Cat Food Debate – Wet vs. Dry Diets

Think you know everything about feeding your cats? If so (or not!), you’ll want to pay attention to this post. Because maybe – just maybe – you might not know as much as you think you do.

Though you’d think most cat owners would already know how to feed their kitties (after all, most of you have kept cats for years), the truth is that the majority of cat owners (maybe you too) don’t.

Hence, why I keep a “kitten checklist” in every exam room. The goal of this little poster is to keep me from forgetting all my talking points when it comes to every new cat’s healthcare needs. And nowhere is this more important than when it comes to all the new news on the subject of cat food.

If you doubt me, consider that our cats are increasingly obese, inactive, arthritic, diabetic, and urinary tract afflicted. And new research shows that most of these problems can be mitigated by feeding cats correctly.

To help illustrate this point, here is a recent question I received:

Q: Years ago, I distinctly remember reading that dry food was best for cats. But now our new and very young veterinarian says that wet food is better. I know that new veterinarians are up on all the latest information but, since her opinion contradicts things, I’m a little unsure what to think, especially since the Internet goes both ways on the subject. What’s the truth?

A: The truth is we’re not 100% sure. Nonetheless, several recent studies seem to point directly in the wet-is-best direction.

Though dry food might still be better for getting some of that tartar off their teeth, veterinary dentists aren’t so sanguine about this approach to getting teeth clean. Relying on crunchy food in lieu of brushing is like expecting an apple a day to keep your dentist away. Upshot: don’t rely on kibbled food in the dental department.
Moreover, it’s been clear to veterinarians for years now that cats with specific health concerns, particularly when it comes to urinary tract health, are decidedly better off eating wet foods. Though diets formulated for “urinary tract health” abound, no independent studies exist to prove that most of these foods help treat or prevent urinary tract disease.

The only solid studies we have to go on do, however, demonstrate that wet diets can help manage the symptoms related to urinary tract diseases and even obesity in cats.

On the urinary side, wet diets appear to help manage kidney disease, urinary crystal formation, bladder stones, and feline idiopathic cystitis (the inflammatory condition that causes bloody urine and frequent urination).

As to feline obesity: Several recent studies also indicate that feeding wet diets to cats (or even moistened kibble) can help cats lose weight. That’s because cats taking in water along with their solid foods are more active than straight-up kibble eaters.

All of which points to the fact that felines are supposed to eat wet foods. Which only makes sense. After all, wild and feral cats get most of their moisture from the animals they hunt and kill. Consequently, cats drink very little water. And since cats originally evolved in a desert environment, this adaptation to a moist diet makes perfect sense.

Now, why it would make them more active as a result hasn’t been puzzled out yet. In any case, I recommend you consider feeding your cats a wet diet. It may be messier but is probably worth the extra effort.