New and old cat owners always tackle the number one question: What should I feed my cat? Like every other pet, cat nutrition is important to their overall wellbeing. Within the cat community, owners and veterinarians alike have varying and strong opinions on the issue at hand. Therefore, it could likely be overwhelming when deciding your cat’s meals. It’s honestly a complicated topic! But nothing to fear, but I’m here to break down the pros and cons of wet food and dry food. Afterwards, you could decide for yourself with your best judgement on what to feed your cat!
Differences at a Glance
The main difference between wet and dry food is in the names themselves. For the sake of making things less complicated, I will leave the specificity of brands alone!
Wet cat food has much more moisture and water, and usually is packaged in cans. There exists quite the variety of textures of wet cat food: mousse, loaf, chunks, and even jelly textures. Once opened its shelf life is much shorter, and it needs to be refrigerated. Protein sources are grounded together, cooked, and sterilized to produce wet cat food. In comparison, wet food is usually more expensive than dry food.
Dry food is dry (of course), and it is usually packaged in large bags. Similar to a bag of chips, they have a long shelf-life once opened. Protein sources, fat, and other vitamins are mixed together and go through several cooking processes in order to make dry food. Fun fact, wet food was the norm for cat owners until the 1950s when dry food entered the market. People raved over dry food as it’s cheaper and more convenient to purchase, creating dry food’s popularity and normalcy.
The Benefits & Downfalls For Your Cat
Notice how I put the benefits and downfalls “for your cat” This is important because many cat owners tend to buy food out of their own convenience or the prices. Although one option may seem convenient and easy for you, your cat’s nutritional needs should be priority. Additionally, every cat’s needs are different. Therefore, use this blog post as a guide not a dictionary in translating your cat’s diet.
Benefits of Wet Food
As mentioned, wet food is highly concentrated with water. Because cats mainly come from dry climates and areas, they tend to concentrate their urine more in comparison to dogs. As a result, many cats don’t drink water as often as they should. Wet food is often praised for not only fulfilling your cat’s hunger but also their thirst as well. Dehydration can cause constipation and may leave your cat at risk to kidney disease in the process. Other cats may have medical conditions that require them to drink more water. Cat prey tend to have a moisture content of >60%. Therefore, some cat experts argue that wet food is an appropriate and natural way of feeding your cat.
If you’ve ever opened a can of wet food, you can probably attest to the fact that it has a potent smell. Ultimately, this makes the meal palatable for cats and can be an asset to cats who are picky eaters.
Downfalls of Wet Food
As mentioned, most wet cat foods are on the more expensive side (but again remember your cat first!). Being canned, wet food must be used within 24 hours once opened. You might take into account how many cats you are even feeding. However, be mindful of how long you leave wet food out in the open. If left for some time, the food is at risk of contamination which could cause gastrointestinal upset for your cat.
Very few cats may also develop periodontal disease from consuming wet food, therefore, consulting your vet is recommended. And lastly, wet cat food can be messy on both you and your cat’s end!
Benefits of Dry Food
Dry cat foods tend to have much more carbohydrates than other foods. This can provide your cat high energy and can be a real asset for thin/underweight/weak cats. Its contents also allow it to be left out for your cat for a longer period of time. This can ensure that your cat is eating while you’re away. On the same note, dry food can be easily put into automatic feeders. Also, through cat puzzle toys you are able to feed your cat while stimulating their brain!
It may seem counterintuitive but believe or not, dry food can help promote dental health for your cat. By chewing on hard kibble, it would ultimately prevent the formation of plaque and tartar buildup.
Downfalls of Dry Food
While its large amount of carbohydrates can help thin cats, for every other cat, this may cause problems. There are some studies that show dry food as the impetus for obese and overweighted cats. Leaving food out for your cat to eat whenever, or free-feeding, is an action that came from the introduction of dry food. Convenient, yes. But it may be hard to tell how much your cat is eating. Popular cat blogger, Jackson Galaxy, is a huge advocate against free-feeding cats.
Given the dry construct, your cat may be prone to dehydration. Again, dehydration is a dangerous place for a cat to be. For other cats, some dry foods might be hard to digest, leading to stomach issues and even vomiting.
Combination of Wet and Dry Food
So now you see that each side has its ups and downs. Why not both? Well, you’re definitely not the first to come up with this idea. It’s actually a common practice in the cat community!
Every cat’s meal plan is different. The “common order” is to serve wet food before anything else. However, a cat may eat wet food at night and dry food throughout the day. Directly mixing wet and dry food is also quite common for cats. The variations go on and on, but the important thing to ensure is that the meals are accustomed to your cat’s health. Don’t make the common mistake of trial and error, finding the right meal plan. Consult your veterinarian and do your research beforehand!
Introducing New Food to Your Cat’s Diet
Whether your kitten has evolved to an adult, or you simply need to change your cat’s meal, planning new meals is exciting. So say you got a stellar meal plan that your cat is going to love. Bingo! However, incorporating new food, wet or dry, requires a lot of attention. Introducing a full meal of new food right away can harshly upset your cat’s stomach. Just because your cat can greatly benefit them, doesn’t mean your cat automatically loves it. Remember you are the chef, and they are the food critic here!
For new wet food, introduce a treat on a small saucer or plate. Adding their favorite dry food or treat as a topper can add familiarity to the new dish. Microwaving the wet food can heighten the aroma even more and attract your cat to it. Observe your cat throughout the day and see if there’s any immediate reaction. Then, gradually increase their portions to the appropriate amount until it’s part of their daily routine.
The same essentially goes for new dry food too! Try the new dry food as a treat, in combination with their other favorite food if needed. Then observe and gradually increase portions. Whenever you decide to introduce brand new food to your cat, the rule of thumb is to start small and observe your cat’s reactions!
A Note on Water and Hydration
Moisture, water, and hydration have popped up a lot during this discussion. Cats are generally unaware of the importance of hydration, so it’s our job to teach them. Even if you heavily rely on wet food, a separate water bowl is essential to a cat’s lifestyle. Placing several water bowls around the area, keeping the bowls away from the litter and food bowl, and cleaning the bowls regularly can encourage your cat into drinking water on their own. Cat water fountains are also a fun way to promote water drinking on a daily basis!
Just like humans, a cat’s diet is very complex with varying needs. Cat sitters, owners, experts, doctors, and just overall cat lovers have struggled with the question on what is the absolute best food for cats. My word of advice is to look carefully at the ingredients and nutritional facts of wet and dry food. Know exactly what your cat’s needs are, and know exactly what you’re feeding them. Finding the right balance may be a tedious process, but by being patient with your cat, you’ll soon find a 5-star Michelin meal for them!