Best Moist and Semi-Moist Cat Foods

While true semi-moist cat food is all but nonexistent in today’s market, the closest wholesome alternative is Wellness CORE air-dried cat food.

We selected it as the best semi-moist food because it’s meat-based, relatively low in carbohydrates, and has a softer texture than the average kibble.

It combines these qualities with species-appropriate nutrition, low carbohydrate content, plenty of protein, and no potentially harmful additives.

Read on to learn more about moist and semi-moist cat food, to read our reviews of the top 5 best moist foods, and to find tips on how to satisfy cats who can’t eat kibble but don’t like canned food.

Quick Look at Our Top Picks:

  1. Top Pick: Wellness CORE Air Dried
  2. Runner Up: Wellness Healthy Indulgence Morsels
  3. Budget Pick: Weruva Cats in the Kitchen Love Me Tender
  4. Best Canned Cat Food: Wellness Morsels Chicken Entree
  5. Best Low Carb: Instinct by Nature’s Variety Frozen Raw Bite
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Top Pick

Wellness CORE Air Dried Natural Grain-Free Original Recipe Dry Cat Food
  • Rich in animal protein
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content
  • Tender texture is similar to semi-moist food
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Runner Up

Weruva Cats in the Kitchen Love Me Tender Chicken & Duck Recipe Grain-Free Cat Food Pouches
  • Made from human-quality ingredients
  • Primarily made from animal ingredients
  • Free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
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Budget Pick

Wellness Healthy Indulgence Morsels
  • Has a chunky texture
  • Free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
  • Cats seem to love the taste and texture
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Best Canned Cat Food

Wellness Morsels Chicken Entree Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
  • Has a chunky texture that cats love
  • Free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content
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Best Low Carb

Instinct by Nature’s Variety
  • Primarily made from fresh chicken muscle meat, organs, and bone
  • Contains salmon oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content
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Remember semi-moist cat food?

In 1976, Ralston-Purina introduced cat food that wasn’t dry and wasn’t wet. It didn’t come in a bag or a can. No paté clumps. No kibble. They called this food Tender Vittles.

It was the United States’ first national semi-moist cat food brand and perhaps the world’s first cat food in a pouch.

Tender Vittles was a smash among both cats and people. By the 1980s, it was the leading moist cat food brand in the United States. Tender Vittles enjoyed over 20 years as an iconic and beloved brand.

But semi-moist cat food doesn’t exist anymore—at least not as we once knew it. Here’s why.

Semi-moist cat food has never been nutritionally ideal for cats. In 1982, a package of Tender Vittles cat food listed, among other more nourishing ingredients, propylene glycol, BHA, artificial color, and ethoxyquin.

These potentially-harmful ingredients have made semi-moist food one of the most criticized varieties and seem to have led to its disappearance. Purina discontinued Tender Vittles in 2007 due to declining customer demand and low sales.

Though semi-moist food is now the stuff of pet food nostalgia, there are still good options for those who want that soft-but-not-soupy consistency.

I’ve scoured message boards, review articles, and pet retail sites in search of the best equivalents to moist and semi-moist food.

The following five foods capture something of the old moist or semi-moist magic. Most of them come in the same type of easy-serve, easy-store pouch.

They aren’t exactly the same as the sugary, preservative-laden semi-moist food so many loved, but they’re a lot better for your cat’s health. It’s a fair trade, right?

The Best Moist and Semi-Moist Cat Food – Our Top 5 Picks

Wellness CORE Air Dried Natural Grain-Free Original Recipe Dry Cat Food Review

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This air-dried cat food has none of the salt, sugar, and preservatives found in semi-moist food, but it’s frequently compared to Purina’s Tender Vittles. It’s a dry food, but it’s not extruded.

Instead, it’s air-dried, a process that allows the manufacturer to use more meat and less starch. Furthermore, air-drying may leave more nutrients intact. At 20% water, it has about twice the amount of moisture found in traditional dry food.

Chewy user Pat666 says this air-dried food is “the perfect food for those who bemoaned the fact that there were no longer any soft kibble foods on the market for cats, like Tender Vittles.

FatCats4 countered that “If you remember Tender Vittles – this food is not that.” Given these conflicting remarks, it’s unclear whether or not this food is a worthy replacement for Tender Vittles, but it’s worth a try.

This recipe features cage-free chicken and grass-fed, free-range lamb. It contains an array of animal parts, including chicken muscle meat, lamb heart, lamb kidney, lamb liver, and even lamb blood.

Whether or not it meets all the expectations or hopes of those seeking a replacement for semi-moist food, this product is a solid candidate for your cat’s food bowl.

Ingredients

Deboned Chicken, Deboned Turkey, Peas, Gelatin, Natural Flavor, Tomato Pomace, Vegetable Glycerin, Pea Fiber, Salt, Dried Cultured Skim Milk, Sunflower Lecithin, Ground Flaxseed, Chicory Root Extract, Zinc Propoinate, Potassium Citrate, Choline Chloride, Calcium Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols Added to Preserve Freshness, Cranberries, Cranberry Extract Powder, Cranberry Fiber, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Taurine, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, L-Carnitine, Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Thiamine Mononitrate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Iodate, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract (This Is A Naturally Preserved Product).

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein32% min
Crude Fat22% min
Crude Fiber4.0% max
Moisture20% max
Ash8.31%

What We Liked:

  • Rich in animal protein
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content
  • Tender texture is similar to semi-moist food

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Some cats don’t like the food’s texture

Weruva Cats in the Kitchen Love Me Tender Chicken & Duck Recipe Grain-Free Cat Food Pouches Review

Weruva Cats in the Kitchen Love Me Tender Cat Food Pouches

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Each pouch contains plenty of gravy and plenty of shredded chicken, tuna, and duck. Instead of chunks, the meat has a stringy texture.

Most cats like this consistency and customer reviews attest that this food is delicious for cats of all kinds.

The food’s greatest drawback is its carbohydrate content. Thanks to the addition of tapioca starch as a gravy thickener, the food is 17% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis.

Like all Weruva foods, this food is made in a human food facility in Thailand, and according to the company, made from human-quality ingredients.

It’s free of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives that might harm your cat.

Ingredients

Water Sufficient For Processing, Chicken (Boneless, Skinless Breast), Tuna, Duck, Tapioca Starch, Sunflower Seed Oil, Calcium Lactate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Xanthan Gum, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Folic Acid, Potassium Iodide, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein9% min
Crude Fat1.4% min
Crude Fiber0.5% max
Moisture85% max
Ash2.0% max

What We Liked:

  • Made from human-quality ingredients
  • Primarily made from animal ingredients
  • Free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Relatively high in carbohydrates
  • Expensive

Wellness Healthy Indulgence Morsels with Chicken & Chicken Liver in Savory Sauce Grain-Free Wet Cat Food Pouches

Wellness Healthy Indulgence Morsels with Chicken & Chicken Liver in Savory Sauce Grain-Free Wet Cat Food Pouches

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This food ticks several of our moist cat food boxes—it comes in a pouch, features robust chunks of meat set in a light gravy, and doesn’t contain additives that could harm your cat.

The food is primarily made from chicken and chicken liver with potato starch, eggs, and carrots. It’s a starchy food with 23% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis.

This food is recommended as a standalone meal or a topper for dry food—the chunky texture and gravy pair well with kibble. If you’re trying to wean your cat off of dry food, this product could make the transition easier.

The food is popular among people whose cats are suffering from chronic kidney disease. Chewy reviewer TC22 says that “My 17-year-old cat was recently diagnosed with kidney disease. He’s also become a picky eater in his old age.

He doesn’t particularly like the prescription food so I found a list of non-prescription foods that had lower levels of phosphorous and protein. This is one of the options and, so far, it’s one of the few he will reliably eat.”

Ingredients

Chicken Broth, Water Sufficient for Processing, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Potato Starch, Eggs, Carrots, Natural Flavor, Salt, Guar Gum, Tricalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Magnesium Sulfate, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Niacin, Vitamin A Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement], Cranberries, Blueberries, White Sweet Potatoes, Xanthan Gum, Choline Chloride, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenite.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein7.0% min
Crude Fat4.0% min
Crude Fiber1.0% max
Moisture82% max
Ash2.0%

What We Liked:

  • Has a chunky texture
  • Free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
  • Cats seem to love the taste and texture

What We Didn’t Like:

  • High carbohydrate content

Wellness Morsels Chicken Entree Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Review

Wellness Morsels Chicken Entree Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

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This Wellness recipe is similar to the one reviewed above, except it’s a canned food and doesn’t come in a pouch. The food consists of hearty cubes of chicken and other ingredients set in a light gravy.

One reviewer called JCL24 commented that their cat has a few missing teeth and “can’t eat dry food even after soaked in water because he doesn’t chew it, and often vomits. Can’t eat pate because it is too gummy. Minced works better, but cubed it best of all. He actually can chew the cubes of meat.”

Those sound a lot like the qualities that make moist and semi-moist cat food special.

In contrast to old-fashioned semi-moist food, this food is made without chemical preservatives, artificial colors, or excessive salt.

It’s made primarily from chicken and eggs with some peas and other trace fruits and vegetables. At about 12% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis, this food is relatively low in carbohydrates, especially compared to kibble.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Water Sufficient for Processing, Dried Ground Peas, Dried Egg Whites, Natural Flavor, Dried Egg Product, Guar Gum, Spinach, Sodium Phosphate, Ground Flaxseed, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Cranberries, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodide), Vitamins (Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Taurine.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein8.0% min
Crude Fat5.0% min
Crude Fiber1.0% max
Moisture82% max
Ashn/a

What We Liked:

  • Has a chunky texture that cats love
  • Free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Nothing

Instinct by Nature’s Variety Frozen Raw Bites Grain-Free Cage-Free Chicken Recipe Cat Food Review

Instinct by Nature's Variety Frozen Raw Bites Grain-Free Cage-Free Chicken Recipe Cat Food

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This product is a bit different from the others on this list and quite a bit different from old-fashioned semi-moist food.

It’s a frozen raw food made primarily from chicken and chicken organs. The raw meat and organs are chopped into bite-sized pieces and frozen to stay fresh.

When you’re ready to serve them, you’ll defrost the chunks and let them soften.

The food is rich in animal protein and fat with chicken, organs, and bone representing 85% of the total recipe.

Though the food satisfies several of our requirements for a moist or semi-moist food, it tends to be a bit hit-or-miss with customers. Several reviewers said their cats refused to eat the raw chunks.

Ingredients

Chicken (including Ground Chicken Bone), Chicken Liver, Chicken Heart, Apples, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Butternut Squash, Montmorillonite Clay, Tricalcium Phosphate, Ground Flaxseed, Salmon Oil, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Yeast Culture, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate), DL-Methionine, Blueberries, Spinach.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein12% min
Crude Fat8% min
Crude Fiber2.0% max
Moisture70% max
Ashn/a

What We Liked:

  • Primarily made from fresh chicken muscle meat, organs, and bone
  • Contains salmon oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content
  • Free of potentially harmful artificial additives

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Some cats don’t like the raw food

Alternatives to Moist and Semi-Moist Cat Food

Moisten your cat’s kibble.

Consider adding water, tuna juice, or bone broth to your cat’s kibble. This is a great way to improve the food’s texture and make it easier to chew. It’s a good mid-point between feeding your cat kibble and a fully wet diet.

Also Read: Best Cat Water Fountain: Top 5 Fountains to Keep Your Cat Hydrated

If you choose to wet your cat’s kibble, be sure to refrigerate or discard it after about an hour.

Dry food, particularly dry food containing wheat, corn, and other cereal grains, is prone to aflatoxin mold growth. In fact, it’s more dangerous to leave out moistened kibble than it is to leave out fresh, canned, or raw food.

This means no grazing! Provide a single serving at a time and throw it away or refrigerate any leftovers as soon as you can.

Consider other types of food that have a texture between kibble and wet food.

Moist or semi-moist food isn’t the only option for cats who want something softer than kibble but not as wet as canned food. Think about freshly cooked foods, which are soft and chewable but not wet. NomNomNow is a good example of this.

NomNomNow cat food recipes are primarily made from gently cooked chicken and fish, so they have a naturally tender texture with plenty of chewable chunks.

Freshpet sells a cooked fresh food that comes in soft kibble-style niblets that are extremely similar in consistency to the old-fashioned semi-moist products. Learn more about Freshpet in our complete brand review.

You can also consider raw food, which is available in a world of consistencies and styles. A chunky raw food is both soft and substantial.

Freeze-dried foods may also fit the bill. Typically, these foods are rehydrated and mashed into something resembling a canned paté-style food, but you can also rehydrate them without mashing or smashing, giving you little chunks of slightly-softened food.

Try using semi-moist treats to encourage your cat to try wet food.

If your cat refuses to eat both dry and wet food, the solution may not be a moist food but simply finding a way to convince your cat to eat a wet food.

Convincing your cat to eat a new food is a relatively complex issue and we can’t go into much depth on it here, but one of the easiest ways to get started is by sprinkling something your cat likes on top of the thing he doesn’t like.

While semi-moist diets have gone out of vogue, moist and tender treats still exist. You can sprinkle these treats on top of your cat’s food to entice him to try it out. Semi-moist treats include Pet Greens Cat Craves and Blue Buffalo Kitty Yums.

About the author


Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.

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