Do Cats Need Both Wet And Dry Food? Here’s The Truth

  • Time to read: 14 min.

Cats can be both fabulous and fussy when it comes to the food they eat. As a cat owner, you naturally want to feed your cat food that is both nutritious and enjoyable. If you’re wondering whether cats need both wet and dry food, the truth depends on your cat.

Cats do not need both wet and dry food. However, you may find that your cat prefers wet food over dry food, dry food over wet food, or even dry food mixed with wet food. It is best to test which food your cat prefers through a process of elimination.

Both wet food and dry food are highly nutritious meals suitable for cats. Each option contains various benefits. Exploring the benefits of wet and dry food is beneficial in understanding which meal option is best for your cat.

Factors to consider when determining the best food for your cat

Here are two key factors to keep in mind when determining the best food for your cat.

Your cat’s general health and any health conditions your cat may be experiencing

If your cat is generally healthy, any generic cat food brand will likely be suitable based on your cat’s preference. You may find your cat is comfortable eating only a specific brand of food. Additionally, you may find that they prefer wet food over dry food or vice-versa.

You can tell what food your cat prefers through a process of elimination. Offer your cat various brands of foods and see which food brand they eat excitedly and which brand they nibble on in an uninterested manner. Conduct a similar experiment to determine whether they prefer wet cat food, dry cat food, or both.

Affordability

Unfortunately, cat food, cat treats, and cat vitamins can be rather pricy. While they say you can’t put a price on good health, it is understandable that you may want to be mindful of your budget when purchasing cat food.

Generally, dry food is a bit more affordable than wet food. However, wet food comes in small sachets that are often sold separately, enabling you to use wet food as an occasional treat while you feed your cat dry food on most days.

Complete cat foods vs. complementary cat foods

Complete foods are beneficial as they provide your cat with all the relevant nutrients required to survive. Complete foods are designed specifically to form the main part of your cat’s diet when incorporated with fresh water daily.  

On the other hand, complementary foods are generally foods that are not nutritionally complete, meaning they do not contain sufficient nutrients to be regarded as food suitable to be used as the main part of your cat’s diet. Complementary foods are generally foods like cat treats and should not form more than 10% of your cat’s diet. 

Both wet and dry store-bought cat food is generally regarded as complete foods that both are suitable to form the main part of your cat’s diet. 

Benefits of wet food for cats

Here are the main benefits of feeding your cat wet food.

High moisture content

Wet food sold in cans and sachets often contains a higher moisture content in comparison to dry cat food. Wet food is particularly beneficial in ensuring that your cat stays hydrated, especially if your cat has existing health issues.

The higher moisture content offered by wet food is particularly beneficial for cats with urinary and kidney issues. Wet food offers more water, which helps flush urinary crystals, reducing the risk of crystal formation while also combating dehydration associated with kidney issues.

Various textures available 

Wet food is sold in several textures, such as loaf, mousse, chunks in jelly, or gravy.

Longer shelf life

Due to wet cat food being prepared at high temperatures for sterilization purposes, it offers a longer shelf life which is ideal for ensuring you have cat food stocked up.

Offers pre-measured portions

Often, wet food comes in pre-measured sachets and cans, making it easy to know how much food to give your cat per meal, ensuring your cat gets enough food each day. 

Promotes urinary health

Research suggests that wet food promotes more diluted urine that could cause a lower concentration of inflammatory components in your cat’s bladder. 

Therefore, wet foods can contribute to good urinary health for your cat because it promotes diluted urine which is useful in preventing urinary tract issues

Assists with weight management

Wet food contains fewer calories than dry food, thanks to the water content in the food. However, wet food is bulkier than dry food, which can help be beneficial if your cat is on a weight loss plan or you are aiming to prevent weight gain.

Assists with constipation

If your cat is dehydrated, they may experience constipation. In these instances, feeding your cat wet food can be beneficial in providing your cat with liquid due to its high water content. 

Disadvantages of feeding your cat wet food 

Here are some disadvantages of giving your cat wet food.

Perishable

While wet food may have a longer shelf life, upon opening, it becomes perishable and must be used within 3 days of opening

Additionally, wet cannot be left out for prolonged time periods without going off, meaning that if your cat only nibbles on it, you’ll have to throw it away after a few hours.

Releases unpleasant odors

Open cans and sachets of cat food need to be stored in the refrigerator. If not properly stored, wet cat food can create unpleasant smells in your refrigerator.

Additionally, the smell of wet food can drift through the house if left out for too long, which can create unpleasant smells in your home.

More expensive

Wet can food is usually more expensive than dry cat food if considered on a per calorie basis. Due to the fact that wet food often costs more for less volume, purchasing dry food is a more cost-effective option.

Cleaning 

Wet food sticks to cat bowls, resulting in you having to clean your cat’s food bowl more often than you would have to with dry food. 

Attracts flies

While your cat may be drawn to the delicious smell that emanates from cat food, unfortunately, so are flies and other insects. You may find that wet food attracts insects into your home, which can pose quite a nuisance. In this regard, dry food is more convenient as it does not attract insects.

Benefits of dry food for cats

Here are a few benefits of incorporating dry food into your cat’s diet. 

Higher energy density in comparison to wet foods

Dry food offers nutrients and energy in a concentrated, small volume, promoting maximum nutrition absorption.

Promotes dental health

Some dry cat foods can assist in slowing down plaque accumulation or reducing tartar formation because of the mechanical scraping of the tooth.

Importantly, not all dry diets offer adequate kibble texture to effectively address plaque on your cat’s teeth. Usually, the cat food packaging will indicate to which extent the food assists in addressing plaque. 

However, dry food is not a guarantee in ensuring your cat has good dental health. The best way to ensure your cat has good dental health is through tooth brushing.

Supports cats’ natural grazing instincts

Cats’ natural instinct is to graze. By leaving dry food out for your cat, you are enabling them to instinctively graze upon their food. 

Unfortunately, due to the fact that wet food spoils easily, it is not possible to adequately enable grazing with wet food, making dry food more suitable if you are seeking to support your cats’ natural grazing.

Convenience 

Dry cat food is beneficial to you as a cat owner because it allows for free-feeding and enables you to leave food out for your cat for extended time periods. 

Additionally, dry food is convenient to use with food dispenser toys, providing mental stimulation and environmental enrichment while your cat eats.

More affordable

Dry cat food is often cheaper than wet cat food and is sold in larger quantities for cheaper. From a budget perspective, dry food offers more food for less money. In this regard, dry cat food is preferred from a financial standpoint. 

Disadvantages of feeding your cat dry food

Here are some disadvantages of giving your cat dry food.

Dry food correlation to obesity

Research has indicated that because dry food is often free-fed, cats tend to overeat, which can lead to obesity. However, if you monitor how much your cat eats each day and measure the quantity of dry food they receive, this should not be a concern.

Dry food can be harsh on your cat’s teeth

Dry food is not suitable for a kitten’s teeth. Additionally, dry food may also be challenging to consume for older cats, cats who have dental disease, or cats who have had some of their teeth removed.

Dry food has less texture than wet food

While wet cat food comes in a range of textures, dry cat food is generally either extruded or baked, leaving little variety in comparison to wet food.

Feeding your cat both wet food and dry food 

If you are having a hard time deciding between wet food and dry food, it is perfectly fine to feed your cat a combination of both

Feeding your cat both wet and dry food can be particularly useful if your cat enjoys eating dry food but requires a higher water intake. 

You can incorporate both wet and dry food into your cat’s diet by either mixing the foods together or feeding them dry food at one meal time and wet food at another. 

How to tell if your cat is not enjoying the food you are feeding them

Here are two behavioral indications that your cat is not enjoying their food.

Your cat only nibbles on the food

Sometimes cats nibble on their food if they do not enjoy it but don’t want to go hungry. You may even find that they are not eating their food entirely.

If you find your cat is disinterested in their food, try switching brands to see if the food is the issue. It is crucial to note that your cat may stop eating if they feel ill. If you notice your cat not eating in general, consult a vet urgently. 

Your cat throws up the food

Throwing up may be an indication that the food you are feeding them does not agree with them. However, vomiting may also indicate that your cat needs medical treatment. It is best to consult a vet on this matter.

Two important considerations when purchasing cat food

Some cat foods may be affordable but not do not necessarily meet your cat’s dietary needs. Here are two important things to check when purchasing cat food.

Ingredients

It is advisable that you check the label on the back of the cat food to ensure that the first ingredient listed contains meat and meat by-products. It is important that the cat food you purchase has meat as the main ingredient because cats are carnivores. 

As a carnivore, your cat requires a high-protein diet that provides them with sufficient essential fatty acids and amino acids. For this reason, a vegetarian diet would not be suitable for cats because it does not provide them with the appropriate amount of essential fatty acids and amino acids.

Association of American Feed Control Officials Approval

The Association of American Feed Control Officials has established basic minimum nutritional requirements for cats. When purchasing cat food, look out for brands that carry an “AAFCO statement” or state that they provide an “AAFCO-approved nutritional guarantee.”

It is advisable that you purchase cat foods that meet AAFCO’s requirements because these foods are considered to be nutritionally complete and offer well-balanced diets for your cat.

Foods to never feed cats 

Here are seven things never to feed your cat as they can pose severe health risks if consumed by cats.

Dairy products

While movies have led us to believe that cats love milk, most cats are actually naturally lactose intolerant. Consequently, any dairy products can upset your cat’s stomach, which can result in vomiting and diarrhea

If you would like to give your cat a milk-like substance, the best option would be kitten milk which is specially formulated to provide essential nutrients for growing kittens, making it safe and gentle for cat consumption.

Chocolate

Chocolate is generally a yummy treat for humans. However, this delicious cacao-based treat, unfortunately, contains theobromine and caffeine, two ingredients that are toxic to cats.

While we may consider dark chocolate to be more healthy, both milk chocolate and dark chocolate are not suitable for cat consumption. 

If your cat consumes chocolate, it may result in them experiencing an increased body temperature, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, and even seizures. In extreme cases of exposure to caffeine and theobromine, cats can also experience weakness, heart failure and may even enter into a coma.

Due to the danger that chocolate consumption poses to cats, it is advisable that chocolate is stored out of reach to avoid any negative consequences arising from your cat potentially consuming chocolate.

Dog food 

If you have a dog at home, it’s highly likely that your cat may have taken a nibble at some dog food. While an occasional sample of dog food will not be detrimental to your cat, dog food does not adequately provide the nutrients required for cats.

Cats require taurine, vitamin A and arachidonic acids. Unfortunately, dog foods do not provide these required nutrients, making them unsuitable for cat consumption. Feeding your cat dog food instead of cat food can result in malnutrition.

Additionally, feeding your cat dog food alone can cause a deficiency in taurine, vitamin A, and arachidonic acids. If your cat is deficient in taurine, they may experience heart disease, vision degradation, lethargy, and potentially develop an unhealthy coat/unhealthy skin.

If your cat is deficient in arachidonic acid, it can result in potential kidney and liver problems arising. Furthermore, if your cat does not receive the sufficient amount of vitamin A that they require, it may lead to a dull coat, night blindness, skin issues, and even muscular degeneration.

Raw meat, fish, and eggs

While cats are natural predators who love hunting, it is not safe to feed you cats raw meat, fish, and eggs as these foods may contain dangerous E.coli or salmonella bacteria. E. coli and salmonella bacteria can result in your cat experiencing lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting and can even prove to be fatal.

Additionally, raw egg whites contain avidin, a protein that can prevent your cat from properly consuming biotin, which can potentially result in your cat experiencing skin conditions and a dull coat.  

Bread and yeast

Due to the absence of protein and fat in bread, cats derive no nutritional value from bread. It is worth noting that cats can safely consume bread occasionally. However, bread should not be used as an alternative to their normal cat food diet. 

While bread is safe for cat consumption, yeast and raw bread dough are not suitable for cat consumption. The dough from the yeast and raw bread dough can rise in your cat’s stomach, which can cause severe digestive issues.

Tuna

Cats love their fishy treats, and tuna might be a favorite for your cat. While tuna can serve as an occasional treat, it is advisable that you do not provide your cat with tuna regularly as too much tuna can cause mercury poisoning

Apart from potentially leading to mercury poisoning, tuna also lacks several nutrients that are necessary for your cat to stay healthy. However, if you do give your cat tuna, it is important to note that you should not give your cat raw tuna due to the danger of raw fish, as discussed above. 

Garlic and onions

Garlic, onions, chives, and leeks are all members of the allium family. Unfortunately, these vegetables can cause anemia in cats. 

These vegetables can cause damage to your cat’s red blood cells, irrespective of whether they are cooked, raw, powdered, or dehydrated. Additionally, if your cat consumes these vegetables, they may experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea

Cats are curious creatures who may be lured in by the delicious scent emanating from garlic and onions. In order to protect your cat, it is advised that you keep toxic foods out of reach and ensure that you cook with caution when your cat is around.

Human foods that cats can eat besides wet and dry cat food

While cat food is the most nutritious meal to provide your cat, there are certain human foods that can be suitable substitutes to feed your cat occasionally. Here are a few human foods cats can consume, provided they do not have special dietary needs or allergies.

Cooked eggs

While raw eggs are extremely dangerous for cats, cooked eggs are a good source of protein for cats that can be enjoyed occasionally.

Cooked fish

Unfortunately, cooked fish does not provide cats with the requisite nutrients they require in their diets. Nonetheless, cooked fish is still an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, which promote optimal function of your cat’s heart, kidneys, joints, and vision.

Cooked, un-spiced, lean meat

Spicy, fatty, processed meats can be detrimental to your cat’s health. However, you can treat your cat to lean, un-spiced, cooked meats as a good source of protein occasionally.

Foods suitable for kittens 

In the early stages of their lives, kittens require specific food to meet their young bodies’ needs. The food kittens eat can be separated according to life stages and can also be dependent on whether the kittens are nursing off their mother or not. 

Growing kittens will require nutritionally cat food specifically designed for kittens as these food products are specifically designed for kittens, focusing on the fact that growing kittens need more protein and calories to develop into healthy cats. 

Store-bought cat food brands provide guidelines regarding the amount of food a kitten will require based on their age or weight.  

Kittens under 10 weeks old are still forming teeth. Due to the absence of strong teeth, it is best to feed kittens wet food in the first months of their life. Once their teeth have developed, dry food can be introduced into their diet at approximately six weeks old.

Furthermore, if a kitten has been separated from its mother and is unable to breastfeed, it will require kitten milk which can be purchased at a local pet store. Kitten milk is specifically designed for young kittens and is a crucial part of their survival if they are unable to breastfeed. In such an instance, neither wet nor dry food will suffice in providing them the nutrients they need to survive, only kitten milk.

Adapting your cat’s diet based on specific dietary needs

It is possible to adapt your cat’s diet if you are aware of any specific dietary needs that need to be addressed. Cat food brands often advertise if their product is high in a certain nutrient, allowing you to easily spot the food that your cat needs. 

It is possible to enhance your cat’s diet with fatty acids to aid with skin and coat condition. Additionally, including psyllium in your cat’s diet can assist in preventing hairball formation.

Various pet brands offer multivitamins designed specifically for cats and kittens. Feeding your cat these multivitamins is a safe way to ensure that your cat consumes all the nutrients it requires to be a healthy, happy cat. 

Conclusion

Dry cat food and wet cat food are both nutritious meal options for your cat. If your budget is limited, dry cat food is the best option as it costs less than wet food and comes in larger quantities. If hydration is an issue for your cat, wet food is advisable due to its high water content. Cats do not need both wet and dry food. However, incorporating both wet and dry food can provide diversity into your cat’s diet, ensuring they get maximum benefits from both options.

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