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Canned or bagged, wet or dry: These are basic choices you must face when perusing the pet food aisle of your favorite store. “Wet” products have undergone some major improvements this year and may be a great choice for your kitty. Here’s what you need to know.
Which Is Better: Dry or Wet?
From a nutritional standpoint, you can’t go wrong selecting either wet or dry foods for your cat, as long as the products come from a reputable manufacturer. “Premium foods provide a complete and balanced diet, and deliver higher-quality ingredients for easy digestion and absorption of essential nutrients,” explains Dr. Amy Dicke, an Ohio-based veterinarian who has been a member of teams consisting of nutritionists, researchers and fellow veterinarians.
Prebiotics, New Ingredients and Recipes
This year, expect to see flavor combinations and ingredients normally associated with your own foods -- such as carved fish filets, country-style meals, garden vegetables, premium pates and slow-cooked meats. It’s important to remember, however, that these foods are specially formulated to meet your carnivore cat’s nutritional needs, which are much different from human requirements.
Prebiotics are also a recent addition to some canned/wet cat foods. These fibers help to fuel good bacteria in your cat’s digestive tract. “A prebiotic fiber, like fructooligosaccharides (FOS), selectively feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut … and starves the bad bacteria,” explains Dicke, adding that 70 percent of your cat’s immune system is located in its digestive system. As a result, the new prebiotics may promote good immunity defenses and better digestion.
The Catkins Diet
Dr. Katy J. Nelson, an emergency veterinarian in Alexandria, Va., often advises owners of her fat-cat patients to feed what she jokingly calls a “Catkins” diet. “Cats don’t always metabolize carbohydrates well, and carbs may tend to cause cats to store more fat,” she says. While premium dry cat foods won’t do this and even have special weight management formulas, Nelson says the new wet foods provide a good option for heftier kitties. These cat foods pack in protein without contributing much in the way of carbohydrates.
Nelson also suggests that cats suffering from urinary tract problems eat wet foods. For less serious cases, an off-the-shelf, good-quality canned cat food provides higher moisture content, allowing for more dilute cat urine and better hydration. More serious cases might need a veterinary formula wet food, which can be obtained through your cat’s doctor.
Making the Transition
If you have fed your cat dry food only but would like to incorporate some of the new wet foods into its diet, do so slowly and gradually to minimize intestinal upsets. “Be sure to consider the added calories the canned food will be contributing to your pet’s diet and decrease the amount of dry food accordingly,” says Dicke.
How to Feed
Both Dicke and Nelson say dry and wet foods can be fed in any combination: separately, at the same or different times, mixed together, and in the morning and evening. Nelson, however, points out that it might be best to serve the wet food in the morning, so it can be consumed in a timely manner to avoid spoilage. Then, if you go out for the day, you might provide a small amount of dry food for snacks, based on the food’s serving guidelines.
Jennifer Viegas is the managing editor of The Daily Cat. She is a journalist for Discovery News, the news service for the Discovery Channel, and has written more than 20 books on animals, health and other science-related topics.