Wet Cat Food vs. Dry Cat Food: Which is Better?

When it comes to feline nutrition, one of the most commonly asked questions has to be: which is better, wet or dry cat food? The (rather unsurprising) truth is that both types of cat food have their pros and cons. For example, while dry cat food is cheaper and easier to store, it’s also much lower in moisture and tends to be higher in carbohydrates. Wet cat food, on the other hand, is higher in water and typically richer in protein, but it’s pricier and trickier to store than kibble. There are many more advantages and disadvantages to both types of food to think about, but if you’re short on time and just want a short and sweet (albeit incomplete) answer, here it is: as long as the food comes from a reputable brand and is complete and balanced, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between dry and wet formulations. Having said that, wet cat food does seem to offer slightly more in terms of nutrition. But is it enough to switch to wet cat food completely? Probably not – but we’ll let you decide that for yourself.

Dry vs Wet Cat Food: Pros And Cons

When you want only the best for your kitty, deciding between dry and wet cat food can be difficult. After all, it seems like every pet parent has a different opinion on the wet vs dry food debate, and even veterinarians are not far behind. To decide whether wet formulas or dry kibble is a better fit for your cat, it’s important to look at the advantages and disadvantages of both diets.

Wet Cat Food

cat eating wet food

Cats in the wild hunt for their food which means that besides meat, organs and small bones, they naturally get moisture from their prey as well. In other words, most of their water intake comes from their food, a.k.a. animals they eat. This is why cats have evolved with a low thirst drive and why many pet parents struggle trying to increase their cats’ water intake. While cats indeed don’t require huge amounts of water, they definitely need some to be healthy. And this is exactly why wet cat foods offer a better balance of nutrients – they contain lots of protein, fat, some carbohydrates and plenty of moisture.

Because wet formulas contain around 75% of moisture, they mimic the food (prey) that cats in the wild eat the best. This gives them an edge over dry foods as they contain everything felines need to thrive. This also makes wet formulas more beneficial for cats with urinary tract problems as they help flush out urinary crystals. On top of this, wet cat foods tend to be tastier than kibble, making them ideal for picky eaters.

But like anything else, wet formulas come with certain disadvantages as well. For one, they’re more expensive than dry cat foods, which can be a deal-breaker for pet parents on strict budgets. Canned food is also harder to store than kibble because once opened, it needs to be refrigerated to keep it from spoiling. On that note, some cats hate eating cold food so heating open wet food before serving is a must for some owners. Finally, it appears that wet cat food is not as beneficial for feline dental health as dry food is.

To sum up, here are some of the main pros and cons of wet cat food.

Wet Cat Food Pros

  •  High in moisture, better for cats with urinary tract problems
  • Tends to be lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein, so more nutritious
  • Easier to chew
  • Usually tastier, has more appetizing better texture

Wet Cat Food Cons

  • More expensive
  • Trickier to store when opened
  • Messier, especially for long-haired cats

Dry Cat Food

It’s no secret that dry pet food is incredibly convenient – it’s affordable, perfectly sized and packed, easy to store and keep safe for a long time, and it’s good for feline dental health. What’s not to love? On paper, literally nothing – dry food is tasty and healthy (depending on the recipe, of course) and can be an essential part of any cat’s diet. In reality though, it’s not the best choice for all cats because it’s very low in moisture. Kitties with low thirst drives who are fed only dry kibble can suffer from some health issues, including urinary tract and kidney problems.

However, if your cat drinks enough water and is fed quality dry food, there is no reason whatsoever to think that kibble is unhealthy for them. And even if your kitty doesn’t drink enough water, you can go about this problem by mixing wet and dry cat food, or water with dry food. In other words, the problem is not in kibble but in an imbalanced diet, which can easily be rectified by mixing water with your pet’s dry meals.

 

If your kitty struggles with sensitive gums and plaque buildup, you’ll be pleased to hear that dry cat food may be able to help. Because kibble is crunchy, it massages your pet’s gums and “cleans” their teeth, removing some of the plaque and soft tartar. Of course, it’s not a replacement for brushing (nothing is!), but it can be a godsend for cats who hate getting their teeth brushed. As a bonus, clean up after dry food is a breeze as there’s no messy moist food bits and pieces to clean.

Dry Cat Food Pros

  • More economical
  • Easier to store
  • Better at preventing dental disease
  • Allows for free-choice feeding
  • Energy-dense

Dry Cat Food Cons

  • Low in moisture, so it may not be suitable for certain cats
  • Tends to be higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein
  • Free-choice feeding may lead to gorging.

So, what is the healthiest diet for cats? Experience tells us it’s a balanced, varied diet. In other words, both dry and wet cat foods can be healthy and there’s no reason to avoid either type unless your vet specifically advised you to do so (i.e. in case of kidney disease). Mixing wet food with dry kibble seems to be healthiest as it offers the best of both worlds.

FAQ

How much wet and dry food to feed a cat?

If mixing wet and dry cat food is the way to go, what is the appropriate ratio of moist food to kibble? While there is no clear-cut answer to this question because every cat is different, you can always try the 50:50 ratio and go from there. If you’re tight on budget, you can add just a little bit of wet cat food to dry kibble to enhance the taste and then pour some water in the mixture as well to increase the moisture content.

Do cats need wet food everyday?

No, cats don’t need wet cat food every day, however, if our feline companions could talk, we’re certain they would say they want wet food every day. So what does this mean in practical terms? If you can afford it, always mix wet food with kibble, and sometimes feed wet food only as well. For instance, you can mix wet with dry food for breakfast and lunch and serve wet food only for dinner. If this is a little too much for your budget, that’s okay – mix some wet food, water and kibble for every meal and watch your kitty thrive!

Is dry cat food unhealthy?

This depends on the food you buy as some brands and recipes are healthier than others. As long as it’s complete and balanced, rich in animal protein and made with quality ingredients, dry cat food can be very healthy. That said, even the healthiest dry food is not exactly ideal for most felines because it’s low in moisture. But as we mentioned, you can solve this problem by mixing water with kibble, or better yet, wet food with kibble. And of course, don’t forget to provide fresh, clean water for your kitty every day!

Can cats live on dry food only?

Yes, cats can definitely live on dry food only, however, you do need to make sure that your kitty drinks enough water every day. If they have a low thirst drive, you can mix water with kibble and serve it like that if your kitty doesn’t mind. Simply add about ¼ of a cup to the kibble, mix and let it moisten before serving.

How often should I feed my cat wet food?

You can feed your cat wet food as often as you and your kitty want to. In practical terms, this means that if they normally eat three meals a day, feel free to serve wet cat food three times a day. Ideally though, you’ll consult with your vet to find the appropriate diet for your pet. For some cats, that will be wet food only, for others, it will be a combination of dry and wet cat food.

Is wet food bad for cat's teeth?

For many years, it was thought that dry food is better for cats’ teeth than wet food because it “scrubs” the teeth, removing some of the plaque and tartar. Kibble “cleans” teeth via chewing – so basically, the more your kitty chews dry food, the cleaner teeth and better dental health they should have. At least, that was the theory. Nowadays, many vets agree that dry food doesn’t seem to have that much of a positive effect on cats’ teeth because cats don’t actually chew their kibble very much – usually, it’s just a bite or two and then they swallow it. Nevertheless, dry food does seem to have an edge over wet food when it comes to feline dental health because even if your kitty bites into their kibble once or twice, there is some “scrubbing” going on. But that doesn’t mean that wet food is bad for your pet’s teeth – it just means it’s slightly less healthy than kibble (at least in theory). And anyway, you shouldn’t rely on food to keep your cat’s teeth and gums healthy. Daily brushing and some good dental toys here and there are what will support your kitty’s dental health the best.
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