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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