Is wet food necessary for the spoiled little bastard?
April 8, 2006 2:24 PM   Subscribe

Is there any reason why I should be feeding my cat wet and dry food, instead of just dry food?

Since I got my cat three years ago, I've fed him a wet food once or twice a day (9 Lives, Friskies, Fancy Feast, etc), and have had a bowl of Iams dry food left out all the time for him to graze at. But after reading this thread I'm thinking that I might be better off just getting some high-quality dry food (e.g. Nutro Ultra) and nixing the wet food altogether. Aside from a few days of sulking on his part, are there any reasons why good quality dry food isn't enough? Is there some necessary kitty nutrient found only in wet food, or is it all a big racket?
posted by granted to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is just anecdotal, but my cat has refused to eat anything but Purina dry cat food her entire life. I have tried many times to tempt her with various high-quality brands of wet and dry food to no avail (she's had a few age-related health problems in the last year and could stand to gain some weight). She's 18 years old now, so I can't imagine that a lifetime of store-bought dry food has hurt her.
posted by amro at 2:36 PM on April 8, 2006

My cats eat only dry food (Hill's Science), accompanied by a large bowl of water, and they are both in great health.

About once every couple of months or so I give them canned tuna, which they love, but they are thriving on the dry food. I think it's better for them. It doesn't go off in hot weather the way wet food does, so is more hygenic. Neither of them are hunters, so I don't think they're eating fresh meat they're catching themselves when they go out.

Buy the best quality dry food you can afford, and your furguy should be just fine on it.
posted by essexjan at 2:36 PM on April 8, 2006

First off: IANAV

My lay understanding of the whole wet/dry cat food issue comes down to this: all else being equal, wet is preferred to dry because cats evolved to thrive in arid climates, are used to getting MOST of their necessary water from the food they eat... they're not really plumbed for digesting dry food, and a bowl of water doesn't really replace the lubrication that wet food provides.

There's plenty more to say on this... but there're my two-cents.

Now, if you're really interested in reading more about cat food, you should check-out the Feline Nutrition tribe over at The moderator certainly seems to have done her homework, and if you can get past her zeal, is a great resource — if only for a second, well-educated lay opinion.

Good luck!
posted by silusGROK at 2:43 PM on April 8, 2006

FWIW, my vet told me years ago to eliminate all wet food from my cats' diet (too much ash). He recommended Hills Science Diet, which I've been using ever since. My cats are now 13 years old. Whenever I make tuna salad (maybe twice a month), I let them have the water from the can. That's as close to wet food as they get. A real plus for me is that their litter box is easy to clean - their shit never smells bad, and is always pretty hard - even if they have an "accident" their shit never stains anything - it's too solid.
posted by webjunkie at 2:51 PM on April 8, 2006

With my cat I stick to the dry food, and only the stuff that is found in cat food stores. I have read that the stuff you find in ordinary grocery stores is subpar in terms of nutrition and/or source material (i.e. "made from 100% rat anuses that fell through the cracks in the slaughterhouse floor.") In the past whenever I gave her the wet stuff she developed bad breath or loose stools, or both.

To me the Fancy Feast-type stuff always seemed like the McDonalds equivalent for pets -- perhaps tasty, but not the most healthy or nutritious thing going. If you were a human whose diet consisted entirely of McD's and Burger King you would most likely be overweight and not in great health, although I'm sure there are people that pull it off. Likewise, the only times in the past where I have had a weight problem with my cat is when I was feeding her the grocery store stuff, which turned her into a fat little tubcat. This might be related to the fact that she's an older cat and stays indoors, so gets little exercise.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:16 PM on April 8, 2006 vet told me years ago to eliminate all wet food from my cats' diet (too much ash).

that's really irritating to hear. my vet told me exactly the opposite: to eliminate all dry food as a general rule, and to use meat, science diet or iams whenever possible. my cat currently noshes on iams old bastard (okay, fine, "active maturity") formula.

any vets in the house who can address this?
posted by patricking at 3:20 PM on April 8, 2006

Cats are notoriously picky eaters, and they do not cotton much to food-switchery. I'm amazed at how my own little feline, who was found in a garbage can after having lived on the streets for all his life, will throw a conniption fit if you switch from Max Cat to Iams.

You know that opening scene from The Long Goodbye? Yeah, it's like that.

Doesn't mean it can't happen, though.

As for wet vs. dry, I'd always been told, as said above, that dry plus water is better for them and that wet food is more like kitty McDonalds. However, there's no convincing my own little feline, and so here I'm stuck. He'll nibble on his dry stuff, but he knows that dinner isn't really served until I open a can.

Have to admit, I'm pretty surprised to hear of any vets promoting wet over dry. Interesting. Although, I had known that wet food contains just about all the moisture they need.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:13 PM on April 8, 2006

Our cats got to 10+ on dry only, and it was great. One of them however got clots in her bladder (they just happen I guess) and was having blood in the box. For her, the vet recommended/precsribed/whatever a wet food,. The first variant made her barf, but the second is better. He claims that this specific wet food (W/D Science Diet) will adjust the pH of her urine and help stop the bloody pee problem.

I wish we'd always been able to keep with the dry though, because now the other cat in the house knows Kitty #1 is getting wet food and goes NUTS wanting some. We had to feed Kitty #1 in the bathroom to keep her pal from chowing her prescribed food. Finally I gave up and now I give them both the wet food. It's only $1 a can and the vet says it won't hurt the other cat.

But dry food was so much easier...we even had one of those cool vacation cat food timer things that spun around and fed them twice a day, so if we were delayed at work or by traffic, they still got fed like clockwork, and learned not to bug us for food. Can't do that with the wet stuff...
posted by GaelFC at 4:34 PM on April 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

My vet, too, told me to eliminate all wet food from our cats' diets. He seemed to believe that wet food caused a number of problems and had no special value. The cats groused at first, but as cat's will, they evenutally ate what we gave them.
posted by jdroth at 4:37 PM on April 8, 2006

Fancy Feast is like McDonalds... but don't give-in to the flawed logic of: if Fancy Feast is crap, and Fancy Feast is wet, then wet food must be crap.

Most of the wet foods available in grocery stores are crap... but all of the information I've read on the subject tells me that (all things being equal) wet is better. Sadly, cat health care is a specialty... and most vets are generalists.
posted by silusGROK at 4:51 PM on April 8, 2006

I heard dry food is better for their teeth.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 5:07 PM on April 8, 2006

Well, that's confusing. Come on, can't we do better than "wet food sucks"/"no, dry food sucks"? My wife and I are thinking about getting a cat or two, and we'd like to start them off right.
posted by languagehat at 5:49 PM on April 8, 2006

My cat - 14 yrs old, female - ate exclusively dry food till she was about 13 and started getting the blood in the urine problem too. The vet recommended wet food, and not only did it fix the bladder issues, but she lost weight, and is now merely chunky instead of obese.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:52 PM on April 8, 2006

Also - young cats are different from old cats. As cats age their sense of smell wanes and food is less satisfying. So some of them just eat more. For me, leaving the dry food out resulted in an old, fat kitty, while a regulated amount of wet food served daily now helps her weight a lot. Plus, young cats don't get the bladder problems that dry food seemed to be causing. If I had it to do over again I would still feed her dry food when young (for cleaner teeth) then go to wet food as she got older.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:56 PM on April 8, 2006

My vet is of the opinion that wet food isn't something a cat should be exclusively fed on. The nice thing about dry food is that the crunchy texture helps break of tartar from their teeth which does wonders for their breath, not to mention reduces the amount of dental care necessary.

If you're having trouble getting your cat to drink water, and are using wet food as a replacement, I'd suggest trying a cat fountain like the "Cat-IT" or similar. My cats drink at least double (judging by the litter box) and have stopped begging for sips from my water glasses. It keeps the water moving and has a little filter so the water stays cool and doesnt taste stale. Not to mention, you can fill it up and leave it alone for a couple of days without it getting all funky.

I give my cats wet food as a treat once in a blue moon, but they've survived just fine on Iams dry for about three years now. In fact, its all my one cat will eat. She turns up her nose at the wet stuff.
posted by gilsonal at 7:38 PM on April 8, 2006

I was serving a bowl of dry plus one small can a day...but my cat is overweight, so the vet recommended switching to wet only. It is annoying that grocery and convenient stores generally don't carry quality cat food.
posted by dinah at 8:16 PM on April 8, 2006

Our puss eats mainly kangaroo mince (about 100g, twice a day). Some weeks we buy chicken necks instead, just to give her teeth a bit of a scrape and make up for the bones that are missing from the mince. She's six, and in very good health.

Every vet I've talked to about this says that dry food contains more carbohydrates than cats need, and that feeding cats exclusively on dry food often causes kidney/urinary problems longterm.

Dry food is for when we're away for a day or two, if we can't arrange for somebody else to feed her. She gets noticeably fatter if she has dry food only for more than a week or so.
posted by flabdablet at 9:25 PM on April 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've had cats for over 30 years. They always get fed a high quality dry food (feeding at will, Nutro) and have a big bowl of water refreshed morning and night. My current pair share a can of Fancy Feast Friday and Saturday nights. Yeah, it's not the best stuff for them, but it's not much and only twice a week. They're both quite healthy - nice fur, shiny eyes, good teeth. And while eating Nutro their poops are minimal and almost stink-less. I tried a different "high-quality" food on a lark, and hoo-boy. Back onto Nutro they went.

I had one male cat get urine crystals due to high ash content in his food. He was then put on Science Diet (their low-ash dry food, I don't remember the exact name) and lived to see his 20th year.

I've always heard and read that dry food is best (from vets and cat books). This is the first time I've ever heard of vets recommending wet food for healthy cats.
posted by deborah at 9:54 PM on April 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Vets do not spend much time in vet school learning about nutrition. Unless your vet is really into nutrition, take what they advise with a grain of salt. Case in point: the most recent evidence shows that dry food has next to no effect on tartar, and in fact is thought to be worse than wet food (think about how much of a dry cracker sticks to your teeth, rather than, say, oatmeal) - there was never any actual evidence that it DID help with tartar, as far as I know. As far as I'm concerned, the primary issue is quality. High-quality canned food (not Iams, not Science Diet) has many benefits: it has lots of meat and little or no grain (cats are obligate carnivores, therefore more meat is always preferable, cats do not need to eat any grain, and all dry foods contain grain to some extent, except for Innova EVO and comparable diets), it generally has no preservatives, and it increases the amount of water the cat takes in (which is always beneficial).

I think cats are better off with at least some high quality wet food in their diet. The only real benefits to feeding dry food is price and convenience, which are not unimportant, but in terms of what's best for the cat, I'd have to say a high quality wet food (Innova, Felidae, Prairie) making up at least some of the day's calories would be my choice.
posted by biscotti at 10:03 PM on April 8, 2006 [2 favorites]

Biscotti is spot on as usual - vets are usually very uneducated about nutrition. Wet food has many benefits, but dry food is also important to keep teeth strong. Science Diet is not a good food, and all vets recommend it because they make money off it. Nutro is good, but not great food. California Natural makes an excellent wet food that even very finicky cats eat, Solid Gold and Addiction (these guys especially for animals with allergies - they use novel proteins in their food like unagi and venison...) make just incredibly high quality wet foods for cats. Felidae and Prairie are great foods too. The Chicken Soup franchise makes a good cat food, and also Precise and Royal Canin are good brands. Spending extra on food can save you on vet bills down the road, as pets are less likely to develop allergies. Not feeding a cat high quality food because their poops are easier to deal with is putting your own welfare before the cat. Animal nutrition experts will tell you that poop should not be rock hard, the sign of a healthy diet is poops that are soft (but not runny).

Feed the damn cat some good wet food. It's not going to hurt, it likely will help, and your cat will eventually find a flavor it enjoys and be happier.
posted by vito90 at 11:25 PM on April 8, 2006

BTW - you can't get these kinds of foods from the grocery store. They wouldn't carry it if they could get it, and some high-quality outfits like Solid Gold won't sell to them anyway. If you're in any medium sized city, you should be able to find a store that specializes in high quality stuff. A plug for where I shop: PetsEnergy just north of Seattle.
posted by vito90 at 11:29 PM on April 8, 2006

I hesitate to admit this but for the last 18 years or so we have fed our cats homemade cat food. We got the recipe out of "The Natural Cat" by Anitra Frazier.
3 parts ground turkey
3 parts cooked barley
2 parts vegies (usually 1 carrot, 1 parsley)
1 part tofu
blend in a food processor
Once a month we cook up 6# of meat and 7c of barley and freeze up approx. 17 pints (about 6 wks for our two cats). This ends up being cheap. even with organic (!) ingredients,
We sprinkle brewers yeast before serving.
Apparently it can be hard to get cats started on this (phase it in, we hear) but our cats have never had anything else so they don't know what they are missing flavor wise.
posted by pointilist at 2:45 PM on April 9, 2006

Nothing at all wrong with a home cooked diet, as long as it's balanced and species-appropriate (I'm wondering if there is enough taurine in that diet, and I don't know that cats really need all that barley, but it looks pretty good to me, and if your cats do well on it, good for you for bothering).
posted by biscotti at 4:07 PM on April 9, 2006

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