Dry vs. Wet. Which Cat Food is Best?


The debate between dry and wet cat food is an ongoing one in the cat owner community. Both types of food come with advantages and disadvantages in terms of nutrition, hydration, dental health, urinary tract health, weight management, palatability, convenience, and cost. While some owners feed their cats exclusively wet or dry food, many experts recommend a combination of the two food types to optimize benefits. This article provides an overview of the key factors to consider when choosing between dry and wet cat food.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they thrive on a meat-heavy diet high in animal proteins and fats. Both wet and dry foods can meet this nutritional requirement, but wet foods tend to have higher moisture contents and protein levels. On the other hand, crunchy kibbles help clean cats’ teeth. Cost and convenience may also sway decisions, as dry food is typically cheaper and easier to store and feed. By understanding the pros and cons, cat owners can make the best choice for their feline’s needs.

Nutritional Composition

The main nutrients in cat food are protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

Protein is extremely important for cats, as they are obligate carnivores and require high amounts of quality animal-based proteins. Wet food generally contains more high-quality animal protein than dry food. According to petMD, canned foods have around 10% protein compared to 6.5% in dry food 1.

Fat is also essential for cats, providing concentrated energy. Wet foods tend to be higher in fat. According to the Daily Paws, canned food has around 5-8% fat compared to 2-5% in dry varieties 2.

Carbohydrates like grains provide energy but are not essential nutrients for cats. Dry foods contain more carbs, around 30-50%, versus only 5-10% in wet foods.

Vitamins and minerals are added to both wet and dry foods to meet nutritional requirements. However, the bioavailability of some vitamins may be lower in dry food due to processing.


Dry cat food only contains about 6-10% moisture whereas wet cat food typically contains around 75% moisture (A[1]B). Cats have a low thirst drive and often do not drink enough water on their own to compensate for the lack of moisture in dry food (A[2]B). This can lead to chronic mild dehydration that puts extra strain on the kidneys and urinary tract (A[3]B). Feeding a primarily wet food diet provides ample moisture to keep cats optimally hydrated.

Dental Health

Many people believe dry food helps clean cats’ teeth, but studies show this is a myth. According to research from the National Institutes of Health, dry food does not provide any significant dental benefits compared to wet food. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4494333/

Veterinarians caution that dry food is often not hard or crunchy enough to scrape plaque off teeth. Pieces of kibble easily break down without much chewing. Additionally, cats swallow most dry food whole without chewing. So dry food does not provide the mechanical cleaning action needed.

Instead, the most effective dental care involves brushing or dental treats and chews designed to scrape plaque. Owners should also bring cats for regular veterinary dental cleanings. Avoid thinking dry food alone promotes dental health. Targeted brushing and dental care work much better.

Urinary Tract Health

One of the main benefits of wet food for cats is that it contains much more moisture than dry food. Cats have a low thirst drive, so they often don’t drink enough water on their own. This can lead to concentrated urine, which allows crystals to form in the urinary tract. These crystals can clump together to form bladder stones or even blockages, which are extremely painful for cats.

The high moisture content of wet food helps increase total water intake for cats. This results in more diluted urine, reducing the risk of crystal and stone formation. Some wet foods are specially formulated to promote urinary tract health by controlling the pH of urine and providing minerals that inhibit crystal growth. Feeding a wet diet is generally recommended to support healthy urinary tract function in cats.

Weight Management

Wet food can offer benefits to cats seeking to lose weight. Canned cat food tends to be lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein than dry food. The protein helps cats feel fuller while the lower carbs reduce calorie intake. With less calories per serving, wet food makes it easier for overweight cats to lose pounds. The high moisture content also aids hydration and can prevent constipation. Well-hydrated cats will be more active as well. With improved satiety from protein and more opportunities for exercise, wet cat food provides the nutrition and energy overweight cats need for successful weight loss.


Cats generally prefer the taste and smell of wet food over dry food. Wet foods contain more meat proteins and moisture compared to dry foods, providing strong aroma and taste that are naturally attractive to cats’ senses (source). The high moisture content of canned and pouched foods also releases tastier juices and broths. In contrast, the kibble used in dry foods has a blander flavor profile. Some cats may even reject dry food due to insufficient palatability.

One study found that when presented with both wet and dry foods, cats showed a strong preference for the wet food, consuming on average 4 times more wet food. The researchers concluded that cat owners should choose wet foods or a combination of wet and dry to satisfy cats’ taste preferences (source). Therefore, wet food can be useful for picky cats who reject dry foods.

Convenience and Cost

When considering dry vs. wet cat food, convenience and cost are important factors for many cat owners. Dry cat food often costs less per serving compared to wet food. According to Tufts University, the daily cost to feed an average 10lb cat ranges from $0.23 – $5.88 depending on the brand and type of food. The daily cost for dry food averaged around $0.50, while wet food averaged around $1.75 per day.

Dry cat food also has the benefit of convenience. Kibble can be left out in a bowl for cats to graze on throughout the day. Canned or wet food needs to be refrigerated after opening and has a shorter shelf life. With busy schedules, many cat owners appreciate the ease of dry food that doesn’t require daily meal prep. Dry food is also easier for automatic feeders or when free-feeding multiple cats.

However, some high quality or prescription wet foods still provide health benefits that may be worth the additional cost. In the long run, the investment in quality nutrition could save on vet bills. But for cat owners looking for an affordable and convenient option, dry cat food is hard to beat.

Transitioning Foods

When transitioning between dry and wet cat food, it is important to do so slowly and gradually. According to Cats Meow Veterinary Clinic, you should start by leaving dry food down for 20 minutes, then remove any uneaten portion. Repeat this process every 8-12 hours depending on if you are feeding 2 or 3 times per day. Wellness Pet Food also recommends starting the transition by mixing a small amount of the new food into the previous food and slowly adjusting the ratios over time. The key is to transition gradually over the course of 5-7 days to allow the cat’s digestive system to adjust and avoid GI upset.

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The Best Choice

Both wet and dry cat food have their benefits and drawbacks. When deciding between wet or dry food, consider your cat’s individual needs and preferences.

Some pros of wet cat food include:

  • Higher moisture content keeps cats hydrated
  • Soft textures appeal to picky eaters
  • High palatability makes it easier to feed cats with poor appetites
  • Consumes less carbohydrates

Some cons of wet cat food include:

  • More expensive per serving compared to dry food
  • Spoils quickly once opened
  • May increase dental tartar if fed exclusively

Some pros of dry cat food include:

  • Lower cost per serving
  • Convenient to leave out all day
  • Promotes dental health by scraping plaque off teeth
  • Lower calories support weight loss when needed

Some cons of dry cat food include:

  • Dehydration risk without adequate water intake
  • High carbohydrate content from grain fillers
  • Kibble shape and texture not ideal for all cats

Many cat owners find the best results by feeding a combination of wet and dry foods. This balances the benefits of each while accommodating the cat’s preferences. Check with your veterinarian for personalized feeding recommendations based on your cat’s needs.

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