Wet vs. Dry Cat Food: Which Is Best?

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Find food that fits your pet’s needs

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Find a cat food that fits your pet’s needs

Making decisions for your cat isn't always as easy as picking out a new feather toy. Perhaps you've just brought home a fluffy bundle of joy, or maybe you're reassessing your longtime pal's nutrition needs. Whichever camp you fall in, deciding between wet vs. dry cat food can be difficult. Ultimately, both are excellent sources of nutrition as long as you serve the appropriate amount for your cat. Some pet parents even decide to blend the two. Of course, each type of food has its advantages and disadvantages, and many factors can help determine what's best for your cat. Here's what you need to know.

Wet Food


Sold in cans, pouches and trays, wet cat food is usually beloved by cats for its aroma and taste. Picky cats may find wet food more enticing, and it comes in a variety of flavors and textures, including pates and stews, to suit a range of palates. Canned food is often lower in calories than dry food, which can be helpful if your cat needs to shed a few pounds to reach a healthy weight. Under a veterinarian's supervision, cats diagnosed with certain medical conditions — urinary health issues, for example — may also benefit from the high moisture content in wet food.


Cats who eat exclusively wet food may accumulate plaque and tartar on their teeth more quickly than cats who eat dry food, and it can be more difficult to accurately portion out. Wet food is also perishable. This means one more dish in the sink — it's important to wash your cat's dish after each meal since any leftover remnants can breed bacteria. Because portion sizes are often smaller than what's in a can, you'll also want to consider storage. Once opened, cans need appropriately sized airtight lids to keep them fresh. Some cats dislike cold wet food, so you may need to warm their meal on a microwave-safe plate for four to six seconds before serving. According to The Spruce Pets, you should toss any food your cat leaves behind after 20 to 30 minutes. Finally, wet food generally costs more per volume, so if you're on a strict budget, this may affect your decision.

cat with blue collar eating mixed food

If you have a long-haired or light-colored cat, you might be averse to feeding them wet cat food because it can get on their whiskers and nose. Healthy cats are meticulous groomers, however, and will typically keep their faces clean. If you happen to have a messy cat, try serving them food on a flat plate or in a puzzle feeder. You can always wipe their face with a cat-safe wet wipe or a warm, damp washcloth if needed.

Dry Food


Dry cat food is available in conveniently sized bags and keeps well up to its best-by date as long as you reseal or clip it tightly after opening. Pound for pound, dry food is more economical than wet food and, because it stores for longer periods of time, it can be gentler on your budget. Some cats are perfectly content with dry food left as free-choice feeding, where you leave a bowl of food out for your cat to nibble on throughout the day. Other cats gorge on whatever's in front of them and must be fed portion-controlled meals. Luckily, it's easy to weigh your cat's dry food with a standard measuring cup or a gram scale. While food can never replace dental care, dry foods can help reduce plaque and tartar accumulation and promote dental health.


The main drawbacks to dry food are that it's lower in moisture and generally higher in calories and carbohydrates than wet food. If your cat has urinary health issues, obesity, or frequent dehydration, ask your veterinarian whether they are best served by wet or dry food. Cats who need to drink more water may also benefit from a water fountain, as some cats prefer drinking running water. Keep in mind that older cats may have a harder time eating dry food than wet food, especially if gum or dental issues have set in. Canned cat food's soft consistency may be easier for older kitties to eat than the crunchy kibble they enjoyed in their youth.

Blended or Mixed Feeding

Mixed feeding routines can offer the best of both worlds, helping to solve the wet vs. dry cat food dilemma. One example of blended feeding is to serve your cat dry food in the morning and wet food in the evening. This way, they can graze on their dry food throughout the day and you can dispose of any dried-out wet food before going to bed. Another option is to mix your cat's dry food with wet food or add water or low-sodium chicken broth to their kibble. This can also help them get additional moisture with their meal. Avoid overfeeding your cat with blended feedings by measuring out their daily portions to help ensure they're getting the right amount of calories and nutrients for optimum health.

The debate between wet and dry cat food doesn't have one right answer. Each cat is unique with their own preferences and health needs. These may also change over time. Consult your trusted veterinarian if you have any questions about which food is best for your feline friend, and let your cat's tastes guide you to their preferred flavors.


Contributor Bio

Dr. Sarah Wooten

Dr. Sarah Wooten

A 2002 graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Sarah Wooten is a well-known international speaker in the veterinary and animal health care spaces. She has 10 years experience in public speaking and media work, and writes for a large number of online and print animal health publications, such as chewy.com, petMD, Vetstreet, Hill's Education Blog, and DVM360 print and online publications, Healthy Pet Magazine, and the Bark. Dr. Wooten has spoken in the veterinary education space for 5 years, and speaks on leadership, client communication, and personal development. Dr. Wooten is also a certified veterinary journalist, a member of the AVMA, and has 16 years experience in small animal veterinary practice. In addition to being a speaker, author, veterinarian, and co-creator of the wildly popular card game 'Vets Against Insanity', she co-owns Elevated Eateries Restaurant group in Greeley with her husband of 21 years, and together they are raising 3 slightly feral mini-humans. When it is time to play, she can be found skiing in Colorado, diving with sharks in the Caribbean, or training kenpo karate in her local dojo. Go big...or go home.

Learn more about Dr. Wooten at www.drsarahwooten.com