Dry Vs Wet Food For Cats: Which is Better?
In our quest for providing our pet felines only the best, we always reach a conundrum where we have to choose between dry cat food and wet feline nutrition. Both feline food preparations have their respective merits and downsides. One type of feline pet nutrition puts more emphasis on the protein and moisture content, while the other is more concerned with the calories that your pet needs. Choosing between these two types of feline food preparation can be tricky since there are a host of factors to consider. At the end of the day, however, you will still have to choose the one that is best for your feline friend.
Cats and the Need for Protein
Proponents of carb-rich cat food say that the domestic cat has come a long way from being a strict carnivore to one that is capable of digesting plant food. While this may be true, one cannot ignore the fact that the digestive tract of these animals remains that of an obligate carnivore. The anatomy of their gastrointestinal tract favors proteins and fats instead of carbohydrates. This does not mean you can already exclude carbohydrates from their diet, however. It only means that cats will fare a lot better with a diet that contains more proteins than carbs.
We know that wild cats thrive on prey animals. These natural “foods” contain proteins and fats as well as minerals and vitamins. The only carbohydrates that may be present from these prey animals are from the vegetables, fruits, and grass that they may have consumed. These food ingredients are already in their digested form.
When it comes to the protein composition of wet and dry cat food, many pet parents make the mistake of not computing for the dry matter content of the feline food. Dry cat food is “dry” because manufacturers already remove the moisture from the kibbles during manufacturing. This can increase the shelf life of the kibble. On the other hand, wet feline diet is moist because of the natural moisture that is inherent in both the food itself and the processing of the feline food. As such, it is important to remove the “moisture” composition of the feline diet to obtain its dry matter content.
Let us say we have two different types of cat food with the following guaranteed analysis:
- Dry = 22% protein, 15% fat, and 10% moisture
- Wet = 12% protein, 6% fat, and 78% moisture
We have to compute for the dry matter content of each cat food by subtracting the moisture content in percent from 100%.
- Dry = 100% minus 10% = 90% dry matter
- Wet = 100% minus 78% = 22% dry matter
Next, we will divide the protein content in percent by the percent in dry matter of each cat food.
- Dry = 22% divided by 90% = 0.24
- Wet = 12% divided by 22% = 0.54
To convert the results into percent, we only need to multiply it by 100 to obtain the following.
- Dry = 0.24 x 100 = 24%
- Wet = 0.54 x 100 = 54%
Hence, the actual protein content of the dry cat food sample is only 24% compared to 54% on the wet kitty diet. This makes wet cat food a better option when it comes to the protein needs of cats.
If you try to also compute for the fat content of each cat food, you’ll get the following information.
- Dry = 16% fat
- Wet = 27% fat
Based on these computations, we know that each cat food will have the following percentage of carbohydrates.
- Dry = 24% protein + 16% fat = 40%; hence, this pet feline nutrition contains 60% carbohydrates
- Wet = 54% protein + 27% fat = 81%; hence, this pet kitty diet contains 19% carbohydrates
Overall, wet cat food provides greater proportions of protein and fats on a dry matter basis than dry cat food.
Cats and the Issue of Obesity
Pet health insurance data from Nationwide reveals that almost 60 percent of all cats in the US are either overweight or obese. Twenty-eight percent of all domestic felines are overweight. Thirty-one percent of cats in US households are also “clinically-obese”. And the figure is only getting worse. These statistics reflect a 9% increase from a decade ago.
Feline obesity is one of the major risk factors for the development of other health conditions like diabetes, urinary tract disease, arthritis, asthma, heart failure, and chronic kidney disease, among others. Together with obesity, these medical conditions can have a negative impact on the feline’s quality of life. Cat fanciers also say that obesity can reduce feline life expectancy by up to 2 years. Hence, if your kitty has an average lifespan of 12 years, then you may lose it at the age of 10.
There are many factors that can contribute to the development of obesity in cats. One of these is inadequate physical activity. In the wild, cats are able to run about, trying to catch prey. But as cats get domesticated, many of them become lap cats whose sole activity is to get up from bed to reach its food bowl.
Another possible reason why there is an increasing number of cats that are becoming obese is the type of food that we give to them. Referring to our calculations of the actual macronutrient composition of both dry and wet cat food, we know that kibbles contain higher proportions of carbohydrates.
The issue with this is the way the body of organisms utilize carbohydrates. This macromolecule is an important source of fuel for living organisms. It provides them with a ready source of energy. As such, vital functions and activities are made possible.
Unfortunately, problems arise when there are too many carbohydrates than what the body needs. The body will try to convert these molecules into storable forms, often as glycogen and fats. The body stores these compounds in the liver and skeletal muscles (in the case of glycogen) and in adipose tissues (for fats).
If there is a sudden need for energy, the body mobilizes these stored energy molecules. However, if the cat eats another meal that is rich in carbohydrates, then the body will again try to store the excess. Over time, these excesses accumulate and lead to an increase in body weight.
If you have a cat that leads a very sedentary feline lifestyle, it is best to give wet cat food since it contains fewer carbohydrates. It also contains more moisture, allowing your feline pet to feel fuller a lot faster and longer.
You may still give dry cat food. However, it is critical to watch the calorie content. Reducing the amount of feline pet kibbles may not be the solution, however. The issue here is that you may be depleting the nutrient requirements of your pet.
Cats and Dehydration and Urinary Tract Issues
Neutered tomcats are more susceptible to the development of urinary tract problems. These can include feline idiopathic cystitis, urinary tract infections, and kidney stones, among others. Chronic dehydration is almost always the culprit for such conditions.
A well-functioning kidney is contingent on an efficient blood flow. Since the main component of blood is a water-like substance we know as plasma, dehydration can affect plasma volume. This can lead to a reduction in blood volume and the flow of blood to the kidneys.
It is obvious what kind of cat food is best. Wet feline diets contain as much as 80% moisture, which mimics the moisture composition of prey animals in the wild. On the other hand, dry cat food can only contain up to 12% moisture.
It is still possible to provide your kitty with dry cat food. However, one has to take measures to train the cat to increase its water consumption. Most pet parents use a cat drinking fountain to help entice the feline to drink. Adding a drop or two of canned tuna broth in their water bowl also helps. Putting ice cubes or a few catnip in the water can also entice cats to drink.
One has to understand that cats do not have a very strong thirst drive. As such, pet parents should always encourage their kitties to drink water. This is regardless of whether they feed on dry or wet cat food. Of course, giving moist or wet feline diet means the cat doesn’t have to drink that much water anymore compared to eating kibbles.
Cats and Dental Health
Most pet parents don’t like to admit it, but it is quite challenging to brush the teeth of cats. These have the anatomy of a predator, capable of tearing flesh. Of course, this is only a graphic illustration of what might happen if your cat felt the sudden urge to bite the hand that is brushing its teeth. But to take care of the cat’s teeth, pet parents must.
There are cat toothbrushes with extra-long handles that can facilitate better reach. However, a neat alternative will be to use dental chews and treats. The issue here is that it can be very expensive. A more practical approach is to provide them with pet kibbles.
The dry and rough texture of kibbles can scrape the surface of both teeth and gums. This “abrasive” action removes food particles and plaque that may already be starting to form. Do take note, however, that kibbles can never take the place of regular tooth-brushing.
You cannot rely on wet cat food to do the same. It is moist and has a sticky texture. It will adhere onto the surface of the gums and teeth, instead of removing debris and particles. Hence, when it comes to your cat’s dental health, a good option will be to provide dry cat food. But don’t skip the tooth-brushing.
Cats and Food Safety
Spoilage can be a real issue when it comes to pet food. Eating spoiled food can lead to food poisoning. The cat can present with vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. Oxygen, humidity, heat, and temperature are some of the most important factors that can contribute to food spoilage.
It is for this reason that wet feline diet spoils a lot faster than kibbles once opened. The natural moisture content of wet cat food can hasten the rate of spoilage. Leaving it unrefrigerated once opened also speeds up spoilage. As such, it is critical never to leave wet cat food unrefrigerated for more than 4 hours. In cases of refrigerated wet cat food, this needs to be consumed within 7 days.
On the other hand, dry cat food can stay fresh for up to 14 days if the kibbles are kept in their original container and then stored in a larger, airtight container. It is also best not to introduce moisture into the bag of kibbles as this can increase the rate of bacterial contamination and spoilage. You may also want to put your cat kibbles in the freezer. However, do expect some changes in the taste.
When it comes to food safety, dry cat food wins hands down. But if you can make sure to observe the correct handling and storage of wet or moist kitty food, it can still be a better option.
Best Cat Food for Overall Feline Health
We no longer mentioned the cost of each type of cat food since we believe that one cannot put a credible price tag on the best feline food.
When it comes to promoting the overall health of your cat, wet cat food wins hands down. It contains more protein and moisture that cats need for general health. It also contains fewer carbs and reduced calories for healthier weight. The only issues are that it is not great for helping in your cat’s dental health and that it spoils a lot faster, too.
So, which do you think your cat deserves? Will it be an inexpensive, but carb-filled and calorie-dense dry cat food, or will it be a protein- and moisture-rich but pricey wet feline diet? The choice is yours.