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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I have a 3-month-old black beauty female who refuses to eat cat chow. She only eats canned food. I have an even dozen cats, and they all eat kibble (it’s a high-quality kibble) but her. She has plenty of teeth, so I’m pretty sure that’s not the problem. How can I get her to eat kibble without starving her?

~ Paulette

Siouxsie: Well, Paulette, to be totally honest, we think your kitten is demonstrating plain old good sense!

Thomas: Cats weren’t designed to eat kibble. We’re obligate carnivores, which means we need meat to stay healthy.

Cat skull and jaw

Cat skull showing the jaws and teeth. Cats’ teeth are specialized for grasping and tearing meat, then swallowing with little chewing. Image courtesy of University of Washington

Kissy: That’s not to say kibble doesn’t have meat in it, of course, but if you look at our teeth and jaws, it’s pretty clear that they’re not designed for eating kibble.

Siouxsie: Cats’ teeth are made to grasp, puncture and tear, not to chomp.

Thomas: In order to really chew on kibble and other such things, your jaw needs to be able to move side to side. Humans, as well as most omnivores and all herbivores, have jaws that move side to side as well as up and down. Our jaws only move up and down, so any chewing we do is not efficient and we often end up swallowing kibbles whole.

Kissy: The photo above came from the materials for a University of Washington biology class. If you want to compare cat teeth to those of herbivores and omnivores, go here.

Siouxsie: That said, though, we do understand that not every human has the means or inclination to feed their cats canned or raw food. We are glad to hear that your cats are eating a high-quality kibble.

Thomas: Now for the answer to your question. If you do want your kitten to start eating kibble, the trick is to transition her slowly.

Kissy: Three-month-old kittens still have pretty small jaws and teeth, and sometimes at that size they may have trouble biting down on the kibble and making it small enough to swallow.

Siouxsie: You might try soaking her kibble in kitten milk replacer, which will soften it and probably be quite tasty, too. Gradually use less and less of the milk replacer until the kibble is dry.

LOLcat, with text reading "Lolcat DISAPPROVES of new cat fud. BLERG"Thomas: Another way you might be able to transition her is to mix a couple of kibbles in with her canned food and then gradually decrease the amount of canned and increase the amount of kibble.

Kissy: Again, we do strongly encourage a diet of soft food, which not only is more like the diet cats are designed to eat but also provides the moisture cats need to stay hydrated.

Siouxsie: If you do feed kibble, we recommend a grain-free variety, only because we’ve found in our experience that we feel better when we’re not eating grain.

Thomas: Especially me! When I used to eat grains, I got the runs so badly that it hurt to poop, and sometimes I even made messes outside the litterbox. I was so ashamed! But Mama removed all the grains from my diet (including the grain-based cat litter we used to use), and I’ve been fine ever since.

Kissy: Just a reminder here: — we’re not veterinarians, and we recommend that you do your own research and talk with your vet when deciding on a diet for your feline friends.

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