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Cat eating out of bowl

Cat food comes in a variety of flavors and textures that can make shopping for your pet an overwhelming process.  When it comes to your cat, you want to feed them delicious food that meets all of their nutritional needs. Veterinarians’ most asked questions about cats revolve around wet and dry food. Which option is best for your cat? It’s not all cut and dry (or wet). Here’s a quick guide to the benefits of wet and dry cat food to help you pick the best food for your pet.

What’s the Difference?

When it comes to wet and dry cat food, their biggest difference lies in the moisture content. Dry cat food contains less than 14% moisture while wet cat food contains greater than 60%. This can be a major determining factor if your cat needs extra water in their diet. Other differences include shelf stability, flavor and carbohydrate content. It’s always best to ask your vet for a recommendation based on your cat’s individual needs, but here is a quick breakdown of the advantages and drawbacks to each type of cat food.

Wet Cat Food

Wet cat food is made with fresh or frozen meat, protein, water and essential vitamins and nutrients. It is cooked at very high temperatures to be preserved in small cans for convenient feeding. Wet cat food can be left on the shelf for very long periods of time, but once opened, it must be eaten within a couple of hours or refrigerated for up to 24 hours. The greatest benefit of wet cat food is its water content. Made up of more than 60% water, wet cat food is great for pets who have specific medical issues like kidney disease, diabetes or lower urinary tract disease. It also tastes better and picky eaters are more likely to go for wet food. Wet food is also a great choice for cats who have issues with urinary health, weight management and constipation.

Cats are obligate carnivores mandating that cats use protein for energy even when carbohydrates are present in the diet. This is the primary reason most nutritionists and vets agree that canned diets are more in line with what cat’s naturally need.

Wet cat food is also the most expensive option and is less convenient than dry food. If you choose wet cat food, you will need to monitor feeding time so your cat doesn’t get sick from food that is left out for too long.

Dry Cat Food

Dry cat food contains less than 14% water and is convenient, easy to serve and much cheaper than wet food. It’s the best choice for free-feeding your cats and can be used in automatic feeders and puzzle feeder toys without worrying about it going bad. Dry food comes in a variety of flavors and for specific diets depending on your cat’s needs and some dry food even contain probiotics. It contains more carbohydrates, which can be a great addition to a cat’s diet if they need to gain weight, but should be limited for cats who are overweight.

Some studies have shown that dry food may increase the chances of cats suffering from obesity and if you free-feed, it’s especially hard to tell how much your cat is eating each day. Older cats with dental disease or those with missing teeth may also find it difficult to chew dry food.

What the Experts Recommend

It’s always best to ask your vet to recommend a cat food based on your pet’s specific health needs. Look for cat food that are stamped with the AAFCO-approved nutritional guarantee to make sure it contains everything your cat needs.

Unless your vet recommends it, do not feed your cat homemade food. Feeding them this type of diet risks missing key nutrients that your cat needs. Without taurine, for example, your cat can get very sick within a few months.

At your next visit, ask your veterinarian what they recommend. They will be able to assess your cat’s nutritional needs based on their diet history and health condition score and can recommend the best food tailored specifically to your feline friend.