Wet food has many benefits for our feline friends: it helps increase overall hydration and aids in many bladder issues commonly found in cats. These include cystitis (sterile inflammation of the bladder wall), bladder stones, bladder crystals and urinary obstruction in male cats.

Wet food also reduces the amount of carbohydrates a cat gets. Cats are poorly designed to handle a diet high in carbohydrates. Being almost pure carnivores, they do much better with a diet high in protein and low in carbs.

So, if you’re looking to make the switch from dry food to wet, here are some things things that can help along with useful information:

The transition process often involves much more than just plunking down a new food item.  Time, patience and tricks are often required.

One reason that cats like dry food so much is because the pet food companies coat the kibble with extremely enticing animal digest sprays that are very pleasing to a cat – even making a poor quality diet smell desirable to the animal.

In addition to the coating of dry food with animal digests, another issue is one of a crunchy texture, which is very different from canned food.  Cats are very resistant to changes in their food texture. 

The key to transition is to do it slowly and with patience and incorporate various tricks for the stubborn cats. The most important issue is actually making the change, not how fast you accomplish it. 

One common mistake folks make is to assume that their cat “won’t touch” the new food after an initial hesitation to eat it and then the owners fill up the bowl with dry food.  In many cases, it is simply not that easy to get cats off of dry food.

There are two categories of cats – those that will eat canned food and those that will be extremely resistant to eating anything other than dry food.  If your cat falls into the first category, lucky you. These cats will take to it with the attitude of “finally – an appropriate diet for my species.” In this case, if your cat has been on all dry food, or only receives canned food as an occasional ‘treat,’ start by feeding canned food in increasing amounts.  Gradually decrease the dry, taking about a week to fully switch the cat over to 100 percent canned food.

Some cats may experience softer stools during the transition.  Don’t worry if this happens. You can ride it out as long as the stool has some form. If actual diarrhea results from the diet change you will either need to experiment with different canned foods or slow the transition down and do it over a period of several weeks.

The average cat should eat about 180 – 220 calories per day based on their size and activity level. This is found in 5-6 ounces of the average canned food.

However, note that high protein/low fat/low carb foods like Weruva Paw Lickin’ Chicken and some Tiki Cat varieties are very low in calories (see the Cat Food Composition chart, far right column) so you will need to feed much more than 5-6 ounces which can get quite expensive.

The necessary daily caloric intake should be split between 3 to 4 meals/day (or just free-fed if they are not overweight).

When determining how much you should be feeding your cat once transitioned to canned food, keep it simple.  Too fat?  Feed less.  Too thin?  Feed more.

A happy, healthy looking cat

Now….for the stubborn cats……

If you are unlucky, and your cat does not recognize the fact that he is a carnivore and would live a healthier life if eating canned food, then you have some work to do.  Some cats that have been on dry food for their entire life will be quite resistant to the diet change and may take several weeks or longer to make the transition to a healthier diet.

For ‘resistant-to-change’ cats, you will need to use the normal sensation of hunger to help with the transition. For this reason, it is very important to stop free-feeding dry food.  This is the first, and very critical, step.  You need to establish set mealtimes. They are not going to try anything new if their bowl of junk food is in front of them 24/7.

Cats do not need food available at all times. It really is okay for them to experience a hunger pain!  That said, it can be very hard to listen to your cat begging for food! This is where many people fail and just give in and fill up the dry food bowl.  

On the other hand, do not attempt to withhold food for long  periods of time (greater than 24 hours) with the hope that your cat will choose the new food.  You need to ‘convince’ them that a high quality canned food  really is good for them, rather than to try starving them into it – which does not work anyway.  Allowing a cat to go without food – especially an overweight cat – for a long period of time (greater than 24-48 hours) can be quite dangerous and may result in hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease).

Hepatic lipidosis can also develop when a cat consumes 50 percent or less of his daily caloric requirements over a period of many days.  The definition of “many” varies from cat-to-cat.  For this reason it is important to understand that you need to have some idea of the calories from canned food combined with the calories from dry food that your cat is consuming on a daily basis while you are implementing the transition to canned food.

Cats do not develop hepatic lipidosis when consuming at least 15 calories per pound per day. This number is figured on lean body weight, not fat weight.

If your cat weighs 18 pounds but really should weigh 12 pounds, please make sure that he/she is consuming about 180 calories per day.  (12 pounds lean body mass X 15 calories/pound/day = about 180 calories/day)

In reality, the cat in the above example would probably be completely safe at only 150 calories per day.

If you have a small female cat that should only weigh 9 pounds, please make sure that she is consuming at least 135 calories per day.

Canned foods never list the calorie content on the can but many dry foods do list this information on the bag.  A rough guideline for the calorie content of most canned foods that are 78 percent moisture is about 30 calories per ounce, but can range from 20 to 40 calories/ounce as shown by the chart linked above.

Most cats will lose some weight during the transition to canned food.  Given that a very high percentage of cats are overweight to begin with, this is a favorable result of the diet change – as long as they do not lose too much weight too fast.  A cat should never lose more than one to two percent of body weight per week.

During the transition, work with your veterinarian and make sure all cats are weighed weekly during the transition.  

For owners that want to weigh their cats at home or keep tabs, a scale that is reasonably priced is: Salter Baby and Toddler scale. It weighs to the nearest half ounce and has a ‘hold’ button on it that helps obtain an accurate weight even for a cat that is moving around a bit.rs that want. Amazon and other online retailers have this product. 

Resign yourself to the fact that you will be very frustrated at times and you will be wasting canned food as they turn up their nose at it.  Also, you may want to immediately switch your cat to a dry food that has fewer calories from carbohydrates than most dry foods. 

Talk to your veterinarian about specific brands. The low-carb dry foods are very high in fat and therefore are very calorie dense.  These foods must be portion-controlled, otherwise your cat may end up gaining weight.  Let’s presume that a certain dry food has 612 calories per cup.  One quarter of a cup contains 153 calories so be very careful to pay attention to how much of these high calorie dry foods you feed.

The caloric needs of an average cat can range between 150 to 250 calories/day depending on their lean body weight and activity level. The low-carb dry foods are also very high in phosphorus.  This is especially detrimental for cats with compromised kidney function.

And, of course, these low-carb dry foods are water-depleted – just like all dry foods – putting your cat at risk for serious urinary tract problems.  They are also cooked at high temperatures in order to dry them out.

These dry foods are not recommended for long-term feeding for all of the reasons stated above. Please use them only as transition diets.

Be sure to stay away from any “light” varieties since those types of foods are very high in carbohydrates.

Here are some various tricks for the stubborn ones.

Keep in mind that different tricks work on different cats:

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