When choosing what to feed your cat, the first decision you’ll need to make is whether you should feed them wet food or dry food. There are pros and cons to both, but ultimately what matters most is the one that fits your cat’s appetite and your lifestyle the best.
Most cats tend to eat whatever kind of food they were introduced to first, whether it’s wet or dry. Many people choose to feed their cats both wet and dry at various times of the day. We’ve assembled this list of reasons each type of food might be best for you and your cat.
Dry Cat Food
Dry cat food is available everywhere, from boutique pet stores to gas stations. The quality of food can vary wildly between inexpensive brands and high-cost ones. It’s important to read the label and understand what ingredients are best for your cat.
Dry food is easy to serve. Simply dish out the amount that’s suggested for your cat’s age and weight, and you’re done. More finicky cats may prefer to be fed two or three distinct meals, so you may need to spread that amount throughout the day. If you put out too much food at one time, it can go stale. Some cats will turn their nose up at stale food, so consider the potential for waste when serving dry food.
In some households, free-feeding works best. This is when a never-ending supply of dry food is replenished when emptied. If your cat is able to moderate their intake properly and not overeat, this is a great option. Some cats will naturally eat everything that’s been put in front of them, so free-feeding isn’t for everyone. Overeating can cause vomiting in the short term and obesity over time.
Some cats retain the natural instinct to take their meal away from their kill. If you’ve ever seen your cat grab a mouthful of food and retreat before eating it, that’s exactly what they’re doing. It seems silly to go through that hassle when their prey is a lovingly portioned pile of kibble, but instincts run strong. If your cat does this with dry food, you may find a few crumbs lying around, but it shouldn’t make too much of a mess.
In nature, cats get most of their water from the food they eat. Dry food contains little moisture, so your cat will need to drink more water if they exclusively eat kibble. Some cats will naturally drink more water, but others simply don’t like drinking water. It’s important to make sure your cat drinks enough, because dehydration can cause serious, life-threatening conditions.
Wet Cat Food
Wet cat food can be found easily at supermarkets and pet stores. A convenience store or pharmacy may only have one or two cans of food, if any. If you choose to feed your cat wet food, it can be more difficult to find some in a pinch. Both small and large cans of cat food are common, so you can choose the size most appropriate to your cat’s appetite.
Wet food can come in a caked form, referred to as pâté, or in minced, chunked, or shredded varieties. Common flavors include beef, chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, and other fish. Certain types of cat food have additional gravy, added vegetables, or other ingredients that help them stand out on the shelf.
No amount of research can ever predict which one your cat will like better, so try a few different flavors of each texture until your cat lets you know that you’ve picked the right one. Your cat may only like one flavor and texture. Different flavors of the same brand of cat food typically have the same nutritional components, so this is fine. There are plenty of cats who’ve lived long, healthful lives only ever eating turkey or salmon cat food.
The high water content of wet food means that your cat won’t need as much supplemental water to stay hydrated. Your cat should still have a freshwater bowl available to them at all times, of course. Wet food is typically recommended to promote healthy kidneys and avoid urinary crystals caused by chronic dehydration. This potentially life-threatening issue mostly occurs in male cats but can happen to females as well. If your cat typically enjoys drinking water, this may not be something you should be concerned with.
Feeding your cat wet food is a simple, albeit stinky, affair. The aromas and textures that make wet food appeal to cats are typically not desirable to human palates. Some flavors are more pungent than others, but all of them smell like cat food. If your cat likes to spread their food around, you may find yourself needing to clean their feeding area more frequently.
Unlike with dry food, if a cat leaves wet food in their dish for too long, it can become crusty and inedible. For cats who are more prone to grazing on food throughout the day, this can be wasteful. If your cat prefers smaller portions of food more frequently, plastic lids that fit cat food cans are a wise investment to avoid waste. They’re found in almost any grocery or dollar store.
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Whether you choose wet or dry food, the most important part is that your cat is fed. High-quality food is available in both cans and kibble, so be sure to read labels and follow your veterinarian’s recommendations.
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