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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Reader Comments

Alice    Des Plaines, IL

2/9/2015 8:45:27 PM

My cats prefer wet food both of them and one is old and one is young..but i feed them at least 4 meals a week that are dry for their teeth and they both have very healthy teeth according to their vet.

Gladys    Valley stream, NY

2/8/2015 4:35:47 PM

My kitty enjoys what food as a special treat but dry food is given most of the time because it does not spoil or go bad and it is better for her teeth

Xavier    International

2/8/2015 3:11:17 PM

Dry Cat Food comes in several levels of quality, from the expensive ones with dry meat and other quality nutrients to the cheap Supermarket ones that are made mostly of corn and added vitamins and nutrients. A Vet talking on the radio said that for him most dry cat food is the equivalent of junk food, but some good quality ones are the best you can buy.

Christopher    International

2/8/2015 3:06:15 PM

I give my cats both wet food and dry food, I make sure I give my cats quality dry food approved by my vet and I give my cats that my cats don't upset their stomachs as one of Cats has a sensitive tummy and I add some Lysine to my wet food as a couple of my cats have had Cat flu. I also make sure that they are reggularly wormed and flea treated with Vet approved treatments and Have their F# boosters every year. I also have made sure that I have a good vet for my cats as they my family and deserve the best of care.

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