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Wet or Dry Food, Which is Better?

The notion of progress in our existence can be rooted down to just asking the right questions. It is the research and the curiosity to find the answers that propel us forward. Our curiosity has brought up fascinating questions such as:

  • How did the universe begin?

  • What came first, the chicken or the egg? (it’s the egg by the way)

  • When will I use trigonometry?

Within the cat community, a question we always get asked is what is better, wet or dry food?

The answer, which you may find annoying, is that it depends. We’ll break it down so its easy for you to decide what is best for your cat. We'll also surprise you with a few medical studies that investigate what's better for your cat's teeth.



If your cat eats, they need to brush their teeth - do it the Cat-Friendly Way



 

What should you look for in food?


Just like human nutrition, cats need to consume proteins, carbohydrates and fats. It is the balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals that make healthy cat food.


Since cats are carnivores their main source of nutrients will be proteins. Stick to animal-based proteins because these are better suited to the cat’s digestive system than plant-based proteins.


Cats need 10 essential amino acids that they cannot produce on their own which are the building blocks for energy and a healthy cat.

Make sure that your food contains these amino acids: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.


We spoke about balance, therefore we cannot ignore fats and carbs. Cats have a macro-nutrient target of approximately 52% of their daily calorie intake from protein, 36% from fat and 12% from carbohydrates.


Cat food is generally classified according to their:

  • nutritional adequacy (complete vs. complementary)

  • life stage (kittens, adult, senior/geriatric)

  • sensitivities and lifestyle (hairball prevention, neutered, indoor, sensitive skin, etc.)

  • price (economic, premium, super premium).

Your selection of cat food should be narrowed down by these 4 classifications.


i.e. if you have an adult cat that is overweight and you are looking to change his main food source you will choose a complete food, for adult cats, that is low in calories and the price will depend on your personal circumstances.


Your choice will change according to these classifications however what must never change is the nutritional balance; the food must come from an animal-based protein source; and it must contain the 10 essential amino acids.


Wet Food


Wet food is called wet because of the higher water content usually >60% – not very imaginative with the name but at least it’s nice and clear.


These foods are typically made with frozen or fresh meats, the meats are blended with water, fats and vitamins and placed in a can. A heating process then follows to make sure all food-borne pathogens are destroyed; this results in a longer shelf life than dry diets.


However once opened it is much more perishable, only lasting 24 hours. Once opened it should be well stored in the fridge. This is an issue if you are not going to be at home all day because you will not be able to leave out wet food for your cat, doing this would run the risk of contamination and gastrointestinal upset.


Wet foods come in the form of mousses, loafs, soups and chunks in gravy or jelly. It is best that your cat eats their wet food meal in one sitting, so putting less in the bowl will ensure less waste.

Wet foods are also great to mix in with your cat’s medicine. I would usually crush my cat’s pill into a powder and mix it in with his wet food’s flavoured water/jelly to mask the taste of the pill and it works a treat!


Having originated and evolved from dry regions, cat’s instinctive response to low moisture foods is to concentrate their urine rather than to drink more water. In the wild, they would get their water source from their prey. If you notice that your cat doesn't drink much water then the above may explain it; in this case wet food would be the best way of keeping them hydrated.


Wet food is a good way to avoid dehydration in cats. Feeding your cat wet food is also a simple solution to keeping controlled certain health conditions that would require higher than normal water intake such as, kidney disease, lower urinary tract disease or diabetes.


The high water content will help in the following ways:

  • Urinary health – wet food will promote a more dilute urine that could result in a lower concentration of inflammatory components in the bladder.

  • Weight management – water does not have calories and therefore wet foods have a lower calorie density, usually 0.8 – 1.5 kcal/g which helps a lot for weight prevention plans.

  • Constipation – because dehydration is a risk factor for constipation it is commonly recommended to feed cats wet foods when suffering with this condition.


Dry Food


Dry foods are made by combining all of the meats, fats, vitamins, minerals at a high temperature and pressure, making compact nuggets of nutrition and the starches more digestible. Usually fat is also sprayed on the food to make it palatable.


The goal with dry food is convenience. You are able to easily calculate how much food your cat needs - get your personalised diet plan.


Dry food also allows you to leave it in the cat’s bowl for longer periods of time, which is perfect if you go out for work. Some cats also prefer grazing at their food over the day. However if your cat prefers specific times of the day and you are forced to leave the house, dry food lets you use food dispenser toys which not only control your cat’s weight, but it also fulfills their need to eat at certain times whilst mentally stimulating them throughout the day.


On the flip side, it is so easy to lose track of how much your cat eats with dry food, especially if it is not measured and they are an all day grazer. This can cause your cat to become overweight or obese due to the higher energy density in dry food. To control this, measure the correct daily quantities for your cat. You can also use a food puzzle by introducing it in their routine, little by little.


Dry foods are much cheaper than their wet counterparts. This allows households to properly feed their cats even if they suffer from any medical conditions.


Dental disease


With both types of food comes the issue of dental disease, though this is more prominent in wet foods.


In the wild, cats would use the bones of their prey to scrape their teeth. Domesticated cats will not be doing this on a regular basis. Some food brands have introduced larger kibble to their dry foods to mechanically scrape the tooth whilst the cat is eating; trying to replicate the 'cleaning' effects experienced by wild cats whilst eating. However, not all dry diets have the adequate kibble texture to address plaque, and even if they did they will only have effect on the premolars and molars.


There are mixed results regarding the hypothesis that dry food reduces plaque. It is true that enhancing chewing activity can help control plaque. increasing both the surface area and thickness of a dry diet with enhanced textural characteristics has been shown to promote plaque reduction. If you are after dry food that may help control plaque, the best have the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal.


Due to the above hypothesis, it is a common belief that dry foods are protective of periodontal health and wet foods conducive to periodontal disease; and similarly that a raw or natural diet may also be protective against periodontal disease. This belief stems from how wild cat's use the bones of the prey for dental hygiene.


Research, however, does not necessarily corroborate this belief. A study in Australia comparing the periodontal health of feral cats eating a natural diet of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects with domestic cats fed a mixture of commercially available canned and dry food found statistically significant lower levels of calculus in the feral cats, but no difference in the prevalence of periodontal disease between the two groups.*

* Clarke dE and Cameron A. Relationship between diet, dental calculus and periodontal disease in domestic and feral cats in Australia. Aust Vet J 1998; 76: 690–693.


There were similar findings in a feral population of cats on Marion island, South Africa; that of low calculus levels, but high levels of periodontal disease.**

**Verstraete FJM, van Aarde RJ, Nieuwoudt BA, et al. The dental pathology of feral cats on Marion Island, part II: periodontitis, external odontoclastic resorption lesions and mandibular thickening. J Comp Pathol 1996; 115: 283–297.


These studies in Australia and South Africa show how dry foods, bone, feathers will scrape teeth and remove calculus which retains unfavourable bacteria. However the cause of periodontal disease is not calculus, it is plaque.


The gold standard for removing plaque and protecting your cat’s teeth is through tooth brushing.


Here at Inventor we know that tooth brushing is a difficult task, that only really works for kittens. Which is why we have made the stress-free way to brush your cat’s teeth!




Verdict


A study published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology B, demonstrates that feeding a combination of wet and dry foods allows cats to mix a diet that meets their macro-nutrient target. It discovered that by their own judgement cats are able to select and combine the foods in different amounts to achieve a consistent intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate.


My cat’s BCS (what is this?) is slightly above normal, he suffers from lower urinary tract problems and I personally feed him dry food that is designed to control his PH levels (to help reduce the formation of crystals) and I give him a Felix cat soup at night which he absolutely loves.


Why do I do this?


I do this because it is easier for me to control his food intake with dry food. Sometimes I have to travel for work therefore using dry food in his food puzzle is more convenient and safer than leaving out wet food. He drinks a lot of water throughout the day but I still use the wet food at night to help increase his water intake in order to help dilute his urine, I see it as 'better to be safe than sorry' scenario. He loves that brand of wet food therefore I use that opportunity for training. I am also not worried when using commercial foods because a Polish survey of 6000 cats undergoing conscious examination found a significantly increased risk of poorer oral health in cats fed a home-prepared diet compared with those fed either a dry or wet commercial cat food. In addition, I carry out an oral home care routine of monitoring and prevention using the Dental Wand and have regular check ups at the vet; I am confident that I can keep him healthy.


 

For three years however he never had any issues when I just fed him dry food. It was moving countries that caused stress and introduced these lower tract issues that resulted in us changing his diet.


If your cat drinks plenty of water however then there will be no issue to just feed them dry food.


Please understand that YOUR CHOICE will be down to your situation and your cat’s health demands and routine. So understand and weigh up the pro’s and con’s to help make your choice.

is wet food better than dry food? pros and cons of wet food
is dry food better than wet food? pros and cons of dry food

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