Feline specialists are now recommending cats eat canned food for all or most of their diet. As we will explain below, the doctors at Riverbend, too, recommend a wet diet over a dry diet.
Veterinarians used to tell cat owners to feed dry food because “it’s good for their teeth”. Actually we’ve now learned that it does nothing to help teeth unless the kibble is very large and is designed specifically for dental health. Cats just don’t chew small kibble, they gulp it. You can see that If your cat has ever vomited right after eating it.
Veterinarians also used to say that dry food was fine because “it’s easy and doesn’t cause any harm”. Actually it does cause harm because cats tend to overeat dry food and consequently gain weight.
To explain, dry food must have carbohydrates to hold it together. Even “grain-free” food (made with ingredients like sweet potato or peas) has carbohydrates. But, being classified as true carnivores, cats are not designed to eat carbs. When they do, their liver doesn’t signal the body when it’s full. Instead, cats will continue to feel hungry, often causing them to eat more calories than needed.
As we all know, obesity is a huge problem in this country, and close to half our pets are overweight. Fat is not just weight; fat is an endocrine organ that produces inflammatory mediators. Obese cats are at higher risk for urinary problems, joint and skin inflammation, as well as diabetes and cancer.
Having descended from desert animals, cats have the ability to make concentrated urine, and they do not necessarily feel thirsty. In the wild, cats get needed moisture from their food. Dry food, of course, supplies little moisture; in fact, dry food can be mildly dehydrating. The resulting highly-concentrated urine can cause irritation in the bladder, which in some cases causes cats to urinate in abnormal spots. It can even cause a plug that prevents them from urinating, and this can become a life-threatening emergency.
For all these reasons, we recommend a wet diet over a dry one. We do not, however, recommend raw food, homemade raw diets, or commercially-frozen raw diets. There is no evidence that ground-up raw food has any nutritional benefit for cats, and there is evidence that these foods are often contaminated with E. coli and/or salmonella. These bacteria can cause disease in cats and in their owners.
Our recommendation is a diet of high-protein, low-carbohydrate canned foods with low-to-moderate fat content. Fancy Feast Classic is one of these. It is a balanced and affordable diet that is low-carbohydrate and low-fat. And most cats like it.
A resource for the protein, fat, and carbohydrate content of canned foods is available at: catinfo.org