The following is an excerpt from Petfinder.com’s FurKeeps Kickoff Ask the Experts Forum.
Q: Is it better to feed an adult cat wet or dry food? Our vet is really against dry food, but I hear different things from other friends’ vets.
Answer 1: Many people rely on dry food because it is cheaper, easy to store and they can leave it out all day for the cat to nibble on. It also helps with their teeth, depending on the brand/kind of dry food.
Canned wet food helps develop strong bones and muscles.
My vet has me give both, but only a half can of wet food daily. Canned food is more expensive than dry and my cats enjoy the benefits of both kinds.
I would discuss this with your vet and ask why he or she feels so strongly. Communication with your vet is very important.
It is also important that you always provide a bowl of fresh water for your cat.
Veterinary Services Manager, Erie County SPCA
Tonawanda, New York
Answer 2: There’s no right or wrong answer about whether you should feed canned or dry food (or both!) to your adult cat, and some people have very strong opinions either way.
As Debby said, it is certainly wise to discuss this matter with your veterinarian, as he or she may have specific reasons for that recommendation based on your kitty’s health and medical conditions (if any).
Both canned and dry foods are nutritionally complete. The single biggest difference between the two is moisture content, with canned food obviously having a much higher moisture content.
Many people find dry kibble to be more convenient, and many vets feel that dry food is better for a cat’s teeth. However, dry food is not a substitute for dental care and pretty much all cats — regardless of whether they have eaten canned food or dry food their entire lives — will need professional dental care at some point in their lives.
As for the benefits of canned food, many cats do seem to find it more palatable and this can be especially important if you have a cat with a finicky appetite. Canned food also has a much higher water content, and this can be of particular benefit for cats with kidney problems (it helps keep them better hydrated) or lower urinary tract disease (it helps produce more dilute urine that can alleviate or reduce the frequency of symptoms).
However, we don’t know enough about the causes of many illnesses in older cats to know if feeding a canned diet can prevent some common problems, like chronic kidney disease, from developing in the future.
Finally, the higher water content may make it easier to put your kitty on a diet (if necessary) because most cans of cat food contain roughly the same number of calories as 1/4 to 1/3 cup of dry food, but in a larger volume of food, so the cat may feel fuller at meal time.
So, not a straightforward answer either way. Some of the decision will come down to personal preference (yours and your cat’s!) but certainly feeding decisions should be made in consultation with your veterinarian. He will be in the best position to advise you on the optimal diet for your cat based on his/her age, weight, lifestyle, and overall health.
Regardless of what food you end up feeding, as Debby said, your cat should always have access to plenty of fresh, clean water!
Hope that helps,
Dr. Stephanie Janeczko D.V.M.
Medical Director, Animal Care & Control of New York City
New York, NY