Wet Food or Dry: Which Is Better for Your Cat?

By Gabrielle Jonas | Category: Care & Safety | 36 comments
Tags: lifestyle & trends, cats, food & nutrition, health & wellness, care & safety

Which is better for the family pet: dry food, wet food, or a mixture of the two? Pet owners have long struggled with the question, weighing the relative merits of water content, nutrition, dental health, and cost.

Many pet owners fear that pets never fully compensate for the low water content in dry food, leading to urinary tract disease, especially in male cats.

Not true, Tony Buffington, D.V.M., Ph.D., Professor of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center, told ZooToo News. Buffington, whose research in urinary stone formation led to the reformulation of cat food, said cats do indeed compensate for dry food from their water bowls.

But it's a myth, says Buffington, that cats' desert origins allow them to survive on very little water. The Near East was not made up of desert 12,000 years ago, but the Fertile Crescent was, when cats were domesticated there. Feline water requirements are closer to those of a dog than a camel, so keeping fresh water available to them is crucial, especially with dry food.

Dry and wet food do possess essentially the same nutrients. In fact, the research behind both wet and dry food gives pets a nutritional benefit that even humans don't possess, said Buffington.

"I am less concerned about the quality of pet food in the United States than about the quality of human foods," says Buffington. "Whereas humans eat a variety of diets that are formulated by people with no training in our species' nutrition, pets eat complete diets that are formulated by nutritional experts in their particular species."

"Pet food labeling rules are much more strict than are those for human foods," says the Pet Food Institute (PFI), a national trade association which represents the pet food industry.

Still, the National Academy of Sciences cautions that there is much to be known about companion animal nutrition. "Several gaps still exist in our knowledge of requirements for specific nutrients," the academy said in a 2006 report, Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats.

Many pet owners are convinced that dry food helps clean their pets' teeth. But that's more true for dogs than for cats. Colin E. Harvey, B.V.Sc., FRCVS, Professor of Surgery and Dentistry at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, talked to ZooToo about his research published in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry on the effect of dry food on pets' dental health.

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Comments (32)

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daryl b.

daryl b.
5 years ago

i guess at this point what ever works best for your pet and their health

Good Point | Reply ›


5 years ago

My male cats have definite digestive issues when I feed them dry food - high quality Evo.
They do better on the canned Evo. But they much prefer the dry. So I give them dry
as treats now and then and for emergencies.

One had urinary problems, crystals forming internally. That stopped when I switched to wet food.

My dog likes wet food in the morning and dry food at night. He is doing well on this combination as long as I keep the portions smaller than he wishes! His weight, coat, energy and disposition are great. He's eleven and doing fine on Nature's Balance duck and potato. The key for his food is to be sure he doesn't get anything made of corn (as well, of course, as no toxins like chocolate, avocado, etc.)

Fresh water is always available.

Tip: I find that life got emotionally smoother when I made an out of dog reach and sight shelf the permanent location for feeding the cats. Dog doesn't eat cat food. Cats can
eat and drink in peace.

Good Point | Reply ›

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