Canned or Dry Food?

canned and dry cat food

Is canned or dry food best for your cat? From a behavior standpoint, both have advantages. I recommend that cats get both early on, so that they recognize and accept both types of foods.

Why should cats get canned food?

Canned food is better for administering medicine. Some medicines are in powder or liquid form, and can be put on canned food. And a pill can be made into a tiny meatball to be given before the meal. These methods do not work for all cats, but they do work for some.

Cats that have lost their appetite are more apt to eat canned food, since it is easier to smell. But this only works if they recognize canned food as something edible. And cats with sore teeth can more easily eat canned food—so if your cat will eat his canned food but not his dry, it is time to get his teeth checked. And post dental surgery, canned may be recommended.

Why should cats get dry food?

Dry food works best in food puzzles. Indoor cats are at a high risk of being bored. Boredom is stressful. A cat under stress does not handle additional stress well. If we can keep his day interesting with food puzzles, he will better handle changes to the household and his routine.

What if I really believe canned is best?

I am not a nutritionist, so will not address dietary pros and cons. But if you believe that canned is best, I recommend giving a teaspoon of dry food each day. Ultimately, this should be in a food puzzle. As always, check with your veterinarian if a strict diet of canned food was recommended, before taking this step.

What if I need the convenience of dry?

Dry food is a welcome convenience for people with many cats. It also works well for people who are away from home many hours each day. But as your cats age, they may need to be able to recognize that wet food is food, and to enthusiastically eat it. To this end, you should at least give a teaspoon of canned food once a week. Once a day would be even better.

Will some cats really only eat canned or dry food?

Yes. I have seen both types of food refused, even by hungry cats.

I have two cats that I adopted as 7-year-olds, that do not seem to realize that canned food is food. One will scrap the floor around a bowl with canned food in it, as if to cover the noxious item. And I have had clients whose cats did not recognize dry food as food. These cats could not use most food puzzles.

It is best to start your cats off at a young age on both canned and dry food. Getting things right from the start makes life easier on you and your cat. To learn how to get off on the right foot when adding a new cat, read my blog, Introducing Two Cats.

Patience Fisher owns Patience for Cats LLC, a cat behavior business based in Pittsburgh, PA. She is Associate Certified by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She holds a Bachelor’s in Biology, a Diploma of Feline Behavior Science Technology, and is a certified veterinary assistant. Check out her humorous YouTube video at her Patience for Cats channel. Visit her on Facebook at Patience for Cats.

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