February 4, 2023 |0 min read
Wet vs Dry Cat Food: Which is Better?
In any feline lover’s life, one question comes up more than any others. And no, it’s not “Should I get another cat?” (the answer, by the way, is always yes).
Instead, it’s “Dry vs wet cat food—which one is best for my best friend?”
While the first question has an obvious answer, this second one is not so simple. Wet and dry food can give your cat the energy they need, but neither option is perfect. As is always the case with nutrition, the true answer is, “it depends”—on several factors.
If you’ve had a cat for a while, you’re probably groaning at the thought of adding another consideration to the list of do’s and don’ts of feeding your cat. But the wet vs dry cat food conversation is one worth having—let’s dig in.
Wet Cat Food: Pros and Cons
Served in cans, pouches, or squeezy tubes, wet food can be considered the “original” cat food. Of course, wild cats didn’t eat canned food or kibble, but wet food more closely resembles the food a pre-domestication kitty would have eaten.
Even once we started keeping cats as pets, wet food was the go-to for most pet owners until the 1950s or so, when the convenience of kibble took over.1 Today, the tides are slowly turning back; after a long dry spell, 59% of cat owners now feed their cats wet food—either exclusively or in addition to dry food.2
So, are the 59% on the right path? Let’s start this debate by looking at the advantages and drawbacks of wet food.
The Benefits of Wet Cat Food
Vets and veteran cat lovers alike will often shout their love of wet food from the rooftops. And there’s a lot to like. Wet food comes with several benefits, including:
- More water content – The most significant benefit of wet food is that it’s, well, wet. Cats are notorious for avoiding their water bowls like the kitty plague, so giving your cat wet food guarantees they consume the water they need. Most wet pet food has at least 75% moisture content; most dry food has around 10%.3
- Extended shelf life – Like that tin of beans that’s been in your pantry since you moved in, canned wet cat food can stay fresh for months—even years! As long as it hasn’t passed the “best by” date, a sealed can of wet cat food will be as tasty and nutritious as the day it was packaged. However, once opened, canned food should be promptly refrigerated and used within a few days.
- Better taste – You don’t need to try a spoonful to see that wet food is a tasty treat—most cats go coo-coo for canned food. You may find that your cat simply prefers wet food to dry, especially if they’re a picky eater. Now, that’s not to say that delicious dry food doesn’t exist, but it can be more of a rarity.
The Downsides of Wet Cat Food
Of course, nothing in life is perfect—even that can of ocean whitefish and mackerel that sets your kitty a-drooling. When compared to dry food, canned cat food has some drawbacks, such as:
- A higher cost – According to a 2022 report from Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, wet food is more expensive than dry food.4 The study found that it costs $1.22 to $5.77 per day to feed the average ten-pound cat a wet food-only diet. Feeding that same cat an all-dry-food diet only costs $0.23 to $0.97 per day.
- An unpleasant odor – Unlike dry food, wet canned food is fragrant (to say the least). From spreading it on your cat’s lick mat to rinsing out the can, that fishy smell sure follows you around. And then there’s storing the half-finished tin in the fridge—no, thank you!
- A higher likelihood of making a mess – When your cat tips their bowl of dry food, you can scoop the pieces back into the dish and call it a day. When that wet canned food mat flips over, it’s time to bring out the mop. You’ll also have to wash your furry friend’s food dish more frequently to keep it clean.
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Dry Cat Food: Pros and Cons
Whether you call it kibble, crunchies, or chow, dry food is a staple in most feline diets—roughly 93% of cat owners include dry food in their kitty’s daily meals.2
But these hard, dry bits of calorie-dense goodness weren’t always in our cupboards. It wasn’t until World War II—when both meat and aluminum were rationed—that mass-produced dry kibble became the dinner of choice for most cats.5 The trend stayed with us long after the war, and dry kibble still has a hold on the market (though now it’s made with the cat in mind, not the human).
So, if everyone has a bag of dry cat food under their sink, it must be the best option, right? To reach the heart of this question, let’s dissect the pros and cons of kibble.
The Benefits of Dry Cat Food
Judging by how fast your adult cat runs when you shake a bowl full of dry food, you’d believe it’s the best thing on Earth. And in a lot of ways, it is. Here’s where dry food excels:
- Affordability – With all this talk of economic uncertainty, even kitty is chipping in. That’s right—per calorie, dry food costs far less than wet food, even at the higher end. A large bag of dry cat food can easily last you a month or more and still ensure your cat receives the nutrients it needs.
- Convenience – Because dry food doesn’t spoil when left out, you can enjoy more flexibility in your feeding schedule. If you leave the house for work, you can keep the cat’s food out all day and allow them to pick at it. You can also put dry food in an automatic feeder for longer absences.
- Versatility– Dry cat food can also double as treats. You can use individual pieces for training, put the food in a puzzle toy for feline stimulation, or leave it around the house to encourage exploration and exercise.
The Downsides of Dry Cat Food
Dry cat food may be ideal for many situations, but it does have some drawbacks, including:
- Hardness – While wet food is a true crowd-pleaser, dry food may not be suitable for every cat. Felines with dental disease, missing teeth, or aging chompers may struggle to chew the hard, crunchy bits. Mixing your cat’s food with water can help soften the kibble (and ensure your kitty drinks more water, too).
- A link to obesity – Because dry food opens up the possibility of free-feeding, it has been linked to obesity in some cats.6 Some felines know when to stop eating, but others will chow down like it’s their last meal. However, as long as you pay attention to your cat’s weight and eating habits, you can avoid this issue altogether.
When to Choose Wet Food vs Dry Food?
As it turns out, wet and dry food can both benefit you and your cat. Choosing between dry and wet cat food may be as simple as assessing your situation.
Overall, it may be worth feeding your cat wet food if:
- Your cat rarely drinks water
- Your cat has dental issues
- You can watch your cat eat
On the other hand, dry food may be ideal if:
- You want your cat to have access to food while you’re out of the house
- You have limited cupboard space
- You’re on a strict budget
Lastly, if your vet recommends either option, it’s wise to take their advice because they can recommend how much dry food to feed a cat and recommend the best dry cat food.
It’s also worth remembering that, when it comes to wet food vs dry food, cats have their own opinion on the matter. Some cats won’t touch anything that wasn’t swimming a week ago. Others will scarf down anything in sight. You know your cat’s eating habits best, and your primary goal as a pet parent is to set out whatever food your cat will actually eat. Your cat's age also factors in their diet. For a senior cat, your vet might recommend mixed feeding of wet and dry cat food.
In some cases, that might be wet and dry food. You can even mix wet and dry food to give your cat a best-of-both-worlds dining experience. It’s just one more way to show your kitty you love them.
The Bottom Line: Which Cat Food is Better?
How much wet and dry to feed a cat? Ultimately, if you come away from this conversation with one takeaway, let it be this: With cat food, wet vs dry isn’t the question. The real focus should be on high-quality vs low-quality foods. Because, at the end of the day, any food that gives your furry friend the vitamins, nutrients, and energy they need—without all the filler—is the better choice.
At PrettyLitter, we know that you want to give your cat the best of the best. That’s why we developed PrettyPlease—the delicious grain-free food that combines the benefits of wet and dry options.
With ample protein, healthy fats, and a 12% moisture content, PrettyPlease is formulated to meet your cat’s needs at every stage of life. Best of all, it comes right to your door each month at no extra cost, so you can skip the pet store and save even more. Try it today!
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- McGill University, Office for Science and Society. Wet Versus Dry Pet Food: Is One Better for Your Pet? https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/nutrition/wet-versus-dry-pet-food-one-better-your-pet
- Petfood Industry. Wet pet food continues ascent, especially for cats. https://www.petfoodindustry.com/blogs/7-adventures-in-pet-food/post/10859-wet-pet-food-continues-ascent-especially-for-cats
- Pet Food Institute. A to Z of Pet Food: 4 Things to Know about Dry Pet Food. https://www.petfoodinstitute.org/blog/z-pet-food-4-things-know-dry-pet-food/
- Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Comparing kitty’s calorie costs. https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2022/05/comparing-cat-food-costs/
- Animal Wellness Magazine. The unlikely history of commercial pet food. https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/commercial-pet-food/
- PetMD. Wet Cat Food vs. Dry Cat Food: Which Is Better? https://www.petmd.com/cat/nutrition/wet-cat-food-vs-dry-cat-food-which-better