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What Kind of Cat Food Is Best: Wet or Dry?

I have rescued and fostered many pets over the years. Keeping my pets healthy and happy is my number one priority.

There are a few things to consider when deciding whether to feed your cat wet or dry food.

There are a few things to consider when deciding whether to feed your cat wet or dry food.

What kind of food you choose to feed your cat is an important decision. Just like humans, the quality and quantity of food can affect your cat's health and well-being. Finding healthy options to fit your budget and your pet can be tricky. Some of the choices you need to make are:

  • Wet or Dry Food
  • Store or Name Brand
  • Premium or Regular
  • Prescription or Non-Prescription

Here is some information that I have discovered that may help you to decide which option and choice fit the needs of you and your pet.

Should You Feed Your Cat Wet or Dry Food?

You first need to decide if you are going to feed your pet wet or dry food. Wet food comes in a can and dry food comes in a bag, usually in the shape of small pellets. Your choices depend on your pet's preferences.

Annie Stuart, a WebMD pet expert, notes that there are pros and cons of each type of food. Dry food costs less than canned food and does not spoil as easily. But it also has a lower moisture content and is higher in carbohydrates than canned food. Dry food also does a better job of keeping your cat's teeth clean through chewing and crunching.

Wet food is often higher in protein and gives your cat extra moisture to promote good kidney and urinary tract function. Most cats enjoy canned food and you will not likely need to do much coaxing to get them to eat.

Experiment With Different Foods

If your pet is a new addition, you may need to experiment to see which kind of food she prefers. If you prefer to feed canned or dry, try that first and see if she can eat it. Buy a small bag or just a few cans in case you discover that the food is not working.

I feed my cats a combination. I leave dry food (a prescription weight loss diet from my vet) out all the time and feed the ones that like it a small amount of canned food in the morning and the evenings. Since cats are known to not drink enough water, and I lost a cat to kidney issues recently, I researched and decided that a combination of the two types of food would be the best option for me. Some of my cats, however, do not like canned food and only eat the dry stuff. I think that they just don't want to be predictable!

Should I Buy Store Brand or Name Brand?

If you are buying food in a pet or grocery store, the name on the front matters a lot less than the information on the back. Examine the ingredients and nutrition information. Review the first few ingredients. A recognizable protein source such as chicken should be listed. If it is not early in the ingredients, you might want to continue shopping.

I also look for pet foods that do not contain artificial colors and dyes. The dyes and cute shapes are there as a marketing tool for people, not for cats. Your cat may be smart but he can't read the label. As long as it is healthy and tasty to him, he will be happy. If you find a healthy choice in an off-label brand and it is what fits your budget, try a small bag and see if your cat will eat it.

Take some time to think about the food choices you make for your cat and make sure that your choices fit your family's and your cat's needs.

Take some time to think about the food choices you make for your cat and make sure that your choices fit your family's and your cat's needs.

Does My Cat Need Premium or Regular Food?

Part of this question again depends on your budget and your cat's needs. You also may want to discuss the choices with a vet or a trusted pet store associate. Again, a little bit of comparison shopping may help you to make the decision. Compare the ingredients from a regular and a premium bag or can.

  • Are their significant nutritional benefits and quality?
  • What kind of fillers does each of them contain?

While the price of premium might seem a bit steep, the reality is that the food choices you make can benefit your pet's long-term health. Premium food tends to have higher quality ingredients with the protein source being closer to the top of the list. It also tends to have lower fat and more nutrition per bite.

Some cats thrive on cheaper cat food and live long and healthy lives. Others may face health issues later in life because of poorer food choices when they were younger. If you have a specific breed of cat, there also may be other factors to consider such as higher fiber food for cats that have longer hair and are more prone to hairballs. Or you might need a reduced-calorie food if your cat tends to eat too much or trends towards being overweight.

Prescription vs. Non-Prescription Cat Food

If you've been in most modern vet offices, you will notice that she often sells a variety of pet products, including prescription pet food. She may recommend a particular type of food that needs a veterinarian’s prescription. These types of food treat certain conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, or weight issues. But is prescription food worth it or can you get the same benefits from a food that you can buy over-the-counter?

It is important to discuss any needs or issues you have directly with your vet. If your budget can't afford a particular food, be honest about it. She may be able to help you find a cheaper alternative that can still help your pet cope or recover from his issues. Most vets are in their profession because they truly care about animals and they will often work with you.

For my older cats, a prescription reduced- fat diet has kept them healthy and happy. Most of my cats are over the age of ten, one is pushing 15, and the vet always remarks on how healthy and active they are for their age. The lack of serious health or weight issues has been worth the investment.

Take some time to think about the food choices you make for your cat and make sure that your choices fit your family's and your cat's needs. If you decide to switch your cat from his current food, remember to introduce the new food slowly, mixing it with the new food and increasing the ratio of new to old each day.

Your cat's food can make the difference in his overall health and well-being.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


leah Duggan phillips on April 06, 2019:

I rescued a 10 month old cat who had to have a back leg amputated. Some bad person shot him. Anyway, His tummy seems to be getting too big. I heard wet food has less calories than dry so have been feeding him 1/2 can in morning and rest of can at night. He acts like he’s starving. I’m afraid for him to get too heavy bc his missing leg causes him to have to use his front legs to drag himself up the cat tree. I have another cat and a dog so have to manage meal times carefully.

joy on May 24, 2018:

cats are cut!

Sam Shepards from Europe on January 12, 2017:

Enjoyed your hub. Really good information. Mostly dry food in the past, now we vary often.

L C David (author) from Florida on January 20, 2014:

I completely agree punkmarkgirl. If you are dealing with an older or sick cat, a tasty gravy could be just the thing. They used to make one (I don't know how good for the cat it was) but I haven't seen it around lately.

Ashley Bergin from san francisco on January 20, 2014:

My cat eats both wet & dry food, but mostly wet. She is so finicky! Previously she ate only dry food, but we had to switch to wet after she fractured a tooth. The only type of wet food she will go near is Fancy Feast Chicken, Cheese & Gravy. At first, she would just lick off all the gravy & cheese, but now she’s finally started eating the whole meal. I wish a cat food company would make nutrient enriched gravy, for cat owners to put on top of dry food. My cat would be in heaven!

L C David (author) from Florida on January 17, 2014:

Victoria Lynn,

I have had up to six cats at once and currently have 5 with all but one being over 12 and my oldest about to turn 16. I was like you in that I only gave them canned food every once in a while although they've always been on premium food. Then I acquired and took care of a senior cat in kidney failure and now one of my own has developed it. In research I discovered that dry food is hard on cats kidneys. They are naturally made to get moisture through their food and rarely drink enough water to offset their needs. So in treating my kidney cat I have added canned food that I give to all of them. My three male cats all eat the canned food but my two females won't touch it. They only want the dry. I have no idea why that is.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on January 16, 2014:

Great info! My cats love the wet stuff. I think I need to give it to them more often rather than just a treat once a week or so. There are six of them, so it could get expensive. I buy a pretty high quality dry food (not the most expensive) for them but having the higher protein and moisture of the canned stuff makes sense. I think I'll try to give them some more often. Thanks for the hub. It was helpful. And congrats on hub of the day!

David Livermore from Bakersfield, California, United States on January 16, 2014:

I grew up with cats, and my parents fed them both wet and dry food. Wet in the morning, and dry left out all day.

I do the same with my cats. They get wet in the morning (and get mad if I don't feed them right away), and leave dry out. Oddly enough, neither of them like the fish varieties, and one eats most of the wet food, while the other doesn't. But the one who eats little wet food, eats the most dry food. So it works out.

Very nice hub.

Pamela Lipscomb from Charlotte, North Carolina on January 16, 2014:

My babies get both dry and wet food. They are crazy about the wet food. I think it fills them faster. My cats always know when its time to eat can food. My boy Oreo, sits in front of me and stares a hole me, until I get up and give him some.

L C David (author) from Florida on January 16, 2014:

Thanks for the comments everyone.

I think everyone has to figure out what works for their budget and their cat's needs. There are some good, lesser expensive foods like Iams so those are always a good one to try.

I think the key is to look for quality ingredients and for the protein to be high at the top of the ingredient list.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on January 16, 2014:

Congrats on HOTD!

We have 7 kitties, and they seem to be thriving (so far!) on a less-expensive brand of dry only. For a while, we were feeding a mix of wet and dry, but some of our other household expenses went up, and we could no longer afford the canned food. :-(

Cats can be picky eaters, but we have also found that a part of that problem is owners catering over-much to picky cats. It is normal for a cat to sometimes go "off their feed" for a day, and if the owner takes that as a sign of being picky, and changes the food, they are buying into what will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

No healthy cat will go hungry for long. If there are no other options, they will come around and eat what you serve, so IMO, it doesn't pay to wreck the budget trying to buy expensive gourmet cat food, which, as you point out about the colored kibble, is really aimed more at the owner than the cat.

Good job, here! Voted up, useful and interesting.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 16, 2014:

Congratulations on HOTD. I enjoyed your hub. Both my indoor and outdoor kitties get a constant supply of water and dry food, plus wet food. I also feed feral cats who get the same. The cats at my home get prescription stuff but love to sneak Meow Mix or Friskies. With them, it's a little like people and McDonalds; it apparently tastes great but there are "health food" alternatives that your mother makes you eat.

CASE1WORKER from UNITED KINGDOM on January 16, 2014:

Hi, I feed my Hugo wet food mainly- in the UK we can buy small cans such as gourmet gold or sheba and he likes one of these in the morning and one at night- the meat is small slices served in gravy so you can see what is being served. He has a few biscuits if he is having a hungry day - he does not like to go out much so we have to be careful not to over feed.

The cat on my shoulder Bagera- ( died in 2012) had a very sensitive tummy and we only fed him and his brother on tinned food and towards the end of their lives they had small cans of gourmet gold as they tended to be gluten free which helped him

L C David (author) from Florida on March 17, 2013:

I bet they love that combination. Himalayans are such beautiful cats! I have a red point siamese mix. He's 15 and the love of my life. And he's spoiled too of course with canned and dry food every day.

I know what you mean about the hairballs. Mine never puke ones that resemble a ball at all.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 17, 2013:

This is very informative. I have 3 indoor cats. One is a pedigree Flame Point Himilayan, the other two are Himilayan mixes. Two of my 3 cats have long hair.

I feed them twice a day. I put just enough Purina Cat Chow Indoor to layer the bottom of their bowls. Then I add a forkfull of Friskie's canned food and mix thoroughly. All 3 are very healthy and have no problem spitting up hairballs. I find them several times a week! BTW, why do they call them hairballs? They're more like hair tubes!

Escobana from Valencia on March 14, 2013:

Hi LCDWriter,

Congrats on your nomination first of all! I found your Hub in the Hubpages Weekly mail. Your title caught my attention.

It's all very true what you write here. I used to give two cats I had a long time ago, cheap wet and dry food. They lived long and healthy but the smell of their poop was quite strong.

It was also more expensive on the long run but I couldn't afford to do it any differently. Now I have two other cats, from when they were kitten and they only get dry Premium food of Hills.

Their hairs shine bright, they are very healthy and active, their poop doesn't smell at all and they drink enough water next to it. It is less expensive since I buy three bags of 8 kilo's every time when they have an offer which is enough for 4-5 months in a row.

They only need very little per day and I would never go back to wet food.

Great Hub, very informative, up and shared!

P.S. How many cats do you have?

Eric Calderwood from USA on March 13, 2013:

Our cat gets dry food on a regular basis and canned food is a treat. She does well on this diet, but we do make sure to give her plenty of water. It sounds like you have several cats. They can be a joy and it is fun to see the different personalities that each one has.

L C David (author) from Florida on March 10, 2013:

Thank you so much! Sounds like you've found a feeding plan and schedule that works well for your cats.

Sleepylog from Australia on March 10, 2013:

Great article, very informative and accurate. I have voted for it in this week's rising star poll.

I have always fed my cats a combination of dry and wet food - wet in the morning and dry food left out for them to eat as they please. I only give them a small amount of dry food because I don't want them getting fat, so if it runs out they'll have to wait until the morning for the wet food.

L C David (author) from Florida on February 12, 2013:

Thank you so much for your encouraging comment. How fantastic that you have a 22 year old cat! What a lucky animal to have you caring for him. I do love my senior felines.

moonlake from America on February 12, 2013:

Enjoyed your hub lots of good information. We have always only fed dry cat food except to our 22 year old cat. When he got old he had a hard time eating dry. Voted up.