We want the best for our cats, and nutrition plays a vital role in any animal’s health. But advertising and lay opinions can leave a cat owner wondering whether to feed canned food or dry foods.
With so many claims about whether to feed wet, dry, or both, we went to Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, Section Chief of Clinical Nutrition at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, for expert advice. Here’s what you need to know:
“Dry food is convenient, easy, less mess, may be better for teeth. Wet food is better for dieting cats sometimes, better for water intake—not great for teeth health,” says Dr. Wakshlag.
Unless your cat has a physical or medical reason for choosing one food or another, such as wet food for the cat with few teeth, you can feed either wet or dry, or both.
Dry Food: Convenient
If only they could tell us what they prefer!
Kibble wins for convenience. Scoop up the right amount for your cat (most cats only need about ¼ cup of the average dry food twice a day), pour it into the dish, and done. Roll or clip the top of the bag until next time. Canned food requires a spoon to scoop out the last bits of food from the can, plus leaves you with either an empty can to recycle or leftovers that need to be stored in the fridge.
Dry Food: Less Mess
If your cat doesn’t finish her meal in one sitting, dry food will still be there waiting the next time she circles around. Wet food, on the other hand, will start to dry out, which can be unappetizing. Plus, it leaves you, the owner, with a crusty mess to clean up. For barn cats, uneaten canned food can quickly attract bugs (this can also be an issue if your house is plagued by ants).
Whichever food type you feed, wash your cat’s bowl regularly even if she licks it clean. Saliva mixed with food particles is a haven for bacteria, which can potentially cause problems for your cat.
Dry Food: Dental Care
Chomping on kibble helps to scrape plaque off your cat’s teeth, slowing the development of periodontal disease. If your cat has a history of dental issues, your veterinarian may prescribe a dental diet. These diets consist of large, extra-crunchy kibbles designed to make your cat chew more.
Unfortunately, feeding a dental diet alone will not completely prevent plaque and tartar buildup, as any food leaves particles behind in your cat’s mouth that bacteria can feed on. The gold standard for dental care is daily brushing, and the American Veterinary Dental College recommends annual dental cleanings by your veterinarian.
Canned Food: Dieting
Most canned foods are about 70 percent water, which means that canned food typically has fewer calories than the same volume of dry food. Because of this, your cat will feel fuller eating wet food, even though she is eating fewer calories. This can make weight loss easier if your cat is one who pesters you if she doesn’t feel like she has eaten enough.
Canned Food: Increased Water Intake
That 70 percent water is also beneficial for cats who don’t drink much. Felines in the wild get much of their water from the prey they consume. For our pet cats, kibble makes for some pretty dry prey. This is fine if your cat makes up for it by drinking enough water, but many cats are poor drinkers. Poor water intake can lead to or exacerbate constipation and/or kidney problems.
Other ways that you can increase your cat’s water intake are to add a little tuna juice to her water bowl or test drive a kitty drinking fountain. Some cats are attracted to a dripping faucet and will drink straight out of the sink.
Canned Food: More Palatable
Moist foods tend to have more flavor and a stronger scent, especially if there is some sauce or gravy. This makes canned foods more attractive for many picky cats. Canned food can also be warmed up to make it smell even better (careful not to make it too hot), which is beneficial to encourage a sick cat to eat.
So, What Should I Feed?
Which form of cat food you choose to feed depends on which variety works best for you and, more importantly, which formula fits your cat’s needs and your own lifestyle.
Dr. Wakshlag assures us that there is no merit to the myth that dry food causes illnesses in cats: “Overfeeding causes risks of other diseases in cats—not the form of the food in general.”
When choosing which food to feed, ingredients are one of the most important things to consider. Dr. Wakshlag says, “Primarily animal sources for protein and overall protein are first things to look for—or to eyeball (the label) for. Meat ingredients like meals and byproduct meals actually work for me since they are good sources of protein that are typically lower in ash.”
Ash refers to the minerals and other inorganic materials present in any food. Animal sources of protein are important for cats because they are obligate carnivores and require meat to obtain essential amino acids such as taurine.
Cats do not require grain-free diets. Carbohydrates are a source of energy, just like proteins and fats, and will not harm your cat provided she also is getting sufficient amounts of protein (see our October 2017 article “Calories, Carbs, and Ingredients in Grain-Free Diets,” at catwatchnewsletter.com).
Look for foods that have the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement that the diet has been formulated to be complete and balanced, either for all life stages or for the life stage most appropriate for your cat (growing and reproduction or adult maintenance).
Cat foods may also have a statement that they have passed a feeding trial using AAFCO procedures, which means that the food has been tested on cats over time as opposed to simply being analyzed to meet the standards.
If you choose to make a homemade diet, we advise you to seek the help of a veterinary nutritionist. A nutritionist can help you to formulate a recipe that fits your cat’s needs and will make sure that the homemade diet contains the nutrients that she requires for a happy, healthy life. Go to the American College of Veterinary Nutrition site (acvn.org) to find a nutritionist.
Cat Food Storage
Just like our own food, cat food and treats can become contaminated with harmful bacteria if it isn’t stored properly.
- The FDA recommends storing dry cat food in a cool and dry place (less than 80° F). The food should be in a location your cat can’t get into. Store dry food in the original bag, clipped shut. This assures you have the UPC code, lot number, brand and manufacturer, and “best by” date easily available in case of a product defect or recall of that food.
- If you choose to use another container, be sure it’s clean, dry, and has a lid that fits snuggly and can’t be opened by your cat. Save the UPC code, lot number, brand, manufacturer, and “best by” date for that bag in case of a recall. (Tape it to the outside of the container but remember to change it when you open a new bag of kibble.) Wash and dry the storage container between bags of kibble to get residual fat and crumbs off the container’s surfaces, keeping the new food fresh.
- Refrigerate or toss leftover canned and pouched cat food.
- Wash bowls daily, including the water bowl.
Thumbnail: Photography ©RooIvan | Thinkstock.
75 thoughts on “Myth Buster: Canned vs. Dry Food”
How dare you be so irresponsible and untruthful. You obviously stand to profit from companies that manufacturer dry kibble. Dry cat food is over-processed water depleted carbohydrates. In order for cats to be healthy they need water. Cats need at least 70% moisture from their food. Dry kibble is at best 10%. Dry cat food leads to diabetes obesity kidney stones kidney failure UTIs urinary blockages cystitis. And it does not clean cats teeth. Cat guardians want the best for their cats health and that is canned cat food.NEVER feed dry kibble—-it is killing our beloved cats. How dare you write an article so full of lies!!!
Hmmm. My friends who give their cats the fancy expensive cat foods almost all have diabetic cats. My cats like cheap dry cat food, not the expensive stuff. They go outside and catch mice. I took a bunny away from my cat yesterday, mostly because I couldn’t stand its screaming. My cats are belled, rarely catch birds. Mice are OK, soft on the outside, crunchy on the inside.
Hi. My Manx brothers are all healthy, athletic, & are given free reign to premium dry [Iams/Nutro/Avoderm/Royal Canin] & grain free purees & pouch pates (nothing from a can). I let them out, but i do NOT condone the killing of native wildlife. It broke my heart to see species of warblers i’d never seen before until one of my felines killed the beautiful bird. Birds & other wildlife are stressed with less & less natural habitat. Domestic cats are not indigenous to N.A., so small mammals & birds don’t expect this expert hunter. I love cats, but they are responsible for killings millions of birds, small mammals, reptiles, insects; including Monarch butterflies. Many birds are monogamous. I’m brought a wren, dead,and another flies frantically around the yard. Also, hunting housecats expose themselves to parasites (internal & external) during the killing/ biting of any wildlife. I now ‘supervise’ my cats outdoors….& my Manx even ‘catches’ snakes for me (I’m a herpetologist). The snakes are never injured.
Do you add a vitamin supplement to your homemade food. I have a Pixie Bob and also give him boiled chicken thighs, chicken livers and a scrambled egg yolk, add a little salmon oil but to make sure he gets all the vitamins and nutrients he needs I give him a packet or two of Weruva BFF kitty food.
For homemade food please consider and use a good supplement. Two really good ones are Nuvet.com and nupro.com.
Personally I would Love to feed my cats all that “specialized” cat food that all those Fancy companies produce, such as that grain-free, No By Products, etc. but they will Definitely have to Scale down their price tags before I buy that “High-End” cat food. Take for instance, this one cat food was almost $3.00 a can just for 3 oz of canned food. I think that’s ridiculous! Just because it’s Iams, Blue Buffalo, Nutro, etc. they put these pricey tags on their cans. Average people like me, just can’t afford those brands. I even saw where Fancy Feast was going “Natural” and of course they raised the price! So two of my cats eat regular fancy feast, and one eats that Sheba pate because that’s what they like, and it’s what I can afford. They eat both wet and dry and they get Lots of water to drink. I always make sure they have plenty of fresh water. I even give them Distilled water to drink because I read that cats don’t like chlorinated water. I even drink it too. You never know what they are putting in OUR drinking water. But if those “high-end” companies want me to buy their food, then they will have to lower their price tags! Its’ all about MONEY! Totally Disgusting!
This is a very poor and irresponsible article. Catster is relatively new to me, but I have already noted a number of bad articles that suggest to me that, despite the attractive name, whoever is behind it is in it not for the cats or loving cat guardians, but for money.
I won’t go into the many misleading statements in this article since many have already been identified by others in this comment section. I will say that this article is anything but “myth-busting”. It promotes misinformation.
For one thing, cats don’t have teeth for grinding as do herbivores like cows or omnivores like humans. They may briefly break up some large pieces of kibble, but in large part they swallow kibble whole.
What is even more ironic is that the many carbohydrates in typical kibble turn to sugar in the body and tend to coat the teeth not clean them. Try it yourself: How do your teeth feel after eating potato chips? How do they feel after eating steak? The carbohydrate-laden chips leave your teeth feeling coated. Protein-laden meat does not though you should still brush your teeth at the end of the day (or more often) no matter what you eat. I will not be feeding my children pretzels to clean their teeth before bedtime anytime soon— they still have to brush their teeth.
Keeping an animal companion comes with responsibility. It requires work just as does having children. My kitty’s diet is based on wet food. She eats high-quality (96% human-grade meat) pâté canned food with additional water that I blend in because I discovered that she likes it better that way. Using warm water also helps make cold canned food out of the fridge more palatable for kitties. She gets 1 tablespoon ONLY, morning and evening, of kibble that is made of 92% human-grade fresh meat and gently cooked rather than super-heated, extruded kibble made of human-food rejects. Check out Champion Pet Food which is based in Canada.
My kitty’s teeth at 6 years old are super-white. I brush her teeth 3-4 times a week (my goal is daily brushing), but really only have to concentrate on the very back teeth where food gets caught in the tight space between cheek and jaw. In such a spot, any type of caught food will break down and cause tooth decay. So that is where I concentrate the little time I have to work in my kitty’s mouth. My kitty is sleek, has well-defined muscles and has maintained a weight of about 7 lbs since adulthood. No meds, no vomiting, no hair balls, no bladder infections, no kidney disease, no diabetes from carbohydrates that become sugar in her body, 1 annual check up to the vet.
I put my money into truly cat-good food to keep my kitty healthy, rather than into vet visits, tests, and medication due to poor-quality and inappropriate food that makes her sick. A lot less stress for me, too.
For real and responsible information on cat feeding, try catnutrition.org . Check Netflix for “Petfooled” to learn more about the pet-food industry.
What brand of wet food do you feed your cat? Thanks!
Misinformation needs to be avoided….cats need real meat, not cereal. Whenever possible at least.
So what brand of food do you feed? My cat is 17 and she does have CKD she eats fancy feast and Nutro Max… after looking into so many so called better for CKD foods that she will not eat I decided to treat my cat and not just the numbers from the CKD. She needs to eat so we feed what she is willing to eat, dry food is def a so called no no for CKD. So much info out there it gets to be overwhelming
Thank you fir your review. I have never brushed cat’s teeth and do not know how to. My girl is about a year old. I know she will not like doing this. But I would like to learn how to do it. Thanks.
CB: I totally agree of what you wrote. I wish more cat owners would know all of this. Dry food is a no, no. Wet food should be balanced and complete and human graded.
Which cat food brand you feed your kitty ? Would you please list them so we know as well , thanks
In their natural environment, cats do NOT eat dry leaves and brittle twigs – they eat raw, wet, warm, meat – period – cats are obligate carnivores – fed your cat meat.
I thought this was a great article. It made good sense and the info was practical and down to earth. It could only be considered a “shill” for the pet food industry if specific brands were mentioned. Cats need to eat… it’s simply a discussion of diet.
Besides owning a pet supply store I also run a non-profit that places former street cats in forever homes. Regarding food and diet, I tell my adopters and customers to find what kitty likes (flavor profile and consistency), purchase the best quality you can afford and be sure to measure and keep an eye on their weight. Also, wash bowls daily.
Personally, I feed my cats both a high quality diet of wet and dry food and their overall health is excellent. My seniors’ teeth are in decent shape too.
Through the non-profit I work closely with vets who generally agree that dry food can help keep teeth cleaner. If the terrible discomfort a cat can suffer from dental disease, not to mention the cost of an $800 dental, can be avoided that is a DEFINITE benefit. That’s worth a little high quality kibble and if it keeps my babies happy to have something to nosh on while I’m at work all the better.
Regarding convenience, that is a real consideration for many working pet parents. As long as the diet is of a good quality and kitty has fresh water and a safe, loving, committed home I am happy!
Thanks for the helpful info.
This article is full of lies. Very irresponsible of you to make these false statements clearly you are in it for the money. Dry cat food leads to obesity diabetes kidney stones kidney failure UTIs urinary blockages dehydration constipation and cystitis. Dry food does not clean a cats teeth. How very irresponsible of you to say that it is okay to feed our cats dry food. Cats were designed to get their water and their food. That’s why I a mouse is the perfect meal for a cat. For good health cats need 70% water in their food. Dry food contains 10% moisture at most. How dare you mislead cat guardians for profit. Google Lisa Pierson DVM for the TRUTH about cat nutrition. Then people can think for themselves and feed responsibly meaning canned cat food. Absolutely disgusting irresponsible misleading harmful article !
I have a 5 y/o male F4 Savannah. ANY store bought canned or dry food he ate would make him vomit. I did some research and found dry cat food is a big nono for cats and canned food has a lot of preservatives and additives. So I decided to just make his food. Boiled chicken thighs and chicken liver. No more puke
Exactly. This is a horrible article that could have really reached a lot of people with solid advice to only feed high quality wet food or a diet prepared at home….but instead it’s the Pet Food Industry speaking thru someone who knows better. Very disappointing. Even the cheapest wet food is better for a cat than the best dry food. Cats will NEVER get enough water just drinking. Cats are not evolved to drink water in the wild and obtain 99% of their fluids from their prey. Just shows money talks- even when a cat’s urinary and kidney health is at stake.
Raw would be even better. Do animals cook their food in the wild?
I don’t particularly like this article. However I agree with Jackie Darstein that you cannot make a cat eat what it doesn’t want. Then I go to what the cat will eat. My 14yrs old girl has always been fussy and being a Russian she is slim but now too slim. To get her to eat more I tried a wet food she really likes and fed dry food which she likes separately ( she won’t eat them mixed or in the same bowl). Now she just won’t eat dry food. I now give her a diet of Fussy Cat grain free wet food available in Australia. At least she eats and enjoys this with no ill effects.
She knows where she wants her plate and when. Because she is elderly she mostly gets her food when she wants it so she is being fed on demand.
Prior to this her diet was dry food and about 40g of wet food. She has very good teeth and gums so wet food now should not be too adverse.
My other cat does not like wet food and has a dry diet with about 40g meat if I’m lucky.
I am very particular about the ingredients of their foods and the analysis. I definitely agree with the article saying the packaging guidelines can suggest more food than the cat needs to be adequately fed each day
My cat will not eat wet food, she just licks up the gravy. Dry food is her go to food. She was adopted with a bag of Purina dry food, so I kept the food the same for 7 years until I couldn’t find it ( it was out of stock) and tried store brand food of the same type (Indoor cat food). She likes the store brand better than the Purina!
My cat will only eat dry food, but it will not eat the entire nugget . The bowl will be full of half eaten small pieces of food in a few days. I have talked to other cat owners and they advise their cat does the same. Anyone else have the same problem?
This is generally how cats eat dry food. I’ve had cats since I was a kid. The kitty, who joined our household last Christmas, is the ONLY cat I know who might leave two-to-three crumbs in his bowl. He eats ALL of his food – I’ve never experienced this with a cat before.
This is a terrible article, sounds like a shill for the pet food industry.
Dry food is full of starch, which is cheap and plentiful, some brands are over 50%. Starch is just strings of sugar molecules chained together. It is just sugar when a cat eats it and is terrible for their health.
Grain, corn, potato, peas, tapioca, nothing a cat would ever eat in the wild. Makes cats fat and contributes to diseases like kidney disease, cancer etc. There are some kibbles now that are low starch or no starch, Wysong makes some, also Dr. Elsey’s. There are more canned foods without starch, but at least the first 5 ingredients should be animal proteins/fats. I feed my cat Wysong optimal vitality, an inexpensive canned food with no carbs/starch, canned food, and raw liver 2 or 3 times a week. Liver is one of the best foods for cats, it’s very high in nutrients, it’s inexpensive and they love it.
David, as you certainly know, this IS a shill for the pet food industry, which pays a lot to vet schools and veterinarians.
It’s the quite similar to what’s going on with the food industry and medical schools.
It’s pathetic and disgusting, but a good business model: feed bad food, make more patients (money).
I agree. Dry food by itself is like feeding your cat candy!
There is mounting evidence that feeding a dry kibble diet is contributing to increases in cat diseases.
What we need is a longitudinal study to determine the effect of various cat foods on the longevity of cats and the frequency of diseases in cats. Some of this information can be obtained in surveys of people’s Vet visits.
Pet food types have become overwhelming. We need good independent science studies. The business of pet food is growing. So are certain diseases in our pets.
Where are all the PhD candidates?
Thank you for a brand name for me to research! I have 2, 20 lb. male cats indoor/outdoor. My fault. I succumbed to the cries for MORE. I am fortunate as I have NEVEr found anything they won’t eat. Now, doing research, I am trying to cut them back and have started a difficult regime that I am dedicated to. I am offering a specific calorie intake a day with dry and wet food. Based on the articles, I may change to more home-made chicken. I have offered grain free….but, obviously too much dry in automatic feeders as I travel a lot. I appreciate all the comments and am learning from you all. I take Catster. I love it and have learned a lot about cats. But, again, taking care of your own pets the best way you can depends on the OWNER.
It’s all good and well to say this and that is best for your cat. Notice I said your cat. My cat is a picky eater period. I give him what he will eat which is Purina One – Kidney Formula. I’ve tried all kinds of healthy, expensive food and he will go days and will not eat it. I’ve tried every wet food in the book and he will only eat two flavors of Sheba. Please don’t say he will eat eventually – he won’t. To get him to take in moisture I mix in 2 tablespoons of water when I give the Sheba to him every morning. He will at least lick that gravy up but literally only will do that once a day. I’d pay anything for a wet food he would actually eat as I lost my last furbaby to kidney disease and know how important moisture is with cats as they do not drink all that much.
Bless you for being a good parent to a fussy eater. There are many of them out there. A person can buy the most healthy, usually the most expensive…..cat food available. You CANNOT make a cat eat it. Starving them to eat it doesn’t work. If allowed outside, they will leave home! They will beg from neighbors! They will wander! ….rather than eat what they do not want. I say this from years (53 years) of providing for an uncountable number of cats, mostly strays that move in. All you can do if you have a fussy eater is provide WHAT they will eat and be thankful they will eat that. I, too, have lost cats to kidney disease. They all were elderly and that disease is no uncommon for them. All you can do is make them comfortable and love them.
Shame on you David H and Holly.
I cannot believe the appalling lack of common sense in this article. It is so frustrating to see unhealthy lifestyles promoted for our furry friends, by the very professionals that should be protecting them! I sincerely hope that those who read this post will also read the comments, many of which contain more wisdom than the post itself!
1. Common sense tells us what cats and dogs were designed to eat, even if science had not proven that cats are obligate carnivores (requiring diets high in animal protein) WHERE WOULD A CAT GET DRY FOOD IN NATURE???
2. What does convenience have to do with health? Do we make decisions for our family based on convenience when it is detrimental to our children’s well-being? If so then by far the least messy and most convenient thing to do would be to eat out or get fast food for all our meals! Would you advise parents to consider convenience over health?
3. I continue to hear the ABSURD rational that dry kibble is good for cat’s teeth! Not only is there no science of any kind to back that up….it is completely illogical! Essentially that is like saying grape nuts cereal or trail mix will keep our teeth clean. Really? Almost any processed food we or our pets eat will leave residue on the teeth and that includes kibble.
4. In one breath the vet says it does not matter whether you and your cat choose dry food or wet, and in the next breath he says “Felines in the wild get much of their water from the prey they consume….many cats are poor drinkers. Poor water intake can lead to or exacerbate constipation and/or kidney problems.” Think this through!!!!!
5. Quote from vet: “Meat ingredients like meals and byproduct meals actually work for me since they are good sources of protein…” Spend 15 minutes researching what is in meat byproducts in pet food and your mouth will drop with disgust at both the ingredients and the vets acceptance of them!
6. Cats may do ok with a small amount of carbs such as they might get from the stomach of their prey, but they are NOT designed to eat genetically modified, pesticide laden, corn, wheat and other processed foods, chemicals, toxic food colorings, etc. that are generally found in cat food that is ‘not’ grain-free. Grain-free foods in general are 10x healthier ingredients than regular commercial varieties.
7. I will not even get into the potential benefits of feeding at least some raw food to your cat…….but I would encourage all cat owners to genuinely research the subject. Don’t just read a bunch of opinions, check out the details!
And please, please, please don’t swallow whatever the so-called professionals say without researching for yourself! There are far too many doctors in practice who are money motivated…..USE and trust your COMMON SENSE!
Holly, your comments are spot on!!!!! Thank you for speaking up and giving the real facts about pet food and the pet food industry. I am 75 years young and have been a pet mom to numerous cats and dogs throughout these years. In my early years of pet ownership, I did exactly what the vets recommended and the results weren’t always good but I just chalked it off as “they must know what they’re doing and this is the way it is with pets”. I’ve had animals with renal failure, cancer, megacolon, megaesophagous, congestive heart disease/failure, neurological event/stroke/sudden death, seizures, addisons disease, cherry eye, etc., etc., etc!!! Needless to say I have had a LOT of experience and decided there must be a better or alternative way to treat these diseases so I began to research and learn what was out there. I’m not saying conventional veterinarhy medicine is wrong, but there are other or alternative meethods , treatments AND diets that are working to keep pets healthy and give them a longer quality life!!!
I have worked in the veterinary field for many years and could see first hand how pet owners just “go with whatever the vet and so -called experts say”. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ….do what Holly recommends and DO YOUR HOMEWORK for the sake of your pets! Be proactive and find out exactly what the big pet food companies put in their diets and call it healthy food!!! If you research “animal by-products” you will be repulsed!!! As the saying goes “you are what you eat” and that goes for pet food too! Look up the website “The Truth About Pet Food”…. you will be horrified.
As for dry vs wet (especially for cats): dry kibble is a leading cause of Urinary and bladder/renal issues so what does the pet food industry say to do???? Give your sick pet a prescription dry food!!!!
Once I started looking into what options are available to us as pet owners and finding a veterinarian that is open to BOTH conventional and alternative treatments, my pets had less health issues and lived longer, healthier and happier lives. And that makes me happy!
You seem to know a lot about the kinds of cat food out there. What brand do you recommend? I would think a Pet store would sell good products.
I agree with you! And did you catch the word, “convenient” a couple of times? So we should feed cats whatever is convenient for ourselves, never mind whether it is the best choice for our cats!
Thank you Holly, for sharing what’s true, in spite of what some “professionals” say. Vets differ in their opinions, as some of us have experienced. So, we have to do the research, and make the best decision for ourselves, rather than rely on “opinions” of professionals.
After reading your persuasive article, I was relieved I could let go of the messy canned food cycle. But the comments again have swayed me. Would you please comment, taking into consideration everything said here. Also, I know my cat would love to attack raw chicken wings; please advise!
Hi there Mary,
Thanks for reaching out! This article was posted from our partners at Catwatch. Please see this link if you have any specific questions for them: https://www.catwatchnewsletter.com/
Wow. Here I was thinking that politics is the most divisive issue we have these days. Good thing the pols ain’t cats as well!
This is a really irresponsible article.
For starters, dry food has not been proven to remove more plaque from teeth. I’ll let you do the Googling on that one.
Second of all, nowhere in this article do you mention the fact that cats are obligate carnivores and that, as such, the ingredients of the food – whether wet or dry – are the most important part. Avoiding diabetes in particular means that your cat needs to avoid as many carbs as possible –
As far as the bit about “cats telling you which they prefer,” cats are going to automatically prefer the dry food. It’s sprayed with attractants to *make* it more appealing to them. Once switched over to a fully wet diet all three of my cats, including the picky eater, haven’t looked back.
Yes, owners are going to make their own decisions, but offering accurate information is the responsible thing to do.
Thanks for reaching out! If you have any questions on this article, please reach out to the editors of Catwatch: https://www.catwatchnewsletter.com/contact/
Thank you for speaking the truth!
We started out with dry food for our cat who will be 2 in Oct. Decided to try the wet food and he refused it, went back to dry trying many times thereafter and still refuses the wet food. Wondering if tuna fish or chicken of the sea would work. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
In the wild cats do not eat dry leaves and twigs – they eat wet, warm, prey they have caught. This fact alone should end the debate – feed your cat wet food. As for teeth/dental health, give them raw chicken/turkey bones to chew on. Do NOT give cooked bones! Cooked bones when chewed will splinter – raw bones when chewed will granulate.
In the wild cats also eat the contents of their preys stomach and intestines, which in the case of rodents and birds, usually contains seeds and grains. Far different from some of the (sometimes awful) ingredients in dry kibble, but I am just pointing out the fact they they do get some grains and carbs in the wild.
Yes you are correct, but the seeds and grains are raw, and or naturally digested. They are a very small percentage compared to the rest of the cats meal. Do they add a benefit to the cats health? That i haven’t a clue.
I should clarify. the wellness indoor cat food I mix in is dry…
IS THIS VET PAID OFF BY THE MAUFACTURES THAT MAKE DRY CAT FOOD? DRY IS TERRIBLE FOR A CAT . THE WATER CONTENT IS TOO LOW AND DRY FOOD DOES NOT CLEAN A CATS TEETH. I FEED MY CAT A CAN OF BEYOND CANNED CAT FOOD IN THE MORNING AND LATE AFTERNOON HE GETS ANOTHER CAN MIXED WITH VERY LITTLE WELLNESS INDOOR CAT FOOD . MY CAT IS 7 AND VERY HEALTHY . AND NEVER FEED RAW!!!!!!!!!!!
There is no need to scream. “this Vet” as outlined in the article is Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, Section Chief of Clinical Nutrition at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. I did not see anything on the University website about research paid for my manufacturers. I have had cats for over 40 years. My last cat, who lived to age of 18 was an Iams kitty from the day she started on solid food. Usually dry but an occasional treat of a wet food and the occasional spider, moth, mouse or bird. Once a year vet visit, regular vaccinations. In 18 years she had absolutely no health problems, never needed teeth cleaning and the only vet visit other that that was to be spayed. Key is nutrition.
thanks heather iam with you my cats get iams fed in seperate rooms small portions 3 times a day and can food on friday and occational treats and yearly checkups and i feel good with this gary h
I usually really enjoy the articles here on Catster, but this one.. wow.
A cat can have a good dental hygiene even on canned food since they can be given raw chicken wings to chew on. And contrary to what many believe, it isn’t dangerous for them.
They aren’t as susceptible to the bacteria that can be present in raw fowl as we humans are. And raw bones are far less likely to cut them up compared to cooked.
Think about it, how many outdoor cats die from eating wild critters? How many big cats die from eating bones from their pray?
Most kibble contain to much fillers and can contain too much of a mineral (like magnesium or salt).
If never give kibble as main diet. I’ll stick with canned food.
Saying kibble keeps cats teeth clean is like people brushing with crackers. And watch a video on how pet kibble is made and forget it. Awful stuff. And I agree with you on raw bones. Commercial wet isn’t a huge leap better, especially with weak regulation standards. And how many pet owners see all the recalls? My best friend fed her 5 (unrelated) cats Science Diet kibble, Fancy Feast kibble and canned, and four of them died of cancer along with frightening seizures. The remaing cat is grossly obese. Ugh!
I recently started my cats on a 100% carefully balanced homemade diet after doing quite a bit of research (before I did 80% expensive canned and 20% homemade). After two weeks I was out of town for 4 days and had my dad feed them their old canned food that they were used to – grain free and expensive – and not only did they not want to eat it, both barfed it up the first two days.
The homemade is about a third cheaper, including the premix and supplements. Takes me about an hour to make enough for two cats, two meals a day, for two weeks. I lightly poach boneless, skinless chicken thighs, turkey, chicken gizzards, and lean beef in bone broth, and the supplements and enzymes, a touch of ACV, a little fresh greens, ect…easy! My new philosophy is: If you wouldn’t eat it yourself unless you were starving to death, don’t make your pets eat it.
And as far as dental health, gnawing on a lightly cooked or even raw cube of beef is great, or a raw bone they can’t swallow, and add a high quality additive designed for dental health to their water for a week out of every month. My 8 year old sibling cats have always had excellent vet check-ups and zero dental problems with no expensive cleanings ever needed.
After I adopted my 2-3 y.o. Calico I kept her on the dry food she had been eating. After a discussion with the vet I started introducing her to some wet food. It took a while to find out she would prefer the turkey or tuna in gravy.I kept her on dry food but cut the amt. because she needed lysine and mixing it in was the only way I could get it into her.Now 1/4 cup twice a day and 1 (3oz) can spread out during the day seems to work and a couple of treats.
Very misleading. Dry food is junk food, loaded with fillers and carbs. Its dental benefits are a myth because there is nothing in the food that cleans teeth, and cats mostly swallow whole their dry food. Yes, it’s convenient if you just want to plop down a mess of crappy food for your cats and walk away. It’s also convenient for the cat that likes to graze all day and nigh long, but the result is usually obesity. I admit, I feed my cat a little dry food because she regards it as a treat, and, of course, she’s the boss. But her main diet is made up of grain-free canned food.
YES!! Total agreement. Most cats swallow crunchies ‘whole’ and don’t chew them at all. (If in doubt, just look at a pile of cat puke – unchewed crunchies.) And dry food is mostly carbohydrates not nearly enough animal protein. Dry food should be used exactly as you are doing – as a special treat.
Thanks for the truth, Robert Wagers!
Dry food was made for the convenience of cat owners. It is NOT a species appropriate diet. Cats don’t need all those carbs either, and carbs are hard for them to digest as well. Dry food can lead to dehydration, urinary tract issues, and you are so right- it does NOT clean their teeth. Brushing does, however, and is an essential part of kitty care. In addition to brushing our cats’ teeth daily, they do get a C.E.T. dental treat every other day, simply because they go bonkers over them and-heck, the enzymes in these treats are very helpful as well. Cats are OBLIGATE Carnivores. They do NOT need carbs. They get their energy from meat protein. That is how their digestive system is designed. PERFECTLY. I highy recommend the book “Your Cat” by Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM. It is one of the most remarkable books about cats I have ever read. Want to know about what foods are good for cats? Read this book!
YOU ARE RIGHT DRY FOOD IS TERRIBLE AND DOESNT CLEAN A CATS TEETH . WHAT IS THIS VET THINKING ABOUT? RAW IS NO BETTER. I WILL STICK TO MY PREMIUM CANNED CAT FOODS. MY CATS LIVED TO BE 22, 22, 20, 20 AND 18!!!!
Why are you yelling? We’re all here together. No yelling required to make your point. It’s really quite rude. Please don’t leave your messages all in caps.
caps may be used if typist as problem reading …
YOU ARE RIGHT! DRY FOOD IS JUNK. THATS THE REASON THIS VET SHOULD NOT WRITE ARTICLES ABOUT HOW GOOD DRY FOOD IS FOR A CAT ITS NOT
I am not sure the Cornell’s Veterinary Chief has any idea what meat by-products are made of and if he knew he would not be recommending anything with meat by-products. Since he obviously is unaware of the health issue’s to pets due to meat by-products I have no faith in any of his recommendations. He calls the same thing byproduct meals.
If Catster is even unaware then they should do some research for themselves. I will no longer subscribe to Catster due to their ignorance of this issue of byproducts.
Hi Roland —
Please contact Catwatch directly with any concerns:
At Catster, we know picking out a food for your cat is a personal decision to make based on you and your cat’s preferences and needs. Here are some links to a few other food articles:
Roland Trivett, I agree. I was stunned by the Cornell article as well. But it’s not only the by-products that we must worry about, it is all those additives, and the plant protein that so many of the pet food companies add to the food, rather than just the essential meat protein that cats must have. I might get attacked by some for dispelling the myth that dry food is good for cats. But it simply isn’t. Check out Dr. Lisa Pierson’s website for more in-depth info on dry VS raw or high quality canned food.
If this is a myth buster, I am sorry to say that the myth that dry food for cats IS the one that should be highlighted
Meat by-products… I made a huge mistake watching a video when I first adopted my two cats at 8 weeks and was researching pet food. Horrifying! They never got anything with by-products, animal digest, or controversial synthetic k, dyes, ect., ect. It’s criminal what some pet food is made of.
I just started them on a 100% homemade diet and it’s so much easier and about a third cheaper than high quality canned – and they go nuts over it. I decided that if I wouldn’t eat commercial pet food unless I was starving, why should I feed it to my fur buddies?
DONT BLAME CATSTER, BLAME THIS UNEDUCATED VET
I have read over and over that dry food, especially free fed and with no wet, is a sure-fire plan for kidney disease. I have had 5 cats die of kidney disease in the past, before I knew this. The kibble they get now is more of a tiny treat. And I have also read that dry doesn’t clean teeth anymore than eating say grapenuts cereal would clean ours.
100% correct! Yes, I’ve done much study on dry vs. wet. My vet actually agrees, as well. Wet is always better. Dry food is a sure path to kidney disease. This article is bogus.
I had a cat die a painful death from kidney failure due to a lack of taurine in a particular brand of wet food (which I won’t name here; that’s what Google is for), so it can happen with wet food as well.
I have a 9 year old male cat, dying of kidney disease, because all he ever wanted from the time he could eat was DRY kitten chow. He was found at 3 weeks old, nearly dead, and I bottle fed him. He always seemed to get enough water, we have water falls all over the house, his favorite was the bathroom sink faucet so we never worried if he was getting enough liquid. Now, this beautiful, sweet animal is dying because we didn’t know better to make sure he was getting enough liquid. I know this is true that dry food as the only source of food intake is disaster!!! So I don’t care what a Cornell Professor says is “ok”. FYI:I have an 18 year old male tabby who eats only wet food, but absolutely loves water and he’s still going strong! If you’re feeding your precious animal only dry food start adding some diluted low sodium chicken broth or something to the dry food for additional liquid.
If it were me, I’d have tests done, just to make sure. We have a young re-socialized feral we adopted and it turned out he had health problems that made him unnaturally hungry when we first got him. (worms, other parasites and infections) It took some time, but we eventually got Bruno cleaned up and on a regular diet.
He shares our home with a 20-ish CKD cat, so they get meals of regular wet food and dry KD kibble to ‘graze’ on. We make sure Bruno gets regular check ups as KD food is not ideal for healthy cats, but this compromise seems to work for both Bruno and his housemate, Squee Bomb.
As far as wet food type, go with what your cat likes. If he’s not picky, go with what YOU like and can afford. Talk to the owners or managers of pet stores/departments and learn what is available at various price points for your cats unique needs. At one year old he’s just a ‘teenager’ and has different needs than say a 20 something with progressive organ failure.
Check out Chewy.com and petfooddirect.com . They often match the lowest price if you can prove you found it cheaper. Moreover, our local shop with match Chewy’s price, so we have the best of both worlds.
As far as eating you out of house and home, look for coupons, bulk discounts and generic alternatives. This is not different than buying food for yourself or your child. Read labels and discuss with your vet what’s best for your big baby. Reach out to manufacturers. They’re often super willing to give coupons if it means product loyalty.
Our Bruno’s brother, Hugo, sadly got CKD just 6 months after we adopted them both, and Hill’s was very helpful in helping us manage our treatment costs, including diet. They mailed us a BOOK of coupons to use at the vet every time we got a case of food.
Final thought. Please don’t skimp out and buy food with grain as the FIRST ingredient to save the money. This is like feeding your cat chicken nuggets all day every day. Yeah, it’s cheap and it fills them up, but the health damage down the road will undo any savings you might see immediately. You wouldn’t let your son eat McDonald’s every meal, right?
I don’t think dry food scrapes plaque off cat’s teeth any more than crackers scrape plaque off people’s teeth. Every cat owner I’ve ever known that feeds their cats dry food also have much more frequent vet bills, including expensive dental bills.
I’m no vet but I’m a human doctor and I have 2 cats. It seems to me that your cat is overweight because you are feeding him too much! The recommendation is 1/4 cup (2 ounces in a measuring cup) twice a day. I have relatively small hands and a “handful” to me is closer to 1/2 cup. Plus, he’s getting two 3-ounce cans of wet food a day- (it’s 70% water so fewer calories relative to dry food). IF, ‘Simba’ is eating your food as well, it’s easy to understand his impending obesity. When my cat became overweight, I cut his dry food in half, slightly increased his wet food, and increased his access to water. Meow!
Ok thanks for the info what’s best to feed our cats. Here’s a question for you, what type of wet food is best to feed my cat? There’s the pate or the bits, shredder & filets. Which one is best? My cat who about to turn 1 years on on Aug. 1st is a large cat by standards. I was told he was 1 1/2 yes old when he was 7 months old. Now he’s becoming over weight. I want him to be satisfied after eating. But he seems to be always hungry. I feed him 1 small can of food with a handful of dry food twice a day, once in the morning and once a night. Everytime I try to eat in the same room he’s always right up in my food trting to taste it. I just want to know what I should do. It’s becoming costly. I love my baby, and his enormous paws, he’s a polydactyl, and his great personality. He’s starting to eat me out of house and home. He eats about the same as my 14yr old son.
Why do you even feed him dry food? It’s high in carbs and can contribute to several unfortunate health and dental conditions. I feed my cat primarily raw (Rad Cat) and Stella and Chewy’s raw freeze-dried food. He is 14 and doing very well. Doesn’t sound like 1 small can of wet food twice a day is a lot, so perhaps the dry is making him overweight. Try raw if you can buy it where you live.
Sounds like a Maine Coon kitten! Ours (Henry) ate us “out of house and home” until he was about 18 months old, then slowed down… He’s now almost 4 years old, 17 1/2 pounds – small for a Maine Coon – and for him, it’s the perfect weight. He eats mostly canned, with a little bit of the more expensive kibble mixed in. (It’s a treat of sorts.) His adopted brother (Bruce) – not a Maine Coon – eats the same combination. When they were younger, they got canned food and were allowed to graze kibble, but the grazing led to weight issues, so the only kibble they get is added to the canned food. It’s really Bruce’s incentive to eat the wet food. He’d rather only kibble!
Pate is the best, those others have gluten and other starches to hold the shreds together and make gravy. If you’re by a Petsmart, try Great Choice Liver and Chicken pate, or Beef and Liver pate, only 43 cents a can and it is low carb/starch, there are no carbs listed. Also Friskies pate is pretty good and not expensive.