Cat eating kibble

Q. My veterinarian says canned food is better for my cat than kibble. Is this true? And if so, why?

A. This may be true for your specific cat, but I’m not comfortable making a sweeping generalization for all cats. I will say, however, that given the chronic dehydration of many cats, it is becoming more common for veterinarians to recommend food with high moisture content as part of an overall program to increase cats’ water intake. 

Wet vs. Dry

Canned food is good in that it has significantly higher water content than dry (about 70 percent versus 10 percent). That 70 percent water figure is coincidentally about the same water content your cat would get if he ate a small animal in the wild (or, heaven forbid, in the house). Since canned food is typically given in measured portions at regular intervals, it may also help your cat maintain a healthy weight, since many people who offer kibble to their cats allow them to eat all they want from an always-full dry-food buffet. Of course, if you choose to feed your cat kibble, you should measure it so that you’re not overfeeding your cat.

But, of course, there’s more to the story. Kibble is certainly more convenient, and it’s a perfect match for the food puzzles I always recommend using to enrich a pet’s environment. It is undeniably true that millions of cats thrive on a diet of kibble and water, and have been for decades.

Talk to Your Vet

Cat lovers don’t have to choose one or the other kinds of food exclusively, however. You can easily use kibble for food puzzles and training, and offer canned food as a way to promote hydration. (Another way to encourage your cat to drink more is to purchase a pet drinking fountain, which provides an appealing source of clean running water.)

Instead of me second-guessing your veterinarian’s advice — she knows your cat, after all, which I don’t — I recommend that you ask why she prefers a canned food diet for your cat. There may be a specific health problem she’s trying to address. If you are adamant that you want to feed kibble to your pet, there may be other ways to address those issues — but you won’t know until you have the conversation about how to best feed your cat.