Feeding Your Adult Cat (cont.)

Canned vs. dry cat food: Which one is better?

The experts don't appear to have reached complete consensus. But most can agree on some of the pros and cons of dry and wet adult cat food.

Dry adult cat food:

  • Is more economical
  • Is convenient because you can leave it out and it doesn't spoil as easily
  • Is energy dense, meaning a cat can consume lots of calories quickly
  • Has about 10% moisture content
  • Tends to have more carbohydrates and less protein than wet food
  • May be only slightly better than canned food at preventing dental disease

Canned adult cat food:

  • Is more expensive
  • Can spoil more easily and requires refrigeration after opening
  • Is less energy dense than dry food
  • Has up to 78% moisture content
  • Tends to have more fat and protein - especially animal protein - and fewer carbohydrates than dry food

“There are a lot of people who believe that cats only need to eat canned food and will be unhealthy if they eat dry food,” says Larsen, who believes most cats can do fine on either.

The bottom line? “More research is needed to determine whether wet food is better,” Bough says. But, the high moisture content in wet food can be beneficial to cats with urinary tract problems, diabetes, or kidney disease. It can help compensate for cats' low thirst drive, which may be in part because of their evolution as desert animals. More study is needed to confirm whether feeding wet food can help prevent some of these problems from developing in the first place.

Higher protein levels more often found in wet food may be of benefit to strict carnivores like cats, who depend on consuming animals to meet their nutritional needs and require up to three times the protein of omnivores. “But you can have a high-protein diet that's still deficient in essential amino acids,” says Larsen, citing taurine as one example. “And the same is true for fats and essential fatty acids. So you need to make sure the subparts are covered.”