In the field of nutrition whether discussing human or animal diets, new ideas are often in vogue for just a while and then they disappear. However over the last five years, there has been a growing consensus amongst feline veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists that cats should be fed predominantly if not exclusively canned cat foods. Dry food is out and canned food is in. I truly believe that this recommendation is neither a fad nor a trend. Rather it is the recommended diet for cats, now and in the future.
What is the basis for this diet? We all know that cats are carnivores, that is they eat meat (and in nature, the bones of their prey). However, over the last decade it has been determined that cats are complete or obligate carnivores. This means that both domestic and wild cats have no requirements for carbohydrates. Guess what type of food is very high in carbohydrates. Yes, dry cat food has lots of carbs. Since cats are complete carnivores, their digestive systems are not prepared to digest large amounts of carbs. What subsequently happens is that the carbs are converted to fat by the cats’ digestive system. As time progresses your cat that is eating the more convenient and less expensive dry food diets become obese.
The simple solution to this problem is to change your cats’ diet. However it is not so simple. Cats are creatures of habit. If your cat is eating dry food exclusively, it may not be a simple task to change the diet to predominately a canned diet. The first rule is not to force your cat to eat a canned only diet, If your cat doesn’t like canned food you can make your cat seriously ill if you try to force the issue by offering a canned only diet. Do it gradually.
A few suggestions to make canned food more palatable for your cat are:
- Try fish flavored can food. Most cats really love fish.
- Warm up the canned food in the microwave to produce strong smells.
- Add dry food to the canned food either whole or crushed to make it more palatable.
- Add table food or baby food to the cans, again to increase the likelihood of your cat eating it.
A word of wisdom. Not all cats that eat dry cat food can be changed to a canned diet. But also remember that we are supposed to be more intelligent than our cats. So maybe you can think of other ways to convince your cat to change.
Lastly, there are import benefits your cat will reap as a result of its new diet:
- Weight loss
- Obesity, which is the main side effect of a dry food diet, is the primary risk factor for adult onset feline diabetes. If your cat is obese there is a significant chance he/she will become diabetic after age ten. If your cat is thin or of normal size its very unlikely that it will be afflicted by diabetes.
- The incidence of lower urinary tract disease ( i.e. FUS, cystitis, FLUTD etc) is very significantly lower in cats eating canned food only than it is in cats eating primarily dry food.