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Food Guidelines

3 Reasons to Feed Canned Instead of Dry

red cat wet foodFeeding your cat proper nutrition is the cornerstone to raising an active healthy cat and for preventing illness. There are so many options in the marketplace when it comes to cat food, but which is actually the healthiest for your cat? Well, it turns out that dry food, although very popular, is not so healthy after all. One of the main reasons for the lower price is the higher levels of carbohydrates and plant sources of protein, both of which can be detrimental to your cat’s health as described below.

According to Lisa A. Pierson, of CatInfo.org:

The three key negative issues associated with dry food are:

1) water content is too low
2) carbohydrate load is too high
3) type of protein – too high in plant-based versus animal-based proteins

So let’s look deeper into each of these issues:

1) water content is too low.
A cat’s normal prey contains approximately 70-75 percent water.  Dry foods only contain 7-10 percent water whereas canned foods contain approximately 78 percent water. So it seems that canned food is closer to what the cat would eat if catching it’s own food. Also, a cat has a very low thirst drive, so although he may drink water with his meals, it may not be enough to make up for the low water content of dry food, leading to dehydration. Kidney and bladder problems are quite common in cats and this can be largely caused by dehydration.

2) carbohydrate load is too high
Living in the wild, a cat’s natural diet consists of only about 1-2 percent carbohydrates, which next to nothing. Unfortunately for our feline friends, the average dry food contains as much as 35-50 percent carbohydrate calories, which is a far cry from what they would normally be eating.  Cats also lack some of the necessary enzymes needed to metabolize carbohydrates. Basically, cats have no nutritional need for carbohydrates, so it is not a wise nutritional choice to feed them to your cat. It is important to note, however, that some canned food may also be higher in carbohydrates, so we recommend that you check your labels before giving anything to your fur baby.

3) type of protein – too high in plant-based versus animal-based proteins
Cats are carnivores, designed by Mother Nature to eat animal protein. They are not vegetarians! But sadly, many dried foods contain a large amount of their protein from plants. Animal protein is made up of complete amino acid profiles where plant proteins are not complete. Humans and dogs can take the pieces of the puzzle in the plant protein and, from those, make the missing pieces.  Cats cannot do this.

We already discussed the risk for dehydration from dry food, but here are some additional, more common medical problems associated with dry food.

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Cystitis/Urethral blockage/Urinary tract infection/Crystals
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Hairballs
  • Obesity
  • Hepatic Lipidosis (fatty liver disease)
  • Dental health
  • Asthma

With many families on a tight budget these days it can be tempting to buy the lower priced dry food for your cat, but in the end, their health suffers and the increase in vet costs can certainly be higher than the original savings of the dry food.

Additionally, there are some that will argue that while canned cat food is certainly better than dry food, it does not even begin to compare to the safety and nutritional benefits found in a homemade or raw food diet.  We’ll be investigating raw food diets soon and hope to bring you the scoop on which food really is the best for our furry friends.

In the meantime, we’d like to know, which food do you currently feed your kitties?

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Jennifer

    Mar 25, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    I feed a combination of grain free high animal protien dry food, canned and a high percentage of RAW food. I’ve found that RAW is by far the best for my cats. I totally agree with the canned/RAW verses dry. My dry food is left out as a free feed food an I rarely have to replenish the food as often as I had In the past as the cats prefer the canned/RAW

    • Kathleen

      Jul 15, 2015 at 11:20 am

      Can you please post the brand name of your dry in with food?

  2. Judith

    Mar 25, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    I use both. My kittens prefer wet food over dry.

  3. Kelly

    Oct 2, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    I have to give my cat dry food as he has an intolerance to wet food.

    • Jennifer

      Sep 23, 2016 at 10:48 am

      They get over it if you try hard enough. Mine had an intolerance as well, but after bladder blockage due to dry food (water content) nearly killed her, I decided she’d have to get over that intolerance. Just stop giving them the dry food choice and try a few wet food options. It’ll take time but it’s worth it.

  4. steph

    Oct 2, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    My cat only eats wet due to her diagnosis of idipoathic hypercalcemia.

  5. kat

    Oct 3, 2014 at 12:47 am

    Neither of my cars will touch wet food… Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen…

    • Lisa

      Sep 23, 2015 at 1:23 pm

      TryFancy Feast APPETIZERS. Nothing added. No artificial colors or additives. My cats love that stuff! Plus it had a variety of different flavors. I chop it up and mix the gravy before I feed mine.

  6. Carole Showalter

    Oct 3, 2014 at 7:46 am

    My cat will not eat wet food. I have tried several brands, she sniffs them, wrinkles her nose and backs away. It has been several years since I have offered her any. Any sugestions as to brands to try?

    • Lisa

      Sep 23, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      Fancy Feast APPETIZERS. Nothing added. No artificial colors or additives. My cats love that stuff!

  7. Kristen Hannan

    Jul 14, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    I feed my cats blue buffalo dry good they seem to like it, I was under the assumption that it was one of the best foods to give, let me know if thats not the case. Thanks

    • Kathleen

      Jul 15, 2015 at 11:24 am

      I thought that too about Max Cat cat food; we’ve been feeding them a very small amout of wet in the morning, and a limited amount of dry in the evening.

  8. Kathleen

    Jul 15, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Should I gradually increase the wet and decrease the dry?

  9. Rhett

    Aug 19, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    I’m a bit late reading this article and the comments, but I must add that my two cats almost totally refuse to eat canned food. Oh, sure, every so often Voodoo will take a small bite, or Vader will lick the gravy off, but 95% of the time they look at it and walk away. I refresh their dry food dish every morning for nibbling during the day and I give them canned food every evening. (Yes, I still give them canned food every single day, you know, just in case a miracle happens and they decide to eat it. But alas! I end up scraping the dried remains down the disposal. ) These two are good water drinkers, so I can take some comfort in that. But is it enough? I sure would feel better if they ate canned food. I’ve tried pretty much every brand of canned food from standard to fancy, from beef to fish to chicken/turkey. I’ve even tried duck. But NOPE! Little noses turn up and paws walk away. I’ve tried giving them less dry food for their nibbling pleasure, in the hope that they’d be hungry and agree to eat the canned food. That didn’t go well. I should note that neither Voodoo nor Vader show any interest in begging for anything that I’m eating either. I find that odd, as well. They don’t even come lurking when I’ve opened a can of tuna to make tuna salad. Help! Any suggestions would be most welcomed. :/

    • Lisa

      Sep 23, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      Fancy Feast APPETIZERS. Nothing added. No artificial colors or additives. My cats love that stuff!

  10. Kathy

    Sep 23, 2015 at 11:04 am

    I feed my cat Nature’s Variety Instinct dry food (grain free and gluten free) every morning, and then a half a small can of wet food at night. Nature’s Variety has raw freeze dried pieces in the food. My cat was street cat and she has a healthy appetite for water. I leave it in 4 places around the house and she drinks from all of them. She is very very fussy about wet food and will just leave it there to dry. I tried Nature’s Variety raw chicken, turned her nose right up. I ended up throwing the whole thing away.

    • Lisa

      Sep 23, 2015 at 1:21 pm

      Try Fancy Feast APPETIZERS. Nothing added. No artificial colors or additives. My cats love that stuff!

  11. Daniela

    Sep 23, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    We feed our cats Halo canned wet food in the morning. It is grain free, no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. They love the Wholsome Chicken Recipe with carrots and peas. Crude Protein (Min.) 7%, Crude Fat (Min.) 3,5%, Crude Fiber (Max.) 2%, Moisture (Max.) 84%.
    In the evening they get Orijen Dry Food – Cat & Kitten. Whole Prey Diet – 80% Chicken, Turkey, Eggs and Fish Ingredients, 20% Fruits, Veggies and Botanicals, 0% Grain, Potato or Tapioca.
    I did a lot of research and had a lot of different foods over the years. The prices may be higher than others but it’s well worth it. The cats are super healthy.

  12. Ava

    Jan 11, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    My cat has never eaten wet food, even though we leave it out for him, he won’t even touch it. Does anyone have any advice to maybe get my cat to even give wet food a chance?

  13. Rhett

    Jun 7, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    I realize the importance of a wet food diet for cats. But…My two cats, brothers, won’t have anything to do with wet food. For the past 2.5 years, I’ve tried pretty much every brand, texture, and flavor there is. They’ll have none it! I’m planning on trying a raw diet next. Wish me luck!

  14. Kyleene

    Jun 7, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    I feed my cats Blue Buffalo Wilderness pink bag and fancy feast canned food. They get the canned food in morning but have access to dry food whe they want it. They seem to be more satiated since feeding Blue Buffalo. My vet said no canned or raw food but my cats love the canned so they get it once a day. Both cats are healthy weights one is 8lbs the other 10. Also I’ve noticed since using Blue Buffalo neither cat gets fleas or ticks. Both cats are inside-outside cats.

  15. Heather

    Jun 7, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    I feed my cats Royal Canin super premium dry food, which every vet I’ve seen have all said is great and I don’t need to feed them wet food also. I do have BFF wet food that I mix a little into one of my cat’s dry food, but my other two eat too fast and get sick if there’s wet food in theirs. All are fit and healthy.

  16. Sheryl

    Jun 8, 2016 at 10:49 am

    My 5 cats receive 1 large can of Friskies pate (if you get the gravy with bits of food they only eat the gravy and waste the rest) in addition to their dry food and water that stays out all day, twice a day, usually they will devour the can of food within 12 hours and are ready for their second can, if they choose to nibble on the dry food that’s fine, but they are getting the moisture they need from the canned food, they waste some of the canned food at times depending on how active they are and are ready for that fresh can when FEED ME time rolls around, sometimes they will get a 3rd can 🙂

  17. Stacey

    Jun 8, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    My baby was on dry only for a long time and ended up with diabetes. Our vet told us we had to decrease the dry and switch to wet only. Please cat parents, try all wet foods before giving up. My baby is on insulin twice a day breakfast and dinner. We use a feeder with a timer while we are at work with dry food but he only gets a few kibbles. His wet food is Purina DM diabetes management and fancy feast mixed. His dry is the Purina DM dry.

  18. Sylvia

    Jun 8, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    I feed dry vet food because my boy blocked and he and my girl also get a can of fancy feast once a day. I try some raw but they will only eat a small piece.

  19. Christine

    Jun 9, 2016 at 1:36 am

    My 19 year old kitty eats Orijen. If I try to switch her food she throws it up so we pay the price and buys what she wants. Pricey but good stuff.

    • Liz

      Sep 22, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      Been feeding a raw diet and my girls really enjoy the variety of meat I give them. Seem to enjoy poultry vs red meat.

      I agree that dry is not good for feeding cats. It was designed for convenience to us humans and not as a valuable food source for our cats. Especially with the amount of water cats consume in a day.

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