Wet vs Dry Cat Food: Which is Best and Why
Is dry food better for cats than canned? Or is wet food better for cats? We settle the wet vs dry cat food debate below.
We all want our pets to live long and happy lives. One of the most important things to consider is making sure they receive proper nutrition. Cats have specific dietary needs. Thankfully, nowadays, commercial cat foods found at your local pet or grocery store can offer significant nutritional benefits and avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
The problem is that once you walk into the cat aisle, you get bombarded with both dry and wet or canned foods. If you’re unsure of which type to choose, read below.
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Adult Cats and Healthy Dietary Habits
Cats are obligate carnivores, so meat is a must in their diet. They rely on nutrients found only in animal products, and even though they no longer hunt their prey for food, they still rely on food high in protein, moderate fat, and pretty low amounts of carbohydrates to thrive.
Like us, their bodies require certain minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and amino acids to function. Cats cannot and should never be vegetarians. Certain essential fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins, like calcium, vitamin A, and niacin, are not found in plant tissue in forms that cats can use.
High-quality protein is their primary source of energy, just as carbohydrates are to humans. A diet based solely on plant protein can be harmful, even fatal because it does not contain the appropriate amount of critical amino acids required, and plant protein can be hard for cats to digest.
How much food your cat needs and when to feed it depends on many factors such as age, health, and the type of food you choose. For example, a kitten should eat more often than adult or senior cats and requires more food per pound to support their growing bodies.
Growing kittens up to six months of age may require three meals a day.
Francis Kallfelz, DVM, Ph.D., board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition
Cats six months to a year old should be fed two times a day, while adult and senior cats require food once to two times per day, depending on their health. Some diseases or health concerns might require a different feeding schedule, so always check with your veterinarian.
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Overfeeding your cat can lead to obesity and increase their risk for diseases such as diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, urinary bladder stones, and anesthetic complications due to heat intolerance.
The best way to avoid cat obesity is to:
- Feed high-quality cat food – Choose foods that are high in protein and highly digestible.
- Limit their daily food intake – Measure food portions. Avoid treats and table scraps.
- Provide daily exercise and playtime – Play games, provide toys and use catnip or honeysuckle to get your cat in a playful mood.
- Create a cat-friendly environment – Make your home cat-friendly, provide scratching posts, cat trees, and move their feeding areas around to keep them moving.
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- Remember regular vet check-ups – Your vet can help keep your cat’s weight in check and determine if there is a problem early on.
So, what’s the difference between wet and dry cat food? We’ve broken down the dry vs wet cat food pros and cons below.
Dry vs Wet Cat Food Pros and Cons
Dry Cat Food Pros
- Cheaper than canned food
- Convenient, easy, and takes little time to feed
- Easy to store
- Promotes better oral health
Dry Cat Food Cons
- Less protein than wet foods
- Less water content
- Increased carbohydrates
- Contain salt, sugars, and fillers
- Increases risk of diabetes and other diseases
Wet Cat Food Pros
- Cats prefer the texture
- Cats love the smell
- Better taste for your cats
- Higher water content
- Lower in carbohydrates
- Better for urinary tract issues
- Better for weight loss
Wet Cat Food Cons
- More expensive
- Messy to feed
- Requires specific feeding time
- Doesn’t stay fresh as long
- Won’t help oral health
A Middle Ground: Mix It Up
So what’s the verdict? Mix it up! Feeding your cat a varied diet is the best way to go. Mixing dry and wet food is the best of both worlds. Mixing wet food into your cat’s kibble has significant health benefits like weight management and urinary tract health. Moreover, combining dry foods and canned food promotes oral health. The hard and crunchy texture of the kibble helps keep teeth clean by scraping away plaque and tartar.
One thing’s for sure; cats prefer food higher in protein than carbs any day. A recent study conducted at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition in Leicestershire, England showed that healthy cats could regulate their nutrient (protein, fat, carb) intake to mimic what they would eat in the wild. When given a choice, they choose a food that’s biologically appropriate: more protein! They also prefer a mixture of both wet and dry foods compared to dry only.
How to Transition to a Varied Diet
Before you even consider mixing wet and dry cat food, consult with your veterinarian. This might not be the best way to go for cats with specific health issues like diabetes, urinary tract disease, etc.
Once you’ve gotten the approval from your vet, it’s best not to add water to dry kibble as it can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Instead, opt for adding a teaspoon of canned or wet food to the kibble at mealtime to start. If your cat normally eats wet food, add 7-10 pieces of kibble to start. You can then slowly increase the amounts.
It’s essential to get the right portions of food, so you don’t overfeed. The portions depend on your cat’s weight. Some foods come with guidelines on their packaging, or you can consult with your veterinarian who is familiar with your cat’s diet and nutritional needs. Be sure to choose a food that has a similar protein content as the one your cat is currently receiving.
Cats are meat eaters and require lots of protein, vitamins, and minerals for their little bodies to function properly. Choosing a diet that mimics what they would eat in the wild is the best way to go. This means offering a varied diet by mixing both wet and dry food. A healthy cat benefits from getting a varied diet in more ways than one, and that can add many loving years to your cat’s life.
What are your thoughts on the wet vs dry cat food debate? Have you considered mixing your cat’s wet and dry food?
Before You Go…
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I am a dog lover, foster, and rescuer. I GREW UP PICKING UP DOGS FROM THE STREETS IN EL PASO, Texas and finding loving homes for them. When I moved to San Antonio, Texas I was shocked at how bad the stray dog population was here and how dogs were not only homeless, but taken to the shelter and euthanized. I became a dog foster mom and quickly adopted my first three dogs: Brobee, Molly and Panini.Read more »