Help! My Cat Won’t Eat Wet Food

Last Updated on May 3, 2021 by Holly Anne Dustin

Most people pick dry cat food for convenience, cost, and simplicity. But the higher protein, lower carbohydrate, and moisture content of canned foods are closer to a cat’s natural diet. Making the transition to a wet food diet can help manage conditions like diabetes, obesity, and urinary disease. More vets now recommend feeding canned food instead of kibble, or at least a mix of the two.

Why Won’t My Cat Eat Wet Food?

A need for tips on how to transition their cat to wet food brought many clients into the pet store I managed. It frustrated most people that their cat won’t take to her new canned diet. So the humans came to the store looking for a “better” kibble because their furbaby “won’t eat wet food.” That’s not the solution.

It is possible to introduce a new food to your cats. It just takes time and a lot of patience. You will waste food. You will listen to a lot of complaining from your furbaby. But in the end you will have a healthier cat.

Dry Food Makes Cats Kibble Addicts

The kibble manufacturers and a cat’s discerning nature work against us when we try to transition our cats to a wet food diet. One reason that cats like dry food so much is because the pet food companies coat the kibble with an enticing animal digest spray. You really don’t want to know what that is, but it makes kibble almost addictive to cats.

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Even hardcore kibble addicts can be transitioned to wet food with patience (and some bribery)

Cats Don’t Like Change

If your furbaby hasn’t been exposed to wet food before, it will take longer to convince her of the benefits of her new diet. She won’t understand it as food.

Everyone knows you can’t force a cat to do anything. It’s more about convincing. Be patient. The important thing is making the switch, not how long it takes to get there.

How Can I Get My Cat to Eat Wet Food?

Let Kitty Get Hungry, But Not Starving

You are going to let Kitty’s hunger drive help you. But you can not just put wet food down and say she’ll eat if she gets hungry enough. Cats don’t work that way. They will go without eating for long enough to make themselves very sick or even starve to death.

Don’t let Kitty go over 24 hours, two days at most, without eating. If a cat goes over 48 hours without eating at all, or eats 50% less than her daily caloric requirements, is at risk for hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. For this reason, you need to know your kitty’s caloric requirement, and know the calories from the canned food and dry foods you are feeding while you are transitioning to a wet food diet.

Get Rid of the Never Ending Dry Food Bowl

Start by switching from free feeding to scheduled meal times. The first step is removing the never empty bowl of dry food. Figure out the amount of dry food your furbaby eats in a day. Divide it into 2 or 3 meals.

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Put the food down for 20-30 minutes and then take up anything that Kitty hasn’t eaten. Repeat this process again in 8-12 hours. It may take 1-2 weeks for them to adjust to their new meal times.

Add a teaspoon of wet food on the side but don’t stress if Kitty doesn’t eat it. This is about exposure. Slowly increase the amount of wet food and decrease the dry food.

Ignore the Begging

Offer an extra bit of wet food or a moist puree treat in between meals if Kitty gets unbearably obnoxious. Don’t cave in to the begging and put down extra dry food! I had to hide to get away from the whining when I was transitioning my Jeremy to a canned diet. He has extremely expressive eyes, and he’s very vocal. And he *loved* his kibble. We found that jerky treats worked to let him crunch and still transition to a wet food diet.

Kitty will learn to love her wet food

Tips for Successfully Transitioning Kitty to Wet Food

You can transition to a wet food diet once Kitty is used to her new mealtimes. Put out Kitty’s new wet food meal. Some cats will just happily eat it. Good for her and lucky for you.

But if your kitty has never eaten wet food, she, like my Jeremy, may hold out for her precious kibble. For these kitties, we need to resort to bribery.

Grey tabby cat eating a wet food diet with added gravy
Entice Kitty with toppers or flavorful additions

Adding Enticements to Wet Food

If she likes company while she eats, stick around. Petting encourages some cats to eat more. A nice play session before dinner can increase her appetite and encourage her to eat.

Patience Pays Off

It can be a challenge to convince a cat to transition to a wet food diet. But with patience, and a few tricks, even the most stubborn cats will eventually convert to a wet food diet. Jeremy is the first in line for dinner, vocalizing for his canned food now. He still likes his jerky treats but doesn’t get desperate for them anymore.

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