We know it’s tough to decide which type of food makes the most sense for your pet, especially when it comes to comparing wet vs dry cat food. There are a lot of wet and dry brands on pet store shelves, in grocery stores, and online. You have to take the ingredients and nutrients into account, as well as how the food is processed and packaged. And you have to see which one won’t make your cat immediately stick up their nose. That can be a tough balancing act to master, but armed with the right information, your cat will have a healthy, delicious diet in no time.
What Is in Wet Cat Food?
Wet cat food, often in a can or pouch, is made up almost entirely of a specific protein source. This can be chicken, fish, lamb, and sometimes beef. You’ll sometimes see additional meat products, like liver, dried egg, and broth. Wet food also consists of taurine and other essential nutrients and vitamins.
Canned options also contain a lot of water. Most wet food has around 78% water. While this may seem like a possible gimmick — and it can be if a company exceeds that percentage — this moisture provides much-needed hydration for cats. You have probably noticed that cats don’t drink a lot of water, meaning the water in wet food is quite important to their health.
These products don’t contain carbohydrates, like wheat and corn. These are often considered fillers and are not something cats need in their diet. Cats also don’t need vegetables, so most canned food won’t have an excessive amount of greens either.
The meat and organs used in canned meals are often frozen at the source before being transported to the food production site. This is where they are broken down into chunks or are shredded, making it much easier for cats to chew and swallow. Gels and thickeners are used to add more texture to the meat, as well as hold the protein together. The ingredients are then slowly heated, ensuring they are cooked and ready to be canned.
Once the wet chow is sealed, the cans are placed in a heat sterilization device, using high temperatures to kill bacteria. This also pressure seals the cans to avoid spoilage. This is an important step for wet food since there aren’t a lot of added preservatives.
What Is in Dry Cat Food?
The ingredients in dry cat food, sometimes called kibble, varies from brand to brand. In general, dry cat food will have a named protein source, carbohydrates, preservatives, supplements, and essential nutrients (like the all-important taurine). The amount of each of these ingredients will also vary depending on which commercial cat food you select.
Make sure that a named protein source is the first ingredient. This can be chicken, lamb, salmon, or even a particular organ. If the first ingredient is “chicken meal” instead of “chicken” it may not be the healthiest pick for your pet.
Some dry food will even have a carbohydrate, like corn gluten meal, as the first ingredient. This is a red flag that the kibble in your hand is not part of a well-balanced diet for any cat. In general, the fewer carbohydrates there are — or fillers — the better.
To make kibble, raw meats, carbs, and fillers are blended together into a dough-like substance. Hot water and steam are applied at high temperatures, cooking the dough. Unfortunately, extreme heat and pressure can eliminate a protein source’s nutrients.
Next, the dough is put into an extruder machine. The extruder pushes the dough through a tube with a die at the end which forces the dough to take a specific shape. At the end of the extrusion tube, the dough is cut into smaller pieces and dropped onto a conveyor belt. The conveyor belt moves through an intense dryer, removing moisture from the product so that it can have a longer shelf life.
Extruder machines can further break down the remaining nutrients. Sometimes the kibble is also sprayed with animal fat or another similar product to give it a more appealing to carnivores like your cat.
The Pros and Cons of Dry vs Wet Cat Food
Wet vs Dry Cat Food: For Convenience
When it comes to convenience, dry food wins that debate hands down. Unlike canned options, a bag of cat food can last upwards of two months depending on the size of the bag and the number of cats in your home. All you have to do is get a measuring cup and keep it in or near the bag, using it to scoop out the proper amount of food each meal time and then roll the bag back up (or closing the container you’re storing it in). Dry food can even be dispensed automatically by a timed feeder, making it even less of a hassle.
Meanwhile, canned food is a bit messier and takes a bit more time to serve to your cats. it’s also harder to store wet food once it’s been opened. You usually have to wrap it in saran wrap and store it in the fridge, although it can dry out in a day or so. Canned food also goes bad quickly, meaning you can’t leave it around for your cat to nibble on throughout the day. Although when it comes to wet food, cats will sometimes scarf it down pretty fast.
Wet vs Dry Cat Food: For Cost Effectiveness
This is another category that goes to dry food without a question. A large bag of quality cat food can set you back around $25 — but this size can last up to two months or more. Meanwhile, cans of cat food are often around $1. Assuming you have one cat, that’s $30 a month depending on the size of the can and cat. This makes cans and pouches more than double the cost of dry food on average.
Wet vs Dry Cat Food: For Health
When it comes to your cat’s overall well-being, canned food wins. Wet food has more protein and fewer carbohydrates, meaning your cat will maintain a healthier weight much easier.
The moisture in canned food also ensures that your cat is properly hydrated. Dry food only has around seven to 12% moisture — as well as more sodium. Meaning, your cat will need significantly more water, which cats aren’t always quick to lap up after a meal.
This food option can also play a big role in warding off urinary tract issues. This can include urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and feline idiopathic cystitis. These problems often come from your cat being chronically dehydrated. Canned food can also benefit cats with kidney issues, including diabetes and cancer.
It should be noted, however, that dry food is better for your cat’s dental health. The crunchiness of the kibble will force your cat to chew more, naturally removing excess plaque from their teeth.
What Type of Food Do Cats Prefer?
Cats are notoriously picky eaters and they can hate a sudden switch to their diet. So the type of food your cat prefers will most often be the food they are used to, regardless of consistency. Of course, cats can be eased into new diets if the transition is done smoothly.
Overall, cats prefer canned food because it has more protein and has a more meat-like quality to it. You’ll often notice that cats will run to the kitchen at top speed no matter what type of can you’re opening in hopes that it’s for them. And they won’t stop meowing until they know for sure it was just canned peas and not their beloved chicken in gravy.
Cats can also become addicted to low-quality dry food because of its high amount of carbohydrates. An example is 9 Lives, which is made up mainly of whole ground corn and corn gluten meal. These ingredients are basically the same as their favorite treats. I mean, wouldn’t you rather have cake for dinner instead of skinless chicken and broccoli? But cats rely on us to remain healthy and active, so keep the carbs as a special once-in-a-while treat instead.
How Much Wet Food Should I Feed My Cat?
Canned food can be fed to your cat daily and can also be the main staple in their diet. The general rule is to feed an adult cat three ounces of wet food per 3.5 pounds of body weight each day, assuming wet food is their only major food source. This means that an adult cat weighing eight pounds should be provided with about seven ounces of canned products each day.
How Much Dry Food Should I Feed My Cat?
The amount of kibble you feed your cat each day depends on their weight. An adult cat that weighs eight pounds would likely need 4/5 of a cup of dry food. This can be given to them in the morning to nibble on throughout the day or split into two separate meals (breakfast and dinner).
What Type of Food is Best for Your Cat?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, according to Animal Care & Control of NYC’s Medical Director, Dr. Stephanie Janeczko D.V.M. Most cat specialists and vets will tell you that the best diet for your cat is a balance of dry and wet cat food. This ensures that your cat is getting the most balanced diet possible, giving them the benefits of both sources. This also keeps your cat intrigued and excited by the multiple flavors and textures they experience each day.
Cat owners — even the experienced ones — are never quite sure what food is best for their feline companions. Dry food is cheaper and easier to store, but wet food has a bit more health benefits. What’s important to remember is that every cat is different, including a unique food preference and health requirements, so what works for one cat may not work for yours. Still unsure what food is right for your pet? Contact your veterinarian to hear a recommendation based on your cat’s age, health, weight, and activity level!