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
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
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.