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Is wet food or dry food better for cats?

Grey cat eating from a food bowl

Wet food or dry food for your cat?

© Shutterstock

It's an age-old argument within the cat-loving community, so let's try and settle the wet or dry cat food debate once and for all!

By Dr Holly Graham BVMedSci BVMBVS MRCVS

Updated on the 24/02/2021, 11:05

Wet or dry? Which is best? All cats and their owners have an opinion, so it’s time to discuss the pros and cons of both. We’ll look at the nutritional benefits of wet and dry, and help you make the best choice for your pet.

Is wet cat food better for a cat than dry cat food?

Wet cat food comes in tins and pouches, and contains high levels of moisture. Around 70% of the contents of wet cat food is water! This is great for keeping your kitty hydrated, but can’t be left out for your pet to graze on all day. Lots of cats prefer the texture, and it’s softer on sore mouths or for pickier cats. Most brands and varieties offer a complete diet, with all the nutrition a cat needs.

Dry cat, or kibble, is popular among many cat owners. Less moisture content means it lasts longer, and owners can put out a day's worth of food in the morning, letting the cat graze away at their pleasure. Crunchy kibble is also associated with better dental health. The abrasive material is less likely to cause plaque build up as the tougher texture requires more chewing and biting.

Is dry food unhealthy for cats?

Both foods have their benefits. Dry food contains less moisture than wet food, and cats are notoriously bad at keeping themselves hydrated. Wet food provides more water, and cats fed wet food are rarely found at the water bowl. Dry food won’t cause any problems provided there’s a plentiful supply of fresh water around.

You can fill up a water bowl or invest in water fountains. Cats prefer running water, so fountains are a great way to make sure your pet is getting the right amount of water. You should also make sure that all dry food is portion controlled. Many owners prefer to fill up their cat’s bowl, leaving food out for the entire day. This can save lots of time and often suits your cat, but means overfeeding is common - particularly if there’s more than one person topping up the bowl! Obesity isn’t to be encouraged, so keep your cat trim and weigh out their food.

Is wet cat food bad for cats?

Wet cat food is a favourite of lots of cats. The smell and flavour appeals, and there’s often a wider choice in fancy flavours. High quality complete diets are fine to feed to your pet, and great for keeping them hydrated. Some wet food brands are higher fat and calories, so check the feeding guidelines to make sure you don’t end up with a chunky feline! Wet food is associated with poorer dental hygiene, particularly if fed alone. Brushing your cat’s teeth or using a dental gel might help negate the effects if they aren’t a fan of biscuits. Remember, this food shouldn’t be left out all day to grow bacteria that could make your pet sick.

But maybe the worst thing about wet food is the poop. Lots of owners report stinkier and bigger faeces from their cats on wet food!

I feed my cat both wet food and dry food. Is this good?

There's nothing wrong with feeding a combination of wet and dry food, as long as diets are nutritionally balanced and the feeding guidelines are followed. It’s easy to overfeed a cat if you’re using both. A mixture of wet or dry food can provide the variety that many cats crave. Most cats aren’t gorge feeders like dogs, so a small amount of biscuits to graze on and wet food as ‘meals’ suits many pets and owners.

Cat owners know that our feline friends can be fussy eaters, so a mix of wet and dry with different flavours can help to keep your pet interested in their mealtimes.

Should kittens eat wet food or dry food?

The most important part of kitten food is its nutritional content. Kittens need a different balance of nutrients during each stage of their development, so you should always buy food formulated for their age group.

Some small kittens may struggle to break up the crunchy kibble, but smaller kitten biscuits are readily available. Most kittens who are weaned manage biscuits just fine, but if your kitten is struggling with the biscuits wet food can be used until their adult teeth start to grow in.

Find out more about the kitten's nutrition

What is the best cat food?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer to what is best for your cat, and you! The most important thing is to choose a diet your cat enjoys, eats well - and make sure it’s a good quality and complete diet. Be aware of the requirements for both diets, make sure your pet has water and regular dental checks and make sure there aren’t any gastrointestinal upsets with whatever you’re feeding.

Cats are independent little creatures with individual taste. But whatever they do end up eating, wet or dry, there's really no substitute for high-quality brands packed perfect nutrition.