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The Ultimate Cat Feeding Guide Wet and Dry Foods

A balanced diet for your cat is all about a mix of nutrients and flavours and getting the right mix. Every cat has different needs and tastes. The most popular cat food choices tend to be wet, dry or grain-free.

Cat food is often broadly classified based on the following factors:

⇒ Life Stage of your Cat (eg kitten vs senior cat)

⇒ Lifestyle and Sensitivities (skin conditions, sensitive stomach etc)


⇒ Nutritional Properties

The best way to decide which type of cat food is best for your feline is to check out ratings and reviews, talk with your vet and see how your cat reacts to different products and brands.

young cat after eating food from kitchen plate. Focus on a cat
You got me WHAT for dinner?

Generally dry cat food can be cheaper and easy to store. However, if your cat prefers something fancier then wet cat food is closer to the taste of a fresh hunt than dry cat food.

Wet cat food also contains moisture. This can help to keep your cat hydrated as well as assist it in absorbing Taurine, an essential amino acid for cats.

Grain free pet foods have risen in popularity of late. Grains are often replaced with foods like sweet potatoes or vegetables. These can be beneficial to cats who can get upset stomachs or itchy skin due to grains.

However, it is always best to check with your vet before making a complete change to your cat’s diet.

⇒ Getting a new kitty? Check out my guide to How to Look after a Kitten, 6 Best Kitten Wet Food Options and 8 Best Kitten Dry Food Options

two Scottish kittens lap milk from bowl

Some of the most well-known brands of pet food in the US are Purina, Fancy Feast, Friskies, Royal Canin. In the UK the most well-known brands are Ziwipeak, Purina, Fancy Feast and Lily’s Kitchen.

Cats are carnivores. this means that they have a less well-developed sense of taste and therefore there is less need to vary their food. For your cat, food is all about texture and smell – the taste is not so important.

Indeed, cats have 500 taste buds whilst humans have 9000 taste buds and dogs have 1700. And they prefer to eat small amounts so consider dividing their total food for the day into multiple small meals.

Cat Feeding Guide Wet and Dry

What is Wet Cat Food?

Wet cat food has at least 65% moisture content. Wet food is generally cooked at high temperatures for sterilization. This means it generally has quite a long shelf life. However, once it has been opened it has a short shelf life.

There are several different textures available in wet cat food including mousse and chunks in gravy or jelly. It is generally available in cans or pouches.

What are the benefits of Wet Cat Food?

1. Cats love It

Cats tend to prefer wet cat food to dry cat food. The texture and ingredients of wet food provide a different eating experience. The high moisture content of wet food is similar to that of the typical cat prey which may be why this type of food is beloved by most cats.

cat staring at just opened can of wet food

2. Easy to Chew

The soft texture of wet cat food means that is easy for cats to chew the contents. This can be particularly useful for older cats and for young kittens – or for cats suffering from dental issues.

3. Helps to increase water intake

As cats evolved in arid climates if they are not receiving enough moisture in their food their habit will be to store their urine rather than to seek out more water. This makes them sensitive to infections if their diet becomes low on water.

As wet food contains at least 65% moisture this type of cat food is better at helping your cat to stay adequately hydrated.

4. Helps to manage certain health conditions

Wet food can be particularly good as support to good urinary health in cats. Wet food consumption means that a cat’s urine will be more diluted. This assists in preventing urinary infections.

Wet food can assist in managing the weight of a cat. As wet food contains water, which has no calories, it has a lower calorie density than dry cat food.

⇒ Don’t miss my Guide to the Best Treats for Cats

hungry cat eating from the food bowl

If your cat suffers from constipation moving to a wet food diet can help. This is because dehydration is a risk factor for constipation.

What are the downsides of Wet Cat Food?

1. Price

Wet cat food tends to be more expensive than cat food – particularly on a per gram basis.

2. Shelf Life Once Open

Due to its high moisture content, wet food can dry out quite quickly once the can or pouch has been unsealed. It can also attract bacteria. This means it must be eaten quite quickly by your cat.

It also means that wet cat food is not well suited to food dispensers for cats.

3. Wet Cat Food can be messy

If you have a long haired cat they may get some of the wet food on their whiskers and the fur surrounding their mouths. If your cat loves grooming they will probably take care of this themselves. However, if your cat has a more relaxed approach to cleaning itself you may need to follow their mealtimes with wipes.

Wet food scraps left in bowls need to be disposed within 4 hours. Wet cat food can have a stronger and less pleasant aroma. And it can attract bacteria.

⇒ Shop for UK Wet Cat Food

⇒ Shop for US Wet Cat Food

Closeup of cat eating food from a bowl

What is Dry Cat Food?

Dry cat food resembles biscuits and does not contain as much water as wet cat food – which makes sense with the names.

What are the benefits of Dry Cat Food?

1. Lower Cost

Dry Cat Food tends to be more economic. This is because dry cat foods tend to have a much longer shelf life than wet cat foods. The product generally comes in large bags. As long as these bags are properly sealed dry cat food can last a long time.

Young cat eating at home from its bowl. Female hand adding food

2. Dental Health

Dry foods help to strengthen cats’ teeth. Wet cat food is not able to do this as its moisture levels are too high. As cats don’t brush their teeth like humans, munching on dry cat food can indirectly help to clean the cats’ teeth as they chew.

3. More Filling

Dry cat foods take a longer time to get digested therefore they stay in your cat’s stomach for a long period. Your cat will remain full, and they will not need to keep eating every few minutes.

This makes dry food particularly good for cats with weight issues.

4. Lasts Longer in the bowl

Dry foods maintain their freshness for a lengthy period when compared to wet foods and therefore can be left in your cat’s bowl without concern. Wet cat food should be consumed within 2 hours of the can being opened.

cat stares at small bowl with dry food

Bacteria don’t tend to be attracted to dry cat food if left in the bowl. This is not necessarily the case for wet food.

As dry food lasts longer in the bowl it can also be better for cats who prefer to eat their meals more slowly with breaks inbetween.

5. Easier to Use with Food Dispensers

Dry food is much easier to use in food dispensers than wet cat food. Wet food will be much more likely to clump or leave residue that could be affected by bacteria. The texture of dry cat food means it will travel much more smoothly through a food dispenser.

Cat and dog looking for meat in the refrigerator

What are the downsides of Dry Cat Food?

1. Not as easy to digest

Due to the lack of water in dry cat food it can be more difficult for your cat to digest than wet cat food. This may also impede your cat’s ability to absorb the vitamins and nutrition in their food.

2. Hard texture can be more difficult to chew

The hard texture of most dry cat foods can be tough on the teeth of older cats or those cats who have dental issues. This can also be an issue for young kittens.

3. Additional Water May Be Required for your Cat

If a large percentage of your cat’s diet is dry food it is critical that they keep up their water intake. A constant supply of fresh water is necessary. Ideally, your home should have several bowls with fresh water to encourage your cat to drink.

⇒ Shop for UK Dry Cat Food

⇒ Shop for US Dry Cat Food

Cat waiting for food sitting like man at table

Wet and Dry Cat Food: Frequently Asked Questions

How much food should my cat eat?

Alas, there is no perfect answer for how much food a cat can eat. The key factors to consider are the size of your cat, its age, metabolism, breed, type of food etc. Start with the recommended portion size on the cat food you have chosen.

How often should you feed your cat?

Cats should never go more than 24-36 hours without eating. If your cat hasn’t eaten for over 24 hours do contact your vet.

What Foods are Good for Cats?

Cats are meat eaters. They need the protein from meat for a strong heart, good vision, and a healthy reproductive system. Cooked beef, chicken, turkey, and small amounts of lean deli meats are a great way to give them that. Raw or spoiled meat could make your cat sick.

Cat eating piece of meat from the kitchen table

What Foods should Cats not eat?

Any food that hasn’t specifically been designed to suit a cat’s digestive system can cause vomiting, diarrhea or loss of appetite in your cat. This includes most normal human foods.

Foods that cats can’t eat include chocolate, cheese, milk, onions & garlic, grapes and raisins, raw eggs, raw meat and raw fish, fat trimmings, tea, coffee & energy drinks and alcohol.

However, cats can eat small amounts of human foods like lean cooked chicken, turkey, tuna, or eggs. This human style food should make up less than 10% of their diet. 

If you think your cat has eaten human food or drink try to figure out when and how much and contact your vet. Small quantities may not cause a major issue but larger quantities may require immediate treatment.

Why is my cat burying his food?

This is a natural instinct in cats and is because they are looking to throw potential predators off the scent of their food. This is also why cats play with their food.

kitten getting food from a dispenser

Is Raw Cat Food Good for my Cat?

Some owners choose raw cat food as it is closest to what a cat would eat in the wild. The best raw cat food has experienced little processing and contains uncooked organs, muscles and bones. Raw cat food is available in both wet and dry forms and as a meal topper.

Can the food my cat eats effect its health?

There has been a big growth in healthy cat food. There are now products with recipes that address issues like urinary tract health, constipated cats, digestive health, sensitive stomachs, allergies, and more.

What should I feed my cat if it is overweight?

One of the simplest ways to help your cat to lose weight is to switch its diet to canned food. Canned cat food tends to be lower in calories than dry cat food.

Canned cat food also tends to have a higher level of water content. This will help your cat to feel fuller for longer. If you have a problem with your cat begging, serve them a larger portion of their favourite food in canned form and they may well feel satisfied.

⇒ Keen to get your cat out and about? Check out my posts on Is Cat Walking Possible?, 7 Best Escape Proof Cat Harness Options, 5 Best Carrier for Cats choices, 14 Best Cat Carrier for Car Travel options and 4 Top Travel Litter Box options.

Foxy cat near bowls with food at home

Switching to canned cat food is a good option for cats that are only mildly overweight. If your cat is severely overweight may need a prescription cat food diet.

When does my cat need Veterinary Diet Cat Food?

Prescription cat food diets can help you manage your cat’s specific health issues through her daily diet. These formulas require a prescription and are typically prescribed as part of your pet’s overall health plan under the care of a veterinarian. 

There are many types including prescription wet cat food, prescription dry cat food and even prescription cat treats.

Veterinarians formulate the food to suit different health needs and the recipes have been generally been clinically tested. Ingredients are chosen for both taste and benefit.

light coloured cat eating food from its bowl

These Vertinarian products can be useful when you’re looking for weight management cat food, food allergies and sensitivities cat food, diabetes cat food, kidney disease cat food, skin conditions cat food, urinary tract infections cat food and gastrointestinal cat food.

Always check with your vet before choosing to make a purchase of prescription cat food.

What are Toppers and does my cat need them?

Toppers or toppings can provide your cat with nutrition, taste, and variety. Toppers have been designed to be sprinkled on top of your cat’s meal. They can enhance the taste of the meal as well as adding nutritional benefits.

Toppers are available in both wet and dry formats. The most common forms of toppers are moist broth cat food toppers or gravy formulas, shredded cat food toppers and sprinkle-on formulas.

⇒ Order Cat Food Toppers

grey cat licks lips with bowls of food

Wet Cat Food vs Dry Cat Food: The Verdict

So how do you decide what type of cat food to feed your feline? As you can probably tell after reading this article there is no easy correct answer. When you are looking to make a decision about the food that your cat will be eating there are several factors to consider.

Firstly is the lifestage of your cat. Kittens and older cats tend to prefer wet food. Secondly is any health issues that effect your cat. Those cats with dental health issues may benefit from dry food whereas those cats with stomach problems may benefit from wet cat food.

Third is the size of your budget – a critical factor! Fourth is your cat’s taste and texture preferences. Finally, and most importantly, is heeding the advice from your vet.

Cute cat near bowl with food at home
Cute cat near bowl with food at home

To complicate matters further, cats are neophiliacs. This means that they like to try new things and will get bored with strong routine.

Perhaps the ideal approach is to serve your cat a mixture of dry and wet cat food. You may choose to serve one type in the morning and one type in the morning. You may choose to combine the two types in one meal.

There is no perfect answer and the right solution for your cat may change over time. Trial and error is perhaps the best approach to determining whether to serve wet or dry cat food as well as advice from your vet!

Please Note: This Cat Feeding guide Wet and Dry post contains affiliate links. That means if you click through on most of the links and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. This will not effect the price that you pay. I wanted to make sure that you were aware of this.

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