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This seems like a peculiar question, right?
Cats either love super-crunchy dry food (a.k.a. kibble) or canned wet food containing meat with a delicious sauce. The in-between is not a popular choice among kitties, but there can be some instances -which I will go over in detail- where softer dry food may be necessary for your cat.
Here’s a quick look at some of the “softer” dry cat foods on the market:
- Purina ONE Tender Selects Blend Adult Dry Cat Food: This is a semi-dry food option with morsels and dry kibble pieces mixed together.
- Meow Mix Tender Centers Dry Cat Food, Salmon & Chicken Flavors: This dry food has pieces with crunchy exteriors filled with soft chicken meat on the insides.
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken & Turkey Grain Free Cat Treats: This is a healthy, grain-free treat with dry but tender and chewy pieces.
- Wellness Healthy Indulgence Morsels With Chicken & Chicken Liver in Savory Sauce: This is a healthy pouch food option with morsel pieces topped with delicious sauce.
Scroll down below to see more options of softer dry food, home-made and commercial options for soft dry food, dry to wet food transition tips, feeding suggestions for older kitties and those with dental problems, and information about the pros and cons of wet and dry food diets for cats.
Are There Any Commercial Soft Dry Cat Foods?
Commercial dry food that cats love (a.k.a. kibble) unfortunately does not have a softer version, but there are some other commercial options like moist or semi-moist cat food, lickable and chewy treats, and partially soft dry food for adult cats. Below are some recommendations for each version of softer dry food you may want to try.
Let’s take a look:
Some Commercial “Softer” Food Options
Although there isn’t a commercial option for softened kibble, you will see below that there are many ways to do it yourself, as well as other commercial options that might fulfill your needs.
Moist/Semi-Moist “Pouch” Food
Moist and semi-moist cat foods are also called pouch foods because they are usually packaged in pouches.
These are closer to canned wet food than to kibble style dry food, as their moisture is about 50-60%. The moisture in wet canned food is 85%, while for kibble it is more like 10%.
Therefore, it may still be difficult for kibble-lovers to transfer to eating this pouch food because it will probably still feel too soft for their liking. However, you may still want to give it a chance because pouch foods usually have a very delicious and aromatic sauce. They are also more pocket-friendly than wet canned food.
Don’t forget to check the ingredients when buying a new food product for your cat. The otherwise delicious sauce in pouch food may not exactly be good for an older cat, or a cat with a chronic illness such as diabetes.
Pouch food is often used and marketed as a transition food between dry and wet food. Therefore, some options may be more like treats, lacking in full nutritional value. Make sure you choose one that can serve as a whole meal on its own.
The most important thing is for the food to have real meat. Try to find foods that advertise this fact boldly.
You may also choose to look out for grain-free options (of which there are many) as it will be easier for your cat to digest.
The consistencies of pouch food may differ. In most cases, you can tell how smooth or coarse it is by a picture on the package or you may find descriptives such as “morsels” or “gravy” on there, which will indicate the consistency of the food.
If you’re interested in trying pouch food, I’ll guide you towards two that I’ve tried with much success:
The Wellness Healthy Indulgence pouch is grain-free, has real chicken meat and liver, cranberries, blueberries, carrots, and eggs. This one is “morsels”, but you can also consider “gravies” or “shreds” options for different consistency needs.
Another all-around nutritious option for a pouch food, Sheba Perfect Portions Cuts in Gravy is grain-free and comes in the form of small-cut pieces of real chicken meat in an aromatic gravy sauce. Plus, it is pre-packed for recommended portion sizes.
Partially Soft Dry Cat Food for Adult Cats
There are a few dry food options that are partially soft, suitable for adult kitties.
These are dry foods that include softer pieces as well as crunchy pieces. These foods are suitable for senior kitties as well. In fact, they may be especially fitting for senior cats because of their softer pieces.
Unfortunately, as I’ve said before, there isn’t a completely soft dry cat food available.
The few dry food options for softness include:
The Purina ONE Plan Tender Selects Blend is a partially soft dry food. It has morsels (instead of shreds) of meat along with crunchy kibble. These blends of soft and dry pieces actually create a great texture overall. It may boost appetite and encourage your cat to get used to eating both dry and soft food.
The Purina Pro Plan Shredded Blend is a mix of crunchy kibble and tender meat shreds, so it is not completely soft. This and the Purina Tender Selects above are as close as you will get to having a commercial soft kibble type food. The Purina Shredded Blend contains probiotics which help with digestion and boost your cat’s immune system. This food is also very high in protein which comes from real chicken meat.
The Purina ONE True Instinct is a soft-dry food option that is grain-free and high in protein sourced from real chicken meat. It has chewy meat morsels among dry kibble to create a delicious and balanced texture of soft and dry pieces for your cat.
The Meow Mix Tender Centers is also not completely soft but instead of having both soft and crunchy pieces like the Purina ones above, the pieces of this one have crunchy exteriors with a soft filling of real chicken meat. Again, this provides a great texture of food which can boost your cat’s appetite.
Soft Cat Treats/Snacks/Toppers
To get your kitty used to softer food in an eventual transition to wet canned food, softer cat treats may be a good idea.
Cat treats do not always have to be crunchy. There are so many options out there, like ones with crunchy exteriors and creamy interiors, ones that are made of chewier pieces, or even ones in lickable form like a puree. These softer ones can be just right for your needs.
Please keep in mind that these treats are not to replace normal food options. They do not fulfill the dietary needs of cats, as they are only snacks. However, as I’ve mentioned before, they can make the process of transition easier.
You can use them as appetite-boosting toppers on any kind of food or as soft options for when you want to treat your cat.
Here are some options you may consider:
Hartz Delectables Bisque Lickable Cat Treats have “bisque”, “stew”, and “chowder” options as different consistencies. The one I’ve put here is bisque (the one most like a puree) because it is for senior cats, however, you may want to go with stew (with chunks of meat) or chowder (coarser than bisque but smoother than stew) options. They are all quite soft like wet canned food or pouch food.
The Blue Buffalo Wilderness Cat Treat consists of soft dry, chewy pieces. This treat is grain-free and has real chicken and turkey in it. Therefore, it is quite healthy and nutritious by most cat treat standards.
The Sheba Meaty Tender Sticks is another version of a soft treat that comes in the form of jerky sticks. You can give them to your cat as a whole or break it into smaller pieces if you’d prefer it. It doesn’t contain any corn, wheat, or soy products and it has real chicken, turkey and pork with no artificial flavors.
The Purina Beyond Chicken Bone Broth is a topper and can also be used for softening your choice of crunchy kibble. It is a broth that doesn’t have any solid pieces so it can make a great topper for any kind of food your cat loves. It is a great commercial alternative for home-made broth that is specific to your kitty’s needs.
How Can I Soften Dry Cat Food?
If your cat adores a brand or type of dry food, or it is necessary for her to eat a very specific type of dry food, but her teeth (or lack thereof) make it hard for her to eat it, then you should try softening that food before attempting to switch to wet food options.
Sometimes, cats can still manage to eat kibble even when they have poor teeth or no teeth at all. This is because they can either swallow the pieces whole (most dry food is bite-sized) or that their gums have hardened enough to be able to somewhat chew the food. Even if this is the case, you might want to make it easier for your cat to eat by slightly softening her food.
So, what are some of the ways you can soften your cat’s food without causing it to lose its flavor and/or nutrition?
The safest and easiest choice will be to use fresh drinking water.
You should warm it up a little beforehand because it is not smart to leave the food soaking in water for too long until it softens to your liking.
Water is easy, but you may need something to enhance the flavor of the food so that your kitty will be encouraged to eat it.
On that note, a common method of softening dry food is to use broth or stock with vegetables and chicken/meat, but you should ideally make it yourself instead of using a store-bought one. Store-bought ones are usually very high in sodium, so if you don’t have time to make the broth yourself, try to find a low-sodium alternative.
Also, watch out for other ingredients in a store-bought broth that may seem innocent but actually be harmful to your cat, such as onions. Onions in any form (raw, cooked, powdered, etc) are harmful to your cat’s red blood cells and may cause anemia.
Another method can be to use small amounts of salmon oil, almond oil, or olive oil. These oils are tasty and nutritious options, but be careful about portion control. Oils are calorie-dense, and it might be a good idea to serve less kibble when you mix it with these oils. Another option can be to soften the food largely with water and add only a little bit of oil.
Instead of softening the kibble, you may try making the pieces smaller so that your cat may swallow them whole, or can do with chewing less. You can simply put the food in a plastic bag and hit it a couple of times with the back of a spoon. You don’t want to turn it into a powder so don’t overdo it with the hitting.
Important Things to Keep in Mind
It is not a good idea to use milk to soften up dry food.
Contrary to popular belief, milk is actually not good for most cats: it upsets adult cats’ digestive systems. Most adult cats are lactose-intolerant, so dairy products, especially milk, should be offered with caution.
However, experts also say that goat milk or any unpasteurized (raw) milk causes no problem for cats, so you may try one of those to soften up dry food.
Studies show that mixing any liquid (even water) into dry cat food can cause the existing amount of dormant bacteria to multiply and make your cat sick if not handled with care. This is why you should handle the softened food like wet canned food: do not leave it out for more than half an hour and make sure your cat consumes it quickly.
Home-made Soft Food Options
Instead of softening a commercial dry food or buying wet canned food, you may want to fix something up from scratch at home.
If you have the time, I think this can be a great way to make sure your cat consumes the best quality ingredients with no unwanted stuff as you, unfortunately, get in most packaged and processed products.
High-quality commercial cat foods have everything that your cat needs to survive and be healthy. The problem with home-cooked recipes can be that you may be missing out on something or putting in too much or too little of something. Therefore, I would advise you to show your recipe to your vet and get confirmation. Or you may use your homemade food in addition to the commercial food to mix things up.
Another thing to keep in mind when feeding home-cooked meals to your cat is portion and calorie control.
Since it doesn’t come out of a box, deducing the caloric value and macro-nutrient ratios may be difficult. Make sure you correctly identify your recipe’s dietary chart and feed it to your cat accordingly.
Pureed Cooked Meat
Home-cooking fish, red meat, chicken, or turkey without additional human food to enhance taste like spices, herbs, onion, garlic, etc is a common choice.
Don’t forget that you are cooking for your cat, not for yourself. Don’t fry the meat, just boil, grill, or roast it (depending on the type of meat) – simple is the way to go.
You may add small amounts of oils (olive, almond, salmon), water, or broth when you put the meat into the blender to give it taste and make it softer. You may also include some skin and bone in this mixture (great source of calcium) but make sure it is ground well!
They are technically not home-cooked but canned tuna, salmon, or sardines will also work quite nicely as a puree.
You may want to consider some healthy carbs on the side of this dish, like white rice, oatmeal, peas, and steamed potatoes. Some of these also have lots of fiber, which is a huge plus.
Ground Raw Meat
The raw meat diet for cats has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. Obviously, when preparing a raw meat meal there are lots of things to consider in terms of safety and convenience.
The meat has to be extremely fresh, there should be no risk of dangerous bacteria like salmonella, parasites, etc.
Buying pre-ground meat from the store or grinding it at home is also something to consider, depending on your circumstances. Bones can also be included if ground well.
Many raw meat recipes include egg yolks, organs like liver or heart, fish oil, and water. These ingredients and their ratios will create different textures, aromas, and consistencies for your needs.
Chicken Broth (as a Topper)
This broth recipe is for softening kibble or adding on top of any other wet or dry cat food. You may use it as a flavor-enhancing, appetite-boosting topper, or as something that elevates the nutritional value of regular food.
Boil the chicken with skin and bones included. Once it has been cooked, you can either remove the meat completely and use only the water or put everything through the blender to make a more viscous broth.
You may add an assortment of vegetables to this broth for some nutritious vitamins and minerals.
I would recommend carrots, celery, peas, or pumpkin. A small amount of pureed vegetables or vegetable-only broth can also be added as a topper to regular wet or dry food. Don’t overdo it with vegetables because cats cannot digest them easily.
You can make the broth in large amounts and put it in the freezer for up to 6 months!
Why Would Cats Need Soft Dry Cat Food?
Soft dry cat food is essentially a dry type of cat food that is softer than kibble.
It is not as wet as canned food but has more moisture than kibble in order to be relatively softer. If your cat is used to eating kibble and nothing else, there can be a number of reasons why you may be out looking for soft dry cat food.
Let’s take a look at them:
Dental problems are the most popular reason why a cat that is used to eating kibble might require soft dry cat food.
These may include things ranging from the healing period after a dental operation to permanent issues like loss of teeth. In some instances, cats can continue eating their beloved kibble, but often they need to switch to food that is softer.
Switching to wet canned food from kibble can be a hard transition, so a softer dry food option is often preferred.
Special Needs of Kittens and Senior Cats
Older cats are more likely to suffer from dental problems, as well as digestive issues that may force them to switch to softer food.
On the other end of the age spectrum, kittens may sometimes experience difficulty when transitioning from their mother’s milk to adult dry food. Soft dry food can be used to facilitate this transition.
Transitioning to Wet Canned Food
You may want to alter your cat’s food for whatever reason from a dry one to a wet one.
You might have found a really good wet food to try, or your kitty might need to eat a special diet that only comes in the form of wet food.
Whatever it may be, if your cat is used to eating kibble, switching to wet canned food can be a challenge. Soft dry food can be useful to ease the transition from kibble to wet food.
Please keep in mind that switching your cat’s usual food is a very serious undertaking. You should not do so unless approved by your vet.
Depending on the specifics, changes in a diet may cause digestive issues (i.e. diarrhea, constipation, intestinal worms, ulcers, etc), urinary tract infections, appetite changes, weight alterations, and even food allergies. If your cat is experiencing any of these currently, her diet should be examined by a professional and the necessary changes must be made.
If you are considering switching from kibble to wet canned food or vice versa, make sure that the product you choose has everything your cat needs in the right amounts such as quality protein. The fact that your cat’s food is dry or wet matters less than the quality and content of the food.
Dry Vs. Wet Cat Food
There is a huge debate on the issue of which type of food is better for cats: dry or wet?
I myself have been caught between the two a lot of times, not sure which way to go. I am not even convinced if eliminating one type of food completely is a healthy option.
More and more I’ve come to believe that a balance between the two is key. In fact, mixing up dry and wet food in the same dish is often recommended by experts. This mix-up will create a diverse content of texture, aroma, and shape that your cat might enjoy.
Even though I believe in mixing it up, I’ll still take you through some of the arguments for and against both dry and wet cat food.
Do cats prefer one form of food over the other?
Well, not necessarily. Cats are creatures of habit, so whatever food they are used to eating will likely be their preference. Although – it is commonly advised to give cats wet food when they suffer from a loss of appetite, because of its aromatic nature.
Cats might also enjoy both, they do not necessarily need to favor one over the other. For example, my cat is used to kibble and loves it, but whenever I open a can of tuna for myself, she goes crazy for a bite. She also seems to enjoy wet food whenever I give her some. Maybe it’s just that my cat is not very picky and has a huge appetite!
Apart from enjoying what they need, let’s look at how wet and dry foods meet your cat’s dietary needs.
Supporters of wet food argue that dry food is more likely to be made largely from animal by-products that are not meat, such as bones, cartilage, organs, etc.
Some argue that to make the dry food cheaper, these by-products may even come from diseased animals or dated remains. This can be true for some dried food, but also for low-quality wet food. Looking for high-quality food in whatever form will most likely help you avoid this problem. Always check the ingredients and if you are still not sure, ask your vet.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they depend on real animal meat to survive.
A quality diet that provides enough protein from good sources of meat is very important. Wet food advocates claim that getting these needs met is more likely with wet canned food than with kibble.
As you may remember, wet food has about 80% moisture while kibble has about 10%.
This means that when fed with wet food, your cat gets more water in her diet which is always a good thing. Some experts claim that this fact also helps cats feel fuller quicker and therefore a wet food diet is more likely to prevent obesity and related diseases in cats.
Wet foods generally also have more protein when compared to dry foods. While most dry foods have about 35% of crude protein, wet foods have about 40-45% (on a dry matter basis). High protein is oftentimes beneficial, but there may be instances where a cat needs to have reduced protein in her diet. Cats with kidney problems and a portion of senior cats may require reduced protein.
Whether you choose to feed your cat with mostly wet food or dry food, the best way to go about this is to offer both from time to time. Having your cat used to both types of food may benefit her later on.
There is a popular belief that eating only wet food is not good for dental health in the long run. However, recently this claim has come to be disputed in studies such as this one.
Evolutionally, cat teeth are designed to rip apart raw meat and cats gulp their food without the need for much chewing. Therefore, they do not depend on kibble to keep their teeth sharp and healthy. When you come to think of it, kibble is a relatively new invention!
For dental health, wet or dry food choice only matters if your kitty has existing dental problems that may cause her pain when eating a certain type of food.
Economics and Convenience
We looked at cat preference, now let’s look at owner preference – which is usually largely dictated by economics.
Dry food is a more popular preference in cat/dog food because it is generally more affordable. However, this in no way means that all dry food is horrible and/or cheap, while all wet food is wonderful and/or crazy expensive. There are a myriad of options out there!
When it comes to convenience, it is hard to argue over this – dry food usually wins. You can leave it out for longer periods of time, which is very useful for when you are leaving her alone during the day or for a period of time. It is also easier to buy in bulk and store away.
Food Advise for Cats With Dental Problems
Dental problems don’t necessarily mean that you need to switch to wet canned food.
Many cats have no problem eating hard food like kibble even if they don’t have any or many teeth left. This is because they actually don’t need to tear anything apart like meat, they just swallow the pieces without chewing much. Therefore, if you notice your cat is fine with eating her usual kibble, don’t feel the need to change it to softer food.
If your cat has other dental/oral issues that cause her pain when eating hard food, then you should be making changes in the form of the food that she’s eating. These problems can include gum sensitivities, stomatitis, jaw pain, etc. Your cat may also have had a dental operation (for instance having her teeth pulled) that may require special treatment until it heals.
After a dental operation, your cat may be given anesthesia or some sort of pain killer that may affect her taste buds, or cause reactions like nausea and appetite loss. Therefore, sometimes it’s not about the hardness of what she eats, but whether or not she wants to eat at all. Some of these methods below can also work as flavor enhancers and boost your cat’s appetite (especially food toppers and baby food).
Depending on the problem,
You can try pureeing meat like fish and chicken. Make sure that there aren’t any human foods like garlic, onions, spices, hot sauce, etc in there. Prepare this dish specifically for your cat and keep it simple – just boil the chicken or open a can of plain tuna (there can be oil but no extra spices) and put it through a blender.
As we have focused almost exclusively in this article, softening the kibble that she is used to is a smart and dependable option. You know the drill – mix in either water, oil, or home-made or low-sodium broth/stock to your cat’s usual dry food. Don’t forget to treat it like wet canned food – don’t let it sit in the dish for more than half an hour.
Wet canned food or pouch food can be a smart option but make sure to avoid ingredients that might hurt or harm any wounds inside the mouth.
Food toppers (those that come in soft forms like broth) or tasty snacks (again, in soft forms, like lickable treats) may work if your cat refuses to eat anything other than what she is used to. However, these are not to be treated like proper food, and you can depend on them for a limited period of time. Food toppers are usually utilized to make normal proper cat food more tasty and nutritious.
Here’s another clever option that you might try: human baby food. Baby foods are simple in terms of ingredients (only meat, water, and sometimes cornstarch), nutritious, and quite tasty. You may even use baby food as a topper on wet or dry cat food to ease any transition during food change.
Kitten milk replacers or kitten formulas might work for a duration of time if the situation is dire. Adult cats should not be fed kitten formulas but if she refuses everything else, you might want to give this option a shot for the time it takes for her teeth/mouth to heal.
Please consult your vet upon choosing from these options, as your cat’s dental issues will be specific to her and may require extra considerations.
Things to Consider When Feeding a Senior Cat
Senior cats usually have dental problems due to their old age. Therefore, every option I’ve mentioned above can be considered when looking after senior cats that have problems eating the food that they’ve gotten used to over the years due to dental issues.
Under this heading, however, I want to focus more on the dietary needs and digestive issues specific to older cats.
It is very important that you observe your cat’s eating habits, weight changes, and digestive health, especially as she gets to be around 10-11 years old. This is when she is reaching senior territory and she might need slight adjustments in her diet.
Experts say that senior cats don’t necessarily require a different diet unless they have conditions or ailments that force them to do so.
Changing your cat’s usual food out of the blue without consulting your vet just because she reached 10 years of age might do more harm than good. It is a wise idea to watch out for signs that she may be gaining weight or having digestive problems before you start looking at senior cat food options.
Whether it is wet or dry, senior cat foods have some minor differences from younger cat food. One usual distinction between normal adult cat food and senior cat food is that it is lower in protein and carbs, and higher in fiber. Cats are dependent on lots of quality protein no matter what age they are, so switching to a generic low-protein senior cat food just because your cat is of senior age may not be a good idea.
Cats that require less protein usually have kidney problems. Senior cats often suffer from chronic kidney disease, which will require a restriction in protein, salt, and phosphorus intake.
On the other hand, senior cats with obesity and diabetes usually require a high-protein and low-carb diet – just like younger cats do. One thing to keep in mind is that senior cats are substantially less active than younger cats. This poses problems of weight-gain if they keep on eating the same food in the same amount.
The senior cat food you have switched to may have fewer calories per unit than the one your cat used to eat, but you may still need to adjust portions. Consider your cat’s lifestyle and activity level when deciding this. To give you some idea, most adult indoor cats require no more than 50 calories per kilogram (of their weight) daily. Depending on their activity level, most senior cats will require a bit less than this number.
Muscle loss is also a common problem in senior cats. It is largely a result of less activity, but also of an unnecessary switch to low-protein senior cat food. Unless your vet tells you to switch to a lower protein diet, keeping your senior cat on a high-protein and low-carb diet is the best option.
Of course, the key here is to feed your cat quality protein. Senior cats have a harder time than younger cats in tolerating poor quality protein, which is often incorrectly interpreted as senior cats having low-tolerance for protein in general.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are unnecessary for senior cats with a balanced and nutritious diet. This is unless your vet prescribes them for a specific deficiency your cat may have.
So, as you can see, senior cats don’t require very different things than younger cats do, in terms of a healthy diet. Of course, they are more prone to suffering from chronic illnesses, which may require adjustments in their diets.
Also, each senior cat has different needs because of differing ailments. Therefore, you should choose food that meets your cat’s requirements specifically. Only your vet can know the specifics of this, so please consult them while choosing.
Note: If you observe a considerable loss of appetite in your senior cat, visit your vet as soon as possible.
As a caring cat owner, it is easy to get confused and frustrated in the midst of all these debates on the issues of wet vs. dry food, raw vs. cooked food, home-made vs. commercial food, low vs. high protein for senior cats, etc.
You want to make sure that your cat gets the best meals that you can afford and live a healthy, long life. My advice is to not get too caught up in every debate and don’t feel the need to choose sides.
If you feel strongly about something, that’s also great, but always keep an open mind. That’s why I always try to keep up on my reading about cat health and be open to new information and discussions.
I believe that balance is key. If you’re not sure whether wet or dry food is better than adhere to a diet that incorporates them both. See if your cat shows any preferences and track her overall health for obvious changes. Consult a professional if you have any concerns.
In the end, your cat has a warm home and a loving owner who is reading articles online about how best to feed her.
This is what matters!