Is dry food bad for cats? Let’s get our thinking cats on!
There are days when being a cat parent makes you feel like you’re on top of the world, and then there are those when you’re having a nervous breakdown over what to feed your cat!
Is dry food bad for cats? Does little Luna hate those kibbles? Did I offend her, or is she in pain? Why WON’T she eat? If you’re an overthinking parent drowning in anxiety, we feel you and are here to help!
The age-old, dry or wet food for cats dilemma is one of the most common debates for cat parents, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution in the world of cat diets. You need to factor in several aspects—like your pet’s age, breed, and pre-existing health conditions—to cook up the perfect meal plan for your precious one.
Are you losing your mind over finding the right food for your cat? Here at Untamed, we understand the stress! In this guide, we’ll take a look at the dry versus wet cat food debate and help you decide which one is the most biologically appropriate for your furball!
Getting death stares every time you fill up their bowl?
Source: Felice Wölke
What is better for cats—dry food or wet food?
For decades, there has been a preconceived notion that dry cat food is bad for cats. The reality is not so clear-cut. High-quality dry food can have a place in a cat’s diet, but it’s necessary to look beyond the surface and assess the nutritional value of any food you put in your cat’s bowl, be it wet or dry. Let’s take a quick look at the typical nutritional contents in commercial dry and wet (or canned) food:
Dry cat food
Wet cat food
As you can observe in this table, dry cat food is a more artificial food type when compared to wet food.
Many vets argue that dry biscuits, rich in carbs and sugar, are a far cry compared to what cat digestive systems have evolved to digest in the wild. Just like their big cousins in their natural habitat, a cat’s ancestral diet completely depends on freshly hunted prey meat. As such, their digestive systems have evolved to thrive on the delicate balance of nutrients and moisture contained in high-quality meat—and meat only.
Wet cat food is closest to the natural diet pattern of felines. It contains highly bioavailable nutrients, which can be absorbed more efficiently when compared to man-made, dry biscuits.
Is your cat chomping down grass?
Source: Artem Marakov
Let’s examine the benefits of wet cat food!
Did you ever catch your cat nibbling on grass? Chances are your furry friend is either constipated or suffering from a folic acid deficiency—both signs of inadequate nutrition issues, which may be caused by too much dry food in the system. You’ll never have to worry about these issues if you opt for high-quality wet cat food. Here are the most significant benefits of feeding cats high-quality canned food:
- Maintaining optimum hydration levels
- Improving kidney, bladder, and urinary tract health
- Preserving optimal weight and muscle tone
- Providing quality protein content in ideal, vet-approved serving sizes
- Offering that appetising aroma that cats love, even picky eaters
Why is dry cat food so popular?
As we all know, feeding a cat can be a challenging prospect for any cat parent. Our feline friends can be fussy and demanding when it comes to food. We have all experienced the frustrations of buying loads of our kitty’s new favourite wet food, only to discover that her sophisticated palate has moved on.
Dry food helps alleviate some of these challenges as it’s easy to serve, lasts longer without spoiling, and is ultimately cheaper. Manufacturers also prefer to sell dry rather than wet food as it’s much more economical to make and transport and it has a long shelf life.
This table will help you understand why dry cat food enjoys a steady demand and supply:
From the manufacturers’ point of view
From the buyers’ point of view
Dry food is much more profitable to manufacture as it:
Many buyers prefer dry cat food because it:
Can a cat survive on dry food only?
A cat can survive on dry food alone, but they are not as likely to thrive. After all, your furball descends from a proud lineage of voracious carnivores whose digestive system has adapted over millions of years to a strict diet of fresh meat. Many vets argue that a diet uniquely consisting of dry food might lead to a number of different health risks:
- Dehydration—Cats have a lower thirst drive compared to other pets. Most felines don’t look for water unless they are parched, which makes them prone to dehydration. If you’re only feeding dry food to your cat, you need to make sure they are drinking enough water to stay hydrated
- Chronic diseases—Low-quality dry food is high in empty calories that promote feline obesity, which is the root cause of the following chronic conditions:
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- High blood pressure
- Liver or renal failure
- Pancreatic disease
- Arthritis and joint pain
- Respiratory issues
- Heart disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Urinary incontinence
- Exposure to contaminants—Low-quality dry food can contain harmful substances like:
- Fungi and mycotoxins, naturally occurring in cereals and grains
- Bacterial toxins, like the ones that may have caused the recent tragic Pancytopenia outbreak in the UK
- Preservatives that have no nutritional value other than allowing pet food manufacturers and retailers to sell their products for longer
- Skin and food allergies—Consuming low-quality dry food daily may weaken a cat’s natural digestive health and trigger food intolerances, hair loss, rashes, swollen eyes, and wheezing
Is dry food good for cats' health in any way?
While cats should not be feed dry food alone, it may have a place in a balanced diet, especially in the following cases:
- Maintaining dental health—Many vets believe the textured abrasiveness and chewy quality of dry food can help prevent plaque and calculus formation in cats’ teeth
- Gaining healthy weight—Is your cat losing too much weight? Or are you bothered by your kitten failing to gain the necessary pounds? Since dry cat food is carb-rich, it helps felines gain weight faster than wet alternatives
- Recovering from malnutrition—Dry food biscuits are a lifesaver for rescue cats who have endured starvation. Neglected animals can succumb to Refeeding Syndrome if you let them eat too much at a time. Thankfully, dry food is a great way to control the portions while the cat’s frail and battered body gets used to regular meals again
If your feline eats dry food, ensure that it is combined with high-quality wet food to cover all your nutritional bases. We don’t think dry food should be a cat’s only source of nutrition.
Dry vs. wet cat food pros and cons—feeding solutions based on age
While wet food should be considered the staple of feline nutrition, high-quality dry food has a place in a cat’s diet. It’s often cheaper than wet food and more convenient as it’s easy to leave it out to be grazed on throughout the day. If you’re looking for dry food, it’s important to understand how your kitty’s age impacts the selection process and which additional life-stage considerations you should keep in mind.
Should I feed my kitten wet or dry food?
While selecting wet or dry cat food for kittens, you should take stock of the following:
- Energy needs—Kittens have high energy needs and require frequent feeding. When shopping for dry or canned cat food, look for formulas that have high nutritional density to fuel the developmental needs of a growing kitty
- Dental status—As kittens have minuscule teeth, dry food may be a bit harsh for them. If you’re not too keen on wet food, you should consider softening dry food by soaking biscuits up or mashing them with complimentary jelly-based foods
- Habit formation—Kittenhood is the time when these wee babies can get attached to the texture of specific food for life. Many cat parents consider introducing both wet and dry food to weaning kittens to ensure they don’t have to deal with a future fussy feline with their associated tea time tantrums
If you’re working out a diet plan for kittens, make sure to keep them off potentially harmful food, such as:
- Raw chicken, eggs, or other raw meat (to prevent bacterial and parasitic diseases)
- Chocolate and coffee (both contain high amounts of methylxanthine caffeine, which is toxic to all cats)
- Citrus foods (kittens can handle moderate citrus-y fruits, like strawberries, but an overload of ascorbic acid in their system can cause kitten diarrhoea and nervous system disorders)
- Dairy products (kittens who are completely weaned off milk often develop lactose intolerance)
Should I feed my adult cat wet or dry food?
Adult cats have lower energy needs than kittens, so letting them eat too much dry food often results in them becoming overweight. Unsurprisingly, vets warn that the number of obese cats in the UK is growing rapidly. They say over half the cats in the UK are overweight! If your adult cat is on a dry food diet, follow these tips to keep them healthy:
- Keep many water stations around your house and make sure your cat drinks water throughout the day
- Check the ingredients of any dry (or, indeed, wet) food served to verify that it provides adequate nutrition to your cat
- Make sure to visit the vet regularly so that any potential health issues can be caught in time
- Learn your cat’s language of pain—a grumpy mood may be confused with grimacing, but it’s important to spot the difference
Should I feed my senior cat wet food only?
When it comes to senior cat food, diets can be complicated. Senior cats often experience drops in appetite, but they may benefit from higher caloric and protein intakes to offset the natural loss of muscle fibers that accompanies aging. As your ageing cat enters their golden years, you should consider transitioning to high-quality wet cat food. It contains:
- Plenty of moisture content for stress-free digestion
- A higher percentage of animal proteins to prevent muscle loss
- More micronutrients to support healthy ageing
- Amino acids (like taurine) that boost heart health in cats
As long as you choose a senior-appropriate formula and schedule frequent vet checkups, your cat is going to have a wonderful time being a chill and pampered old-timer!
Finding cat-approved food is easier than you think!
Source: (c) Untamed
Don’t cross your cat—we’ll help you pick the best for your number one guy (or gal)!
When you’re looking for the perfect cat food, you’re no longer a cat parent but the designated hunter for your little carnivore. You need to actively look for ingredients that serve them in the best possible way.
This table will give you an idea of how to decipher cat food labels:
What to look for
What to avoid
Opt for manufacturers that:
Avoid brands that:
Do you often wonder what your cat would have to say about their food if they could speak? At Untamed, we do this all the time! Our cat-obsessed team lives to create food approved by cats. From playful aristocats to rebellious rockers, we have multiple tasty, nutrient-dense formulas to please every feline temperament!
If it’s not wet, it’s not it
Source: (c) Untamed
Why Untamed is the cat’s whiskers
Did you know that cat food labelled as ‘with chicken’ only needs to contain 4% chicken? No wonder cats get a reputation of being fussy.
Here at Untamed, we’re happy to stray from the herd.
- Our food is made with prime cuts of human-grade meat like mouth-watering tuna steak, salmon fillet, and chicken breast
- We ensure your cat’s bowl is a nutritional powerhouse—full of the essential amino acids and nutrients cats need to feel happy and healthy
- We gently steam-cook our whole meats in their own glorious gravies to lock in flavour and nutrients and deliver them to your door
With fresh, human-grade ingredients that mirror a cat’s natural diet, we’ve crafted recipes that are as healthy as they are delicious.
You can try a taster box here. Give us a go—your cat will thank you.
But my cat is an extra fussy diva hooked on dry food, and I don’t know what to do.
Does your cat shoot icy death glares every time you change their food? Whether you want to switch your cat to wet food or give them a healthier meal, getting cats to change their preferences is hard work.
If you’re tired of fighting a cold war with your picky friend, here are some tips that can be helpful:
- Don’t shock your cat(!)—Abruptly changing the food type can leave your furry companion rattled. Instead, introduce a new food by mixing it up with their preferred brand—start with small quantities before progressing to higher mix ratios over the course of a week or so
- Microwave canned food—Cats used to ambient temperature dry food might find it difficult to transition to cooler tinned food. Gently heating the meal up will release the deliciously meaty aromas that cats are designed to love. Careful not to overheat it, though!
- Hand-feed your cat—Cats are smart and have strong survival instincts, which also makes them distrustful. Initially hand-feeding your cat will make them trust the food (that’s assuming they like you enough to trust you...)
- Give them privacy—If hand-feeding doesn’t work, try giving them some space! Most cats inspect new food in privacy to confirm they’re not at risk of eating something that could potentially hurt them
Untamed will bring out the best in your cat—if you never try, you’ll never know!
Untamed cat food isn’t owned by a faceless multinational corporation. We don’t have an ambitious, profit-oriented plan—we started off after witnessing what a good diet could do to a sick cat. Back in 2019, our team member’s cat, Sian, was terribly ill and wouldn’t get better. Eventually, Sian’s dad introduced his beloved feline to a human-grade, whole-meat diet, which improved Sian’s health (to both of their surprise)!
Untamed is dedicated to making cats healthier and happier through the power of healthy nutrition. You can visit our Recipes page to check out our diverse offer. Many cats that switch to an Untamed diet report the following changes:
Within a week
Within four months
How to try Untamed cat food
Are you ready to give your cat the best life ever? So are we! To give us a go, follow these paw-steps:
- Take our quiz and order a competitively priced taster pack
- If your cat likes it, we will deliver their favourite recipes to your door
- Cancel, postpone, or freeze your account any time
Don’t worry—delivery is always free. And we think great cat food should not come at the expense of the planet, which is why all our packaging is eco-friendly and recyclable and all our food is carbon neutral.
I see that you’ve fixed me up for the month, human. Good job. Much meow.
Source: (c) Untamed