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Wet vs dry cat food: what should I feed?

Since two types of cat food have been invented – dry and wet – people started arguing over which one is the best for pets. Both products have their pros and cons, and deciding upon wet vs dry cat food becomes difficult. Meanwhile, they are not equally useful and safe for different cats since pets have individual needs and health issues. What is the best?

In this ultimate guide, we’ll cast a closer look at both alternatives and define dry vs wet cat food pros and cons, discover veterinarians’ recommendations, and analyze the contents of food. You will find out which option is better for your pet, and which criteria should be taken into account when you are in search of a suitable product. 

Wet cat food vs kibble: the comparison table

ContextCanned cat foodDry cat food
For safety+
For price+
For convenience+
For dental health+
For allergic cats+
For pregnant cats and kittens+
For hydration+
For urinary tract issues+
For sensitive stomachs+
For picky eaters+
For preservatives++
For automatic feeder compatibility+
For overall health+
Comparison of dry cat food vs canned cat food depending on a different context

The pros of wet cat food

When deciding over wet or dry food for cat, many pet owners choose the first option because it has some undeniable advantages.

1. Optimal Moisture Level

Typically, wet food contains 75-80% of moisture, which is a good prevention of dehydration and kidney stone disease. The last is a widespread disease that’s often found in cats of any age. Even if a pet does not drink enough water, pate-style food, semi-moist cat food, and morsels in gravy help to compensate for the lack of moisture in the body.

Thanks to a higher moisture level, wet food has higher palatability. Wet food comes in a wide variety of textures and flavors, so it’s easy to figure out an option for any cat. Pate-style is recommended for felines with dental problems, while healthy adult cats prefer morsels that require chewing. Besides, the smell of canned food is more attractive.

2. More nutrients

As a rule, wet food is processed less than kibbles, which allows preserving nutrients and vitamins. The majority of premium wet foods feature the entire spectrum of vitamins and minerals, which are enough for daily nutrition. These nutrients don’t decay in the can even after being stored for a year or more. 

3. Low calorie content

At the same time, wet food is not fatty. When considering dry vs wet cat food, many pet owners are afraid of a high calorie level. It’s not a problem with the first case. Typically, there’s 70-100 kCal per one can (per one serving), which is not much. When feeding wet cat food, the owner can control calorie intake much easier. The amount of fat and protein is lower, and it’s digested better thanks to the raised moisture levels.

4. No artificial protein

Premium and medium-class wet foods are usually devoid of excessive carbs and substitutes of animal protein. Besides, reputable manufacturers put only real meat – no by-products are used. That prevents overweight and urine alkalization. Besides, top-notch premium foods are less allergic. Learn more about how to prevent your cat from being overweight in our ultimate article.

5. Convenience

Typically, canned foods last about a year or more, which makes it more convenient for storage and transportation. The contents of one can/pouch are usually enough for one or two optimal portions. 

Generally, wet food is recommended for cats with various health issues and needs. It’s a top pick for pets with weak teeth and dental problems. Such food is a must-serve when a cat does not drink enough water or suffers from dehydration during hot days. Besides, its flavor is more appealing than dry food for many pets. It goes without mentioning more natural contents and the absence of some allergic components. 

The cons of wet cat food

1. It spoils quickly

 Once you open a can or pouch, the food inside won’t last longer than 6-8 on air or 24-36 hours in the refrigerator. It means the contents should be consumed immediately. Stale food is a hot target for bacteria, especially in hot weather. It’s dangerous to serve spoiled wet food to a cat: it might lead to poisoning, stomach upset, diarrhea, and other health problems. 

Besides, wet food loses flavor quickly – this problem appears soon after the opening of a can. After being stored in a refrigerator for several hours, wet food becomes not so tasty and attractive, so cats may refuse to eat it afterward. Thus, wet food should be consumed immediately or stored with specialized feeders that keep it refrigerated. Also, there are two other methods to feed wet food while away – please, check them as well.

2. High price

 Wet food of medium-class and premium brands is quite expensive with one pouch or can cost at least $1-1.5. That means a 1-month reserve of wet food is worth several hundred bucks, which is a pretty costly solution. If you buy economy-class 

3. Lack of certain vitamins 

The vast majority of cat food recipes lack some essential vitamins and minerals. It cannot cover the daily needs of nutrients. Thus, a lot of wet food is complementary – it cannot serve as a full-fledged option. In most cases, pet owners use pate as a part of a cat’s diet or even as a treat. 

Also, many wet food recipes don’t have enough fiber. It can be both an advantage and a drawback, but when a cat lacks fiber, it starts suffering from digestion problems and stomach upset. Besides, fiber is important for maintaining proper metabolism in indoor cats. Read about the importance of fiber in cat nutrition to better understand how it affects your cat’s health.

4. Possible health issues

Wet food has carrageenan or some other thickening agents. They can be pretty allergic, especially in sensitive cats. Such ingredients are put in the vast majority of wet foods. 

It goes without mentioning that it provides no dental health protection. While kibbles contribute to the removal of tartar and debris, wet food does not protect teeth. It’s too soft and does not massage gums properly.

5. It’s not suitable for some cats

Particularly, it’s not recommended for undernourished cats who require a higher calorie intake to get fattened up. Many types and brands of wet food have a low protein and carbohydrate content, so it cannot be a full replacement of kibbles for kittens or pregnant kids. 

Thus, wet food is rarely used as a full-fledged option for daily feline nutrition – it’s not enough to cover the needs. Such recipes are recommended as a complementary option. It won’t hurt to serve some morsels in gravy because they will replenish the moisture in the cat’s body and contribute to proper hydration. 

If you decide to include it in the diet, remember to check the contents carefully and avoid unclear formulations (just ‘meat’ or ‘meat by-products’) and recipes with artificial components – economy-class manufacturers add chemical flavors to make their products more appealing. 

The pros of dry cat food

1. Well-balanced contents

Even economy and medium-class cat foods have a more or less balanced ratio of protein, carbs, and fat. The vast majority of recipes have enough taurine – an essential amino acid for a cat’s health (it ensures healthy development and hair growth). There’s no need to buy any food supplements. When a cat owner develops a natural diet for his pet, it’s way harder to figure out the proper portions with a reasonable level of nutrients. 

Most dry cat food recipes feature the whole gamut of essential nutrients and vitamins, taurine, Omega fatty acids, dried veggies and fruits, seeds, and so much more. Is it possible to serve this spectrum of nutrients when you choose raw meat instead? Hardly, even with vitamin supplements added. 

2. It’s cheaper

If you compare the price of wet cat food vs dry, the second option is less costly even if you buy premium food. The average daily portion of dry food for an adult cat is 45-60 grams, which means one 4 lbs bag of kibbles will last for at least a month. Some top-notch recipes turn out to be cheaper than wet food – the expense on cat nutrition might be less than $100 per month. 

When compared with natural freshly-cooked cat food, kibbles also turn out to be more affordable. There is a vast choice of dry foods with lots of different flavors available: fish, chicken, turkey, beef, and so much more. Thus, it’s the option that fits the owner’s budget and cat’s preferences in any case. 

3. Long-term storage

Dry cat food lasts about 12-18 months even without being stored in a fridge. If you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and keep cat food in an appropriate place (dry, dark corner), kibbles will last several months without losing their nutrients and properties. And these tips will help you to preserve the maximum nutritional value of your dry cat food. 

4. It’s easy to break into portions

Once you buy kitchen scales, you can serve portions measured up to a gram. There is no need to get rid of the food that is left – it’s just stored in the bag. Thus, kibbles are way more convenient in storage and serving. Besides, if your cat is not prone to overeating and excessive weight, you can leave dry food in its bowl, and it will last a day or to. Yet, veterinarians don’t recommend doing so – 24/7 access to kibbles is often dangerous even for the slimmest cats. Also, kibble will fit 99% of modern automatic cat feeders on the market: both outdoor feeders and indoor options.

All in all, dry cat food is the foundation of the pet’s diet – this is what the majority of them eat. It’s easy to serve, and it does not require cooking or any specific storage conditions. Any cat can stay healthy living on a well-formulated product. This is a versatile solution, and yet there are many formulas to meet special health needs.

The cons of dry cat food

1. Low moisture level

Kibbles have up to 10% of moisture, which means cats eating them should be served enough water. With some pets, it’s no problem, while others suffer from dehydration and should be nearly forced to drink (in this case, cat owners introduce wet food to the diet. If a cat owner does not help a cat maintain the balance of moisture, it starts suffering from kidney and bladder stones – this is a common problem in pets on dry food. 

A low level of moisture also leads to problems with digestion. For this reason, wet foods are more palatable. Thus, it’s essential to choose kibbles with a high amount of fiber, fruits, and vegetables. 

2. Risk of dental problems

While some veterinarians claim that dry food allows cleaning teeth, it’s not always true. Any kibbles leave a carbohydrate layer on the enamel: it leads to the formation of debris and tartar. Large dry kibbles can be even dangerous for kittens and old cats with weak teeth. 

In worse cases, cats don’t even chew kibbles and simply swallow the product. It leads to digestion problems and stomach upset. Thus, it’s important to watch the food consistency and select appropriate options.

Tip: buy a specialized chewing toy that will help your cat get rid of tartar on its teeth.

3. Questionable ingredients

Many dry foods have some potentially allergic or dangerous ingredients, such as artificial flavors, odors, plant-based oils, soy, gluten, tomato pomace, and so on. It’s important to read the label and research contents closely. 

There are many grain-based recipes, but they are not equally safe for cats. Many pets have sensitivity or allergy to gluten, which is contained in wheat, and to various grains. It may not manifest into any noticeable signs for a long time.

Aside from it, poorly balanced cat food formulas have too many carbs. The excessive amount of carbohydrates causes the surge of sugar in the blood, which leads to an imbalance of nutrients, affects metabolism and might lead to diabetes. 

Tip: if your cat is overweight or has problems with blood sugar – pay attention to low-carb cat food options.

4. High calorie content

It’s not a secret that there are too many calories in kibbles. With 400-500 kCal per cup, dry food becomes a risky choice for overweight cats. It especially concerns foods with high protein and fat content. Thus, when a pet owner serves kibbles, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and try not to exceed recommended portions. 


Is wet food better for cats?

It is better in certain cases, for example, when a cat needs to consume more water. It’s recommended to overweight cats thanks to an optimal moisture content and low calorie level. Also, it’s served to cats with weak teeth (old cats, kittens).

Is dry food bad for cats?

No, but everything depends on the formula chosen. Economy-class dry foods contain questionable ingredients that may cause allergic reactions or be dangerous for health. Besides, dry food does not provide cats with enough moisture which means it’s crucial to serve enough water together with it. 

Should I feed my cat wet or dry food? 

If your cat does not suffer from sensitivities and allergic reactions, you can combine both types of food in the diet – it will establish a perfect balance of moisture and nutrients. The choice of products should depend on the cat’s health issues and preferences in flavor and consistency. 

At the end of a day

So, what to buy – dry or wet food for cats? Each of these options has its pros and cons. The selection depends on a variety of factors: cat’s health issues, its flavor preferences, age and weight. Before you make any decision, it’s important to track your cat’s eating patterns and consult a veterinarian – a professional will help you figure out a perfect option.

No matter which type of food you choose, it’s important to select quality recipes. Make sure there are no vague formulations like “meat”, “grains”, or “meat by-products” and avoid the products with artificial additives. 

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