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

See which cat food wins in the ongoing debate over which is best: wet cat food or dry cat food.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Updated: August 5, 2013, 12 p.m. EDT

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Maine Coon Cat with Outstretched Paw
Canned cat food can provide hydration to cats that don't readily drink water.
Q: Is canned food good for cats? I was told it is bad, and that I should only feed my cats dry cat food. That is what I have been doing.
A: We’re wading into controversial waters with questions like this. I’m sure that no matter what answer I give, people will strongly disagree.

Dry cat food is good for:
  • Cats prone to dental issues. Dry cat food, especially the prescription dental dry foods, creates some abrasive action on the teeth when it is crunched, and thus slows down the rate that tartar accumulates on the teeth.
  • Underweight cats. Dry food tends to have more calories than canned food, so dry food would be effective for cats to gain weight.
Canned cat food is good for:
  • Underweight or nutritionally challenged cats, who need to put on calories, because canned cat food smells more strongly and entices cats.  
  • Conversely from the above, overweight cats. Canned cat food has fewer calories and is better for weight loss.
  • Cats with urinary issues also do much better when fed a canned diet. Cats with constipation issues also do better when fed a canned diet, as these diets contain more moisture.
Much has been written about dry cat food, carbohydrates and feline diabetes. Many people believe that cats on a mainly dry cat food diet are at increased risk of diabetes because of the high carbohydrate content found in many dry foods. The carbohydrate content of the dry foods is not responsible, per se, for the increasing incidence of diabetes in cats. Dry foods are much more likely lead to obesity in cats, and it is the obesity that predisposes cats to diabetes.

I feel that the quality, not the particular food, is most important. Feeding a little canned cat food in the morning and evening, and having some dry food out for the cat to snack on during the day is a reasonable approach; cats like to eat multiple small meals throughout the day, and people who work all day are understandably reluctant to leave canned food out all day for their cat.

Cats that become overweight or develop urinary issues should have their dry food reduced. Cats with a predisposition for dental issues should be fed a prescription dry diet, ideally. I personally am not a proponent of "raw” diets, but that’s another (controversial) issue entirely.
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Which is Best: Canned Cat Food or Dry Cat Food?

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Reader Comments

elaine    ishpeming, MI

9/27/2013 8:45:15 AM

I have been feeding my cats both wet and dry I heard that the wet food in the can is no good because of the lining in the can,I really don’t no if using the can is good or not.we lost our older cat he was 14 we lost him this pass Sunday,we have two other cats they are besides them self,they are not eating they are crying,we are looking for another kitten or two.

Mom    Marshall, MI

9/17/2013 10:51:48 PM

This is good!

Linda    Dade City, FL

9/7/2013 6:42:15 PM

Interesting & makes sense.

janet    bethlehem, PA

9/5/2013 4:25:06 AM

Thanks for the info

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