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Franny Syufy

Canned Food vs Dry: The "Roe-Wade" of Cat Food?

By April 23, 2013

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It has been five years since I first posted this blog entry. I am "recycling" it today, as it is timely, and because the previous comments that have accumulated are both thought-provoking and informative. Although I don't agree with all of them 100%, they have all contributed food for thought. Back then, I had received an email, challenging my suggestion that canned food is superior to dry. It was interesting the email was from a guy. I'm always gratified that more and more men are speaking out about their cats, and particularly that they're reading my advice, although not always following it. He wrote:

This issue seems to be the "roe vs. wade" of cats. Everything here seems to suggest switching to canned food as the best. However, my local PETCO people say that canned food (1) is mostly water, (2) goes right through, and (3) makes cats fat. Our cat started out life as a feral cat that "adopted" my son in Texas. When he got out of the army he brought her home. She's about 2 years old, just had a checkup and is "perfect" (but she does have feline leukemia and FIV) and weighs about 8 pounds. I bought some canned food today, and based on PETCO advice will start it out as a "treat", but already she has turned it down in favor of the dry. Just want to do right by Katie, but so far it looks like dry is it.
Dennis

Awwww, shucks. Who am I to argue with the experts at your local PETCO? OTOH, a cat burdened with both FIV and FeLV needs all the ammunition it can get in the form of superior nutrition. I do hope that Dennis buys a high quality dry food and gives Katie plenty of water, and that he continues to offer her a high quality canned food in the hopes she will change over to it.

I can still take the stance that canned food is preferable, despite my recent epipheny about the health hazards of BPA linings in cat food cans. Fortunately, a number of pet food manufacturing plants are switching over to non-BPA cans. My volunteer team of forum members are doing the legwork by contacting the various companies and forwarding their replies to me.

What about you? What kind of commercial foods do you choose for your cats? Vote in the poll, and feel free to discuss your answers in the comments.

Comments

October 22, 2008 at 7:33 am
(1) crazycat05 says:

Oddly enough, the first Petco rep made three statements that are somewhat true and if s/he knew anything about cat anatomy then would suggest canned food. I do feel like what the Petco rep said applied more for dogs though, another reason I wish there were “cat-only” stores. First cats need water and rarely get enough from drinking out of the water bowl. Dry food has no water, so wet food being mostly water is a good thing. I always worry about my boys developing crystals from not being hydrated enough. Though I don’t think wet food goes right through them, cats tend to use the litter box after eating like most creatures. And third it being high in fat is not necessarily a bad thing for cats, but of course cat parents need to exercise their kitties with lots of play to keep them at a healthy weight no matter what they are eating.

To the second email, it has been my experience that opposite will happen. The cats will turn their nose up at the wet food because it is new. But premium food is a must no matter what you feed!

On an episode of E-Vet Interns (I think) on Animal Planet and very large male cat came in with crystals and had to be rushed to surgery. The vet treating this kitty stated that our domestic cats are descendants from the African Wild Cat, a dessert creature and have highly concentrated urine. If they don’t get enough water to flush the kidneys and bladder out they can develop crystals. If you think about what the cat was designed to eat, small critters and the whole thing too, wouldn’t those little creatures be about 75% water. So that would mean that cats in the wild would get a lot of water from their diet. Therefore, feeding cats a diet of canned or raw food just makes logical since over dry. Now can anyone convince my cats of this, lol.

October 22, 2008 at 9:59 am
(2) Richard says:

We have two boys that we rescued as strays and are enjoying the life of luxury in the house. They have always eaten Science Diet dry with plenty of water, but a couple of months ago, I have been putting down a half can of wet Science Diet mixed with water and they love it. The combined wet/dry diet seems to do well for them and they have no complaints. I’m covering all bases, so to speak.

October 22, 2008 at 11:10 am
(3) Lorraine says:

My husband I recently adopted two shelter cats here in RI. Both the woman at the shelter and the cats new vet advised feeding dry instead of wet. And both, when I asked about them getting finicky, said to give them just a small amount of wet if it was something I felt strongly about. So my boys (brothers) get 2/3 cup dry in the morning that I blend myself. It’s comprised of 2 parts Wellness Indoor Health with 1 part Nature’s Recipe Vitality Bites Complete Lamb and Rice Recipe Dry Cat Food and 1 part Wellness Complete Health Salmon, Salmon Meal & Deboned Turkey Recipe Dry Cat Food. The dry stays out all day. Then, at night, I split 1 3oz. can of wet food between the two of them. Usually the wet food is Wellness but I do mix in other all natural/high protein canned food.

October 22, 2008 at 11:39 am
(4) Bryan Price says:

I started feeding my cats canned cat food as a treat. My part Maine Coon seemed to be losing interest in food, and I hoped it would spur him to eat more. It did, but I still had to put him down before I went through that box. :(

Most of the current crop of cats do eat it as a treat, although the youngest addition seems to think that she can east it as a whole meal and go through a full can by herself. The latest addition for three months would take one bite if I opened a can for her, and then go back to her dry food. Now, she eats it like most of the cats.

I bought one of those waterfall water dishes, and they are definitely drinking more water. While the youngest (not quite two years) still has a tendency to play in it, at least she’s not splashing water out. She gets her paw wet and licks it dry.

October 22, 2008 at 12:15 pm
(5) Karri says:

I currently feed my two babies Wellness Core, the high protein, grain-free dry food (which they LOVE). My little girl is overweight though, and it was suggested that this food may assist her in weight loss, so she receives it in restricted amounts. My problem is that Wellness doesn’t make a wet food with a protein level similar to Core, so by feeding her wet food, I’m afraid of “undoing” her diet. I usually give in and feed the kids some Wellness grain-free wet a couple times a week, but we’ve had no luck so far with her shedding any weight. Any suggestions are much appreciated.

October 22, 2008 at 1:26 pm
(6) Sharon says:

I’ve had cats for over 38 years and presently have 5 indoor cats. I have always fed them both dry (I leave it out all the time) and wet (about 2 tablespoons each twice a day). My males cats remain at an ideal weight and my 2 females are a little on the heavy side. I think I can attribute that to their sex. I haven’t had any problems with urinary tract infections and my oldest is 13. I usually purchase Science Diet dry and Little Friskies wet. All are healthy and happy!

October 22, 2008 at 2:39 pm
(7) Karri says:

In regards to my post above, I just did a little research and found that Wellness has a brand new CORE canned food, available in 2 flavors for those who prefer to feed high protein, grain-free!! I’m very excited and just called my pet food store to have them order some. Hopefully feeding my chubby little girl this new food, along with CORE dry, will help her get down to a healthier weight.

October 22, 2008 at 2:43 pm
(8) Amanda says:

This website isn’t the only resource for feline nutrition, and people will find that with a little research, the majority of sources (online, in books, and directly from the mouths of experts) recommend canned food for optimal nutrition and health.

I think the most common misconception regarding dry v. wet is the misleading nutritional values listed right on the packages. The protein content is canned is much higher, but dry is always listed as higher. There is a conversion that must be done to ascertain the real amount of protein in dry food due to the lack of water. You’ll have to look this up, as I can’t remember it exactly. (It was over five years ago that I did my extensive research after all. :)

There are human animals that eat nothing but junk and somehow manage to not suffer the consequences of even the most healthy people — it’s genetics. However, providing the best possible food and health care is the only way to do all that you can to help give your cat the best life. How would you know if they would feel even better with a proper diet as nature intended? Who are we to not only ignore science (no, not Science Diet, which is not an ideal food), but also nature?

If a cat refuses to eat canned food, then obviously the best choice is to feed them dry. It doesn’t matter how healthy a food is if the cat won’t eat it. Likewise, if dry food is all you CAN feed your cats…well, it’s better than nothing.

October 22, 2008 at 3:33 pm
(9) Seahag says:

I buy only premium dry cat food. When we supplemented it with canned food, our cats got fat! So out with the canned food! No canned food in our house AT ALL. Now our cats are all at healthy weights and have way more energy, too.

October 22, 2008 at 5:08 pm
(10) Sue says:

In our house, it’s a matter of who will eat what. They all eat premium dry food (Eagel Pack), while Audrey and Sophie get morning treats of Wellness pouch food and evening treats of Evo canned. Sebastian won’t eat anything wet, and the closest Abby comes to wet food is when we mix her bonito flakes with water. I started doing that early this year to get a little more moisture into her, since she was prone to dehydration until I put out a water fountain for her. Sophie, Sebastian and Abby all love the water fountain, while Audrey is pretty good about drinking from a dish. If I could find a wet food that Sebastian and Abby would eat, I’d give it to them once a day like I do Audrey and Sophie. But, we’re still looking …

October 22, 2008 at 5:10 pm
(11) Sue says:

Whoops, I meant Eagle Pack. Sorry, it’s been a long day.

October 22, 2008 at 6:55 pm
(12) tina says:

our cat eats wellness wet food 1 can a day splitted with a little water added, most of them are grain free and good dry food too a little each day, also he eats once in a while a frog we saw or a mouse…from the yard. Since i feed wellness his fur is much thicker and shiner as when we got him from a shelter in february.

October 22, 2008 at 6:58 pm
(13) tina says:

forgot something, he is not overweight, very active and crazy about this wellness food.

October 23, 2008 at 12:26 am
(14) Red Neck says:

If dry food (with plenty of water always available) has a chief fault, it’s that it’s too easy to overfeed the kitties by leaving a full pan out all the time. If a really fair comparison of any prepared cat diet is to be made, it should be made to what the critter normally eats in the wild. Freeze dried mice might be the next craze.

October 23, 2008 at 12:31 am
(15) Red Neck says:

There’s an automated dog watering nozzle called the Water Dog. http://www.waterdogpetfountain.com shows it being used by a number of dogs, and even (mounted on a sink) by a cat.

October 23, 2008 at 2:17 am
(16) ashley wong says:

Hi,

I’m Ashley from KL Malaysia. I first got my crash-course in caring for kittens and cats at this forum – about like 6 months after my cats found me.

It was truly a trial and error sort of method, taking care of them and trying out which type of food they like best.

I do agree with Ms Syufy that cat food, be it canned or dry, that contains ingredients that are not suitable for a cat’s health is to be totally eschewed, the cost not withstanding. My little anna developed a sensitive stomach with IBS syndrome due to my “experiement” with suparmarket brands as well as self-styled premium and super-premium commercial brands that are just unsuitable.

luckily i’ve managed to discover two good brands, Orijen and Natural Balance. It took a while but they’re both available now in Malaysia. Orijen is only available in dry kibble form in the Malaysian market wheres Natural Balance comes in both dry kibbles and canned food.

I feed my cats mostly on kibbles supplemented occasionally by canned food – natural balance , fussy cat. ONly these two. not any other brands.

Going kibble is my own conscious decision due to
1) my working lifesytle
2) the hot and humid weather here

kibble is easy to use, easy to store and doesn’t go bad that quickly although i need to store the kibbles in my refrigerator to maintain freshness longer once the bag is opened.

I had try BARF on them but they all refused to eat it.

Right now, i have another two additions to the family – a mother siamese cat and her kitten. The siamese is a stray i rescued – actually she came to my house together with her litter of two – and subsequently had another litter (she was pregnant when she appeared on my doorstep). I managed to introduce BARF to her newborn(2 weeks) but am unable to introduce it to the mother cat.

I have heard so much about BARF and have seen the results of BARF but i also understand that like humans each cat has its own taste and preference. so although i’d like to do the correct and right thing by my cats and feed them BARF, i’ll have to go with the flow – if they like it, then i’ll feed them BARf, if not, then back to Orijen and Natural Balance

October 23, 2008 at 9:21 am
(17) Bridget says:

I’ve been a big fan of the raw diet myself.
One thing I’ve noticed is a lot of people have trouble transitioning their cats to raw, or even to canned, and give up. Only one of the five cats (in three households) we transitioned over took to it right away. The longest one took almost 4 weeks to get onto raw.
The key on the picky ones (including one who would only eat one brand of dry food before this) was patience and trickery.
I started that particular cat with tiny pieces of raw coated in everything from crushed up dry treats and dry food to Ranch dressing (he liked Ranch, what can I say?) It was the first thing I offered him at dinnertime and in those first few days I made the meat part about the size of a grain of rice so it would barely register to him. I slooowwwlly added more meat and less disguise food until he would eat small pieces of raw. And even then at first it was only white meat chicken the size of a dime that was “acceptable” for a while. He is now eating raw with bones, btw.
If people WANT to switch their cats over to something healthier- whether raw or canned- I highly recommend the “trick and switch” method.

October 23, 2008 at 1:30 pm
(18) Joanne says:

My cats, in the past, ate canned food. My last two (one from my son) and one from the vet’s office are mature females and were raised on dry food…given a treat once in awhile of tuna. The dry food makes kitties drink lots of water which I think is a good thing. The cats on the canned food rarely touched water.

October 23, 2008 at 1:36 pm
(19) Sandy A. says:

I have 6 cats right now, 2 eat dry (and only because they won’t eat the wet), Wellness only…..and 4 eat only wet and they get Wellness or another Premium food only !!! Mostly grain free !! I myself believe only in wet food, as I have a cat with IBD and the wet saved her life…And as a person who works in cat rescue, I have seen many kittens who were in bad shape, helped by good, premium wet food….All I can say to anyone who thinks the dry is better, is that I don’t know of any feral cat that would stop before eating the mouse and cook it first and add a slice of bread !!! besides, isn’t that the problem with all of us carnivores…we eat too many carbs !!! I would advise people to check the ingredients before purchasing any food, dry or wet, if they say, corn or any grain as the lst ingredient, don’t by it….the same with By-Products…any meat by-product is the stuff NO ONE would eat…please everyone think about what you put into your animal….some of the food out there is garbage….and the price of two cans of Fancy Feast 3oz. is the same a one can of 5.5 oz Wellness or some other very good premium food..and they contain, human grade, grain free meats !!! do alittle investigation…you will find the best for your cat…!!! My cats have great appetites, shed less and have good stools with hardly any smell….!!! and they have been eating Wellness for over 8 years !!! just think about it…!!! it may not be dry vs wet as much as Premium vs garbage !!!

October 23, 2008 at 1:39 pm
(20) Jill says:

One of my cats is diabetic. For a short time his diabetes was controlled with canned food only. Unfortunately that only lasted 6 months and now he is on insulin shots twice a day. However he still eats only canned, on orders from my veterinarian who says that dry food is loaded with carboyhydrates and will make controlling his sugar difficult. My other cats eat a mixture of canned/dry.

October 23, 2008 at 1:57 pm
(21) Jean says:

Ironic, isn’t it, that PETCO’s reasons why wet cat food is bad are actually the exact reasons it is *good* (water, quick to digest, higher in fat)? I wouldn’t rely on PETCO employees for information, though — I’m sure some are quite knowledgeable, but my experience is that most are just retail employees like anywhere else. (Nothing wrong with being in retail, I’m only saying you don’t need to be an expert.)

I’m a firm believer in a high protein, low carb diet for cats. Our two boys get an Orijen/Evo kibble mixture (grain-free) in the morning, raw food in the evening, and then a bit more of the kibble right before bed (mostly to keep them from waking me up at 5 a.m.!). They are both healthy and happy boys.

I’m lucky that both of them took to raw food immediately. One was only four months when we got him, so that was easy. The second cat was almost a year when we got him, and had been eating only Friskies kitten kibble. But he took right to the raw food — he loved it! But I know they are not all that easy.

October 23, 2008 at 3:00 pm
(22) Pepper says:

Dry food only diets are not healthy for cats. My male cat developd urinary blockage for that reason and had to be castrated. Not all cats are big water drinker’s. My Vet. and boss told me it’s okay for a treat but stick to wet food. Even female cats can get crystals.

October 23, 2008 at 3:37 pm
(23) David Vargas says:

My little girl was on dry food for years, but started to develop severe & chronic constipation. :( We tried higher fiber & grasses and it got worse. Switching to a low fiber canned diet (with Wellness Core, which is low residue, as a dry supplement so she can nosh between meals) really helped a lot (also Spirit Essences helped too; they seemed to speed the healing process).

The vet said the gluten & soy is problematic for cats (and oddly enough about a year before that the doctors told me I can’t eat those either!). With grain free foods she’s happy, energetic, and doing amazingly well. I’m glad she didn’t develop megacolon! My vet credits the dietary changes; I agree.

Sales people are not bad people, but they say what they’ve been trained and led to believe is true. Some cats do well on less healthful brands probably the same reason why people do: genetics. Even still, giving better food means a more thriving life & potentially less vet bills (try over $1000 for constipation visits & compare to the neglible cost difference over the years had she been on premium canned).

It took her over a month to finally get into habit of eating canned food (and lots of different brands: she prefers Weruva) – she’s a chartreux so ritual & timeliness is key. I learned not to fight her stubbornness with my own, but to give her praise & treats she loved when she was doing right. It worked (oy, would’ve saved me a headache knowing you can’t “out stubborn” a stubborn cat). :)

October 23, 2008 at 5:19 pm
(24) Rae says:

I’ve always been under the impression that dry was recommended over wet because it’s so good for dental health. This is something that I remember from when I used to work at a veterinary clinic.

As for Petco, pet stores, and people in general…I never trust anything until I see it substantiated in other sources. In this case, why not go straight to someone who’s actually knowledgeable like…oh say…a vet? Even then, it’s always good to do your own research.

October 23, 2008 at 8:15 pm
(25) black14 says:

Yes, the Petco” experts”.
Nobody should feed dry food except as treats. I learned it the hard way.
This “Roe/Wade” thing is a kind of misplaced here.

October 23, 2008 at 10:33 pm
(26) Shanna says:

My vet says that canned cat food is the best. One of my cats used to be diabetic and at the time I was told that dry food was higher in carbohydrates and that canned food is more like what they’d eat in their natural habitat because it’s higher in protein. The only advantage dry food has is that it tends to keep the teeth cleaner, but with regular maintenance, your cat’s teeth can stay healthy even on a canned diet.

October 23, 2008 at 11:29 pm
(27) Steven C. Barr says:

Ecru (the ecru cat) and his various feline predecessors (I’ve been owned by ay least ONE cat since 1973…!!) have survived happily and enjoyed long lives…most were fed primarily dry food (from c.1980 on, President’s Choice, until Loblaw’s dropped that…thereafter, their “no-name” Magnesium-Reduced dry food (now called “Urinary Health”
food, which offers better nutrient numbers than do all of the standard-brand dry foods!).

Occasionally (that being whenever there is a sale on, or when I find a price-reduced dented can…!!) he gets “wet” food…which he LOVES! His predecessor, “Spot” (DLH Red Tabby) lived almost 22 years on the same dietary regimen.

Steven C. Barr (& Ecru)
stevenc@interlinks.net

October 24, 2008 at 12:08 am
(28) kate says:

How about the “Pet Promise” brand of dry and canned cat food? Excludes byproducts, buys only from humane farms.

October 24, 2008 at 8:29 am
(29) Melissa says:

After eating a quality dry food for 8 years one of my cats was obese and developed diabetes. We tried numerous dietary measures and she ended up with two insulin shots a day. After switching to high-protein, low-carb flavors of Fancy Feast, we were able to wean her off the insulin and now she is gradually losing weight. On this diet, her blood glucose has been normal for over a year without insulin injections. I give dry foods only as a treat now.

October 24, 2008 at 1:36 pm
(30) Tracy Kemmer says:

My Mischa has her choice every day. She gets a teaspoon of her Science Diet chicken and liver minced canned food. A teaspoon is almost even to much for her as she is very petite and only nibbles now and then. She also has dry food which is a mix of Science diet hairball formula and Purina indoor formula. She seems to enjoy all of it just doesn’t eat a lot a day. Oh she also has a multi vitamin from 1-800PetMeds that I can crumble into the dry food. She has vaccines every year and stays inside.

October 24, 2008 at 5:18 pm
(31) tina says:

wet food is more natural food for cats, as dry food. Wellness is a great brand mostly grain free. It is a little more expensive but a cat has to eat more from cheap brands. So the cost are almost the same. Of course they should get some “unhealthy treats too” like we eat, cookies ect. That shuold be ok so long not to many!

October 25, 2008 at 12:42 pm
(32) David says:

My kitten’s favorite so far is the Science Diet “chunks” with gravy that comes in a packet. I figure since cats only like their owners because they feed them, I’ll keep him happy.

October 26, 2008 at 12:00 pm
(33) Velvet's Dad says:

I’m troubled by a number of comments here. The pet food crisis of 2007 should have provided the impetus for pet owners to do some good research not only on feline nutrition (much different from canine), but also on which pet food makers are reputable and which are not.

I will never again feed Science Diet, or Iams or Purina to a cat of mine. Feeding SD to my cat led to his kidneys eventually shutting down and death. Each of these companies is owned by a multi-industry corp. that looks only at the bottom line. Don’t take my word for it. Read Ann Martin’s Food Pets Die For. Or visit DVM Lisa Pierson’s website catinfo.org.

I would never rely on information from Petco, PetSmart or any of the companies mentioned above. Nor rely on a vet who recommends them as some do. These companies pour money into veterinary schools for the sole reason to later have graduates push their products.

Of course canned food is 78% water but it is also highly concentrated in fats and protein, essential for feline health. Cats have small intestines and are designed to metabolize food quickly and eliminate waste quickly. Dry food has too much in carbohydrates, most of which the cat does not metabolize and they must eliminate. Much of the carbs convert to unmetabolized fat, leading to weight gain. A cat fed on mostly grain-free wet, with some grain-free dry, should maintain good health and weight.

Thanks to Amanda and Jean, especially, for right-on comments. And please, read Food Pets Die For and/or visit a vet’s site such as Dr. Pierson’s.

October 27, 2008 at 3:45 pm
(34) Kas says:

I feed my cat Nutro MaxPro dry food and add a 1/2 can at night. She enjoys both as well as green leafy lettuce,tuna from the can, bacon bits and cheese. I limit the cheese and bacon bits.

October 28, 2008 at 11:35 am
(35) Lisa says:

I was very ill, and recently received a kitten from a friend. Rosie is 10 mos. old now.

I buy Rosie IAMS kitten chow. The veternarian suggested that I use canned cat food as a treat. Canned food is mostly water, however, cats are known for not drinking enough water.

He says that will ensure Rosie is getting enough water in her diet. She is not fond of canned cat food, but I encourage her to eat it by tactfully spoon feeding it to her. Lisa

November 2, 2008 at 12:32 am
(36) Linda says:

I have been feeding domestic and feral cats for many years. I know a great deal about animal nutrition. Petco, I am sorry to say knows nothing about nutrition. Actually, canned food has more protein than dry. Canned food is what you want for the kidneys too. Dry food causes chronic dehydration.
Forget about the teeth and dry food, most cats just swallow the dry. A good teeth cleaning now and then is the only thing that will help with the teeth!!!

November 4, 2008 at 2:12 am
(37) Marilyn says:

I too have wondered why no one mentions Pet Promise. It has human-grade chicken as the first ingredient, no artificial colors, flavors or by-products. My three girls love the dry but will not eat the canned, nor any other “healthy” canned food (believe me, I’ve tried them all!) They are eating quality dry (Pet Promise, Blue Buffalo organic, Wellness) and one small can of FF split three ways and not always finished in the AM & PM. I feel the FF is a safe food since none of their products were recalled in 2007. They do drink more water when they eat the dry but that is a good thing, I believe. I’ll keep trying to find a good canned that they will eat, but I’m not very optimistic.

November 4, 2008 at 5:42 pm
(38) scott says:

My wife and I make our own cat food. The ingredients are boneless/ skinless chicken breasts, chicken liver, and a powder mix and salmon oil that comes from a company called Feline Instincts in Arlington Texas. ie felineinstincts.com. I grind the chicken meat and liver in our meat grinder and mix it all together with some water.
Before we started this, one of my male cats had a bad urinary blockage. Making your own food makes you feel safer and your vet bills go down. Your cats fur gets softer and they will have less flees.

March 13, 2009 at 4:47 pm
(39) jj says:

Marilyn,
Thought you would like to know that Pet Promise just came out with 3 new flavors of their wet food flavors, you can check what they are out on their website http://www.petpromiseinc.com.

Pet Promise is such a great food, with such an amazing mission that goes beyond “just” what we feed our pets. It is definitely the only product my dog and cat eat, I have to hide the bags so they don’t tear them apart getting to the food!!

July 20, 2009 at 1:37 am
(40) Jordan S. says:

My cat eats about 85% canned, 10% dry, 5% raw. It doesn’t matter if the food is grain free, if it’s dry,, it will have more carbs then canned. People say dry food with canned as a treat is a good diet. But it’s the other way around, canned with DRY as a snack is the best for cat’s who are strict carnivores and don’t need all the filler in dry. Cats also don’t like to drink much, because they naturally are supposed to get moisture from food, but with canned, they are forced to drink 8x more than they would have to if they were eating appropriate diets of wet.

September 13, 2009 at 5:50 pm
(41) Elaine says:

As a student recently accepted into vet school and 5+ years experience of working at a vet’s office, this controversy tends to come up all the time, and vets/owners have their own experiences and opinions on both.

At the vet, for sick cats we used our vet-blend brand of premium dry food, since it was bland and a tad easier on the sick kitty’s stomach. Depending on what was wrong with the cat, we would mix in perscription premium wet food, or [especially with diabetics] use wet entirely. As with all felines, it varies from cat to cat on what it needs and prefers.

With my new kitten, I prefer using a blend. Even though I’m busy with university and extra-curricular activities, other vets and I DO NOT recommend free-feeding your cat. It leads to unpredictable litterbox uses, overweight cats, and some cats even lost interest in their food earlier than normal because it is available so much. I know many people do it due to busy lifestyles, but schedule certain feeding times. It’s not that hard. I feed before I have to get ready to leave for work/class in the morning, and after I eat my dinner. I feed a blend of wet and dry [the wet is Wellness For Kittens, and the dry is Nutro Naturals for Indoor Kittens], using ~1/6 cup dry and ~1/4 of a can per feeding. Fresh filtered water is always available for him, but the wet food is mainly used for hydration and any nutritional supplement he won’t get from the dry food. Besides, he likes the taste!

I also give him Purina soft treats every now and then, but not too much because they are definitely the cat version of candy and aren’t good for him. But sparingly they make a good treat, as does tuna. Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a weakling and give him a piece or two whenever I open a can. But make sure not to treat too much!

Also, there was a troubling comment above about vet schools. Contrary to popular belief, companies do not pour money into vet schools to make them say stuff about certain brands of food. Yes, Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine does use Pro-plan PERSCRIPTION food and other brands, and does sell it, but they don’t promote it just to money received from the company. Please go to your vet often and trust their opinion. Yes, you do know your own cat best, but your vet slaved through 8-9 years of school for the love of taking care of animals and making them healthy, not for promoting products from greedy, uneducated sells reps. I guess it may be in large cities, but the vets in and around my vet school, plus the vets I worked for in my hometown never heavily pushed or promoted foods. If a client asked which was best, many would recommend products like Blue Buffalo, Wellness, and Nutro. The Pro-plans and SD have perscription formulas that can only be bought at the vet with special ingredients for those pets with allergies, gastrointestinal issues, diabetes, and other health problems. So the vet may promote them for prescription reasons if your cat has a health problem.

Another tip: If you’re changing foods, be sure to make it gradual and do not go cold-turkey and slam a new food into the bowl. It will cause huge stomach problems for a couple of weeks for your cat, especially if you’re switching from storebrand, gluten-filled food to natural, premium brand food. The switch is dramatic, so gradual introduction of the new food is best.

September 14, 2009 at 9:39 am
(42) Tim collins says:

I don’t get why this is an issue… I give Mothra (The cat that let’s me live with her) dry food during the day and then a can of food at night… it’s makes her happy and gives her the best of both worlds…

September 14, 2009 at 10:07 pm
(43) Sarah says:

One aspect which hasn’t been addressed here is the cost factor. Canned food is significantly more expensive than dry food. As a student, I’m able to afford to feed my two cats a very high quality dry food (Life’s Abundance), with occasional treats of canned food, for much less that it would cost to feed them a diet consisting primarily of mid-to-low quality canned food (I wouldn’t even consider low quality as an option, but even that would be more expensive). For many people the extra cost isn’t an issue and a diet of predominantly canned food is great in those cases. But for those of us for whom cost is a factor, a tradeoff comes into play and sometimes the benefits of being able to feed a higher quality food trumps the benefits of canned food.

September 15, 2009 at 9:50 am
(44) Alex says:

I’ve been adopted by a cute little stray from the animal shelter and since day one I have made it a priority to feed her raw. I’ve done a lot of reading and researching in preparation for the adoption so I have listened half-heartedly to the advice of the shelter workers to MAKE SURE TO FEED HER DRY FOOD TO CLEAN HER TEETH AND FOR PROPER NUTRITION.

My kitty has first been confused by the raw meat, usually ignoring it which forced me to buy her some dry food so she doesn’t starve. But I refused to give up – I had to crunch the dry food into crums and then mix it with the raw meat for a few weeks before she finally made the switch.

My kitty now is very healthy, fit (and not fat!) and is lively as ever. Her shiny coat is on par with show cats and I am glad I’ve listened to the voice of reason. (I do rotate the raw food with canned so she’s not too bored and I’m very sad at the lack of variety of raw/canned food providers in Canada).

March 24, 2010 at 3:40 pm
(45) Tina says:

I have to laugh cause my kitty – well she’s just a nut cause what she really wants to eat is donuts and croissants!!! No… I’m not joking – that’s pretty much what she would eat every day if I let her become a little piggy she so desperately seems to want to become.

I admit, I give into her sometimes and let her nibble on an occasional donut or two, or well maybe a little of the gooey insides of a fresh baked croissant from the French bakery down the street, but MOSTLY I insist that she stick to a combo of wet and dry food – I remind her from time-to-time that if I wanted to adopt a potbelly pig I would have done so!

She’s an old grump so letting her indulge in a super special carb invested meal of yummy donuts or croissants makes her happy and makes me laugh… must be a good thing since we both seem happy in the end! :o )

July 4, 2010 at 4:09 pm
(46) Sarah says:

After much, and I do mean MUCH, reading on this topic, I became convinced canned food is the better choice for cats. Having previously worked at a Veterinarian’s office and always promoting Hill’s Science and Hill’s Prescription Diets, I was truly amazed to see the near immediate difference that canned food (even store bought quality) made in the overall health of my cats.

I was first introduced to the idea of “canned is better” from “Binky’s page.” This is a site that is devoted to helping cat owners face feline diabetes. My beloved cat who had for her entire life eaten only Hills products had become a brittle diabetic. Initially, I placed her on the Hill’s Dry M/D which is specifically for feline diabetes. It seemed to work for a short while and then the blood sugars returned to out of control levels. Thanks to “Binky’s page”, I was introduced to the idea of canned food for her. This simple change truly has kept us from having to turn to insulin for her. This will not be true for all diabetic cats, but it certainly was true for mine. And it has been a long term benefit b/c the diet changed 3 years ago and we have not used 1 dose of insulin. I check her blood sugars at home, and we have not needed insulin.

Now, as for the concept of an expensive brand vs. a cheaper brand, I think that is up to everyone individually. Personally, we tried the Fancy Feast (diabetic approved varieties) and all of my cats love them. I was still giving dry as well to my other kitties, but now I’m rethinking that. Dry food is definitely lending way to weight gain, and if not careful, diabetes.

Obviously, we have to make our own choices on this matter. But I have “seen the light” so to speak, and I am certain had I been to stubborn to change my way of thinking on the matter, my diabetic cat would not have survived. I am thankful for the wake up call and am looking forward to giving this baby a 16th birthday party in September. :)

August 17, 2010 at 10:52 am
(47) Kevin says:

I’m a relatively new cat person. Got our first guy from wife’s friend about 10 yrs ago. He started out with a cancer on his ear (1/2 ear now), then went thru crystals about 7yrs later, removed his penis a bit after that, now has a skin cancer (going thru chemo) and diabetic (2 shots/day). Our “free” cat from a friend is probably up to about $10k over the years, but he’s part of the family and as long as his quality of life is good (and I have a job), we’ll fight with him.
That being said, the whole dry vs wet food issue is as clear as mud to me. Most the “exerts” here seem to profess wet as the only way to go, yet real people many use dry and seem to have no problems. Personally, I’m confused as hell….

August 17, 2010 at 11:49 am
(48) Franny Syufy says:

Kevin,

Please look for an email from me. I hope it might clear up at least part of the confusion.

December 27, 2010 at 7:58 pm
(49) Rosalina says:

I have 2 cats and I feed them the food in their diet in a ratio. I give them premium high-quality dry food all day in case they get hungry and give them 1 teaspoon each wet/canned food twice a day (once in the morning and once at night). It is truly best to give them a ratio, but your ratio will depend on YOUR cat, so don’t use my ratio. Hope this helps! :)

February 4, 2012 at 9:39 pm
(50) Darly Longhanks says:

Hi Rosalina,

Why do you suggest giving a ratio of dry / wet foods to your cat.

Is this due to cost, or do you believe that dry food actually provides a tangible benefit to the health of your cat, aside from calorie intake.

January 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm
(51) Meg says:

This is all so frustrating. I have had cats for decades, and always fed them dry, never having a problem. Then 10 years ago after much reading, I switched to high quality can. The last several years I have been using a combination of raw and high quality can. Now one of my cats vomits on a fairly regular basis; another cat has developed severe upper respiratory allergies; and the third cat just got out of the hospital for a bowel obstruction from her own fur! Vet thinks she might have IBD. I am switching to Young Again dry to see if it’s high animal protein and no plant protein formula will help all of them. I’m done with raw.

January 14, 2013 at 11:08 pm
(52) Gina Marie says:

Hi. My 2 darling boys, Frankie and Charlie eat Weruva, AvoDerm, Royal Canin kitten blend, BFF & Wellness canned. I give them Wysong Epigen dry only as a treat or to sprinkle on top of canned food they aren’t crazy about. I learned a lot from the book, ” The Cat Bible”. I only want the best for them as they give us so much unconditional love and joy. I always put a little water around their canned food so they get more water intake, especially with cans I know they really like. I emailed Whole Life Pet and they sent me a generous bag of samples that my boys loved- once again adding more water to the product. I also love magic-zymes.com for their amazing odor neutralizer. I use Worlds Best Litter and scoop everyday, a few times, of course but I have an empty bucket that I, every 2 days, or as needed will dump their litter in and wash out their litter box. Wow, what a difference in odor control. Ok, I’m getting off topic sorry. I was considering eliminating their dry food but the Epigen is grain and starch free. I have heard Origen is a great product too but like I said I only feed dry here/there. Enjoy your kitties folks.

January 15, 2013 at 11:28 pm
(53) Christine says:

I used to feed my cat IAMS dry food, with occasional treats of IAMS gravy pouches which then made her sick when they put melamine in it. My cat vomited hairballs all the time. Poor little angel. Then she had a series of serious illnesses. Her lab blood tests were not great. The vet said to feed her only canned cat food. I bought those at the supermarket, until she was sick yet again and her lab tests showed she had food allergies and we decided she had to eat only from the poultry line of proteins.

Then I switched over to Wellness grain free canned and pouch food, and Weruva canned once in a while as well. After about a year on that, with no hairballs by the way, we repeated her lab tests. The vet was amazed because she said that the lab tests profile was of a four year old cat, not a thirteen year old cat. My sweet angel is now 14 years old and her fur is thick and soft and she rarely sheds. And no more hairballs. I am convinced. Any cats in my life will always be fed Wellness canned and pouches from kittenhood, and Weruva for a little variety. Cats need the water in the canned food, and these brands are excellent for their health.

It breaks my heart to read that other cat owners are still feeding their cats dry food that is so bad for their health. Cats have no way to tell you what you are feeding them is making them feel sick until they become seriously ill.

If your cat is vomiting hairballs, it means they have a food allergy. Frequent hairballs are not natural.

April 20, 2013 at 1:11 am
(54) Jeffrey Jacobs says:

Dry foods are coated with digestive enzymes to make them tastier, it’s a trick. You can buy FortiFlora, made by Purina ( I think ) and sprinkle it on wood and the cat will eat it, just like dry food. Try it.

April 20, 2013 at 7:40 pm
(55) Franny Syufy says:

Jeffrey, you are entirely correct. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago I blogged The Chemistry of Kibble, which links to an article explaining the process. The ingredients list will often say “natural and artificial flavor.” It is the artificial flavor which makes the food so appealing. I’ve actually had cats try to claw the bags open because of the tempting odor.

April 23, 2013 at 2:41 pm
(56) Barry333 says:

Wet cat food is maybe 80-percent water. So are mice.

April 23, 2013 at 9:56 pm
(57) Franny Syufy says:

Excellent point, Barry!

April 24, 2013 at 8:45 am
(58) Sandra says:

My vets have always recommended a diet of both, they reasoned that while the wet food is water based and fatty it does not have the bones that a cat in the wild would naturally be chewing on to help remove food debris from their teeth. I feed the wet as a treat to my cats and they have dry to graze on throughout the day. This seems to work well as the cat I received from a friend who was on a mostly wet diet now has bad teethe that I must have removed. I think they deserve both and the kibble is essential to help scrape their teeth like the bones of their prey would in the wild. :)

April 24, 2013 at 10:48 am
(59) oneandahalfcats says:

Based on my experience, I think cats can develop bad teeth from any food, be it wet or dry. I think the idea that kibble removes tartar is something that was invented by pet food companies as there is no scientific evidence that this is the case. My cats were on kibble-only for awhile and did develop tartar. One benefit to kibble is that it exercises a cat’s jaw, that is if kibble is chewed rather than just swallowed. We feed our cats a meal of wet (wellness) first thing in the morning, and two portion-control meals of kibble through the day. I think wet food is important for protein and moisture which cats, especially males, need.

Re. tartar, I was prepared to take our two older cats in for professional teeth cleaning at one point but worried about the need for anesthetic during the process following our recent scare with Thomas. My vet suggested trying a product called Denta-tabs that contain malic acid (naturally occurring in apples) as an active ingredient that helps break up and remove tartar from cats teeth. Tablets are dissolved in water and added to drinking water. I was skeptical as teeth cleaning has always been the approach up until now, but we have been using this product for 4 months now off and on and I am just amazed to find that it is producing very good results.

April 24, 2013 at 4:11 pm
(60) Anna says:

I’m a believer in a high quality canned diet. I feed Natural Balance Limited Ingredients to my little girl. She was scratching herself (no fleas) pretty badly when I first adopted her, but the Limited Ingredient food seems to have stopped it. She is active, a perfect weight and has a gorgeous coat.

I fed Eagle Pack canned to my previous cat and he live to be 19 years old. He was picky and didn’t like Natural Balance. I adopted him at 9 with some significant health issues and am convinved that the high quality food extended his life. He had a beautiful coat even at the end of life when he was in renal failure (he was 19).

A side note – my mom’s cat sheds like crazy and is overweight even though she feeds high a premium dry food. I finally convinced her to switch him to a premium canned diet to stop some of the shedding. In three months, the shedding is slowing down and he’s lost weight. Maybe the food?

April 26, 2013 at 7:21 pm
(61) Vicki says:

I feed my two four-year-old males a mix of dry and wet food…Royal Canin Spayed/Neutered. Their company does not use BPA lining:)

May 1, 2013 at 9:05 pm
(62) Tricia says:

My young male cat had two dangerous episodes with crystals in his urine before he was 3 years old– until I took him off dry food and started feeding only wet. He’s never had a problem since.

May 6, 2013 at 5:15 pm
(63) Jeannie says:

I have an 11 yr old cat big as a small dog..lol .He’s very long and was a bit overweight…Never liked the idea of canned food …Always did the dry food and 2 months ago tried the wet food and now he eats a can twice a day..morn and night…and he’s leaner and his fur is so much softer and healthier..

May 6, 2013 at 8:53 pm
(64) Nancy says:

It’s silly to discuss dry vs. wet without distinguishing between the various brands and varieties of food. To say, “I had ___ problem with my cat and took him off of dry food and now he’s better”, tells us absolutely nothing about the quality and formulation of the dry food you were feeding him. Some dry foods are better than some canned foods. Some canned foods are better than some dry foods. It all comes down to ingredients: quality, percentage, source. I’ll take a premium dry food any day over premium canned food containing the dreaded carrageenan.
Raw beats all, of course, and if anyone has the right to sanctimonious bragging about their cat’s perfect diet, it’s the raw feeders. It’s our goal to transition all the kitties to a raw diet eventually. Until that day, they’ll continue enjoying premium carrageenan-free canned and premium dry.

July 10, 2013 at 6:53 pm
(65) Linda says:

I was approached by a Petco employee while shopping for canned cat food and questioned about why I wasn’t buying dry cat food. He regaled me with all the reasons to feed dry food. I believe dry food is mainly for owner convenience and can actually be harmful for cats, based on personal experience with our beloved, and recently departed cat, Dee Dee.

We adopted brother and sister kittens from our local animal shelter. They are now 16 months old, and were raised on a combination of raw food and canned, using Merrick’s canned until they reached 1 year. We added Soulistic brand canned at a year old. They are beautiful, healthy, smart, active with glowing coats which hardly shed. No dry food for them. Ever.

August 23, 2013 at 5:28 pm
(66) Dave says:

The current craze about wet food is not based on science. It is based on what some people think sounds logical. Sure, there are anecdotes of cats miraculously healing after switching to wet food, but that is not science. Anecdotes are the opposite of science as you can find anecdotes for almost anything. Scientific studies have shown, for example, that dry food eaters do not have a higher rate of diabetes than wet food eaters. Studies have also shown that cats can use carbohydrates efficiently for energy.

I am not saying there may not be advantages to wet food, but why treat the science of cat nutrition differently than human nutrition? It’s like going to GNC because a new supplement is advertised to make you lose weight. Humans evolved as hunter gatherers. The diet humans evolved to eat is not what we would consider balanced based on scientific studies of human nutrition.

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