Semi Moist Cat Food and Mixed-Food Diets Nutritional Options for Felines

gray cat eating moist cat food
expert or vet photo
vet verified Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

Thumbnail of Weruva Mideast Feast Canned Cat Food

Weruva Mideast Feast Canned Cat Food

Wet Food
{{petcare_price|currency}} Price in Cart w/PetPlus {{petplus_price|currency}} See PetPlus Price in Cart

Forget the battle of “wet” vs. “dry” and instead satisfy your cat’s nutritional needs with a new take on semi moist cat food.

Feeding your cat right is not necessarily the easiest part of being a cat parent. It can be hard to satisfy a carnivorous animal's nutritional needs and demanding palate. By nature, your cats want to eat mice. By necessity, they usually choose dehydrated kibble and bits or moistened meat and meat by-products in a can. 

Of course, cats can get the nutrition they need and be content with pre-packaged food. The best way to keep your cat healthy may be to avoid choosing just one type of cat food and explore other varieties. 

Dry vs. Wet Cat Food

Commercially prepared cat food is divided into two basic categories: dry kibble, containing about 7-10% moisture, and wet canned food, consisting of 75-85% moisture. The moisture content of food is essential because cats should get considerable amounts of water for urinary tract health. 

Canned food from the best cat food brands like the Merrick Purrfect Bistro Turkey Pate cat food will provide this, so if you’re serving only kibble, you’ll need to watch your cat’s water intake. Beyond the moisture content, there are other considerations regarding the best dry cat food and best wet cat food:

Price: Canned cat food is, generally, more expensive than dry because it usually has more protein -- but check labels to be sure.

Freshness: Kibble can be left out for your cat to graze on all day. Canned foods spoil within a couple of hours after opening. So unless you have an automatic feeder that keeps wet food fresh, you’ll have to rely on dry food when you’re gone for the day.

Oral health: Dry food is better for cats’ teeth. However, if you adhere to good dental care routines, wet cat food shouldn’t cause problems.

Cat appeal: Pet owners often say that cats prefer canned food, but many felines also enjoy the crunchy texture of dry food.

Semi-Moist Cat Food

At one time, your local grocer offered a third type of cat food, semi-moist cat food. Sold in convenient pouches, semi-moist cat food looked like kibble but contained more water. It was more affordable than canned, and cats seemed to like it more than dry food. Cats devoured the food. 

Unfortunately, the leading semi-moist cat food brands were pulled from the shelves when it was found that the preservatives used caused some health problems for cats, namely anemia. The high caloric density and added sugars were also criticized. Today, commercially prepared semi-moist cat foods are limited to treats, which can’t be used as daily food. Veterinarians recommend giving these treats, and all treats, sparingly.

While semi-moist cat foods were discontinued, the idea of a middle-of-the-road alternative to dry and wet food is something many parents still yearn for. There are two ways to mimic the texture of semi-moist food. You can add water to dry cat food or make your cat food using recipes for a semi-moist dish. 

Both options have their plusses and minuses. You can change the consistency of the dry food, but it doesn’t improve the nutritional value. Homemade cat meals should meet dietary recommendations from your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, and making sure the food matches those standards can be time-consuming and expensive.

Mixed Food Options

Of course, there’s no reason to limit your pet solely to a dry or wet food diet. In fact, according to the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, offering both wet and dry food may be most beneficial for your cat.

Among the findings of pet nutritionists are the discovery that, when given a selection of dry and wet foods, cats will instinctively select the right amount of food and the right balance of nutrients to meet their dietary needs. Cats also prefer a mix of dry and wet food (as long as you have the flavor and brand your cat's love).

Before serving up large quantities of food for your cat to freely feed on, discuss your cat’s diet with your veterinarian to ensure you’re paying attention to any special needs. For instance, if urinary tract health is a concern, your vet may insist on mostly canned or moistened dry food like Hill's Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Urinary Care Canned Cat Food to ensure your pet’s food contains between 53.2% and 73.3% moisture. 

Since cats can be notoriously finicky about food, it’s best to start introducing a mix of wet and dry food when your pet is a kitten. This will help acclimate your cat to the different textures and tastes and offer you more options when planning a nutritionally rich diet.

Trying Cat Food Recipes at Home Starts Here

Do you have a finicky feline who just doesn’t care for the grocery store stuff, Or maybe you just want to provide some down-home love by making cat food recipes yourself? Although not routinely recommended by vets, going for a home-prepared diet for your cat is not too tremendously hard. With time and commitment, you can make a home-prepared meal to see how your furry friend takes it.

A word of caution: the recipe below is deficient in many essential vitamins and minerals, so it’s not recommended for long-term use. In other words, it’s a special “tester” meal for you and your cat to try out some home cooking. Overall this diet is sufficient in protein, fatty acids, calcium, and phosphorus, but there are a lot of other vitamins and minerals that cats need -- which is why you see many chemical-sounding ingredients on a bag or can of cat food; these are essential nutrients.  

If your cat takes to this recipe or another you find on the internet, talk to your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to help balance the diet for long-term use. Since nutrition is so complex, you’ll want an expert to help you get all the details right for your specific cat.


  • 3 ounces of cooked dark meat chicken food (like thigh meat), deboned
  • ¼ cup of cooked long-grain brown rice
  • ½ teaspoon of vegetable oil (Did you know This is usually soybean oil or a mix of corn and soy.)
  • ¾ teaspoon of feed-grade powdered bone meal (Solgar is a good brand)


First, it’s a good idea to use a kitchen scale to measure the amounts you will be using. Shred the chicken and mix it thoroughly with the rice, oil, and bone meal.

TIP: If your cat seems to be picking out the chicken or the rice, you can use a food processor to chop the food finely and mix the ingredients well. You can also warm the food slightly by placing the meal in the microwave for 10-20 seconds and mixing well, which will help bring out the aroma of your freshly prepared meal. 

How to Feed This Meal?

This meal is appropriate for an 8-pound cat. This could be easily scaled up for a larger cat and cut back for a smaller cat.

This meal has about 220 kilocalories and has 40% of the calories from protein, 41 % from fat, and 19% from carbohydrates. This essential diet also contains approximately 2.5 grams of bone meal which helps the diet supply plenty of calcium and phosphorus. (A 1 to 1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus is vital since many home-prepared diets do not provide enough calcium.)

Modifications: This diet has ample essential fatty acids for coat and skin. Yet, the omega-six fatty acid content is high due to the use of chicken as the primary ingredient. To help balance out the omega-six to omega-three ratios, add fish supplies like ¼ teaspoon of fish oil or utilize a 1000 mg soft gel capsule of fish oil (use scissors to clip the end of the capsule and squeeze the oil into the food). 

If your cat takes to this diet, then maybe you are onto something that will help build a stronger bond between you and your cat!

This article was written by PetCareRx Consulting Nutritionist Dr. Joe, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine. The information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment by your veterinarian.

More on Cat Nutrition

Human Food That's Safe for Cats
Trying Cat Food Recipes at Home? Start Here
Tips to Avoid Your Cat's Stomach Upsets

References and Resources

"A Game Of Cat And Mouse: Cats Found To Favour Food Similar To Their Natural Prey,” MARS. Feb. 2011

Hewson-Hughes, Adrian K. et. al. (2013) “Consistent proportional macronutrient intake selected by adult domestic cats (Felis catus) despite variations in macronutrient and moisture content of foods offered,” Journal of Comparative Physiology (183.4) 525-536

“Scientists discover dietary moisture window that boosts urinary tract health in cats,” MARS. Oct 2011

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

Was this article helpful?