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Wet vs Dry Cat Food?

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

What makes wet food different from dry food when feeding your cat? Here are some very important considerations when deciding on dry, wet canned food or raw food.

How to best feed your cat for health and life
What to feed my cat

The biggest difference between wet and dry food is moisture, which is extremely important when it comes to cats. High quality protein is also a very important issue as cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they absolutely need animal protein in their diet in order to thrive and to survive!

Here are a few tips for choosing the best diet to meet your cats nutritional needs.

Tip #1 - Wet vs Dry Cat Food: Choose a moisture rich food as your cats primary food.

The most asked question I hear from cat parents is: wet or dry cat food, which is better? One of the biggest benefits of wet and raw cat food is the moisture content. Your cat cats ancestors got the majority of their hydration through their prey and because they originated in the desert, cats have a low thirst drive. One of the thoughts behind the high incidence of CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) in cats has to do with the number of cats that are fed a dry kibble only diet. Without the moisture, remember cats have a low thirst drive, there's a lot of stress on the kidneys which could be causing them to fail due to not having enough moisture to function properly on. You can feed kibble as an addition to dry food, but the big take away here is to have your cat's primary meals be canned wet food or raw.

Tip #2 - Ingredients are IMPORTANT!

The ingredients in your cats food are very important so do your best to read through the ingredient label. While the lists can be difficult to decode, steer clear of meat by-products and meat-meal, and be sure that the first ingredients are actual meats listed! I'd recommend staying away from grains, as well, because grains are used primarily as a cheap filler for cat and dog food. Quality protein and fat should be relatively high on the list for what makes a good food for your cat. Our cats' ancestors ate rodents and they are comprised of 50% or more protein and 20% or more fat, which makes a rodent the perfect meal for a cat. There are certain essential amino acids that a cat must get from animal meat. According to, "Essential, or indispensable amino acids are a group of amino acids that cannot be synthesized in the body and are thus required to be taken in through diet. Taurine is one of these types of amino acids, and has been found to play an essential role in the diet of cats."

Dr. John Bauer of Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine points out that "Cats' nutritional requirements are different than a dogs' and that cats have unique needs. Unlike dogs, cats cannot synthesis Taurine from other amino acids, and without Taurine, a cats health will rapidly decline. Dilated cardiomyopathy and heart issues, blindness, developmental issues, diabetes, immune system disorders and gastrointestinal problems are just some of the problems that can be caused by Taurine diffeciency, which is why it's important to have a high quality animal protein in your cats diet.

Tip #3 - Feeding a Species Appropriate Diet

Feeding a species appropriate diet, whether you have a cat or a dog is a pretty important component to your pets health! When it comes to cats, I am a huge proponent of a raw diet, sometimes referred to as the BARF diet, or biologically appropriate raw food diet. A raw diet is not just a meal of meat and muscle, but includes bone, internal organs and all the vitamins and minerals a cat needs to maintain health and thrive, which makes a raw diet a much more complete nutritional source for your cat. With that being said, however, not all cats will eat what you think is best for them and some cats just prefer a cooked meal. The important part about feeding your cat is to get that moisture in, which is where a wet, canned, raw or gently cooked food is your best bet!

As with any food you purchase, though, make sure to read the ingredients or ask someone knowledgeable in feline nutrition, and remember that a higher price point does not always mean better quality. Check to see that the food you're buying meets the minimum AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards or goes beyond these, and the higher the quality crude protein number, the better. "Cats are obligate carnivores and need to eat a lot of high quality protein in comparison to other animals", according to PetMD, and "when it comes to protein, more than the AAFCO minimum is almost always better for cats." PetMD also has the formula to determine what the crude protein amounts are in cat food using the numbers given on the food you purchase.

Tip #4 - The Problem With Dry Kibble

The issue with dry kibble is that it lacks one of the most important components of what a cat needs from food... Moisture for hydration, and many times kibble has low quality protein and/or not enough quality protein that cats need. In addition, the high temperatures used to make kibble tend to kill off any nutritional value and therefore the nutrients need to be 'added' back into the food using synthetic nutrients. Most kibble is also much higher in carbohydrates, and a diet containing large amounts of carbohydrates is not natural for cats and may promote weight gain and related health problems, like diabetes.

Many animals use carbohydrates as an important source of energy, but for cats, this isn't the case as they get most of their energy from protein and fat. While cats can digest small amounts of carbohydrates, they are obligate carnivores designed to eat meat and are unable to process and store carbohydrates well. So even though cats are able to digest small amounts of carbohydrates, they should only play a small role in a healthy cat diet.

The Take-away...

When choosing the food you're going to be feeding your cat, be sure to look over the ingredients. Consider what's best for your cat's long-term health and lifestyle in order to avoid obesity and meet your cat's nutritional requirements. The world of cat food, and dog food, for that matter, can be quite confusing. If you need help choosing the appropriate food for your cat, don't hesitate to ask a professional with a working knowledge and training specifically in feline nutrition, as not all vets have this training. If you'd like to learn more about what's best for your cat, I'm happy to help you gain a better understanding of what things to look for when choosing your cat's food!

With all nutritional consultations, I'm able to work along side your primary care veterinarian in order to put together a nutritional plan that best suits your cat's specific needs taking into account any health issues or concerns that may be present. Wishing you many happy purrs!


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