Your Guide to Wet vs Dry Cat Food

With so many cat food options, choosing between dry and wet cat food can be a struggle–let alone choosing a single recipe. Knowing the main health benefits and differences between wet and dry cat food will help you narrow down your choices and we’ll help you pick the best Earthborn Holistic recipe for your cat or kitten.

Dry Cat Food

When you think of pet food, most people tend to think of kibble first. The average pet household tends to feed kibble because of its convenience, and cat households are no different. 

If you’re wondering if dry cat food is bad for cats, the answer is quite the opposite. As long as you’re paying attention to the label on your cat’s food and making sure the AAFCO statement is present, dry cat food is extremely nutritious for cats. The AAFCO statement confirms that your cat’s food is a complete and balanced diet for their life stage and that it provides all the necessary nutrients your cat needs. There are many dry cat food options that are complete and balanced and just as healthy for your cat as wet cat food.

Dry cat food adds high levels of both crude protein and fiber to your cat’s diet. While the calories in dry cat food and carbohydrates in dry cat food can be higher than that of wet cat food, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing–It typically just means you’ll need to feed less of it compared to wet food. If you’re looking for a low-calorie dry food option, our Primitive Feline recipe for all life stages has only 395 kcal/cup. 

Does Dry Cat Food Go Stale?

Dry cat food can go stale if you’re not storing it properly. Correctly storing any type of pet food is essential in making sure your pet is getting the tastiest, most nutritious meal possible. For dry cat food, it’s always recommended to keep the food in the bag, and then keep the bag in another container after you open it. This is for a few reasons, the first being it helps keep the food as fresh as possible due to the extra layers. The second reason is to have the packaging on hand. 

With any pet food, it’s always recommended to save the packaging in case you should have any questions about the food. Without the lot number on your packaging, manufacturers are unable to help solve any problems or answer any questions you may have.

A woman holds her cat and a bag of Earthborn Holistic Wild Sea Catch cat food

Dry Cat Food Benefits 

While convenience is one of the many reasons so many pet parents choose to feed dry cat food, it comes with a list of other benefits as well. For one, dry cat food has a long shelf life. As long as you’re using proper cat food storage and keeping an eye on the expiration date, dry cat food tends to last upwards of a year. Will it take your cat a year to eat a whole bag of food? Most likely not. However, storing your cat’s kibble the right way will help make sure that their food stays fresh as long as you need it to. 

Another benefit of dry cat food is the ability to free feed. While free feeding isn’t recommended for all pets (and especially those trying to maintain a healthy weight), some pets just take a while to eat their food. Free feeding cats with dry food is more doable than it is with wet food because wet food shouldn’t sit out for more than two hours. If your free feeding kitty typically doesn’t eat their food very quickly, you run the risk of their wet food going bad before they finish it. 

If you tend to be away from home often or for long periods of time, you may have experimented with automatic feeders for cats. Automatic feeders aren’t an option with wet food so if using one is something you rely on regularly, dry food may be the best option for you. Similar to automatic feeders, puzzle toys for cats are also popular feeding options that tend to work better with kibble (like Wild Sea Catch, one of our grain-free and gluten-free dry cat food!).

Wet Cat Food

If convenience isn’t your main concern when it comes to choosing a cat food, wet cat food is a tasty option that requires only a little more maintenance for your kitty. Wet cat food can come in a variety of packaging including cans and pouches and is known for its high water content. While this may seem like a downside at first, we’ll talk later about how this is actually a good thing for cats. 

Since cat wet cat food is typically packaged in cans or pouches, it tends to have a shorter shelf life than kibble. That being said, they’re also usually packaged in a way where one can or pouch is one meal, meaning the odds of your cans expiring are slim (unless you buy a ton, of course) and if you do think your cans might expire before you can use them, you can always turn them into frozen treats to help them keep a little longer. 

On the nutritional side, wet cat food is also good if you’re looking for a meal for your kitty with fewer carbs since canned cat food carbohydrates typically boil down to less than that of dry cat food.

One thing that pet parents might also be looking for when choosing a food is making sure the packaging is BPA-free. BPA-free canned cat food is fairly common since most cans are steel (and can easily be recycled!), but wet cat food pouches tend to be a different story. That being said, all of our Earthborn Holistic grain-free wet cat food cans and pouches are all BPA-free so you can feed your cat with confidence.

An overhead view of a cat walking over a variety of Earthborn Holistic wet cat food

Wet Cat Food Benefits 

Because of its high moisture content, one major health benefit of wet cat food is that it is a great option when it comes to cat food for urinary health. Male cats especially are prone to urinary crystals, something our community member Kristen navigated with her cat Dwight. While we always recommend consulting your vet before switching foods for medical reasons, starting your cat off with quality wet cat food may help lessen the chances of them developing urinary crystals and improve urinary tract health. 

Similarly, kidney disease is also a common health concern for cats:

“The kidneys have many roles in the body. Two of these major roles include removing waste products from the bloodstream and conserving water. When kidney function declines past a certain point, toxic waste products like urea and phosphorous begin to back up within the body, which can make a cat feel terrible. Poor kidney function also leads to dehydration because more water than normal is lost in the urine.

“Both of these problems can be at least partially addressed with diet. Foods that have a high water content can help prevent dehydration, and when cats eat a diet made from moderate amounts of high quality protein, they produce less urea and phosphorous that then needs to be eliminated.”

Jennifer Coates, DVM for PetsMD

For this reason, wet cat food for kidney disease often contains lower levels of phosphorus. While it’s not a prescription diet or made for kidney disease, our Chicken Fricatssee canned food recipe has the lowest phosphorus level out of all of our wet food recipes, sitting at 0.19%. Again, remember to always consult your vet before switching foods for medical reasons.

As mentioned earlier, wet cat food also tends to be a good option for weight management cat food because of its lower calorie content. All of our gluten-free wet cat food recipes are relatively low in calories, ranging from 121-150 k/can and 67-69 kcal/pouch. With wet food, it’s much easier to feed the right amount of food for your cat per day since they tend to come in sizes that are close to daily portion sizes. Even still, if weight management is your goal you should consult with your veterinarian regularly to make sure your cat is on track.

How to Choose Wet vs Dry Cat Food

If you’re still trying to decide which type of cat food is right for your cat, you might try mixing wet and dry cat food. Using wet food as a mixer or topper is a great way to introduce it to your cat’s diet while also helping your cat receive the benefits of both types of food. You can also feed wet food as a treat on occasion.

Another deciding factor may be if you’re looking for sensitive stomach cat food. Feeding a food with a single animal protein and fewer ingredients might be an option for your cat if they have a hard time with typical cat food recipes. Our Autumn Tide wet cat food pouch is made with Tuna as the main protein and also contains pumpkin, a high-fiber ingredient also known to help with tummy troubles. 

Homemade cat food may seem like a good idea in the interim while you choose, but in the end it is always best to feed your cat a food that is complete and balanced, something that the AAFCO statement on cat food packaging will tell you. Making sure there are important nutrients like taurine in cat food is important for your cat’s health, and you can never guarantee that your cat is getting the nutrients they need with homemade diets. 

Whether you choose to feed your cat dry or wet cat food, making sure your cat is getting all of the nutrients and health benefits they require is always the top priority. If you’re ever unsure of what your cat should be feeding, check in with your vet to see what they recommend. If you still want some more guidance on any of our Earthborn Holistic cat food recipes, send us a message and we’ll be happy to help!