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Feel Indulgent for Giving Your Cat
Canned Food?  DON'T!

by Dr. Rachel Addleman, DVM, DiplABVP, CVA
Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, Dr. Addleman has advanced training and Board Certification in feline medicine. She practices in Houston, Texas and can be found at AnimalFixer.com

Wet food vs dry food for catsCats are desert creatures and are true carnivores. In nature, they require mice, birds, reptiles, or bugs as sources to build a healthy diet. Dogs and people are omnivores, meat and plant eaters. Carnivores are unable to properly digest carbohydrates and thus a high carbohydrate diet lends itself to obesity and health problems.

A young healthy cat should be eating a diet similar to his wild cousins – one that is high in protein, high in fats, and low in carbohydrate. A mouse is composed of about 40-45% protein, 40-45% fat, and only 3-5 % carbohydrates.

Being a desert creature, they derive a large portion of their water from the food that they eat. Dry food obviously has little water content. Even cats who are encouraged to drink with the use of fresh daily water, kitty fountains, or running water taps may not drink enough to properly dilute their urine. Urinary crystals (microscopic stones) or sloughing mucus from the bladder wall mucosa is less dangerous in a diluted urine. This concentrated urine over a period of time can cause urinary problems, especially in the male cat with his narrower and longer urethra.

Most dry kibble has incredibly high carbohydrate levels due to the grain that is required to form the product. Carbohydrates cause overproduction of insulin, increased hunger, and weight gain. There are health concerns related to this weight gain, not the least of which is diabetes. A cat with a high carbohydrate diet often has a flakey coat (some owners think this is dandruff), or some may be greasy. Overweight cats often are not able to groom as well, sometimes culminating in poor bathroom grooming behaviors. Weight can affect your cat’s joints causing them to forgo jumping, or they may be less willing to play.

It is not uncommon to have an obese cat newly diagnosed with diabetes who can be converted to a non-diabetic state just by altering the diet. The key is to significantly decrease the carbohydrate content in their diet and begin slow weight loss program.

Cat owners were once told that dry food is better for their cat’s teeth. Not true! The research suggesting that dry food is better for oral health was done on dogs, not cats. There is little evidence to suggest dry food in the cat plays a significant role in maintaining oral health. A cat’s jaw does not go side-to-side as a person’s would, so there can be no true chewing. Cats use their teeth in the wild to catch and tear their food and in the process mechanically clean their teeth. The pieces are then swallowed whole. Commercial dry kibble is throat sized, so our domestic cats have little opportunity to rip and tear into their food.

By now you’ve probably guessed the alternative to a high carbohydrate, dry kibble diet. Canned foods have much lower levels of carbohydrates because they lack the grain needed to process the dry kibble. There are many good commercial brands available. The higher water content in the canned food is an added bonus.

During your cat’s physical exam, pre-existing medical conditions, sex, breed, and age are evaluated to allow us to make specific diet recommendations for your cat.