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Do Cats Need Wet Food? Which Is Best for Your Cat

By Bridget Reed


There is an old debate amongst cat parents about the benefits of wet food vs. dry food. Although there are benefits to both, most four-legged friends tend to prefer wet cat food. 

However, even though your cat may prefer canned cat food, you might wonder whether they need it to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. This article will answer that question and more regarding wet cat food. 

What Is the Difference Between Wet Cat Food and Dry Cat Food?

Before we dive into your cat’s nutritional needs, it is important to clarify the difference between wet cat food and dry cat food. Wet cat food, sometimes called canned or packaged cat food, comes in gravy or liquid. It can be anywhere between 70 and 85 percent liquid.

Dry cat food comes in small, round pellets and is also known as kibble. You might associate kibble more with dogs, but several nutritious dry food options are available for cats. Usually, you buy dry food in larger quantities because it has a longer shelf life than canned food. 

Do Cats Need Wet Food?

Technically speaking, cats do not need wet food to eat a balanced, nutritious diet. As long as they are eating healthy dry food and drinking plenty of water, your feline can eat only kibble. 

However, wet food has several benefits, which is why many veterinarians suggest feeding your cat a diet made up of some, if not all, wet food.

What Are the Benefits of Wet Food?

This section will take a close look at the benefits of wet food. Remember, your cat does not need to eat exclusively wet food. That said, if you want to feed your feline wet food, below are some of the reasons it may be beneficial for their overall health.

Moisture Content

The main reason veterinarians may recommend wet food for your four-legged friend is the high water content. In nature, many cats instinctively dislike standing or still water because it can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Unlike dogs who lap up water, felines tend to be more hesitant with still water.

For this reason, you may notice that your cat gravitates toward a fountain or a faucet rather than drinking out of their bowl. However, even though cats tend to be hesitant with their water bowl, they need to stay hydrated to stay healthy.

Water is vital for cats to regulate their body temperature and prevent urinary tract infections, urinary tract diseases, or kidney disease. Some pet parents choose to buy their cats water fountains to encourage them to stay hydrated. Another way to keep them hydrated is to feed your cat wet food, which naturally contains liquid.

Nutritious Ingredients

Cats are obligate carnivores, so they naturally have to eat a diet that consists largely of animal protein. Where dry food contains a large percentage of carbohydrate fillers, wet food usually contains more protein and fat. Although many cats can digest carbs such as grains, they primarily need protein and fat to stay healthy.

Wet food usually also contains vital vitamins and minerals such as B12, iron, and zinc. The protein and nutrients found in wet food can help support your cat’s muscles which is especially important in their senior years. 

Flavor and Variety 

Given that wet food is protein-rich, cats tend to prefer it over kibble. The rich, meaty smell of wet food will help entice your cat, especially if they are a hesitant eater, they are getting older, or the texture of dry food hurts their teeth.

Also, just like you wouldn’t enjoy eating the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, your feline may appreciate the variety that introducing wet food into their diet brings. Given that wet food tends to come in smaller portion sizes than dry food, you can purchase different flavors to keep your cat interested in their meals. 

Can You Feed Your Cat Both Wet and Dry Food?

There are a few reasons you may want to feed your cat wet and dry food. Your feline may prefer the taste or texture of dry food, or you may not be able to feed your cat three wet food meals a day. Since wet food goes bad faster than dry food, it can be more convenient for some pet parents to feed their feline dry food.

Also, wet food tends to be more expensive than dry food. If you want to feed your cat a mix of wet and dry food for any of the above reasons or others, you can do so safely. 

However, if you are going to feed your cat both types of food, make sure you talk with your veterinarian about how much of each you should be giving your cat. Weight gain and obesity can shorten your cat's life and lead to several health issues, so it is important not to overfeed your four-legged friend. 

What Should You Do if Your Cat Refuses To Eat Wet Food?

Most cats love wet food, but if your furry friend is a fan of dry food, you can try a few different tips. First, you can try warming up the wet food. 

Sometimes changing the temperature of the wet food will make it more alluring for your feline. If you warm up your cat’s wet food, check for any hot spots before giving it to them to avoid any potential burns. 

You can also try combining the wet and dry food, and if your cat is still eating around the wet food, you can sprinkle in a few treats. Another way to boost the protein content in your feline’s food and pique their interest is to drizzle tuna juice over their wet food.

Also, you can try placing the wet food in a separate area from your cat’s dry food. Having to search or “hunt” for wet food may entice your cat into eating it. 

What Should You Do if Your Cat Throws Up After Eating Wet Food?

Some cats love wet food but seem to always have trouble digesting it. If your cat cannot stomach wet food, it may be because of one of the following reasons.

  • Sensitivity: If your cat has a sensitive stomach, they may respond negatively to one of the ingredients in the wet food. Cats can be allergic to different types of meat and other ingredients, so try a variety of wet food before you rule it out.

  • Quick Consumption: Sometimes, your feline may be so excited about the wet food that they end up eating too much too fast. Since cats do not have to chew wet food as rigorously as they have to chew dry food, they can eat too quickly, which can upset their stomachs.

  • Quality: If you are buying low-quality wet food, your feline may negatively react to the ingredients. Always ensure that fresh animal protein is the first ingredient and that there are no chemical additives or preservatives in the food.


Although your cat does not need a complete wet food diet, eating wet food can help your feline with hydration and ensure that they are eating a high-protein diet. Since it can be difficult to increase your cat’s water intake, wet food is sometimes recommended to pet parents to keep their cats well hydrated. 

Healthy cats can eat a diet of wet food, dry food, or a mix of both. The most important thing to keep in mind when looking for the best food for your cat is to look for food that is nutritious and appropriate to your cat’s age, body condition, and life stage. Regardless of if you choose wet or dry food, finding healthy, nutritious, high-quality food is all your feline needs to live a long life.


Clinical evaluation of cats with lower urinary tract disease | NIH

Chronic Kidney Disease | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Hydration | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

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