Although many people rely on dry cat food as a staple for their cats’ diets, high protein, low carbohydrate canned foods have many significant advantages over dry foods. In the wild, cats will eat only a very small quantity of “carbs”, namely the stomach contents of mice, rabbits, or birds. Most of their diet consists of muscle and organ meat (protein) and bones (calcium/phosphorus). High protein, low carbohydrate canned foods such as the Wellness Grain-Free varieties come closest to their natural diet.

High carb dry cat food can be related to certain health conditions:
• Diabetes – High protein, low carbohydrate diets lower the risk of cats developing diabetes and, in some cases can be a significant help in managing cats who are currently diabetic
• Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – In many cases, cats who vomit regularly are not doing so because of hair ball problems. Instead, many of these cats have Inflammatory Bowel Disease and high grain, dry foods can be a significant contributing factor to the development of IBD
• Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) – Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM, states, “It is troubling to think about the role that chronic dehydration plays in feline kidney failure. And remember, cats are chronically dehydrated when they are on a diet of predominantly dry food.”
• Urinary Crystals and Cystitis – The chances of developing bladder crystals or bladder inflammation are greatly reduced with a high protein canned food diet, due to increased hydration and lower urine pH.
• Diarrhea – Diarrhea and other allergy-related conditions are often caused by grain fillers in dry cat food. After eliminating other potential medical causes, switching to high protein canned food may result in a significant improvement in stool quality.
• Dehydration – Cats on high protein canned food diets get sufficient water in their food. Cats on dry food alone must be given plenty of water, especially during hot summer months.
• Obesity – Foods high in grain and other carbohydrates lead to obesity in cats, whereas grain free cat foods promote the burning of excess fat, resulting in weight loss


Aren’t dry foods better for my cat’s teeth? Usually not. Most dry foods are so small and hard that the kibble breaks on contact with the teeth and does nothing to help “scrub” them clean. Some dry “dental diets”, such as Royal Canin Dental Diet, fed in small quantities in addition to canned food, help remove soft plaque because the kibble is larger and softer than normal dry food and rides up the tooth surface prior to breaking apart.

My cat won’t eat/doesn’t do well on canned food. Now what? There are some grain-free, high protein dry foods available. Our current favorite is Wellness Core dry food.

Isn’t feeding raw foods even better than canned foods? Possibly, if you can feed your cat a nutritiously prepared raw food diet such as Darwin’s. However, if time constraints or expenses prevent you from embracing a raw food diet for your cats, canned food is the next best choice.

Are there any conditions where high protein, grain-free foods are a bad idea? Yes. Some cats with kidney disease may benefit from a lower protein canned food such as Royal Canin Modified LP.

-Dr. Chris Wilson