Wet cat food vs dry cat food

Last updated THU JAN 25 2018

Is there really that much of a difference between wet and dry food? The short answer: yes. Setting your cat up with the right diet now can help prevent the onset of medical conditions such as dental disease and urinary crystals and save you money in the long run.

What do you feed your cat?

In 2013 Roy Morgan Research conducted a study on the feeding habits of 8,856 cats and dogs. In the sample group, as part of their cat's regular diet:

  • 90% of owners fed dry food
  • 66% of owners fed wet food
  • 28% of owners fed raw meat or fish

So, who has it right? Which food is the best? Should you choose dry food, wet food or a combination of the two?

The benefits of wet food

Feeding your feline wet food will help keep them hydrated, due to the higher water content. Adequate water intake can help reduce the risk of certain medical conditions. Feline lower urinary tract disease is a very common conditions in cats, and increasing water intake is a common component of its prevention or treatment protocol.

Urinary tract disease often involves the formation of crystals in the urine, which can lead to stones and blockages. One of the ways urinary crystals form is when magnesium bonds with ammonium waste in highly concentrated urine. If your kitty stays hydrated, this will lower the concentration of the urine and may help reduce the likelihood of crystal formation.

Why don't cats drink enough water? It is believed that some cats may have trouble seeing still water. Some cats might also dislike drinking from a bowl, as it irritates their highly sensitive facial whiskers. (Having a water drinking fountain can help with this issue!)

Also, many wild species of felines ingest all their water intake through their diet of raw hunted meat, and hardly drink pure water at all. This could explain the domestic cat's lack of desire to drink from a water source. As you can imagine, this means that most cats will need wet food incorporated into their diet to keep them hydrated.

Wet food is highly palatable. Many kitties can be fussy when it comes to mealtimes. The stronger aroma of wet food increases palatability making it easier to give your cat the nourishment they need! Stronger aromas also encourage older cats with weakened smell and taste senses to eat.

Not sure which wet food is best for your kitty? Our veterinarians recommend Hill's Science Diet Pouches, which combine premium quality with top taste and texture. These pouches are available in varieties for kittens, adults, and senior cats, and even provide a tailored option specifically for cats with urinary or hairball issues. All flavours are highly palatable and come in an irresistable meaty chunks-in-gravy recipe.

Do I need to feed my cat dry food as well?

While wet food sounds great, kibble definitely has its benefits. Dental care is perhaps the most noteable benefit of dry food.

Most kitties get out their claws when a toothbrush comes anywhere near them. For those not wishing to brave the wrath of your spiky furball, rest assured knowing that dry food can do some of the work for you.

When chewing kibble, the dry food pieces scrape against their teeth removing built up plaque and tartar. While any dry kibble can help, specially formulated dental diets such as Advance Dental and Royal Canin Oral Care are designed to improve and maintain oral hygiene. Their uniquely shaped biscuits provide a more thorough scrubbing effect, and active agent sodium tripolyphosphate removes tartar-forming calcium from the saliva.

As mentioned earlier, wet foods are generally more palatable for cats, however don't let that deter you from some of the dry options available. Premium food manufacturers place great importance on palatability and some offer guarantees if your cat won't eat their food. For particularly fussy cats, Royal Canin have a trio of different kibbles in their Exigent range for our fancy felines. Exigent aroma has an enhanced odour to tempt those upturned noses, Exigent Savour Sensation is a flavour filled delight to tickle the tastebuds and Exigent Protein is for kitties particularly sensitive to how their stomach feels after eating.

Show me the money

From a cost perspective, dry foods have the upper hand. The easier storage and transport of dry food reduces excess costs for the manufacturers and distributors than wet food and these savings are generally passed onto the consumer. When you break down dry and wet food into the cost per feed, dry food is going to be the cheaper alternative.

Quality matters

Like human food, there are different levels of quality when it comes to your pet's food. Cheap, poor quality pet foods are the fast food equivalent for your cat. Some cheap brands use low quality ingredients and can't guarantee the same recipe every time.

Cats fed on a diet with low nutritional value may develop a dull, lacklustre coat, and have larger, smellier stools. They also may develop behavioural concerns like aggression or anxiety as their bodies are being starved of proper nutrition. If you have ever been on a strict weight loss diet before, you would be familiar with the emotional rollercoaster ride that accompanies the hunger pangs.

At the end of the day

The ideal diet for most cats will be a combination of both canned food and dry food.

Wet food to help prevent urinary conditions and increase palatability. Dry kibble to keep down the costs while boosting oral hygiene.

Mixed feeding can also discourage your cat from developing strict diet preferences. This way if their favourite food is discontinued you can avoid the disastrous kitty food strike.

Posted by Dr Carla Paszkowski

Dr Carla is one of Pet Circle's in-house veterinarians. When Carla isn't talking about petcare at PetCircle, she enjoys playing mum to her fluffy little cross-eyed feline fur baby, Smudge.

Carla suggests to read:

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