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Feline Nutrition

Canned vs. Dry…Summary

by Garry White



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     As we stand, the research I've done is divided about equally. The agency responsible for setting pet-food guidelines (AAFCO) has provided quality nutritional standards for millions upon millions of pets for many years, and two U.S. Government agencies (FDA and Department of Agriculture) assure compliance among the manufacturers, and I have to give that credibility over specific groups who may feel that this or that is better or worse. Given that, and given the fact that I found no research indicating cats are dying en-masse from (either) strict canned-food diets or strict dry-food diets, I have to default to the obvious: With consideration to obvious constraints, either diet is acceptable. I found no qualified information that says we must switch our cats from canned to dry, or from dry to canned. What I did uncover, though, was a long list of strong evidence that says we'll have a very hard time doing either one. By forcing them away from something they prefer, we expose the cat to possible medical problems that stem from a well-established fact: Cats will not eat what they don't like, hence, probable lack of nutrition until the "new plan" is firmly implemented. The evidence, the facts, tell us it's clinically unnecessary to force a cat from one diet to another, but if we do, I encourage that we do it very gradually, so that proper nutrition isn't jeopardized.

     Anyway, research is great stuff, but it's clinical data that probably won't change our minds. If we're determined to change diet, we're going to do so…and that includes me, folks. Note that in saying neither diet is absolutely wrong, I'm also saying that neither one is absolutely perfect. I think there are things in canned food that should be part of a cat's diet, but not exclusively, and the same thing is true with dry foods. So, as you may have guessed by now, my Clarkie boy will be seeing some changes in his diet soon. That's assuming I can wake him up long enough to eat.

     Clark has always been a strict dry-food cat, but my ultimate goal is to get his diet around 20% canned, or thereabouts, and I don't expect it to be an easy task. First of all, I'll select a quality canned-food that's high in meat-protein, low in ash, high in Vitamin-B12. Now, like you, I suppose it'll take 9,556,778,912,233 tries before I hit on one that satisfies my requirements and his taste. But so be it; I'll do whatever it takes to accomplish the goal, because I've concluded it's the right thing to do for my boy. Although the research told me that a strictly dry diet is adequate, my personal feelings are that he should be getting some of the benefits found in canned food.

     How will I make this happen? No, not with a cat-straightjacket and a funnel! I'll do it by sneaky, devious means, to start with. I let Clarkie graze-feed; each day he gets a fresh bowl of dry, which I add to throughout the day as needed. He's never been an over-eater, obesity wasn't a concern, so I keep plenty of food in his bowl. That's going to change. When I start the program, I'm going to reduce the amount in that morning bowl by "some degree", with the intent of allowing him to become hungry. When he's grasped the concept of having to "come and ask" for food, little by little I'll start to introduce the canned. I know better than to believe I'll hit paydirt on the first few attempts, but that's okay. If he doesn't like the canned I'm trying to feed him at the time (even though I know he's hungry), then he'll get a little more dry and I'll try a different canned food tomorrow, or later on.

     My approach is simple, and I have no doubt that it will be effective. I don't want Clark to view this switchover as a bad experience, and yet I do want him on a partial canned-food diet. My advice to you is similar: If you're going to make changes in your cat's diet, think it through thoroughly, make a plan, and then implement that plan gradually. Most importantly, do with utmost consideration for your kitty.

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Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy's assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.