You are here:

Ask the Veterinarian/Cat food and litter questions



I have an 8 year old neutered male cat that is inbred, and has had urinary crystals, infections and blockages in the past. He is indoor-only, and up to date on shots. He has 2 water dishes in 'his' bedroom (he's highly anxious, and rarely leaves my bedroom), one is a water-fall style that filters through a carbon filter, and I use only bottled water in. The other is a gravity-fed water dish, and I use tap water in it, dumping and scrubbing it clean every other day. I currently let him have 9 Lives Plus Care dry kibble, and give him a 1/2 can of cat food in the morning, and the other half in the evening. With this routine, he hasn't had any issues in the last 3 years. Our local store stopped carrying 9 Lives, so I was trying to find guidelines for a kibble that's good for him, and I'm now seeing that it's best to get him to canned only.

I do offer free-feed to the other cats, and he'll come out of the bedroom to nibble at the dry kibble if his own runs empty. So I'm not sure how well switched to all-wet would go. Also, is there a way to firm up his feces with the canned food? Any more than a can a day results in extremely loose stools that are incredibly rank and offensive.

In addition, I'm currently using Tidy Cats Instant Action Clumping Clay litter, in a converted 30 gallon storage bin (he doesn't squat to pee after his first blockage, so he stands now, and I needed something tall), and it -is- covered... he won't use a litterbox that isn't covered. I'm worried about the dust in it, and saw that there's a new litter made of grass, with the texture and consistency of sand. Is this an idea to try, or should I just stick with the current litter I'm using?

The other complication with this is that the other primary feline resident in my room is Tig, a stray-turned-housecat of unknown age, who has pillow-paw. We're working with the vet currently on Doxy and steroids to try to get the ulcers to heal, but I'm not sure if clay or another litter would be best for his wounded paws. Between the two of them, I go through about a gallon and a 2 liter of water a week, and a 5 lb bag of dry kibble every month, and of course, 2 cans of food a day (primarily Friskies or 9-Lives).

To recap my basic questions in this mess: Should I be feeding canned-only, or can I add dry kibble? If I can add dry kibble, what is a good brand, or guidelines to look at? If canned only, is there a way to firm up the stools a bit? Would switching to a grass-based fine-textured clumping litter be a good idea for his urinary issues and Tig's pillow-paws, or should I stick with our current usage of clay-based clumping litter? I realize I probably sound neurotic with these questions, but after seeing Squeaky suffer with blockages and crystals, I'm wary to alter a single thing that might possibly cause a recurrence.

Thank you very much for your time and assistance.

Snoopy with full tail
Snoopy with full tail  
Hi Amanda,
I understand your frustration and concern here. Years ago I used to feed store brands like Friskies or Meow mix or because at one time I had 9 cats, four that were outdoors and five indoor, outdoor, I would buy Farmer's Choice at the feed store when I bought hay.

And guess what? The male cats would plug and the whole lot would get sick now and then. Then I started working more hours and could afford to bring home food from work, namely Science Diet.
Now trust me, I KNEW the benefits of feeding this food, and even though it cost more, I found that it went much farther with 9 cats then I expected. Why? Because they ate less of it. Why?
Did they not like it? Well, their coats all became super shiny and soft, the male cats quit blocking (I never had another one EVER block or get crystals) and they stopped getting sick.
But why did they eat less?
As I was learning to become a Nutritional Consultant, I learned (and observed from my pack plus asking clients) that Hills, the makers of Science Diet, has made their food with such precision that it is nutrient dense, and that they needed less of it to meet their energy needs.

Now cats, dogs and all other creatures except humans, eat to meet their energy needs, not because it tastes like pizza. Those energy needs might be resting, RMR,BMR,which is resting or basal metabolic rate.
(BMR is measured under very restrictive circumstances when a person or animal is awake. An accurate BMR measurement requires that the person's sympathetic nervous system not be stimulated, a condition which requires complete rest. A more common measurement, which uses less strict criteria, is resting metabolic rate (RMR)).

Also, their daily energy expenditure (DEE)needs are met by their food, and a highly quality food is going to meet those needs better then a cheaper food.
I call it the steak and saltine paradox.
With grocery store foods, you are trying to meet these energy needs with food that has no nutritional value. It's like trying to get a pound of steak out of a box of saltine crackers.
This is why so many pets are obese now. The owners just keep free-feeding food with no nutritional density and pet keeps eating and eating trying to get some nutrients to meet their needs.

With Science Diet, what I have seen, over and over, is that the pet gets these needs met with a few mouthfuls a day. So a bag lasts a long time. I buy a 10 bag of Ideal Balance ( for three cats and it lasts about 8 weeks. I kid you not. I use a one cup measuring cup to put it in the bowl in the morning and it's half full when I get home. I have two seniors on it and one 2 year old. They are all extremely healthy and never get ill. I had a cat live to be 19 years and one month on Hills foods. All of my pets live extremely long lives with NO vet visits! Now I don't encourage that and they see the vet for routine health checks etc but what I mean is they don't get sick, they don't get blockages or crystals (I have one male who is at least 16) and no abscesses or dental disease.  

So to answer your question, you can feed dry food as long as it's the PROPER type to feed cats that have URI issues. 9 Lives and Friskies are not those foods.
You need to get these cats on some Science Diet. They can both eat the same foods. Now having said that, you can give them a tablespoon of wet food morning and night. That's what I do as I started it as ritual when I had wilder cats and that way I could gather them all in the AM and check them for stickers, abscesses etc.

I buy small cans of friskies and one can last two days since they get so little.
One of the other benefits of feeding Science Diet is that their stool becomes much more firm and has NO SMELL. Yes, I said that. No smell.
When I got Snoopy, via a family member, his stool smelled so BAD I couldn't stand it. He was also almost hairless and he is half Persian. Now, he is huge with a giant fluffy tail and a thick, shiny coat. I couldn't wait for a week to go by when I got him so that his stool would quit smelling so horrid. It only took a week to get the crappy, cheap food she fed (Meow mix) out of him and for the Science Diet to kick in. I was actually surprised how fast it worked.
His stool was slimy, sticky, SMELLY and gross. Now it's small, harder and I can't smell it. I only smell urine in their boxes, which I clean every other day.

So it will solve that problem for you within a week or so. By three weeks you will see a noticeable difference in all your cats.

Now for your litter issues, be very careful about switching litters on your cats. Cats do NOT like changes and tend to get back at you by not using the box at all.
At our hospital we use Yesterday's News which is recycled newspaper. It's very safe, even for cats with foot infections. It is larger than other litters, like little small pellets, so they can't get it inside any cracks in their feet. It melts when wet so it helps hold the urine in the box.

I personally stay away from clumping litters because of the chemicals. I know that Plasma Cell Pododermatitis, or Pillow-Paws, is considered an immune disorder, but they are not sure. Has your cat been tested for FIV? Apparently they have found some correlation between them.
Your changing the cats to Science Diet will only HELP by building up their immune systems, which can help your kitty to fight this infection.

This is what I buy for my cats:
but they have many formulas. This one has no:
Corn Wheat Soy
NO Artificial Colors, Flavors or Preservatives, which is why I really like it. My cats LOVE IT.

Here's an article about Pillow Paws here that might help you understand it more:

This is what the Yesterday's News looks like:

You can buy it at most pet stores like Petco, etc.

And no, you don't sound neurotic Amanda. You sound like the type of pet owner all vets and technicians wish were their clients! You sound like a great pet owner!

Please let me know if I can help with anything else, or if you'd like more information on diets.

I'm including a photo of Snoopy so you can see what he looks like. I wish I had before photos!
He had an almost hairless tail and was a wrack of bones when I got him. This is what he looked like in one month on Ideal Balance. :-)  

Ask the Veterinarian

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 42 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love. I also Teach Veterinary Technology to working technicians who are studying to take their California Tests to become Licensed Technicians. They have to take both the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Exam) and the California boards.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.


Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 1500 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

Awards and Honors
Nominated for Expert of the Month for the last 5 years.

©2017 All rights reserved.