By ALMA J. BUELVA
St. Louis, MO – Top Purina executives prefer that cats eat more wet food. They say wet food improves cats overall hydration, promotes lean body mass and adds more variety and excitement to their meals.
In an exclusive conference for cat owners here, Dr. Kurt Venator, Purina's Chief Veterinary Officer, and Dr. Janet Jackson, Vice President and Director of Research and Development, stressed the benefits of wet cat food in meeting the nutritional needs of cats.
“Feeding (an animal) is a nurturing moment,” says Venator. “Our science-based approach to pet food is designed to help cats live longer as we develop them to be highly digestible and high in protein.”
In the United States today, over 70 percent of cat owners feed their cats both wet and dry food. When cats suffer from diabetes, urinary and renal diseases, veterinarians tend to prescribe strictly wet cat food, said Venator.
“One in every 200 cats has diabetes. A high-protein wet diet can manage diabetes in cats. Renal issues in cats are not really due to the rich protein in their diet, but the high phosphorus level in their food,” he added.
Wet cat food is very good for kittens and senior cats, Jackson said.
“High-protein found in wet cat food promotes strong muscles, cat body construction, fat mass, bone mass and lean body mass. (Without it) so much is lost during a kitten's formative years, while senior cats lose body mass as they age,” she said.
Muscles, ligaments, bones, organs and more are all considered lean body mass or LBM.
Wet food also complements a cat's water intake. Venator said an average cat needs about 20 teaspoons of water per day, but most get only 3/100 per lap of their tongue.
“Our study shows cats that eat wet food is more hydrated. A cat's body is made up of 60 percent water, so they need water to maintain that level to stay healthy, to help them eliminate body waste and to keep their body temperature normal,” he said.
Feeding wet cat food doesn't replace water, but it can help improve overall hydration, said Jackson who has been with the company for 29 years and has worked on over 30 Purina products.
“Feeding a combination of wet and dry food, rather than just dry, is a great way to help cats get more water which helps keep their muscle mass even as they age,” she added.
Both experts pointed out that wet cat food has at least 65 percent or more moisture content, is highly digestible and is 100 percent complete and balanced. It contains all the same essential nutrients as dry food, including vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and biotin. As cats eat by smelling their food first, the aroma from quality wet food can be irresistible even for finicky cats, they said.
But the choice between wet or dry food is really up to the cat. A wet diet provides cats with extra moisture while dry meals have dental benefits. The best option is perhaps to feed cats both as it also means having variety to keep cats interested, Venator said.
Jackson added that a cat which has been exposed to both kind of food will not reject either as it grows old.
While some cat owners serve wet food as a form of treat, Jackson said it can be given on a regular basis. Feeding amount would vary per cat, especially those that also eat dry kibble. Purina's suggestion is one 3-ounce can per 3 to 3-1/2 pounds of body weight daily for an average-sized adult cat.
Unlike dry food that can be left in bowls for a long period of time without spoiling, wet food cannot sit out for more than a half hour to an hour. Any leftover should be refrigerated and then be allowed to come up to room temperature before serving it again.
Venator said feline-eating behavior is anchored on nutrition and palatability, which is why "we put a tremendous amount of science in every bag or can of Purina product.”
Purina has over 500 scientists such as PhDs, immunologists, veterinarians and toxicologists who are looking at nutrition and the quality and purpose of every single ingredient.
“The level of rigor we put on our product is very high,” said Venator.