I’m Not Chicken To Tell You I Have A Beef About What Many Cats Eat

Maybe beef, lamb, and seafood aren’t the best choices for most cats

Published: September 02, 2014
Photo by VIN

I am sure only about a few things in life, but this I know: The sun will rise tomorrow; the Pope is Catholic; and during almost every single encounter I have with clients with cats, I will talk about feline nutrition and foods.

The question of how and what to feed cats has been a passion of mine for the last 20-plus years. Over that time, like most veterinarians, I have seen a marked increase in obese cats. As a cat specialist with an interest in intestinal diseases, I also see more than my fair share of chronically vomiting cats. You might say that much of my career has been dedicated to saving deep-piled carpeting from a relentless onslaught of digested cat food and human bare feet from stepping on cold, slime-encased hairballs first thing in the morning.

What do chronic vomiting and hairballs have to do with food?

From my perspective, quite a bit.

The story of cat nutrition actually starts about 100,000 years ago, give or take 30,000, in the form of the Middle Eastern wildcat. Traipsing the deserts of what is now Israel and Saudi Arabia and points in-between, this ancestor of our domestic cats met protein requirements by eating small, furry things that could run fast (but not fast enough); feathered creatures; and lizards. Note that beef and fish were nowhere to be found. With water in short supply and oases few and far between, the wildcat counted on quenching his thirst with the moisture found in his prey’s muscles and innards. With no amber waves of grain in sight, the wildcat got by eating the carbohydrates - grains and a few grasses, perhaps - that were contained in the stomachs or crops of his victims. If somehow you were able to put the prey species in a blender, puree them (not a pleasant thought, I know) and measure the carbohydrate content of those critters, it would be somewhere between two and 12 percent. Cats developed as low carb, but not no carb, eaters.

The exception to the above were those cats who accompanied the Romans, Phoenicians, and other sea-faring folks on their pillaging journeys to distant shores, and who probably DID eat fish. Otherwise, cats throughout millennia ate a diet of moist rodents, rabbits, birds, and the occasional lizard. It really wasn’t until World War II that dry cat foods became the norm in the States, due to the rationing of metal for non-essential items, which included canned pet foods.

With metal rationing, the die had been cast, so to speak for cat foods. In the post-war world, as Mom, Dad, Sis and Junior sat down to enjoy their uber-modern TV dinners, Fluffy or Tiger munched away on a cereal of mostly corn, soy and wheat gluten, with a bit of animal fat and maybe some chicken meal added in for good measure. It seems like a cruel culinary trick foisted on an apex predator.

Old habits die hard. So when I inquire about what clients are feeding their kitties, it’s the rare human who isn’t giving a dry diet. When I ask about canned foods, I’m usually met with horrified looks and am informed that such foods are “too rich” for cats or the canned food will cause dental disease; both of which are false. Some clients are honest and admit that it’s easier to fill up a bowl a few times a week than pop open a can twice a day.

My responses to this information vary, depending on the client and the situation, but rest assured I am typically kind and persistent. I usually begin by giving a brief history of those primordial desert cats and their “natural” diet, making the point that cats most likely do best when they are eating lower on the carbohydrate chain. I don’t think feeding cats the dietary equivalent of puffed corn cereal day in and day out was what Mother Nature ever intended. We all know that it’s not nice to fool our good Mother.

I then segue into my thoughts on what canned protein, always in the form a diet formulated and balanced for cats, to feed. My recommendations are based on a study, conducted in the 1990s in New Zealand, that involved client-owned cats who presented with vomiting, diarrhea, and/or itching. The cats were anesthetized, had endoscopes (tubes that enter the mouth and allow observation of the inside lining of the intestinal tract) placed, and purified proteins and carbohydrates were dropped onto the stomach linings. The researchers watched for redness, which they used as a marker for inflammation. That work showed that the foods that caused the most inflammation - but not in every cat - were beef, lamb, seafood, corn and soy.

Why that? Beef is a big bruiser of a protein and the immune system typically doesn’t like big proteins. Lamb looks a whole lot like beef to the immune system, so it doesn’t much care for lamb either. When fish sits (try to say that five times, fast) prior to processing, it can build up high levels of histamine, and histamine, in turn, typically goes hand in hand with inflammation. So maybe, beef, lamb, and seafood aren’t the best choices for most cats. Just sayin’.

What then to feed? My preference is to feed cats a poultry (chicken, duck or turkey) canned food that is low in carbohydrates. I like my feline patients and my own clowder to eat diets with less than seven percent carbohydrates, and there’s a nifty listing of canned foods at CatInfo with the percentages of fat, protein and carbs available. If you can find a U.S.-sourced rabbit-based diet, that might be a good option too.

But a word to the wise: Cats must eat well every day. Every day. Being cats, they can and will starve themselves when they’re faced with a food they don’t like. If you decide to switch to another type of food and your cat decides she isn’t going to go along with your grand experiment, you’ve got to wave the white flag, give Puss what she wants and try again at a later date. Just don’t give up.

What do I think are the benefits of feeding a canned, low-carb poultry or rabbit-based diet to cats? My short list is:

  1. Cats with itchy ears often have underlying food allergies, many times to fish (in my clinical experience). I’ve stopped counting how many cats aren’t scratching their ears anymore after a diet switcheroo. It’s a small change that often works wonders.

  2. Hairballs often are a thing of the past with what might be called a more species-appropriate diet. If your 16-year-old kitty has had been vomiting hairballs twice a week for the past 14 years, no dietary change is going to get to the root of the problem. Be smart and get your kitty to a veterinarian for appropriate diagnostics and treatment. Along these lines, forget petroleum jelly and other hairball “remedies.” Hairballs aren’t due to a grease deficiency; they are due to underlying intestinal inflammation. Hairballs are not normal in cats. Trust me on that one.

  3. Less tubbiness. Cats seem to lose weight and maintain a heathy one when you feed a lower carbohydrate canned diet. However, just like their human counterparts, obesity in cats typically has a simple cause: Too many calories in and not enough energy expended. Obese cats are at risk for diabetes, as well as increased joint issues. So if you think you’ll enjoy the cost of insulin, needles and twice daily insulin injections, no need to work with your veterinarian and implement a weight loss program for Kitty. But, if like most folks, you would prefer to prevent obesity and potentially dodge the bullet of diabetes for your cat, feeding a more appropriate diet is a good thing to do.

  4. Better urinary tract health. Years ago, when I started to talk the canned food mantra in my own feline practice, I noticed a dramatic decrease in urethral obstructions in male cat patients. I’m not the only veterinarian to have recognized this. Feeding canned food and adding a little bit of low-sodium chicken broth or water to the food might be all the difference it takes to keep kitty urinating normally and out of the emergency room.

Like most everything in medicine, not every recommendation works for every patient. Some cats can’t be switched from a dry food diet to a canned one, and still others would rather starve than give up their salmon-tuna pate. Like I tell each of my clients, I can only recommend what I believe is the best course of action; you know your cat better than I ever will.

But if I had to tweak one thing in your cat’s habits that might make a big difference in quality and quantity of life, I’d choose food first. No doubt about it.


February 1, 2024

This is great information, thank you! I have been looking for this exact info on what types of protein cats should be eating as it seemed odd to me to feed a cat beef, lamb, venison, etc. I know seafood can be high in mercury, depending on the type of seafood, but I didn’t realize it could be irritating. Good to know!


August 20, 2022

Wow my cat loves chicken the best from what I can tell and she even prefers a good chicken wet cat food over very slowly boiled chicken breast just chicken slowly boiled in water nothing else  (homemade) I used to buy her a tuna treat I stopped and that and saw an improvement in her skin and coat I now feel very stupid for giving her beef I used think that a variety would be better not understanding exactly what I do now thank you very much for making your fantastic passion available for our benefit

July 24, 2022

Wow, no wonder my cat won't eat beef or fish cans. Very insightful. Thank you for writing and sharing your expertise. Mystery solved!

Teri Ann Oursler, DVM
December 30, 2021

Pam, Any food that you feed your cat that he will not eat is not good for the cat. We do not want to starve him trying to feed him "the right stuff". Trust me, we have all had those types of cats before, the ones who resist us doing what is best for them. Personally, I would feed the canned beef before I would feed dry food. It would be worth trying the canned rabbit. As stated in this Veterinary Partner article in the section: Avoiding a Picky Eater, mix some of the new food with the old food and go slowly. Patience is key. More tips and tricks can also be found in this article: I wish you luck with your kitty. He is lucky to have found you. Have a Happy New Year.

Pam Frasca
December 30, 2021

I inherited an outdoor cat who was born feral from the nextdoor neighbors who moved away. I've been feeding him from a distance as he has been paranoid of everything, until recently. He finally trusts me and cannot be considered feral any longer. I have experimented with food over the past couple of years to find a food that would keep him around. Unfortunately he seems to like canned beef the best and will turn his nose up to poultry. I have him a vetriscience vitamin in the morning along with FleaAway, a natural supplement. He likes them both. I think he is around 10 years old. He doesn't feel thin (very furry), but I want to keep him as healthy as possible. Is it terrible that he only likes beef? I haven't tried rabbit. I guess a can of rabbit is worth a try. Any suggestions? I've been feeding the Whole Foods brand of beef loaf (Whole Paws). I haven't landed on a dry food he likes. He was raised on Friskies dry. Can't bring myself to go that route.

Ritesh Rishi
September 23, 2021

Firstly, thank you for the article 'I’m Not Chicken To Tell You I Have A Beef About What Many Cats Eat' : September 2, 2014 (published) Michele Gaspar, DABVP (Feline). ( ttps:// I have used it as a bedrock of what I feed my cat. Can I ask, there is a 70% real meat Natures Menu wet cat food Chicken with Salmon & Tuna; Chicken 60%, Salmon 6% and Tuna 4%. If one 100g pouch is fed to a cat a day, with the %s of the Salmon and Tuna is the fish content  going to result in gastric illnesses in the long term? ie. a small dose of fish, but on a daily basis. I thank you kindly for your time.

Wanda Alston
June 6, 2020

Excellent article...I have had Mr Sunshine for 1 yr and he's the greatest...he's not really finiky yet  he knows what he doesn't like...I am glad you said No Beef....he won't eat it...he loves the's okay...won't eat everybodys' chicken.....etc...great article...thanx

February 10, 2020

Great article! I’m not veterinarian or dietician, but I’m interested in healthy eating and this apply to my cat as well. When I got my cat year ago I started feeding him with meals prepared by myself, until I found some relatively good brands of canned food. Of course high meat content and no animals by products or animals derivatives and no grain. But this is no all in terms of finding perfect food - which kind of meat is right for cat and which is wrong? My common sense was telling me that animals which cats would eat in wild would be small animals - many types of birds, rodents, chickens, rabbits and fish. I’ve never thought feeding cat beef or pork would be right with their nature and I was naturally against it. So it’s great news I have strong intuition and common sense and understanding the nature!

Jen Collins
January 2, 2020

Great article.  Perhaps kitty is also itching because of litter allergy.  I switched mine to hypoallergenic, fragrance free litter.  Today's fragrance free is capable of capturing litter odors just fine.  I also clean the box 2xdaily.  Can you educate us on kitty litter?

David Gavin
October 29, 2019

Great article... thanks! I've been on the search for the best wet diet for my cat (Autumn) and so far have settled on "Weruva BFF OMG Best Day Eva! Beef & Salmon Dinner" and "Instinct by Nature's Variety Original Grain-Free Real Rabbit Recipe", with some occasional variations within those two brands. She eats roughly two 2 0z. portions of wet food a day, along with a small amount of Farmina Natural & Delicious Chicken Grain-Free Formula Dry Cat Food and a little bit of Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Beef Recipe Cat Food mixed in. She's around 2 years old and roughly 9-10 lbs. A couple of questions: What are you thoughts regarding rabbit as one of her regular wet foods? Does this overall diet sound pretty decent for her? Any comments or suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

July 11, 2019

I appreciate this article.  My vet told me to switch my cats from grain free cat food (what I was told to feed them 5 years ago).  I’ve been searching for articles that would make it clear, and this article did.  I was considering adding beef to their menu (I don’t eat beef), and after reading this article, I won’t. Thank you VETZlnsight

Valerie Erwood
April 17, 2019

I love this article, but it seems the comments are old and nobody has come forward to address their concerns.  That said, I recently adopted a 2-year old kitty who is part Maine Coon and calico in color.  Gorgeous and full of personality!  Despite her rather short stay in the city's facility (I had to come back the next day to get her because of local laws that give the owner a chance to retrieve their pet), I was glad that she was already used to a diet of kibble.  So when I bought her BETTER kibble, she went nuts.  Imagine when I popped open a can.  She was all over me!  But I noticed that she'd eat only half of the portion (just half of a tiny can)  Now what?  So I read up on raw food, and made the decision to feed her what I was eating, only BEFORE it was cooked.  Most of the time, that is chicken or fish.  She loves her party wings (just the drummet portion) and she's gradually worked her way gotten used to it and loves it.  I can hear her noshing and the sounds of bones crunching.  Remember...if she had caught a small animal in the wild (her teeth and claws are quite large), she would be eating ALL of the animal, not just the muscle.  When the bones in chicken are raw, they are soft and pliable.  But just to make sure, I check her poops when I clean her litter box, and they are formed and firm.  Her coat is somewhat long, so she has a lot of undercoat.  I use those special gloves every day, which she also loves.  I put them on and tell her it's time for her massage.  LOL  But there are still little "tumbleweeds" floating across my wood floor, so I worry about hairballs.  She's 2 years old and has never puked in my shoes yet.  Ha!  So I highly suspect is has a lot to do with diet.  But once you get your kitty used to a raw diet, be prepared for some canned food snobbery, should you attempt to give her majesty that same travesty labeled as cat food!  I still give her kibble, but it's grain free (and that includes CORN, which is a grain!) Whenever did your cat want to chow down on a good ol' corn on the cob?  Today I tried raw chicken liver, and she licked it and gave it a fair chance, but I'm not sure it's gonna stick as a regular thing.  Back to chicken breast, party wings and fish!  in conclusion, as the author has suggested,  cats are carnivores and they did not have BBQ skills before humans came into the picture.  They did just fine with the hunt.  So I'm trying to make my kitty's life as close as possible to nature.  Ya'll be good now!

Teri Ann Oursler, DVM; Christy Corp-Minamiji, DVM
June 23, 2017

We do answer many of the questions on many articles, some in private, some in public, but we do not answer every single comment as we do not have the animal in front of us to make solid recommendations and for the veterinarians (most of our team) it would be illegal to give medical advise without direct knowledge of the patient.

Kindred Kai
June 22, 2017

I don't see the point to having a "comment" section when all these people are begging for help & no help is being offered.  It seems cruel.

Rachel g
March 5, 2017

My kitten is almost 1 year old. He started off with an upper respitory condition so he was on antibiotics from the get go at 3 months when i got him. Since then he has had diarrhea. I tried probiotics, probiotics with metronidazole, deworming..everything. while on metro with probiotics he could eat anything..canned..dry..etc and his stool was perfect..brown and tootsie roll formed. Once i stopped the metro he went full blown diarrhea and was leaking all over. The probiotics made it worse. Started him on metro again and it immediately stopped. This probiotics with the metro and ONLY dry food twice a day..royal canin.hes now under control. While under metro without probiotics his stool stayed diarrheay and yellow. Right now his stool is pretty well formed and tootsie roll and trying to get brown again. I was trying so hard to switch him to canned but it seems like the wet food made it worse. Will maybe try again in the future if his stool stabilizes. It sucks for him to be leakinng out of his sphincter like that plus he was miserable and afraid to eat.

Martine Graham
January 22, 2017

What do you think about liver? it seems chicken wet food is hard to find without liver

Leslie Goodwin
December 28, 2016

[Note: This post has been edited to remove references that were in violation of the VetzInsight policy on commercialism.] I am happy to see a vet writing to encourage cat lovers to feed wet food and especially lo carb wet food to their cats. Since I switched totally off kibble and onto canned and home made raw (balanced recipe only) My cats are thriving in every way.

July 2, 2016

Hi everyone after years of being unable to identify what my cat has been allergic too we finally did a blood allergy showed she is allergic to Turkey seafood wheat milk along with a bunch of inhaled we started giving her beef and chicken but mostly beef...should stop feeding her beef just as a precautionary measure?

June 26, 2016

What weight would you consider bad for a cat? my female cat ranges from 12-13 lbs. my vet doesnt seem conserned and just says i can feed less if anything. i homemade my cat her food, its mostly meat with supplements (ustew brand). and i give her freeze dried chicken. my cat is indoor and mostly only exercises when she chases after my moms cat. at what weight should we worry?

Rita from New York
April 5, 2016

Thank you for this information. I have one cat that has been throwing up hairballs lately. He had problems previously with throwing up.  Now he's on a special diet for a sensitive stomach and some med to help with the hairballs.  Hopefully, this will work.

March 5, 2016

Thank you for such a great article. I just wanted to know, what are your thoughts on venison? I didn't see many details about it. Is it irritating like beef? Is it bad for heart health to feed red meat to cats everyday like it is for humans? My cat seems to like it but I can switch to duck or rabbit if it is better. He was found to have small bowel inflammation on an ultrasound taken to evaluate significant constipation/ obstipation.

Christy Corp-Minamiji, DVM
February 4, 2016

Hi Melissa, Figuring out what's creating an itchy critter can be such a pain!  Unfortunately, since we haven't examined your kitty, no one here can make a recommendation for her specific situation.  I really suggest going back and working with your veterinarian to try to get to a solution.  The thing with allergies, is that everyone on the pet's team (veterinarian, you, your family and friends)  really has to be committed to following all of the steps exactly.  For instance, if your vet recommends a specific diet, make sure that food and water (and any prescribed medications) are the ONLY things that enter your kitty's mouth.  At all. Even a "little taste of something" can really mess with getting a diagnosis if it turns out that "something" contained her allergen and you forgot or didn't know she ate it.  If you and your veterinarian agree that food trials aren't working, then you may want to discuss seeking the help of a veterinary dermatologist.  Skin cases can be really complicated, but don't give up and make sure everyone on your end is following instructions to the letter.  That will help you all stand a much better chance of getting to the bottom of the situation

Melissa Thornton
February 4, 2016

I'm so glad I found this info! However I have a difficult situation. We have a cat that was abandoned by old neighbors. We found out she has horrible food allergies & have a really hard time getting her to eat foods that won't make her itch. I wonder if you can make any suggestions. She is allergic to all poultry/bird proteins, salmon, tuna, pork & rabbit. You've said beef and lamb are irritating. So we are left with venison which she absolutely refuses to eat! I don't know what to do at this point. She's been a scratchy mess the whole time we have had her. The vet wants to do allergy testing but I've heard its not always accurate with cats. Is that true & do you have any other suggestions? I'm beginning to wonder if it's a preservative she's actually allergic to. It seems everything makes her itch! She gets no grains at all. Thanks

Rita Sullivan
January 12, 2016

I have recently changed all 3 of my cats to a totally wet diet after one developed diabetes (associates with pancreatitis). Her sugars are still wacky however. The food has no carbs and I'm happy to learn that some are necessary. Because of the pancreatitis history, I am very afraid to rock the boat. I would greatly appreciate any canned food recommendations. This article was very helpful. Thank you.

Christy Corp-Minamiji, DVM
December 28, 2015

Just to follow up on Dott's comment, while it is probably fine to offer picky kitties a small amount of canned dog food, cats and dogs have different nutritional needs.  It's important to feed cats a food specifically designed for them.

December 25, 2015

I don't often have my cats turn up their noses at canned foods, but if they do, their is one moist food that ALWAYS gets their utmost attention.  Trick is, it's not a cat food.  It's "Mighty Dog" Pork Or Ham.  My bunch (3 indoor/3 outdoor) are NUTS for it.  First whiff as I peel back the foil and I am almost under attack.  For cat parents of picky eaters, it might be worth a try to get them interested in wet foods.

December 13, 2015

Zelda, Fancy Feast GRILLED Beef has chicken products in it. Almost all Fancy Feast does, so if allergic to Chicken, don't use it either. My cat is allergic to all poultry. Hates rabbit and venison, so beef and salmon is what we are trying, but fish can be high in metals, beef may cause inflammation as the article says. My cat stopped ear itching and throwing up once on fish (weird I know!), but I am switching to Precise Holistic Complete-flaked beef, to get away from fish (due to metals), and so I can feed all my cats the same food. They steal from each other when I am not looking, then the one starts itching since the others were on Turkey. Wellness has a good Salmon entree but pricey. On most canned cat food, all the store brands or cheap brands have chicken in it even if not mentioned as main ingredient. Read fine print and says chicken liver, or by products, or broth...hard to find food for a poultry allergic, picky, cat!!!

November 9, 2015

Great article. I'm struggling with my two cats. One has severe allergies — the fur has disappeared from her belly and her ears and one paw are rubbed raw. Upon the suggestion of our vet, we switched her from turkey/duck wet food and a chicken dry food to a salmon/whitefish wet food and salmon/green pea dry food. She gobbled it up the first day, but now doesn't seem to like the flavor as much and is eating more dry food. To top it off, our second, healthier cat now seems to be itching and puked once on this new food. So I fear I have one cat allergic to poultry and another cat allergic to fish. I'm going to try some other foods, but I have a hard time finding the high-end wet foods available in individual cans, without having to buy a 24-pack. Tips? Any tips on feeding my cats separately? I thought about getting a new food for the more allergic one and sticking with turkey/duck my non-fishy cat loves. What a challenge!

Diane T.
October 23, 2015

Wonderful article. I wish more vets were like you and realized that cats are obligate carnivores. When I saw one vet that I sometimes go to, he cringed when I told him I make our cats raw food because he said they weren't getting enough carbohydrates!! I did my best at trying to educate him. I run a small animal rescue and have been making/feeding raw cat food for three years now. Our cats look wonderful, poop much less, have the silkiest coats, and certainly have fewer health problems. In fact, one cat I have that had immune-mediate arthritis since he was a year old with swelling and limping for the past eight years, was totally symptom-free two weeks after he started on raw--and has had no swelling or limping for three years. I'm doing my best to get the word out and have had several (very happy) converts! Best thing I ever done for our cats!

Teri Ann Oursler, DVM
August 12, 2015

Cilla, Dropper feeding your cat, even broth, is not enough nutrition.  Given that she has lost a lot of weight, there is something serious going on.  Waiting it out is not in the best interest of your cat, as that can lead to hepatic lipidosis. Your cat really needs to go see your vet as soon as you can get her there.

August 11, 2015

I have a cat 10 yes old and I rescued her 6 years ago.  All of a sudden she can't eat dry food.  Now we have switched to wet and I'm force dropper feeding her water about 50 ml a day.  She has lost lots of weight.  I have started a chicken broth and water diet.  It seems to calm her and make her full.  But its just broth.  Should I wait till she is ready to eat more or use more interventions.  She means everything to my son.  So if I should just wait it out.  I can deal with puking every other day and stuff a while longer before I call a vet.  As I can't really afford one.  But I have 3 cats n a huge dog.  They rescued me I think and I hate to like loose one.  She hasn't puked since I started the chicken broth this morning.  If it were up to her I'd be buying all tuna but we can't do that.  Not enough nutrition.  Help!

June 7, 2015

I am completely sold, but my 4 old cats (one with many serious illnesses) have different needs, and I am actually spending a huge amount of time adjusting and changing and it's very difficult to find enough foods to use. My base was Weruva Paw Licken (with Weruva 9 Liver and Weruva Quick and Quirky), but my oldest sick cat doesn't like it any more and wants more flavor and an easier texture. What are some foods that are as low in carb as those (or close) that might be pates with more flavor, etc.? I've done many many hours of research, but the information still is NOT clear to me.

Christy Corp-Minamiji, DVM 
March 26, 2015

Hi Jennie, It sounds as though your kitty has quite a few issues.  Your next step should be to get him into your veterinarian for a good examination and diagnostic testing as soon as possible.  I know it can be a pain transporting cats, but it sounds like you really love your kitty, and the best way to get him back to good health is to find out what's going on and take steps to manage his condition. 

Jennie Scholes 
March 25, 2015

Can someone please help me (help my cat).....we have a 12 year old orange tabby cat who had skin issues at about 6 mos old which were diagnosed as food allergy related and we're told to change his food. We gave him purina one sensitive and he's been on it happily for 11 years. He has been absolutely healthy (except for vomitting/hairballs maybe once every other week or so?) until now... we moved in September and I think it stressed him out. I noticed he was peeing ALOT and looked skinny and was sure he had diabetes. I took him to the vet and other than a 4# drop from 2 years ago (yes, worried me) his blood work for diabetes and thyroid came back normal. In an effort to encourage some weight gain I gave him a few cans of some random canned food like friskies (over the course of a week or so). He appeared to have a full on but of irritable bowl with very foul smelling diarrhea...sometimes not making it to the box. It occurred to me that it was probably the food forgetting he even had food issues way back when) and stopped it immediately. The diarrhea went on for weeks but I went to the local pet store and she informed me it was probably irritable bowel and gave us some probiotics and grain free canned. That stopped his diarrhea but now I'm noticing that he's barely eating. He will not eat any of the grain free soft food :-(. I read tuna juice on his normal dry food may stimulate him to eat but after 2 days he is itching his ears like crazy. I'm thinking tuna is out! Help! He's wasting away, hungry cause he follows me around and meows but I don't know how to help! he has also developed sneezing and runny nose?  Can anyone suggest the next right step! I want to stimulate him to eat and drink but don't want to aggravate his system!

September 11, 2014

Plus canned food gets rid of their flabby stomach fat.  My cats wouldn't eat anything but high protein dry food--but I've kept trying and now they love canned, supplemented with duck high protein dry food.

Lisa Pierson, DVM 
September 8, 2014

Hi Catsrule, When you state that dry food has "come a long way" I will agree with you that we now have more choices of lower carb dry foods that can be helpful during the transition period to what many of us consider to be a more species-appropriate, **properly hydrated** diet.  However, carbohydrates are not the only issue that should be considered when choosing a cat food.  All dry food is just that - dry (read: water-depleted) and it has been shown that cats eating canned food consume much more water (when all sources - food and the water bowl - are considered) when compared to cats on dry food.  In other words, cats do not typically make up the water deficit (caused by eating dry food) at the water bowl.  If I could have a person look at just one area of my website (, it would be my Urinary Tract Health page.  There you will find a pictorial of Opie - a wonderful cat that suffered tremendously when his urethra became obstructed.  Can cats obstruct on a wet diet?  Yes, they can but it is a very rare occurrence.  Many of us have seen a tremendous decrease in our urinary tract case load when a strong push for a water-rich diet was conveyed to our clients.  I have often said that if every person who insists on feeding dry food to cats had a cork inserted into their own urethra until their bladder came close to rupturing, I would bet that a lot less dry food would be fed.  Graphic? Yep - but I hope that it helps to get this very important point across.  In most cases, an obstructed urethra is a man-made cause of suffering for our feline companions.

Zelda Nichols 
September 8, 2014

I have had indoor cats continuously for 45 years. I currently have six, the oldest is a 20 year old Korat (Amber), the youngest are three six year old rescues. I also have a 13 year old Korat and another 9 year old rescue. Amber, at the age of 4 started racing around the house and biting the length of her tail until it bled. My vet sent me to a specialty vet who diagnosed Amber as having an allergy to chicken and put her on an elimination diet for a month as well as medication to calm her down. At the end of the month the itching and biting disappeared but would return if I tried her on duck or turkey,she ended up being allergic to all poultry protein, doesn't like pate style canned foods and will only eat Fancy Feast GRILLED Beef in sauce. Amber also likes the dried Bonita flakes treats, she cannot have anything with any kind of poultry or egg proteins. Amber is skinny as a rail but like all Korats is highly energetic and playful. I have tried her on other foods that contain no poultry products but she does not like lamb, venison or rabbit. Any suggestions?

Michele Gaspar, DVM, DABVP (feline), MA 
September 6, 2014

Hi, Catlady, Thanks for your kind words and know that I appreciate the work you do.  I think it's important that we not generalize what might be our experience (our clients, their levels of motivation, etc.) to larger populations.  In the ideal world, clients would work patiently to transition their cats to a canned (or raw) diet and the cats would go along with the program.  However, there are clients who can't or won't put that much effort into the process.  So, we work with the ideal in mind, ever mindful that we never know the entire "back stories" with the clients who seek our counsel.  Many of us have the happy fortune of working with very motivated clients; this isn't the case everywhere.  So, I am always careful to couch my recommendations and reports of experiences in light of my own practice, with its limitations on patient and client populations.   In the end, some cats wind up eating a dry diet.  If I've tried and the client has put in a good effort, to the best of their ability, that outcome will have to be "good enough."

September 4, 2014

I think this is a really interesting and informative article.  Debate of dry food and wet food has raged for a long time.  Quality and nutritional balance of the food is obviously critical. There are some really bad tin foods out there, and I believe some good dry foods.  A question I have - cats are living far far longer than they have ever done before, certainly a lot longer than their wild ancestors.  I believe diet has got to have a lot to do with this, because you can't say that all those 18+ year old cats we see at the clinic have had any better a life in terms of specialist veterinary care or anything to ensure that longevity. The main thing that is different is diet.  Huge amounts of money is spent on studying and developing new diets.  I understand the issues around people's fear of big corporate companies - but along with making lots of money, some of them do actually want to make better and more convenient foods for our feline friends.  I think it's unfair to be totally biased against them.  I think dry food has come a long way.  Just my 2 bob.

Lisa Pierson, DVM 
September 4, 2014

Great article, Michele - thanks for writing it. Kathy - I hear you on those stubborn cats because I have encountered a fair number of them in my consulting work.  However, when I really take the time to drill down into these cases, a recurring problem that I see is that the 1) The client has not used hunger in an effective, but safe, manner and 2) the client has **not kept at it long enough and has not used enough patience.**  Of course, "patience" is subjective and everyone's interpretation is different.  That said, if *my* idea of patience is implemented, there would never be any reason for a cat to come even close to becoming ill from lack of calories or stress.  I warn the client that it can take some cats many months to switch.  Another directive that I offer a frustrated client is to **take a break** for a few weeks and then try again.  This is critical since too many people try to implement the transition over a short then declare defeat and **never try again.**  I had a barn cat that I could not (due to the fact that she did not live with me) implement any of my directives in my Tips for Transitioning paper found at and the VIN library.  However, one day...out of the the age of 13 years....she found her inner carnivore and started eating canned food.  She ate 100% canned food until she died at 17. The point?  Keep trying!

September 3, 2014

This is a fantastic article, however I disagree with your statement that some cats can't be switched from dry food to canned. I have worked with diabetic cats for 15 years and it is imperative that they eat a low carb canned diet. Every cat I have dealt with was eating dry food at the time of diagnosis and many owners claimed their cats would never touch canned. With patience and persistence I have succeeded in guiding these same owners through the process and, without exception, every cat has been transitioned to a canned or raw diet. I never say some cats can't be transitioned because that gives owners an excuse to give up too easily, or not even try and the cats health suffers for it.

Kathy Morris-Stilwell 
September 3, 2014

It is exceedingly frustrating, for me, to have to STILL battle information still given by non-feline oriented dvm's who continue to advise feeding dry food, and who, in fact, feed it to their own cats. When we see a new cat-owned client, I would guess AT LEAST 30-50% of my time is spent discussing the evils of dry food, stating statistics, risks of feeding dry, etc. Just stopping dry food has resolved so many cases of pruritus, "hairballs," asthma, vomiting/diarrhea and on and on. We tell our clients that they can certainly save money on food by feeding dry, and, they can pay US lots, or, at least try just feeding canned. We have had cats who just will not change over to canned (even when owners have tried all of Lisa Pierson's suggestions), and owners who have actually made themselves sick by trying. At least those owners WILL feed kitten food or the $50/8# dry low/no carb food. Have to admit that we have had a modicum of success getting a few cats more interested in canned by adding mirtazapine into the plan. All we can do is keep educating. Thank you for continue being a "canned cat food Nazi."

Ron Gaskin, DVM 
September 3, 2014

Thank you for this article, Dr Gaspar. Let us take it a step further. Why are we diagnosing so much inflammation all over the cat patient's body? Why does rutin work to prolong senior cat kidney function? Why is prednisolone the new cat vitamin? If food causes a localized reaction as you have stated in the gut than what happens when these unnatural cooked foodstuff antigens are in the cat's various tissues? LP infiltrates are found in;  IBD, pancreatitis, hepatitis, interstitial nephritis, and FORLs. What antigen(s) are the LPs working on? Why the increase in FORLs since dry cat food came on the market? We will never get the answer because the billion dollar pet food industry will never supply the research money and they will black ball any researcher that looks at this "theory" Furthermore I believe some of our vet researchers know this is happening already and have blackmailed the pet food industry for money and power over the years!

Doug Masterson 
September 2, 2014

Excellent advice for all cat owners--picking a canned food the cat will eat is the hard part --takes a lot of patience and trial and error but I find you have to let them get a bit hungry also and give them choices of different varieties of canned food each day so they don't get bored--that is my experience with my little girl honey--she will be 13 this year and the joy of my life--

Letrisa Miller, MS, DVM 
September 2, 2014

Thank you much for a wonderful article!  Everything you say is so true. I think that I spend the vast majority of my time with clients talking about nutrition and food.
Over the last 5 to 10 years I have seen an absolute epidemic of food related disease in my feline patients. It is wonderful to hear someone other than myself saying these words.


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