How To Get Cat To Eat Wet Food: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Many people think that all cats eat wet food, and it’s only a matter of putting a bowl of canned food in front of your cat, and it’ll immediately wolf it down.

As a cat parent for nearly 10 years who several vets frequently recommended a wet diet, it quickly became apparent that this isn’t the case.

Not all cats guzzle down wet food. And many cat parents resort to not trying to feed their cats canned food as they always refuse, which begs the question:

How can you get your cat to eat wet food?

In this step-by-step guide, I will walk you through how to get a cat to eat wet food. But before that, let’s start with the basics:

Why Won’t Your Cat Eat Wet Food?

If your cat has always eaten dry food, they are accustomed to the crunchy texture and will resist softer foods. After all, cats love routine. 

Any small deviation from the norm will trigger a change in your cat’s eating habits. 

Transitioning your cat’s food may be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting your cat to eat wet food.

  1. Choose a High-Quality Wet Food

Research and select a wet cat food that meets your cat’s specific nutritional requirements. Look for options with real meat as the primary ingredient, minimal fillers, and no artificial additives.

Choosing high-quality wet food can help your cat transition from dry to wet food because of better ingredients, flavors, and textures that appeal most to cats. Your cat is an obligate carnivore, and the best-wet food will provide ingredients like:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Chicken

These ingredients will quickly appeal to your cat because of their natural taste and aroma, which will entice and stimulate your cat’s appetite.

Your cat relies heavily on the sense of smell, and a delicious aroma can make a smooth transition process. Your cat will more likely enjoy the taste of meat, fish, or chicken and eat the wet food willingly.

  1. Observe Your Cat’s Preferences

Pay attention to your cat’s preference for flavors and textures in their treat or dry food. Then, use current food preferences to select a wet food that aligns with your cat’s tastes, textures, and dietary needs.

Cats are picky eaters, and their preferences play a critical role in accepting new foods. Picking a wet food that resembles your cat’s preference can help:

  • Minimize resistance. If you choose a wet food similar in texture and taste your cat already enjoys, it’ll most likely accept the food with minimum resistance. Consequently, the transition process will be smoother, with reduced chances of your cat rejecting the new wet food.
  • Stimulate appetite. Aligning the wet food with your cat’s preference can stimulate appetite. A food that smells and tastes great to your cat can encourage it to eat more with the minimum resistance possible.
  • Reduce stress associated with dietary changes. Cats are sensitive to changes in routine and environment. Choosing a wet food that resembles your cat’s current diet will help maintain a sense of familiarity and reduce potential stress associated with dietary changes.
  • Develop a positive association with wet food. When your cat positively associates with a specific flavor or texture, it will be more open to trying a wet food with similar characteristics. The positive association can smoothen the transition process to wet food.

Besides, observing your cat’s current diet can help you factor in any health considerations. For instance, if your cat has specific dietary restrictions or sensitivities, choosing a wet food that avoids those ingredients can help support overall health.

  1. Mix the Wet and Dry Food

Begin the transition by mixing a small amount of the chosen wet food with your cat’s regular dry food. Start with a ratio of about 80% normal food to 20% wet food.

If your cat accepts this, add more wet food and less dry daily. To help you not waste food, take what you need from the can and store the rest in your fridge.

If your kitty refuses to eat the mixture of wet and dry food every day, place a teaspoon of wet food in their bowl next to their bowl such that your cat can touch it. 

Alternatively, you can put wet food in the bowl first and then cover it with a layer of dry food. Your cat will eat the dry food and might continue to the wet food.

  1. Set a Feeding Schedule

If your cat grazes the whole day, starting a meal schedule is the best way to introduce wet food.  Offer it two meals — one in the morning and another in the evening. That way, your cat will be more willing to try wet food when it is hungrier during meal time.

If your feline friend refuses to eat wet food after 30-60 minutes, remove it and give it its normal food. Then, remove the normal food after another 30-60 minutes until their next meal.

You’ll have difficulty setting a feeding schedule because your cat will beg for food between the two meals. But it will survive until your next feeding in less than 12 hours.

The significance of a feeding schedule is to help regulate your cat’s hunger and make them more open to trying new foods.

Once your cat switches to wet food, you can adjust the schedule to feed it small, frequent meals throughout the day instead of two large meals. After all, your cat in the wild could have been eating 7-20 small meals throughout the day, such as rodents, reptiles, and mice. Imitating your cat’s ancestors could lead to increased happiness and health.

  1. Incorporate Wet Food Into Your Cat’s Regular Feeding Time

Offer wet food during your cat’s natural feeding times when they are most likely hungry and receptive to trying something new. 

Offering your cat wet food during regular feeding times capitalizes on its natural appetite and increases the likelihood of being curious about the new food. And since cats are creatures of habit, offering them wet food during their established feeding time helps:

  • Maintain a sense of consistency, routine, familiarity, and comfort
  • Reduce anxiety associated with sudden dietary changes
  • Lower the chances of your cat refusing the new food due to its unfamiliarity

The idea is to overcome the fact that cats can resist sudden changes.

  1. Warm The Food

Gently warm the wet food by placing the portion in a microwave-safe dish for a few seconds to release aromas that might entice your cat to eat the food.

Some cats also prefer the taste of warm food.

However, ensure the food is just slightly warm, not hot. Aim at a rat’s body temperature, which is about 37°C.

You can use a microwave to heat the food for a few seconds at a low setting. Then mix the food well, and touch it to ensure it isn’t too hot for serving. 

Alternatively, mix the wet food with:

  • Warm water
  • Warm chicken broth
  • Warm beef broth
  1. Serve Your Cat The Food

Place the warmed wet food in a clean, shallow dish your cat is familiar with. The regular feeding dish can create a sense of comfort and make your cat accept the wet food.

If your cat refuses to eat the wet food even after warming, mix it with familiar food. Alternatively, you can also:

  • Hand feed. Offer a small amount of wet food on your fingertip to let your cat taste it directly. Hand-feeding creates a positive association with the new food.
  • Use interactive feeder: Try puzzle feeders or slow-feed bowls for wet food. These interactive feeders will engage your cat’s natural hunting instincts and make mealtime more interesting.
  • Hide treats in the wet food. Hide a few dry kibbles in the wet food to encourage your cat to investigate and eat wet food to get the treat.
  • Add broth. You can add a small amount of low-sodium chicken or beef broth to the wet food to enhance the flavor and entice your cat to eat.
  • Server in small portions. Offer small portion sizes of the wet food to avoid overwhelming your cat. You can always serve more if they finish it quickly.
  • Scatter feed. Instead of placing the food in a bowl, scatter a small amount in a designated area. Scatter feeding will encourage your cat to “hunt” for its food and add fun to mealtime.

The key is to encourage a positive association with wet food using different serving techniques. Try to make mealtime interactive, engaging, and enjoyable for your cat. 

Your cat has natural hunting instincts, and incorporating creative serving techniques can make the transition smooth.

  1. Allow Your Cat to Smell The Wet Food Before They Eat It

If your cat still isn’t eating the wet food diet, allow it to approach the dish and smell the wet food before tasting it. You can even place a small amount on their lips or paw to encourage them to lick and taste it.

Since cats heavily rely on their sense of smell to assess and identify their food, allowing your kitty to smell the wet food can make it comfortable and receptive to eating wet food. Smelling helps with:

  • Familiarization: Letting your cat smell wet food allows it to familiarize itself with the new scent. Familiarity keeps your cat at ease and reduces initial apprehension.
  • Appetite stimulation: Your cat is more likely to be interested in a willing to eat wet food if its smell is enticing. The smell of wet food can stimulate its appetite and encourage it to explore the new dish.
  • Reduced overwhelm: Allowing your cat to smell the wet food can help your cat adjust to the change without feeling overwhelmed. The introduction of scent prepares your cat for a new taste and texture.

If your cat shows interest, you can gradually increase the portion of wet food as the cat becomes more accustomed to the smell and taste.

  1. Give Your Cat Time To Adjust

Understand that your cat might be hesitant to try new food. Give it time to investigate and adjust to the change at its own pace.

Transitioning your cat’s eating habits could take weeks or months. If your feline has been eating dry food its whole life and you put a bowl of wet food, and they don’t instantly show interest, don’t immediately give up.

Transitioning to the new diet requires time because of the following reasons:

  • A sensitive digestive system: Your cat has a sensitive digestive system, and sudden diet changes can induce digestive upsets such as vomiting and diarrhea. If this is the case for you, finding the best cat food for diarrhea is crucial to easing their transition and ensuring their comfort.
  • Preference to familiarity: Cats are habitual creatures who prefer familiar flavors and routines. Introducing a new taste and texture requires them to get accustomed to something different, which requires time.
  • Psychological comfort: Your cat finds comfort in psychological routines. The new wet food will disrupt this comfort, and they will need time to feel at ease with the change. 
  • Sensory sensitivity: Cats have a highly developed sense of smell and taste. These senses help them assess the safety and palatability of their food. When you introduce a new scent and flavor, there is an initial unfamiliarity that demands time for acceptance.
  • Replacing established eating patterns: Your cat developed eating patterns and preferences early in life. Changing these patterns requires reprogramming their preferences and routines, which requires gradual adjustment.
  • Behavioral traits: A feline may show neophobic behavior, meaning cats are naturally cautious about new things. And food isn’t an exception. Cautiousness is an evolutionary trait that helps protect them from potentially harmful substances.

All these factors will call for a gradual approach. Allow your cat to adjust to the new diet in a less stressful and more comfortable way.

  1. Gradually Start Increasing The Wet Food Amount

After several days of your cat successfully eating wet food, incrementally increase the proportion of wet food while decreasing the amount of dry food. If you started with an 80-20 ratio, you could progress to a 50-50 ratio.

Even if your cat is interested in canned food, you should transit slowly to avoid stomach upset such as diarrhea and vomiting.

Here’s how you can gradually switch your feline friend’s food:

  • Day 1 to 2: Feed 80% of the normal amount of current food and 20% of the wet food.
  • Day 2 to 4: Proceed to a 50-50 ratio.
  • Day 5 to 7: Progress to 80% wet food and 20% of the previous food
  • Day 8 to 10: Serve only the wet food.

If your kitty shows tummy upset during this time or does not like her food, you can extend the transition period by 3-4 days. Some cats need more adjustment time than others.

Alternatively, consult your vet, especially if your cat refuses to eat or the tummy upset persists.

  1. Try Different Varieties and Flavors

Once your cat is used to wet food, you can introduce different flavors to provide variety. Rotate between a few options to find out which one your cat enjoys the most, such as:

  • Seafood
  • Chicken
  • Meat chunks
  • Pate
  • Jelly
  • Shredded meat

If you choose jelly texture or pate, your cat may love it broken up with a fork.

However, don’t switch food too frequently. If you establish a food your kitty shows interest in, stick to it.

After identifying a wet food your cat consistently consume, it will be easier to transition to other textures and flavor it wouldn’t initially touch.

Your food option will be limited if you’re feeding your cat a prescription diet for a medical condition. However, you can consult your vet about the suitability of other flavors or textures for the same or different brand.

  1. Use Positive Reinforcement

Offer gentle praise, pets, or treats when your cat shows interest in the wet food or takes a few bites. Positive reinforcement can encourage your cat to explore new food.

Try stroking your cat in front of the wet food to stimulate your cat to eat.

Alternatively, you can offer your cat its favorite treat whenever it eats at least some wet food. The practice will help it develop a positive feeling towards wet food.

Avoid keeping dry food around. Cats have a high sense of smell, and keeping it close to their feeding space while trying to give them wet food can be counter-productive. Keep the dry food bag away so they can’t smell it.

  1. Prevent Instances of Food Aversion

Don’t force your cat to eat the wet food. Forcing it might create a negative association with the new food, making the transition more challenging.

Some strategies to prevent food aversion include:

  • Observe responses. Pay attention to your cat’s response to wet food. Look for signs of curiosity, sniffing, liking, or even nibbling. That way, you’ll gauge its comfort and willingness to explore the new food.

If your cat responds positively, you can continue increasing the ratio of your wet food. When your cat responds negatively, you can consider a variety or reduce the wet food ratio while increasing its normal ratio.

  • Choose a familiar flavor. A familiar flavor will provide a sense of comfort. If you choose a wet food flavor that aligns with your cat’s preference, you’ll increase the chances of it approaching the new food with an open mind.
  • Introduce varieties earlier. Offer various wef food options to prevent your cat from becoming overly attached to one type of food. Rotate flavors and brands to keep mealtime exciting and reduce the risk of aversion to a monotonous diet.

If you’re experiencing challenges, your vet can help you address any issue and guide you on preventing food aversion.

  1. Get Rid Of The Dry Food

As your cat gets more accustomed to wet food, gradually reduce the dry food until they are solely eating wet food. Deciding when to transition your cat from dry to wet food fully will depend on your cat’s:

  • Progress
  • Comfort level
  • Response to your training process

You can eliminate the dry food after seeing your kitty getting more comfortable with wet food and consistently eating a larger portion of it.

However, monitor your cat’s overall health, energy levels, coat condition, and digestion to ensure there are no signs of discomfort. Some cats will transition more quickly, while others may take longer to switch to a wet diet completely.

Whichever the case, the key is to prioritize your cat’s well-being and a stress-free transition.

  1. Maintain The Routine

After establishing a feeding schedule, stick to it to establish consistency and make your cat feel more secure and willing to try new foods.

Like many cat owners, you might be tempted to leave your kitty with a bowl of wet food all day. While free feeding might appear convenient after your cat is used to wet food, it can induce health problems for your cat, such as:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Increase stress
  • Lack of appetite

Set a specific meal time instead of leaving your cat to graze all day. And maintain it. That way, you can monitor the amount of food and ensure it gets the necessary nutrients.

  1. Play Before Feeding

Engage your cat in a short play session before mealtime. Playing can stimulate your cat’s appetite and make it less picky about food.

Most domestic cats are passive and don’t get the much-needed play. You can try to get a small laser light and make your cat chase it around the yard or house an hour before mealtime.

You can also use other toys, such as getting a rope and moving around the yard or house for your cat to chase behind you.

After the play, your cat will be hungry and less picky about their food.

  1. Consult With a Veterinarian

If you can’t get your cat to eat wet food yourself, your cat consistently refuses wet food, or it shows signs of discomfort, a vet can help you streamline the entire process. A vet can:

  • Give you expert guidance on animal nutrition and behavior based on your cat’s need, health status, age, and even dietary requirements
  • Offer health assessment and make recommendations that align with your cat’s specific condition
  • Ensure a safe transition, especially if your cat has been eating a different type of food for a long time
  • Prevent ailment if your cat requires special dietary management

Consulting your vet can be a proactive approach to ensure a safe, effective, and successful transition.

Why a Dry-Food-Only Diet Isn’t Good For Your Cat

While dry food isn’t awful for your cat, there are some reasons you’d want to get your cat to eat wet food.

The pet industry has developed dry cat food to suit humans and our fast-paced lifestyle. Dry food is a simple, quick, and often cheap way to feed your cat than feeding it with quality wet food.

The only problem?

Dry food is only 10% water, which is way below a cat’s natural food (should be around 67% water). Feeding your cat dry food only increases the chances of your cat getting chronically dehydrated and inducing several health complications.

To make matters worse, cats are ancestrally desert animals and have a less developed sense of thirst, and often don’t drink enough water even if they have fresh water available.

The other issue with a dry-food-only diet is that it contains high-carb levels. Your cat has no nutritional requirement for a lot of carbohydrates. Feeding your kitty with high-carb food can induce several digestive problems, like weight gain and diabetes.

The Importance of Knowing How To Get Cat To Eat Wet Food

Although your cat might not eat wet foot at this moment, there are some upsides as to why you should continue to encourage your kitty to do so, including:

Better Overall Hydration

Wet food is the easiest way to get liquid into your feline friend’s body. Like all cats, your feline friend has a low thirst drive. Seeking a water source to drink from is not a natural cat’s behavior.

For millions of years, cats have been desert-dwelling species. Your cat is adapted to absorb its daily hydration need from their food. Since a cat rarely needs to drink water — and will only show an urge to drink water when it is at a point of dehydration — wet food can be helpful.

Dry food lacks the moisture that your cat needs. In fact, your kitty uses essential moisture from its system to digest dry food, which keeps it in a cycle of systemic dehydration.

Prevention of Urinary Crystals and Urinary Tract Infection

Dehydration slows every body function of your cat and induces common health complications in cats, such as:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Kidney problem
  • Bladder blockage

A recent study by Best Friends Vets shows that chronic dehydration is the top cause of kidney in cats. The research highlights that nearly half of cats aged 6-9 years already show signs of kidney deterioration.

A warning sign that your cat is dehydrated is wanting to drink water one to two times a day. Feeding your cat canned or raw food can provide the moisture they need to thrive, reducing the risk of developing health complications.

Reduced Risk of Obesity and Diabetes

Dry foods have high carb levels. And your cat might not get enough exercise to eliminate the excess carbohydrate. 

As a result, they might become overweight and obese.

Moreover, once the starch in dry food hits the digestive system and becomes moist, it quickly converts into sugar and spikes your kitty’s blood sugar.

The spiking and crashing blood sugar induce pancreatic stress, leading to diabetes and obesity. Cats are extremely sensitive to sugar, and you should eliminate processed starch from their diet.

On the other hand, wet food has a lot of protein that supports strong muscle development and promotes lean body mass. 

A cat’s ideal diet should have 50% – 60% protein, 30% – 40% fat, and less than 10% carbs. Most wet canned food mostly meets this nutritional requirement for the cart. 

Promote Lean Body Mass

Nearly all wet foods are high in protein, which supports strong muscles and maintains muscle mass throughout your cat’s lifetime.

Your kitty’s total body weight entails lean body mass and fat mass. Feeding your cat food with high protein content can help maintain the lean body mass as it ages.

How To Get Cats To Eat Wet Food: The Bottom Line

If you want to encourage your cat to eat wet food, start by identifying the best food and adding a tiny amount to its usual food. You can gently warm the food to increase its appeal by bringing out an enticing aroma.

You can try different textures and flavors to identify the best option for your cat. 

Regardless of the approach, the diet change should be gradual. It might take over 1-2 weeks (or even months) for your cat to adapt without having tummy upsets. 

If your cat refuses to eat wet food even after following all the steps above, you should consult your vet for advice and recommendations.


Why won’t my cat eat all its wet food?

The most common reason your cat isn’t eating wet food is because it isn’t used to it. The smell, flavor, and texture are huge factors in a cat’s food. If you’ve never introduced your cat to wet food in their kitten stage, your cat might avoid it in adulthood.

How can I make my cat’s wet food more appetizing?

You can take several approaches to make wet food more appetizing to your cat, such as warming the food to release more aroma, offering a variety of wet food textures such as pate, chunks, or shreds, adding chicken or beef broth, sprinkling a few treats on top of wet food, choose wet food with a strong, delicious aroma. Experiment with different strategies to find out what works best for your cat.

Is it OK if my cat only eats dry food?

While your cat can survive on a dry food diet, it isn’t ideal for its long-term health and well-being because it poses health threats such as:
Urinary tract infection
Overweight problems

How do I get my cat to eat cat food?

If your kitty is not eating its cat food, consider the following approaches:
* Choose a high-quality cat food
* Experiment with different flavors and textures
* Reduce treats and snacks
If all the measures fail, consult a vet. The vet will determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate solutions.

About Laura Martin

I'm Laura Martin. I get excited about all things cat related. I love my two cats - Dom and Kitty. When I'm not playing with my two feline friends, you can probably find me hiking. And yes, I have a 9 to 5 job. Although if you asked me I'd rather spend my time blogging and educating other cat moms and dads about what it takes to raise a healthy cat.

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