when it came to worrying about things like food and how fat they should be etc (there are pictures at the end of what size a healthy cat should be). It's quite a good primer for a new(ish) cat owner, and as such might be useful to you.
posted by shelleycat at 4:01 PM on May 29, 2008


My vets have always discouraged canned food. You really have nothing to worry about if you're feeding them good kibble and giving them access to fresh water.

There has been enough trouble with contaminated canned food, and enough rumblings in the press about the quality of food stuffs canned for animals, I'd cheerful stop buying it if I were tough enough to put up with the howling and feline protests.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:08 PM on May 29, 2008


My 13yr old cat has eaten dry food his entire life. He's never liked wet food, even as a kitten. He won't even eat soft treats. He's not picky about brand - as long as the food's crunchy, he's happy - but I only feed him brands like Science Diet, Innova, etc. He's never been sick (he's indoor only) and when I took him in for his yearly check-up, the vet said his bloodwork looked great.
posted by yeoja at 6:41 PM on May 29, 2008


A little late to this thread, but my cats hate Wellness wet food--won't touch it with a ten-foot pole. But they like other high quality wet food brands-- EVO, Innova, Merrick, Nutro, Natural Balance, etc. You can just try another premium brand wet food. I happen to think that a combination wet food and dry food is best.
posted by picklebird at 7:09 PM on May 29, 2008


Four tablespoons is a LOT for a few 7-month-olds. Miine get 1-2 tbsp per evening each, and they're fully grown. Maybe they're just full, or have had enough? Cats generally know when to stop eating, so try reducing the wet food you provide.
posted by GardenGal at 8:29 PM on May 29, 2008


Some cat food cans have BPA in the lining, which is somewhat disconcerting. I had never heard until this thread that dry food increases the risk of kidney trouble, but I have heard many times from various vets that wet food contributes to numerous oral diseases. If my cats refused wet food, there would be two minor worries off my mind.
posted by owhydididoit at 8:56 PM on May 29, 2008


Almost forgot to say, CONGRATULATIONS PAPA! :-)
posted by owhydididoit at 8:58 PM on May 29, 2008


As has been stated here, it's my undestanding (and extensive knowledge of cats) that quality dry food* is better for cats than wet. For their teeth, nutritionally, everything. Wet is more of a "treat", something you give occasionally. My cats gets a packet of wet food a few times a week and high quality (Science Diet's Nature's Best line) dry food the rest of the time. They also seem to throw up the dry food MUCH less often than the wet.

*cheap dry foods have little nutritional value and contain large amounts of filler, so not all dry foods are created equal at ALL
posted by FlyByDay at 8:59 PM on May 29, 2008


Is it the same flavor? Yeah well they're telling you they're sick of that flavor. Mine did this with Tuna but as in real Tuna fresh from the sea. Fresher than most people will ever eat! "...this fish is worth thousands of dollars cat! What do you mean 'Nah, not eating that shit no more!'??" So yeah apparently you do have to mix it up and offer their spoilt little palates some variety, no matter what it is!
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 1:09 AM on May 30, 2008


Our cats get fed twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening. When they were kittens we looked at the bag of dry food and how much was recommended for their weight then halved it. That is what they got in the morning. In the evening they got half of what the wet food recommended for their weight. Our wet food no longer comes in chunks, only in puree and one of them can't figure out how to eat puree (he just licks it) so we only do dry food. Half of the daily recommended for their weight in the morning and the other half in the evening. Our cats are fit and healthy and the vet and visitors always mention how beautiful they are. Every single indoor cat I have seen who has free range at kibble has been overweight so I really suggest not leaving free range food out for them.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 10:21 AM on May 30, 2008


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