Choosing the right food for your cat is a difficult but important decision. Whether you’re willing to spend top dollar, or need a budget-friendly option, there are dozens of healthy options to choose from. So where do you begin? A good place to start is deciding whether you want wet food or dry food for your cat.
Narrowing the choice down to wet or dry food (or a combination of the two) doesn’t mean you should overlook the product’s ingredients or ignore the recommended life stage or age range a particular food is designed for. Unlike dogs, who are omnivores, cats are obligate carnivores which means they MUST eat meat to survive. A vegetarian diet will not work for your favorite feline. However, before you get too much further into an analysis of cat food ingredients, let’s discuss the benefits of wet food vs dry food for your cat.
Wet Food or Dry Food: Making a Decision
Both wet and dry food offer pros and cons, so ultimately the decision will depend on what is best for your kitty. Before choosing a product, consider your pet’s age, physical health, personal preferences, and your lifestyle. If your cat is an indoor cat, you will have more latitude with regard to the type of food you can feed her. If your cat lives outside or you are feeding a feral cat, dry kibble is sometimes the only practical solution when considering whether the cat food will attract wildlife other than the kitties you are actually trying to feed.
Advantages of Canned Wet Cat Food
There are some reasons why wet food is considered by experts to be superior to dry food. Canned wet food tends to be more expensive, but it typically contains more fat and protein and fewer carbohydrates than dry food, making it healthier overall. Wet food also contains fewer preservatives, a positive if you’re interested in choosing a healthy product, but the lack of preservatives means wet food requires refrigeration after opening and spoils more quickly than dry food.
One of the biggest advantages of wet food for cats is its high moisture content which provides your favorite feline with the all-important water intake. Unlike dogs, most cats don’t naturally drink a lot of water so getting enough hydration into your kitty can be a challenge. Hydration helps prevent a host of health problems, including urinary tract issues, kidney disease and diabetes.
Many cats also prefer wet canned food because it often tastes better, is easier to digest, and is easier to chew than dry kibble, especially when dental disease or other oral problems are in play. Older cats who may have olfactory issues may also prefer wet food with its more pungent odor.
Advantages of Dry Cat Food
No one can refute the fact that dry cat food is generally more economical and convenient than wet cat food. Dry food can be left out for extended periods of time without requiring refrigeration. The ability to leave dry kibble out throughout the day is beneficial for cats who prefer to nibble on and off instead of consuming larger, timed meals.
Dry cat food can also be more energy dense than wet food, a bonus for underweight cats but a problem for those on a diet. If you prefer to feed your cat dry food, you may want to add a liquid multivitamin or a bit of moisture to add the hydration your kitty may need with the dry kibble.
Your Best Bet Is to Alternate
“There are a lot of people who believe that cats only need to eat canned food and will be unhealthy if they eat dry food,” says Jennifer Larsen, DVM, PhD, a nutritional consultant and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis in California. However, she also notes that most cats do well on either wet or dry food.
So, the best option may be to use wet food most of the time for its higher protein and moisture content, and supplement with dry food when you need the convenience it offers. Using both also means your cat is less likely to turn into a picky eater, a benefit for both you and your feline companion.
No matter what you choose, read labels carefully, avoid artificial ingredients, meat by-products, and grains as primary ingredients, and consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
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