What’s Better for My Cat: Wet or Dry Food?

A frequent question asked is whether cats should consume canned or dry food.

Fortunately, many commercial cat foods offer an excellent nutritional source, whether in the form of dry or wet cat food. However, hinges on various factors, including weight, health conditions and budget.

Deciding whether to opt for dry, canned or a combination of both is a choice you and your vet or nurse can collaboratively make to ensure the optimal health of your cat. Here’s some advice on the comparison between wet and dry cat food.

The differences between wet and dry cat food

Moisture Levels- Dry cat food typically contains around 10% water, with the remaining 90% comprising dry matter like carbohydrates, fats and vitamins. In contrast, canned food has a much higher water content, approximately 70%, relative to dry food. This factor becomes significant when deciding what to feed your cat, particularly if they have specific health conditions that could benefit from increased water intake.

Manufacturing Process- Due to the elevated moisture content in canned foods, they are typically crafted using fresh or frozen meats along with a protein source derived from grains. The meats are mixed with water, fats and vitamins, and the resulting blend is placed in a can. A heating process is used to eliminate foodborne pathogens. In contrast, the production of dry food involves combining and cooking meats, vitamins, minerals and fats at high temperatures and pressures, enhancing the digestibility of starches. Subsequently, fat may be sprayed onto the food to enhance its palatability.

The benefits of wet cat food

The primary advantage of feeding a canned diet is its elevated water content. Cats with specific health conditions that demand increased water intake, such as kidney disease, diabetes or lower urinary tract disease, may find added benefits in these diets due to the higher water content. Additionally, canned food is highly palatable, and certain cats, especially those who are picky eaters, may show a preference for a canned diet over a dry one.

Wet cat food however, is often more expensive than dry food, and cost considerations may influence your decision. Once opened, canned food has a shelf life of 24 hours and should be stored in the refrigerator. If your cat doesn’t consume all their wet food, it needs to be properly stored in the refrigerator or discarded. Leaving canned food out for an extended period, exceeding a few hours, can pose a risk of contamination and lead to gastrointestinal upset.

The advantages of dry cat food

Dry cat food is a more economical choice compared to canned food, making it suitable for individuals on a tight budget or those feeding community cats. Additionally, dry cat food doesn’t require refrigeration and can be left out for an extended period compared to canned food. This flexibility is advantageous for those who may be out during the day. Any remaining portion by the end of the day should be discarded. Furthermore, dry cat food can be used in automatic feeders or as part of puzzle feeder toys, providing additional options for feeding and enrichment.

Disadvantages of dry food

Research indicates a correlation between obesity and the consumption of dry cat food. This association may be attributed to the common practice of free choice feeding, where owners may not be aware of the actual daily intake of their cats.

Free choice feeding can result in the opposite issue as well, as it might be challenging to notice when a cat is not eating. Monitoring or measuring the amount your cat consumes each day is crucial for both avoiding overeating and detecting potential issues. Moreover, older cats with dental disease or those who have undergone tooth extractions may find it difficult to chew dry food, further emphasising the importance of considering alternative feeding options for their specific needs.

Top tip: When providing food for your cat, try using a puzzle feeder to slow down their food consumption, as it mimics their natural eating behaviour. This is an excellent tool for cats that tend to eat quickly, which could lead to them being sick.

Concerned about your cat’s eating behaviour? Book an appointment today!

Regardless of whether you opt for dry or canned cat food, it is crucial to provide a well-balanced, commercial diet to ensure your cat receives the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Reputable brands like Royal Canin undergo quality control and are specially formulated to meet a cat’s nutritional requirements. Your nurse or vet can offer more specific recommendations based on your cat’s health history. Avoid feeding a home-cooked or homemade diet unless it is specifically formulated by a vet professional, specialising in these diets. Without guidance from a qualified vet, these diets may lack essential vitamins and minerals, such as taurine, which can lead to heart disease in cats.

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