Which Is Best: Dry Cat Food or Canned Cat Food?

Weigh the pros and cons on the best food for your cat.

By Julie Mignery | Posted: September 2, 2014, 10 a.m. EDT

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Dry cat food offers teeth-cleaning benefits but most vets recommend canned cat food.
Picking the best cat food ranks among the most important steps in keeping your cat healthy, and weighing the merits of wet food versus dry food can get complicated. When in doubt, consider a combination of both: feeding some wet at morning and/or evening mealtimes and providing a portion of dry for snacking.

Here are cat food pros and cons:

Canned Cat Food
  • Generally lower in calories, a pro for overweight-prone cats.
  • Its water content is a simple way to help your cat stay properly hydrated.
  • Picky cats may prefer the taste and texture of wet food.

Dry Cat Food
  • Promotes good dental health as the crunching can reduce tartar buildup.
  • It is calorie dense, a pro for underweight-prone cats.
  • It has a long shelf life, so it can be a more economic choice. If it isn’t gobbled up right away it doesn’t dry out and lose its moisture and general taste appeal.
  • They cater to specific needs. You’ll find bags for younger and older cats, and formulas to control hairballs, aid sensitive stomachs and skin and promote a healthy urinary tract.

Whether your cat’s food comes from a bag, a can or a combination of both, however, is less important than the quality of the ingredients. Like food meant for human consumption, pet food ingredients are listed on labels in descending order based on weight; if it’s higher on the list there’s more of it. A quality animal-based protein—a meat, fish or poultry—should be at the top.

Consult your vet. He or she can assess your cat’s health and help you plan a diet customized for specific needs.

Read On
Hear a cat vet's pick for the best cat food >>
See how to convert your cat from eating dry food to canned food >>
Get more on common cat food ingredients >>
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Which Is Best: Dry Cat Food or Canned Cat Food?

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Reader Comments

Danni    Tulsa, OK

9/21/2015 3:41:26 PM

I really don't understand why people are saying dry food kills cats. Can someone explain to me the issues. I am 59 and have cats all my life and have taken in many,many cats. Adopted them, took in many ferals and have always fed them wet food and they always have their dry food on hand. The cats that have passed have lived to be 19 & 20. They were always healthy and happy. I'm sorry if some of you lost your cat to dry food. But we never have. I have a friend that gives her cat wet/dry and her cat can only eat one type of wet, due to the other flavors make her cat throw up.Yes they shallow the dry and treats whole most of the time, but the dry also does clean their teeth a little. That is just the experiences I have had with my cats. I am not saying anything negative about your experiences with the dry. Some cats are more sensitive to different types of food, just like humans are. These are just my thoughts. Please don't say anything negative about them, please. Thank you for the info.

Diane T    Fayetteville, AR

9/21/2015 7:12:47 AM

There is absolutely NOTHING good about dry food except for the convenience to humans!!! I'm so glad the word is getting out about this now. If you truly care about your pet, please PLEASE take the time to feed them wet food at least. We are killing our pets with dry food.

Brijane    Oakland park, FL

9/21/2015 7:07:16 AM

Good. JOE is completely correct.Purina has sold out.dry d began killing my cat.

Donna    Up North, MN

9/21/2015 5:44:48 AM

I am dumbfounded at how many people, including the one who wrote this article, actually believe dry food cleans teeth of dog and cats! I have had cats and some dogs ALL my life (I'm now 52)and NONE of them ever "chewed" a piece of kibble more than once! 98% of the time they swallow the kibble whole! The person writing this article obviously never cleaned up a pile of cat vomit!

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