by Soojin Um
You just got a new kitten, or maybe you’re rethinking your cat’s nutritional needs, and the old debate still remains: wet food or dry food. However, could there be a compromise, wet food and dry food coming together – a veritable thaw in the cat food cold war? Let’s take a look.
Cats have very specific and strict nutritional needs. This is because cats are true (or “obligate”) carnivores. These types of carnivores require protein and nutrients found only in muscle tissue and organs. Thus, cats need to get almost of all of their essential nutrients from high protein sources. Cats cannot digest large amounts of plant-based matter, such as carbohydrates and starches, because they don’t have the digestive enzymes necessary to process them. In the wild, for instance, what little plant matter that is consumed usually comes from the stomach contents of the prey that they’ve consumed.
So, what does that biology lesson have to do with wet and dry food? The debate between wet and dry has to do with which type (or both in conjunction) is best for obligate carnivores. Opinions vary even among veterinarians and experts, but they do acknowledge that there are many pros and cons to both types of food.
Cats are essentially desert animals. Because of this, they have evolved to have a low thirst drive. Instead, cats get most of their water requirements through their food. By their nature, canned wet food has high moisture content, about 78% on average. Compare that to the water content of prey, which is about 70%. Thus, wet food simulates the water consumption of felines in the wild, and cats get their water intake in their natural method. This is especially advantageous if your cat has health issues, such as urinary tract problems and kidney disease, which require ample hydration.
Of course, the disadvantages of wet food are the higher cost and a lower shelf life. And just like human food, if uneaten wet food is left out for several hours, it can spoil. Cat owners have to monitor the food bowl to make sure leftovers are discarded within a reasonable time.
Dry food, on the other hand, can be very convenient for busy cat owners. They also tend to cost less than equal quality wet food. Because the food is almost devoid of water, nutrients are packed tightly together. The same weight of dry food will have more calories than the wet food, which makes dry food more economical.
However, dry food only contains about 10% water. Diets that consist primarily of dry food can lead to dehydration and urinary problems. So if you feed your cat dry food, even if it’s just as a supplement to wet food, you need to make sure your cat has ample access to fresh, clean water.
If considering total nutritional benefits, and your cat’s natural feeding instincts, wet food might provide your cat with a better overall dietary experience. However, it should be pointed out that more than just the type of food you choose, the most essential element is the quality of food you give to your feline family member. It goes without saying, the better the quality of food – wet or dry – the healthier your cat will be.
Please let us know your thoughts on this topic and/or give us feedback here or on Facebook.