Dry Cat Food vs. Wet Cat Food – Kibble or Canned Food?

While choosing the best food to buy your feline cat, one choice you have to make is whether to go for dry or wet foods. Of course, there are other considerations that such as age, health status, activity level, cost, ingredients, and calorific value, among others, which may also be influenced by dry or wet cat food.

Furthermore, the food must be complete and balanced for a nutritional profile that meets or exceeds AAFCO nutritional profile for the specific life stage.

Which is healthier?

There is a common notion that wet cat foods are healthier than kibbles. While each presents their unique benefits, they are all good for cats so long as they meet or exceed the nutritional requirement for a specific life stage. Also, ensure they have high-quality protein sources like poultry and meat.

For instance, wet foods made using poultry or animal by-product meal are in no way better than dry diets made from chicken or meat meal. Therefore, thoroughly look at the specific cat food label and understand naming.

Secondly, do a dry matter analysis for each ingredient. For instance, if you get a wet food with 9% protein and 78% moisture, on a dry matter basis, protein amount can be computed as follows:

Total dry matter = 100 less water content = 100-78 = 22.

% Crude protein on dry matter basis =100(% of protein/total dry matter) = 100(9/22) =40.9%.

Finally, even experts don’t concur on which of these two is healthier. Therefore, you need to consider the main ingredients. It is a fact that most cats eat dry food or a combination and live a healthy life.

Quick wet and dry food cat comparison

BasisWet cat fooddry cat food
MoistureHigher in moisture, up to 80%. They will boost hydration, kidney and urinary health.Moisture ranges from 8-12%, making them not ideal for kitties with kidney or urinary tract issues unless you encourage water drinking.
Price or costcost moreLess expensive and more economical.
VarietyOffers a wide range. Including pate, gourmet, savory, broth, mousse, flaked, or shredded chunks in gravy or broths.Mainly flavored kibbles and baked ones.
Shelf lifeThey have longer shelf-life before opening them but have a shorter one once you open them. Once opened, refrigerate them to keep them freshShorter but will last long even after you open them. Ensure you keep them sealed in airtight containers to maintain their nutrient potency. However, don’t use them once they expire.
PalatabilitySofter and more palatable, digestible enticing, making them are suitable for transitioning from milk, cats with dental or gum diseases.Less palatable and digestible. Some picky eaters might ignore or not like them unless they began eating them while young.
NutritionAre healthier as they tend to be higher in proteins and have more fats but fewer carbohydrates. However, they are lower in nutrient density.Tend to be higher in carbs, but not all. However, they are nutrient-dense.
CaloriesLower calorie density (0.8-1.5 kcal/g), thus ideal for weight loss.They are energy-dense 3-4 kcal/g or more. Your feline will eat less. Good for weight gain. Consider portion control for overweight kitties.
ConvenienceRequire fixed feeding time as they get spoiled fast and are messy.Suitable for free feeding as they can stay for the whole day before spoiling and not messy. Ideal for busy people.
Dental healthDon’t help reduce tartar.May slightly reduce tartar accumulation. However, ensure you invest in approved products for dental care.
PreferenceDepends on an individual cat’s preference.It depends on a particular cat’s liking.

Wet cat food benefits

Wet cat foods come in ether small pouches and cans. Some good brands include Purina Fancy Feast Grilled Feast in Gravy Canned Wet Cat Food, Sheba Perfect Portions Cuts in Gravy Wet Cat Food Tray Variety Packs, Rachael Ray Nutrish Wet, Meow Mix Savory Morsels Wet, Blue Buffalo Healthy Gourmet Natural Adult Flaked Wet Cat Food, among many others.

Purina Fancy Feast Grilled Feast in Gravy Canned Wet Cat Food
Purina Fancy Feast Grilled Feast in Gravy Canned Wet Cat Food

Here are their benefits.

1. Good for hydration – they are higher in moisture

They are higher in moisture 70-80% that closely mimic prey, which has about 60-70% moisture.

Secondly, the water proportion in cats feed with wet food is higher than dry ones regardless of the amount of water and food they consume, observes Nutrient Requirements of Cats, Revised Edition, 1986, Committee on Animal Nutrition, National Research Council.

Therefore, these foods will boost hydration even if your feline pal doesn’t drink a lot of water. Your feline pal will produce larger volumes of dilute urine that will not strain their kidney and will promote flushing on various waste products.

Some benefits of proper hydration include:

  • Helps cats with kidney problems, including renal diseases, bladder stones, and urinary crystal formation by minimizing or alleviating some of the symptoms of these conditions.
  • A study on clinical evaluation of commercially available urinary acidification diets in the management of idiopathic cystitis in cats showed that canned urinary acidifying foods are likely to cat proportion with idiopathic cystitis (characterized by frequent urination and presence of blood in urine).
  • They can help manage some symptoms of some that related to urinary tract infections and diseases.
  • It helps reduce constipation instances.

2. Offer variety and come in small quantities

If your cat is a finicky eater, wet food has a variety of flavors and textures, including gourmets, broths, savory, mousse, shredded, loaf, chunks in jelly (gravy), and so on.

Furthermore, they packaged in smaller quantities, making it easy to provide variety.

3. Premeasured portions

Some wet feline foods come in premeasured portions, making feeding very easy. However, don’t forget to look at if your feline pal is adding or losing weight and adjust the amount they eat.

4. Lower in calories – good for weight loss

Since water makes a more substantial portion of wet cat foods and has no calories, they have a lower calorie density of about 0.8–1.5 kcal/g. Low calories make them suitable for weight loss. Your feline pal will get full without eating a lot.

5. Have a longer self-life before you open them

They have a longer shelf-life. i.e., these diets will last long before you open them without losing their flavor, taste, and ingredients because they by cooking it at very high temperatures.

Sterilization means they don’t have a lot of harmful preservatives. However, ensure they don’t have any toxic chemicals. Also, the can should not have the Bisphenol A (BPA) epoxy lining.

6. Palatability

Since they have high moisture content, they are easier to chew, making them the best option if your feline pal has minor mouth injuries especially on their soft tissues or loose teeth,

Also, these foods are suitable for cats recovering from diarrhea, have a sensitive or when transitioning from milk to solid food (young stomach).

Finally, they are more enticing and may encourage eating even by picky eaters.

7. Superior quality

While this is subjective, most premium quality wet feline foods tend to be higher in good quality protein, more fats, and lower in carbohydrates.

A dry matter analysis is the surest way to know the specific quantities of crude protein, fats, carbs, and other ingredients a food has.

Cons of wet cat foods

Some of the disadvantages of wet cat diets include the following:

1. They spoil quickly thus must have specific feeding time

Once open, they don’t last long, i.e., they will get ruined in a matter of a few hours. However, you can elongate their lifespan by keeping them in the fridge. However, store them in an airtight container to prevent their odor from going to your foods.

Furthermore, microwave the food for 3-5 seconds before feeding them to your feline if they don’t like cold ones.

Don’t feed your feline any food that has been left open for more than 3 hours, ideally up to an hour or as recommended by the manufacturer as bacterial activity will soon spoil them. Therefore, they are not a good option for felines that prefer free feeding.

2. They are messy

They may stain fur of the long-haired and bright colored felines, especially on their whiskers and nose area. While they are meticulous groomers that clean themselves, some stains may remain. To mitigate this problem, ensure you use flat bowls, especially if you have lazy kitties.

3. Don’t discourage plague formation

May increase the likelihood of dental problems as they don’t discourage plague formation being soft.

4. May cause loose stool

During the transition, little diarrhea should not be something to worry you. However, do it slowly to avoid things worsening.

Kibble or dry cat food benefits

Dry cat foods are a popular choice by many pet parents and a fantastic option if introduced early. Manufacturers make them by combining various ingredients, extruding, and drying bite-size pieces with a few baked ones. To enhance kibbles may be flavor coated.

Some of the most love brands include Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food, Purina ONE Tender Selects Blend Adult Dry Cat Food, Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Dry Cat Food, IAMS Proactive Health Adult Indoor Weight & Hairball Control Dry Cat Food and Hill’s Science Diet Dry Cat Food, For Adult Indoor Cats, Chicken Recipe

Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food
Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food

These extruded kibbles have several benefits, including the following:

1. Calorie and nutrient-dense

Since they have less moisture, they are nutritionally dense and have a higher calorific density of about 3–4 kcal/g or more. Therefore, only a small amount is required to satisfy your feline’s nutritional needs and are perfect for weight gain, especially if you have thin cats.

Before considering a diet, let your vet confirm that your cat has no other underlying health problems.

On the other hand, being highly calorific, they may cause obesity. Try portion control if your kitties happen to be adding weight.

2. Stay longer

While wet feline diets have a longer shelf-life before you open them, kibbles last longer after opening them and don’t need refrigeration. After use, reseal the remainder or clip them tightly in airtight containers to minimize nutrient deterioration.

Ensure you don’t wet the food as this will promote bacterial growth and make it spoil faster.

Finally, check the expiry date and use them before that date since they tend to lose their nutritional potency, especially vitamins, and will be rancid.

3. Are cheaper, economical

Since they stay longer, dry cat foods come in a larger bag, you can buy them in bulk, and they tend to be cheaper. Furthermore, they are very economical since they are nutrient and calorie-dense. You need a small portion.

4. Are hygienic

They are hygienic and will not stain your feline pal even for those with a white coat.

5. Ideal for free feeding and easier

If you or your cat prefer free feeding, they are the ideal choice since they can stay for a whole day without the risk of bacterial growth.

Your feline will be free to nibble or graze whenever they feel like, something that is appealing to pet parents who are busy or go to work.

However, if your feline pal seems to be adding weight or obese, implement portion control. Investing in an automatic feeder such as WOPET Automatic Pet Feeder Food Dispenser for Cats and Dogs will help suffice the purpose.

Finally, you can incorporate them in puzzle toys for mental stimulation and life enrichment.

6. Better for dental health

Since they are crunchy, the more chewing action, especially of larger kibbles, helps to minimize plaque and tartar buildup via mechanical abrasion. However, some specialists argue that the starchy coating and higher carbohydrate amount may worsen plaque.

Furthermore, this benefit has minimal effect, and not all types achieve it. Instead, you need to ensure you go for products and diets that are scientifically proven to help improve your feline’s oral health as per the Veterinary Oral Health Council (Vohc.org) recommendations.

Popular ones include Hill’s Pet Nutrition Prescription Diet Feline T/D and Science Diet Oral Care for Cats (plaque and tartar), Royal Canin Feline Dental Diet (plague), Purina Pro Plans Veterinary Diet, and Crunchy Bites Feline Treats (tartar).

Others are Feline Greenies Feline dental treats (tartar) and Cat and Pet Essential Healthy Mouth Products (oral gel, water additives, toothpaste & brush, oral spray, wipe cloths, etc.

Cons of dry cat food

Some of the downsides of kibbles include the following:

1. Low in moisture content

They have about 8-12% moisture content. Such foods are likely to worsen any preexisting kidney and urinary tract problems unless your cat drinks a lot of water. If not, your feline pal will produce concentrated urine that is high in some harmful chemicals that will worsen these conditions and cause inflammation.

Additionally, there are studies [1] that indicate low urine volume in felines feed on only dry cat foods even if they had an unlimited water supply.

However, while cats evolved as hunters that depend on only flesh, which provides them with a substantial amount of moisture and concentrated urine to conserve water while in their arid and semi-arid habitats, with domestication, they have adapted to drinking water for adequate hydration.

Therefore, to encourage hydration by wet their food and if you are using water bottles or bowl, consider switching to water fountains or dripping faucets as they are likely to boost more water intake.

Veken Pet Fountain, 84oz/2.5L Automatic Cat Water Fountain Dispenser is one such a good example.

Also, ensure there are multiple water stations if you have more than one cat to avoid conflicts or competition for resources and ensure the water point is in a quiet place away from their food trays and litter boxes.

Finally, go for ceramic bowls as plastic ones tend to have an aftertaste that my discourage water drinking.

2. They tend to be higher in carbs

As opposed to wet feline diets, kibbles tend to be higher in carbohydrates. However, this may not be so true for all brands.

As strict carnivores, their diets should be high in protein, moderate in fats, and low in carbs. Felines cannot metabolize a lot of carbs effectively, and any excess may be converted to fats leading to obesity as well as worsen insulin/sugar in balance in diabetic kitties.

3. May have more preservatives

Unlike wet foods that are sterilized by cooking at high temperatures, dry ones use preservatives. Always go for the ones with natural preservatives like vitamin C and E or herbs like rosemary.

4. Less palatable

Palatability and digestibility largely depend on the ingredients used. However, kibbles tend to be less palatable and digestible due to many reasons, one of them being the low moisture content.

Furthermore, they are harder to eat if your feline has dental or gum disease.

Semi-moist foods

Semi-moist foods lie in-between dry and wet, which have moisture levels ranging from about 15-59%. They are appealing to dry foods and are suitable for free feeding. However, leaving them on the open for long may make them dry and less palatable.

In terms of prices, they are midway between dry and wet foods.

Should I mix wet and dry cat food?

Like humans, felines are neophiles, meaning they have a strong affinity to something new or novel. Therefore, mixing wet and dry foods is an excellent way of adding variety to their diets.

Alternatively, you can decide to alternate wet and dry foods. Giving them dry ones in the morning and wet in the evening is one great approach since they will have the whole day to graze their kibbles while the wet food will stay for a limited time.

Conclusion

Whether you settle for dry or wet feline foods, consider its nutritional value and ingredients. It should have high quality, easy to digest protein. It should have all the essential amino acids, including taurine, vitamins, and minerals.

Finally, ensure it doesn’t have harmful chemicals, artificial dyes, or preservatives.  Go for those with natural or allowable preservatives.

References
  1. Gaskell C. J. The role of fluid in the feline urological syndrome. In: Burger IH, Rivers JPW, eds. Nutrition of the Dog and Cat. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989; 353-356.
See also

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