Is Dry Cat Food the Secret to Keeping Your Cat Full?


Cat owners often wonder whether dry or wet cat food is more filling for their feline companions. This is an important consideration because keeping cats satisfied between meals can prevent overeating and obesity. Additionally, some evidence suggests wet and dry foods differ in their nutrient composition, dental health effects, urinary tract health impacts, and weight management properties.

Understanding the key differences between wet and dry cat food can help owners make the best choice for their cat’s health and happiness. This article provides a comprehensive analysis of the latest scientific research comparing dry and wet cat foods across various factors. The goal is to educate cat owners so they can make informed decisions about which type of food is optimal for their unique cat.

Nutrient Differences

There are some key differences in the nutrient composition between wet and dry cat food. Dry cat food typically contains more carbohydrates and plant-based proteins, while wet food contains more animal-based proteins and fat 1. Let’s break it down further:

Protein – Wet cat food contains a higher protein content, ranging from 7-11% on average compared to 6-10% in dry food. The protein in canned food also tends to be higher quality animal-based protein from meat, fish, and poultry rather than plant proteins like corn and wheat gluten commonly found in kibbles 2.

Fat – Canned cat food has a higher fat content, usually around 5-8% compared to 2-5% in dry food. This is because dry kibble requires a lower fat level in order to maintain its crunchy texture.

Carbohydrates – Dry cat food contains more carbohydrates, averaging 35-50% compared to only 5-10% in wet food. Common carbs in kibbles include corn, wheat, rice, and potatoes which can contribute unnecessary fillers and calories 3.

Calorie Density

Dry cat food tends to be much more calorie dense than wet cat food. According to the ICAT Care website, typical dry diets provide more than 3-4 kcal/g, whereas wet food provides just 0.8-1.5 kcal/g ( The higher moisture content of wet food results in fewer calories per serving compared to dry food. As veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Coates notes on PetMD, “If you feed an exclusively dry food diet, you need to feed smaller quantities to prevent obesity” (

Since dry food packs more calories per bite, cats tend to eat less of it to feel full. Therefore, dry food can be more calorie-dense and filling per volume. However, wet food’s high moisture content means cats get fuller from the weight and volume sooner than dry food.

Water Content

Cats have a low thirst drive and can be prone to dehydration. Wet cat food contains much more water than dry food, usually around 75-85% moisture compared to only 5-10% in kibble. This extra water is crucial for helping cats meet their hydration needs.

In the wild, cats fulfill most of their water requirements by consuming prey, which is about 70% water. Dry food does not mimic this high moisture content. Feeding only kibble can lead to chronic mild dehydration, making urinary tract problems more likely.

Wet food has high water content to help replicate the natural moisture levels cats are adapted to. The extra water improves hydration and promotes good urinary tract health. Including wet food in your cat’s diet or adding extra water to kibble can help increase their total water intake.


One of the main differences between wet and dry cat food is the satiety or fullness it provides. Dry cat food tends to be more filling because it has a higher concentration of protein and fat per volume compared to wet food (Bondvet, 2022). With the lower water content, more calories and nutrients are packed into each bite of dry food. Cats tend to feel fuller eating less volume of a calorie-dense dry food than a larger volume of wet food.

Protein and fat are essential macronutrients for cats that contribute to satiety through several mechanisms. Protein is digested more slowly, prolonging the feeling of fullness. Fat triggers the release of hormones like cholecystokinin that suppress appetite (Companion Veterinarians, 2022). The higher protein and fat content in dry food leads to increased satiety and a decreased desire to beg for food soon after eating.

Additionally, the texture and crunch of dry kibble requires more chewing which slows down eating and increases saliva production, further contributing to satiety (Daily Paws, 2022). Therefore, dry cat food can be more filling ounce for ounce compared to wet food.

Dental Health

Many pet food companies claim that dry food helps clean cats’ teeth, but this idea has largely been debunked. Dry food is not an effective tool for keeping cats’ teeth clean. According to veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, “The crunchy texture of kibble provides no dental benefits for cats. People continue to believe this myth because the idea sounds logical.”[1] In reality, dry food can lead to more dental issues for cats because it has a high carbohydrate content that adheres to teeth. Carbs create an environment for plaque and tartar to accumulate.

Wet food does not directly clean teeth either, but it contains fewer carbs and more moisture to help dislodge food particles. Some vets recommend brushing your cat’s teeth daily as the best way to maintain dental health. You can also look for dental health cat food formulas made to reduce tartar buildup. Ultimately wet and dry foods both come up short for cleaning power – focusing on brushing is key for your cat’s dental care.


Urinary Health

Wet cat food provides extra moisture for overall urinary health compared to dry cat food. Cats get most of their water from their food, so wet food helps them hydrate and flush their systems. According to Pro Plan, the high moisture content of wet food promotes a healthy urinary tract and kidney function. Studies show that increasing water intake through moist foods reduces the risk of urinary problems in cats like stones or urinary tract infections. Wet foods that are specifically formulated for urinary health, such as Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Urinary, can provide ingredients to support the urinary tract and promote pH balance.

Weight Management

When it comes to managing your cat’s weight, the caloric density between wet and dry food is an important consideration. Dry cat food contains more calories per serving compared to wet food. This is because dry food contains very little moisture. According to CareCredit, dry cat food contains around 300 calories per cup whereas wet food contains around 250 calories per can. The higher caloric density of dry food means cats tend to eat fewer calories overall with wet food.

In addition, wet cat food provides more satisfaction and fullness compared to dry kibble. Cats are built to get most of their moisture needs through their food. The high moisture content of wet food helps cats feel satiated. Dry kibble does not provide that same feeling of fullness. For cats that need to lose weight, wet cat food can help them feel full faster while consuming fewer calories. The combination of lower calorie density and higher satiety makes wet food an excellent choice for weight loss and management.


In summary, dry cat food is often more calorie-dense and nutrient-rich compared to wet cat food. The lower moisture content results in dry food being more filling ounce-for-ounce. However, cats have a low thirst drive and require extra water from their food to stay hydrated. Wet food has higher water content, which helps promote urinary tract health and prevent constipation. For dental health, dry food is better at reducing plaque and tartar since crunchy kibble helps scrub the teeth. In terms of weight management, wet food may be preferable since it has fewer calories per serving. To balance different health needs, many cat owners find a combination of wet and dry food works well. The key is ensuring cats get enough moisture while also getting nutrients and fiber for satiety. Monitoring portions and calories is also important for maintaining a healthy weight.


Association of American Feed Control Officials. Official Publication. Champaign, IL: AAFCO, 202X.

Case, Linda P., Carey, Daniel P., Hirakawa, Darcy A. Canine and Feline Nutrition. 3rd edition. Mosby, 202X.

Funaba, Masayuki, Oka, Yoshitaka, Kumagai, Takekiyo. “Evaluation of Cat Food with Respect to Nutritional Adequacy and Palatability.” Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A 133 (2002): 705-717.

McCann, Judy S. “Is Your Cat Too Fat?” Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 26 (2008): 5.

Vester Boler, Brittany M., Morris, Cheryl L., Liu, Guangliang, Key, Nigel D., Swanson, Kelly S. “Macronutrient Content of 30 Dry Dog Foods Used for Maintenance.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 239 (2011): 569-574.

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