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

marylou    stratford, ON

3/7/2015 5:37:19 PM

my cat is spoiled rotten he has wet canned food it has to be friskies I have tried lots of others but they will sit and dry to a hard clump before he eats any of it dry friskies I change u the kinds every time I fill his bucket and temptations treats around the clock hi isn't fat but I ned to cut back on his treats doesn't want to eat as much canned he has a continual supply of water from the bathroom sink tap and I always check to make sure there I s no cruddy stuff from the pipes he is 5 and loads of fun.thanks for the info.

Joseph    Belmont, NC

3/4/2015 9:10:22 PM

I have been a loyal Purina cat chow user for 40+ years, With a few exceptions when I have been forced to try lesser brands. Most often my cats will not eat other brands. This is how I ave become DISTRUSTING of my favorite brand, after it's last "improvement" it supposedly has the same great taste, yet it now looks like cheep brands including increased size, different colors, and the fact that my cats now treat like lesser brands by not eating it. It is the reason that I now feed them caned food.I would feed them home made if I could afford to.I first became concerned when I found out Purina is now made in China. China, for christ's sake.China were they don't have or care about pets, and would rather eat cats and dogs than have them as pets. I wounder if Purina is still recommended by Veterinarians because they must keep standards off brands don't have to.

Stuart    Monterey Park, CA

3/4/2015 5:51:10 PM

My cat won't eat moist cat food. I tried different brands and flavors. He refuses to eat any of it.

Eric    International

3/4/2015 4:19:10 AM

Well mine's a picky cat and she prefers can food rather than dry food. She's 13 years old, no health issues.

A small piece of ham is the closest to meat she eats ... once in a week.

She only drinks water (from the tap) during summer.

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