The age-old Wet Food vs Dry Food argument. You will notice I said argument instead of debate, why you may ask? Well having… talked to various people in the feline industry I have received my fair share of opinions and just downright silly statements that turn this debate into an all out argument.
So I will attempt to explain some often-ignored principles of feline nutrition and do my best to explain why cats and kittens have a better chance at optimal health if they are fed wet food (or a balanced homemade diet) instead of dry food.
I always tell people to read the ingredients on the food labels of what they are about to buy, diet is the brick and mortar of the health of your feline companion. Taking time out to pay a little attention and putting a little thought into what you feed your cat(s) can make a huge difference over their lifetime and very possibly help them avoid serious, painful, and costly illnesses.
The primary points I am going to focus on regarding why I am in favor of wet food is the following three key negative issues associated with dry food:
- The water content is too low
- The carbohydrate load is too high
- The type of protein – too high in plant-based versus animal-based proteins
Dry food is also heavily processed which includes being subjected to high temperatures for a long time resulting in alteration and destruction of nutrients.
The word “processed” often causes some confusion, so let me clarify what I mean. Obviously most food that we eat is processed in some way or form, example the apple you just ate was cut from a tree and that spaghetti Bolognese you enjoyed yesterday was a form of processed meat since ground beef has been grounded in a machine to make mince the list goes on, But there is a difference between mechanical processing and chemical processing.
If it’s a single ingredient food with no added chemicals, then it doesn’t matter if it’s been ground or put into a jar. It’s still real food.
Nutritionists always tell people to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This is to get humans to focus more on real fresh food which is found in the perimeter of the grocery stores and the unhealthy processed foods are usually in the inner aisle of the shop (Think the cookie aisle here).
Where do you think Dry Food would reside in this scenario? Definitely not in the “perimeter”! There is nothing fresh about this source of food and it certainly does not come close to resembling a bird or a mouse.
Look I have heard it all when I talk to people about this some say “Yes, but my Sokkies/MrBajongles/OtherCatNames are doing just fine on Dry food. Well no, you’re wrong see every living creature is “fine” until outward signs of a disease starts showing. Every cat was “fine” until the feeding of species-inappropriate, hypoallergenic ingredients caught up with him and he started to show signs of food intolerance/IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). Every cat was “fine” until that kidney or bladder stone got big enough to cause clinical signs.
The point is that diseases in your feline pet ‘brews’ long before being noticed by their Forever Human(in this case you).
So next time someone uses the statement “But my Cat is fine” trust me it means nothing to me in fact it will prompt me to alert the SPCA because you will kill your cat.
I am a strong supporter of Preventive Nutrition meaning I don’t want to say: “Ooops, seems like feeding my cat brown rice all these years, because he liked it so much turned out to be a mistake”
In order to be on board with Preventive Nutrition for your cats you will need to be aware of the following facts:
- All urinary tract systems are much healthier with an appropriate amount of water flowing through them.
Source: Dietary water and urinary tract health
- Carbohydrates will wreak havoc on cat’s blood sugar/insulin balance.
Source: Postprandial glycemia
- Cats inherently have a low thirst drive and need to consume water *with* their food. (A cat’s normal prey is ~70 – 75% water – not the very low 5-10% found in dry food.)
Source: How much water do a cat need?
- Cats are strict carnivores which means they are designed to get their protein from meat/organs – not plants.
Source: The Carnivore Connection to Nutrition in Cats
Cats need Animal-based Protein
Cats are obligate (strict) carnivores and are very different from dogs in their nutritional needs. What does it mean to be an ‘obligate carnivore’? It means that your cat was built by Mother Nature to get her nutritional needs met by the consumption of a large amount of animal-based proteins (meat/organs).
They need much less nutritional support from plant-based proteins (grains/vegetables), because your cat lacks specific metabolic (enzymatic) pathways and cannot utilize plant proteins as efficiently as animal proteins.
Proteins derived from animal tissues have a complete amino acid profile. (Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Think of them as pieces of a puzzle.) Plant-based proteins do not contain the full complement (puzzle pieces) of the critical amino acids required by an obligate carnivore. The quality and composition of a protein (are all of the puzzle pieces present?) is also referred to as its biological value.
Humans and dogs can take the pieces of the puzzle in the plant protein and, from those, make the missing pieces. Cats cannot do this. This is why humans and dogs can live on a vegetarian diet but cats cannot.
Taurine is one of the most important nutrients present in meat but it is missing from plants. Taurine deficiency will cause blindness and heart problems in cats.
Also note that synthetic taurine is manufactured from a chemical reaction and all taurine (at least that I know of) comes out of China. Given that country’s horrible track record with regard to food safety, I certainly would not want to depend on taurine from China’s chemical synthesis to meet my cats’ taurine needs.
The protein in dry food, which is often heavily plant-based, is not equal in quality to the protein in canned food, which is meat-based. The protein in dry food, therefore, earns a lower biological value score.
Because plant proteins are cheaper than meat proteins, pet food companies will have a higher profit margin when using corn, wheat, soy, rice, etc.
With regard to the overall protein amounts contained in dry versus canned food, do not be confused by the listing of the protein percentages on the packaging. At first glance, it might appear that the dry food has a higher amount of protein than the canned food—but this is not true on a dry matter basis which considers the food minus the water. Most canned foods, when figured on a dry matter basis, have more protein than dry food. And remember, even if this was not the case, the percentage numbers do not tell the whole story.
It is the protein’s biological value that is critical.
If you disagree or feel you can add additional value to this post then please take the time to leave us a reply in the comment section below.