When it comes to feeding cats, most pet owners often choose between dry and wet food. While some owners tend to buy both as they think it will make healthier diets.
While both foods offer nutritional and health benefits, it can be tricky to determine which is better for your felines, especially if your cat prefers either. Read below about the pros and cons of wet and dry food to avoid the dilemma of finding out which works for your cat.
A Cat’s Typical Diet
Cats belong to predatory and carnivorous hunting species whose diets consist of meat. As obligate carnivores, cats need a complete and balanced diet solely from protein and other nutrients found in meat.
Following a diet like this may seem impossible today, especially for indoor cats losing their hunting ability. Luckily, cat foods are manufactured to cater to the modern cat diet.
A typical cat’s diet needs 41 essential micronutrients and nutrition based only on vitamins and nutrients in meat, such as amino acids, taurine, arginine, methionine, cysteine, and vitamins D, A, and niacin.
Their bodies cannot biologically produce these nutrients due to their evolutionary diet, which is why most cat foods specialize in all or some of these while adding variety to imitate what cats eat in the wild.
Dry Food in Cats
Typical pet food undergoes four high-heat processes to process, dry, and preserve food. It’s made through:
- Grounding raw meat and cooking it on high heat until it becomes a powder
- Pour in a mixer and blend with supplements, cooked again in high heat to form a dough
- The dough is then again cooked to remove impurities
- The cooked dough is formed into shapes or kibble, which is then cooked for the last time to form dry kibble.
After the four processes, the cooked meat or kibble loses its meaty scent and taste. Some manufacturers add powder or spray meat flavoring and scents to make it more palatable for cat consumption.
Dry food is an equivalent of preserved human food, such as chicken nuggets. It also has 30-40% carbohydrates and may contain starch and other fillers to make the food last longer. Most dry foods are energy-dense, which can help hyperactive cats in daily activities.
Pros of Dry Food
- High in fiber: aids the digestion of cats and improves stool quality.
- Convenient: it is readily available in different flavors, life stages, and health requirements.
- Cheap: cheaper and available for sale in bulk.
- Helps weight gain in thin cats: it contains carbohydrates that help speed up weight gain for cats who eat too little.
- Longer shelf life: won’t spoil quickly and can be stored in air-tight containers. It can also be left in food bowls for cats to graze on.
- Easier clean-ups: dry food is easier to clean in case of spills or raucous cat activities and leaves no smells.
- The best food for puzzle feeds, and hunting activities can be hidden around the house or toys to stimulate brain activity and exercise.
- Helps in dental health: hard kibble helps prevent plaque and tartar buildup on cats’ teeth.
Cons of Dry Food
- Dehydration due to low moisture content: dry food only contains 10%-12% moisture, making cats prone to dehydration.
- May contain plant ingredients: cats cannot digest plants, and due to their calorie content, most dry foods contain starches from plant-based ingredients.
- Can cause renal or kidney problems: long term dry food diets increase dehydration in cats, causing stress on their kidneys and urinary tracts.
- Can cause diabetes: dry food contains a lot of carbohydrates that increase a cat’s glycemic index, causing diabetes.
Kibble food is different from the natural diet of cats, and most of it only caters to consumers who need readily available feeds for cats. However, dry foods like treats can be great complementary food for cats needing a quick snack or rewards.
Wet Food in Cats
Wet food is pet food in cans or pouches and contains around 65% – 75% water. It’s soft food that contains high moisture, often mixed with meat or vegetables and has higher vitamin and mineral content, ensuring a complete diet like kibble. Wet food is also considered bio-appropriate for cats as it mimics food they may eat in the wild.
Pros of Wet Food
- High moisture content: water from wet food helps in renal health in cats as it prevents urinary tract infections from insufficient water intake.
- Variety of flavors and texture: wet food is manufactured to emulate raw meat that wild cats are used to. This gives domesticated cats the taste and smell of hunted meat, ensuring their instincts kick in.
- High protein content: cats get protein from hunting rats, mice, and lizards in nature. A high-protein diet ensures that modern cats can still get the same protein nutrients they would get in the wild.
- Prevents constipation: high water content in wet food helps cats digest properly.
- Can prevent diabetes and weight gain: it’s low in carbohydrates but high in protein, which prevents diabetes from developing in cats, and is suitable for cats who have weight problems such as obesity.
Cons of Wet Food
- Dental issues: 90% of cats suffer from tooth diseases. Residue from wet food causes plaque and tartar buildup causing dental problems.
- Expensive: the average cost of wet food is $1 per serving more than dry food. Some cats may need more than one serving per meal and some less.
- Harder to store: wet food loses its nutritional value, taste, and smell once opened. It can only be stored in cold places to retain its palatability.
- Shorter shelf life: cats should eat it immediately once served as air can cause wet food to dry up and bacteria to grow.
- Too much moisture: Cat hydration is good, but too much hydration can cause vomiting and diarrhea. The ideal moisture limit of wet food should be 70%.
- Smelly and messy: when it comes to clean-ups, wet food can be messy and leaves a trail of scents that might confuse your cat.
It’s good to remember that not all wet foods are manufactured the same. Always read the labels before buying to find the best diet for your cat. The ideal composition of wet cat food should be 10% carbohydrates, 55% protein, and 35% fats.
Things To Consider Before Choosing
When choosing between a wet or dry diet, there are considerations for both cat owners and cats; some range from preference and suggestion, and some from veterinary sponsorship. But before switching to a new diet, owners should consider the following:
- Economic and Financial Situation
- Feeding schedule
- Health issues
Bottom Line: It All Depends On Your Cat
There’s no one-size-fits-all diet for cats, but you can enhance their nutritional intake and overall health with the correct information and considerations. Each type of cat food has its benefits depending on what your feline needs – whether wet, dry, or a combination of both.
Understanding your cat’s dietary needs, nutrient deficiencies, and underlying genetic or health issues will help make informed decisions to provide them the optimal nutrition.
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