How to Transition a Cat from Dry Food to Wet Food (and Why)

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Cats are very particular creatures. If you have one, you know. They like things just such and they’re not remotely afraid to let you know about it. Of course, as a good pet parent, you probably find it hard to deny your furry friend.

This is why it can be especially difficult to transition your cat from dry food to wet food. Don’t worry, though. You’re about to get some proven tips that will help make the process a lot easier (and may even save your relationship).


Why Wet Food Is Better for Cats than Dry Food

You might already know the answer, but your cat isn’t going to give up their favorite kibble without a fight, so the following may prove helpful when you talk to them about it.

Dry food is bad for your cat for three main reasons:

  • High in Plant-Based Protein: Dry food often contains plant-based proteins instead of the superior animal-based version.
  • High in Carbohydrates: Many dry foods have a high carbohydrate content, which is not ideal for carnivorous cats.
  • Low in Water Content: Dry food lacks sufficient moisture, which can lead to dehydration and urinary issues.

Some dry food options are low in carbs but high in phosphorus. That’s an especially detrimental ingredient for cats with kidney problems.

So why, then, does your little feline fella like this type of food so much? Because it’s easy for the cat food companies to coat it in animal digests, which your furry friend absolutely loves. Also – news flash – cats are finicky. If they’re used to the texture and crunch of dry food, they will resist switching to something so different.

Don’t Switch Your Cat from Dry Food to Wet Food if They’re Not Well

At this point, it should be clear that wet food is better for your cat. However, you shouldn’t begin the transition process if your cat currently has any health problems you’re treating.

If your cat begins associating the new food with the symptoms of their ailment, forget about it. You’ll have an easier time getting your cat to join the swim team than ever convincing them to embrace wet food. Furthermore, one of the symptoms your cat may be experiencing is a loss of appetite, so now would not be a good time to take away the food they prefer.

Don’t Try to Transition Them All at Once

Even as a purr-parent, this process is probably going to test your patience.

There are exceptions, of course. Your cat may love wet food. Or it might take a couple days, but then your cat warms to it without issue. However, for some of you, this could take months.

If your cat has never tried wet food before, go ahead and offer them some. If they take to it – congratulations – this process is going to be a breeze.

If your cat isn’t such a fan, mix a small amount in with their dry food. Then, slowly increase the amount as time goes on, little by little.

Note: Mixing in wet food means taking out an equal amount of dry food. If you don’t do this, your cat will just eat around the wet food to get to the stuff they want. In other words, you’re going to have to put a little pressure on your buddy.

Wet Food Transition Troubleshooting

Aside from your cat going on a hunger strike, there are two other common problems you might run into during the transition.

The first is that your cat may experience diarrhea. Softer stools aren’t a problem, but diarrhea is a sign that either you should try another brand or you need to slow the transition. This doesn’t mean you have to ditch dry food, though. You just need to slow things down a bit to give their stomach some time to adjust.

The second problem you might encounter is your cat regurgitating the wet food shortly after eating it. Again, this isn’t a reason to abandon the transition. If your cat is otherwise healthy, this is a temporary issue.

Don’t Let Your Cat Go More than 24 Hours without Food

If your cat is not a fan of their new food, they’ll probably let you know about it. As they figure out what your end goal is, you can expect that they will try to play on your emotions with lots of vocal protests.

As a good pet parent, you’re going to be very tempted to just give in. Don’t. Now, that being said, this doesn’t mean being so stubborn that you simply let your cat go hungry.

Even letting your cat go for 24 hours without food can increase their resistance to this new food. If your cat is overweight, 48 hours could be enough to give them hepatic lipidosis, a dangerous fatty liver disease.

In fact, going many days consuming just 50% or less of their daily caloric requirements can cause this ailment. Obviously, “many” is a bit vague; it differs from cat-to-cat. For most, consuming at least 15 calories per pound of lean bodyweight per day should be fine.

As dry food lists its caloric contents on the bag, you should be able to figure out how much your cat is consuming at the moment. Wet food doesn’t have this information, but a safe estimate is that there are roughly 30 calories per ounce.

Despite your best efforts, your cat will most likely lose some weight during this process. Most cats are overweight (don’t tell them), so this shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Just make sure they don’t lose the weight too quickly.

If you’re able to weigh your cat regularly, this will help a lot. As long as your cat isn’t losing more than 1-2% of their bodyweight per week, they’ll be fine.

How to Handle Free Feeding

You won’t be able to free feed with wet food. This will be a big adjustment in and of itself, something your cat will probably bring up with you immediately.

Nonetheless, switch to scheduled feeding times two to three times a day. Twice may be better simply because your cat will be much hungrier after 12 hours without food and, thus, more likely to take what you give them.

If your cat is being stubborn (shocking!), try switching to meal times with dry food first and, once that catches on, slowly move to wet food.

Play with Your Cat Before Mealtime

Lastly, one devious little trick you can play on your cat to help with the transition is to play with them before mealtime. If you have a tassel toy, get them going and their appetite may become stimulated. With their primal urges riled up, they’ll be a lot more likely to sink their teeth into the wet food.

Speaking of their predatory instinct, warm the food up a bit. It should be as warm as a mouse would be. On the other end of the spectrum, petting them while they’re in front of their food bowl may help them ease into their new menu.

One last time, the big takeaway here is that most cats are going to resist a change to wet food even after you explain to them how much healthier it is. Still, as a purr-parent, it’s your job to help them make this switch. They’ll be better for it and, if you follow the above advice, it doesn’t have to be that difficult.