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Feline Nutrition

"Canned vs. Dry" -Dry Food Diet

By Garry White



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As with all pet foods, if the manufacturer claims the product to be "Complete and Balanced", then the food provides all the nutrition a cat needs for a balanced diet.

A significant advantage is that dry foods may be left out for extended periods, allowing a cat to "graze" throughout the day. Dry foods are beneficial in helping to remove plaque from the teeth (although there are a variety of alternative methods for doing this). Dry foods are available in a variety of compositions, including those for diet-control and to manage the dietary requirements for specific ailments. Dry food supporters will tell you that dry foods force a cat to drink water, which is the natural order of things, thus…it must be better for the cat. Not so. Canned foods are generally 70-75% water anyway, so cats will get partial hydration just from eating canned food, and then they'll drink water to supplement what is needed for adequate hydration. (Understand that canned food supporters promote this: Cats have a low thirst-drive, and water should be consumed with the food. This is an opinion, not a fact.)

As you can see, thee are advantages and benefits to a dry-food diet, but as with any program, there are downsides too; let's look at some of those. First, many feel that "grazing" (the ability to eat at will) is bad for cats, primarily because it can lead to obesity. I posed the question to the professionals: "Will cats (as with dogs), eat until the bowl is empty?" and I got mixed answers, with a bottom line that says it's individual to the cat. Another downside is that we need to be cautious of ingredients, but this is so with any food. An article written by Lisa A. Pierson, DVM (and contributed by our very own Pam Norman…thank ya, Pammie!) urges us to understand the difference between meat-based protein and plant-based protein, and to know that cats need the former. They surely do, and many dry foods include meat-based protein. Some do not, or the percentages are minute, or the quality is less than ideal; we need to be watchful. Grains and carbohydrates can be another downside to dry foods; typically, we see higher concentrates of grains in many dry foods (especially in the lower-quality brands), and cats have a hard time digesting them; once again, we need to be selective.

My opinion: Once again we come down to choice; preference. I found one vet at a major pet-food manufacturer who said that she preferred a mixed diet of canned/dry, but added that it was her opinion only, not that of her company. Overall, the research showed that a quality dry-food diet is nutritionally balanced and safe for our cats, with consideration given to the few negative aspects. Next week, we'll summarize the arguments for both positions.




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Copyright © 2003-2013 by Kathy Fatheree. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy's assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.