Why Won’t My Cat Eat Dry Food, But Only Wet Food

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  • Post last modified:December 18, 2021
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As cat owners, there will be times when you have bought a supply of dry food, only to find your cat refusing it. Has your cat decided only to eat wet food? Or does she consistently turn away from dry food?

Sometimes, the preference for wet food is due to pickiness. Other times, this can be related to health issues.

Below are a few possibilities to explain why your cat finds wet food more appealing than dry food, some tips to help maintain a varied diet, and the importance of nutritional balance!


Five Reasons Why Your Cat May Prefer Wet Food

Consistency and texture of wet food.

The hard, crunchy texture of dry food could have an unpleasant mouthfeel on your cat. They might prefer the more delicate characteristics of wet food.

Wet food, being soft and typically smothered in some sort of meat or fish-based gravy, has a texture reminiscent of a cats’ natural prey. The difference in textures doesn’t go unnoticed by your furry companion.

Added sauces and gravies deliver a better consistency, closer to what would be available if they lived in the wild. The added moisture also creates a softer texture. Because wet food is made with chunks of meat or other protein, the texture is more attractive for cats. 

Wet food has stronger smells and flavors.

The higher moisture content of wet cat food strengthens the meaty or fishy aroma, making it more appetizing to cats.  Some manufacturers even add artificial flavorings to emphasize the scents, incorporating more distinctive odors into the wet food. 

The added scents are more desirable to cats than the mild-smelling dry food. Cats are guided by their noses, relying heavily on their sense of smell to lead them to their prey.  Not only is the smell an important factor in their desire to eat, but the flavor is also relevant. 

Wet food has much stronger meat or fish essence than dry food. With no additional sauces or raw ingredients added, dry food has a lackluster presence compared to wet food. The lack of freshness is sometimes unappetizing to cats.

Aging or health issues

aged and old cat

The normal course of aging can be related to particular eating habits, especially if there is a sudden change in appetite. As cats age, their senses become weakened. Generally, this happens over time and is difficult to detect right away.  

This is most noticeably true for their sense of smell. As mentioned, wet food has a particularly strong odor compared to dry food. Your cat may find the lack of scent emanating from their dry food to be unappetizing or may not be capable of smelling the dry food at all. 

Another possible culprit for wet food preference is poor oral health or dental pain. Tooth loss or gum sensitivity can make eating dry food more challenging due to its rigid quality. Wet food is considerably softer and less difficult to chew, making this a more comfortable option for your cat. 

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Dehydration.  

In general, cats don’t drink enough water and are at risk for dehydration symptoms. This is especially true if they dislike their water source or if their water isn’t fresh enough for their standards. Cats prefer cool, clean water in well-kept dishes.

Cats can be extremely particular in this regard and might compensate by eating only wet food. Wet food contains up to 80% water, while dry food typically contains 10% or less. If your cat is dehydrated, it may intuitively crave wet food to compensate. 

Felines Natural Instinct. 

Cats are carnivores, which means they crave meat instinctively.  Wet food is closer to what would be eaten in their natural habitats, with pieces of meat or fish as the base of most recipes.  The feline brain is naturally drawn to a more meat-like product.

As you know, dry food has no similar features to fresh meat. Everything, from the texture to the scent, is different from food found in the wild.

Even if your cat has never hunted, it still has a desire to eat meat.  The nutrients provided by wet food, such as protein, help maintain energy and overall health. 


What You Can do if Your Cat Only Eats Wet Food

Have your cat checked by a vet. 

If you are concerned about your cat’s health, the essential step is to have your cat checked by your veterinarian. Doing so can clarify if any medical problems could be causing your cat to turn down dry food, or if their refusal is simply due to disinterest in the food. 

If your cat only eats wet food for reasons related to health, it is essential to follow the advice given by a professional. Any abrupt change in dietary habits could cause concern and should be assessed for peace of mind. 

Try adding water! 

adding water to cat food
adding water to cat food

Once you have established your cats’ eating habits aren’t due to health issues, there are a few options you can try to start incorporating dry food into their diet. 

An easy place to start is by simply dampening the dry food slightly with water, then heating the food in the microwave until warm.

Using 20-30 second increments, check and stir regularly until the food is evenly warmed. The added moisture and higher temperature will increase the smell of the dry food and soften the texture. 

Always check the temperature before serving your fur baby to ensure it isn’t too hot. Ideally, the warmed food should be around body temperature. Cats have an affinity for warm food since they are hunters. 

Switch it up! 

Another option is offering a different variety of dry food. There is a wide selection of different flavors, shapes, and sizes of dry food available. Therefore this method may take some trial and error.

Asking for advice on the best type of dry food for your cat can save you some time! If you are unsure of what to try, your vet can offer advice for your specific needs.

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Additionally, pet specialty stores have knowledgeable employees and a variety of foods not found in grocery stores.

Your cat may be bored with its current variety or simply dislike it entirely. If you feel this could be a possibility, try switching from seafood to red meat, or vice versa. Try incorporating the dampen and warm method here, too. 

Add dry food to wet food. 

If your cat still refuses dry food, try mixing it up! Using half wet food and half dry food, fold together thoroughly until all dry food is equally covered. This will add flavor to the dry food while decreasing wet food intake. 

You can change the amount of each type of food, depending on your cat’s preferences. For example: If you’re just starting to transition your cat into eating less wet food, maybe try adding 75% wet food and 25% dry food to your cat’s dish.

At first, you might notice that your cat only eat when you are watching her. That’s because she is still trying to get use to it even though she finds the food “acceptable”.

As your cat gets more accustomed to the addition of dry food, you can increase the ratio of dry food to wet food. Warming this combination is another option if your cat enjoys their meals at a warmer temperature.


Why It’s Important to Offer Your Cat a Well-Balanced Diet

Just like humans, cats have varied nutritional needs. 

These needs include a diet high in protein, with an assortment of vitamins and minerals tailored to their dietary requirements. Deficiencies in any of these nutrients can lead to symptoms like low energy or a dull coat, as well as many other potential problems. 

Some possible issues caused by an unbalanced diet can be pretty serious. 

For instance, the most frequent diet-related health concern is obesity, which is very common for cats. While wet food is usually healthy for cats, it should be balanced with lower-calorie dry food.

This is vitally important for cats who are in need of weight management, have symptoms of diabetes, or have any other diet-related health concerns.

Both wet and dry foods offer different nutrients in varying amounts. 

Reading nutrition and ingredient labels is very important when choosing what to feed your cat. Ideally, the food your cat eats will be well-balanced, high in protein, and offer the minerals and vitamins your cat needs. Compare labels to find which suits your needs best. 

Your veterinarian can advise you on making the best food choices for your cat if it has any special dietary needs. Overall, it isn’t inherently wrong for your cat to prefer wet food over dry food.

However, balance is key to sustaining a healthy diet. Offer a variety of foods to your furry friend, both wet and dry. It might take a few tries, but don’t get discouraged! With a bit of trial and error, you’ll find the right combination for your sweet kitty.