Wet Food vs. Dry Food for Cats: Which Should You Choose?
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on March 4, 2019
Posted in Food & Recipes
Veterinarians and cat owners have long debated about the best choice of food to give cats. Both wet food and dry food have their benefits, so choosing between the two can be extremely difficult for a new pet parent.
Decisions like these are always easier when you are properly informed, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each before making your choice. Remember, you can find nutritionally complete cat food in both wet and dry varieties, so you don’t need to worry as much about which type is going to provide your cat with its nutrients. However, each type can provide unique benefits to your cat and your household. (For the purposes of this discussion, we will be focusing on adult cats, not kittens.)
Wet cat food
Wet cat food, typically purchased in portioned-out cans, can be a great choice for the right cat.
- High moisture content: Canned food contains a lot of moisture that closely mimics the moisture content in a cat’s wild prey. High moisture content can be beneficial for cats suffering from constipation or dry, painful stools, as well as cats that have problems with the kidneys or urinary tract.
- More appetizing: Cats tend to prefer the taste, smell and texture of wet cat food, which more closely resembles prey. Picky cats will likely have an easier time approaching and completing wet meals.
- Less convenient: Canned food is not very convenient for pet owners to provide, especially ones who have busy or unpredictable schedules. Because wet cat food can spoil if it is left out for too long, meals must be scheduled and completed right away.
- More expensive: Canned pet food tends to be more expensive that dry food is. While there are lower-cost canned foods on the market, they tend to be of lower quality and are not as nutritionally complete as premium canned foods.
Dry cat food
Dry food is packed into crunchy bits of kibble of various sizes and typically sold in bags or boxes that are easily stored.
- Less expensive: Dry food is typically a more cost-effective option, which makes it more accessible and easier for pet owners on a budget (especially those with multiple pets).
- More convenient: Dry food has a much smaller chance of growing bacteria throughout the day, so it can be left out for longer periods of time with minimal risk. This makes it a more appropriate choice for cats that are fed using the free-choice method.
- High carbohydrate content: Some dry foods have higher carbohydrate contents than canned food, which is largely unnecessary and sometimes harmful to carnivorous pets like cats. Too many carbs can put your cat at risk for obesity and diabetes. Choosing a dry pet food with lower amounts of carbs may be better for your feline friend.
- Lower moisture content: Dry food only contains around 10 percent moisture, while canned food has about 70 percent. This lower moisture level can be problematic for cats because dehydration can cause crystals to form and block the urinary tract. Cats are also typically averse to drinking water from a standard bowl, so you’ll need to ensure your cat has a way to stay hydrated each day.
What is the right choice?
The decision between wet and dry food is one that must be made based on a cat’s individual health. It’s recommended that you speak with your veterinarian about which choice is right for your pet. If your cat has specific health conditions, your vet may insist you choose one over the other to assist in minimizing symptoms.
Some pet owners attempt to reconcile the drawbacks and benefits of each type of food by feeding their pets a mixture of both. This might occur by providing wet food at specific times of the day and leaving dry food out for cats to eat at their leisure the remainder of the day, or by mixing the types together for each meal.
No matter which cat food you choose, the most important thing is to check the ingredients and ensure the food is nutritionally appropriate for your cat and is made from high-quality sources, not fillers and low-quality by-products.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan