Is dry pet food good for cats? Let’s answer straight away – no, it’s not good. In fact, it has some serious problems.
Dry cat food was invented by the pet industry as an alternative with longer shelf lives, lower costs of ingredients and logistics and greater convenience for cat owners. No wonder it sells well, because people are the ones who make buying choices, not cats.
In this article, you will learn the most important reasons why dry pet food is not a good choice for your cat.
- Dry cat food is too dry. No kidding! Moisture in food is very important for cats because they naturally drink very little. In the wild, their main water source would be body fluids of their prey. Did you know mice contain up to 76% of body water? It’s similar for most other animals that cats prey on, like rabbits and smaller birds. Dry food contains approximately 10% moisture, whereas the water content of wet and canned cat foods is more than 80%. Dry food is not even close to that, and it’s a sure path to chronic dehydration for your cat, which is a common cause of kidney stones, renal failure and urinary tract disease.
- Dry cat food contains too much grain. And not only grain, but other sources of carbohydrates, too. Grain and other plant materials are added to dry cat foods as fillers because they cost less than meat, so they help to keep the price reasonable. That is why we say that there is a correlation between price and quality of cat food.
Average commercial cat food provides about 30 to 40 percent of energy through carbohydrates; it should not be greater than 5 percent.
Cats do not consume carbohydrates naturally, and a cat’s body is not even made to break down carbohydrates properly. A common outcome of a carbohydrate-rich diet is obesity – and, by extension, health conditions that result from obesity.
Even if your cat’s health is not a primary concern, cats who eat grain-rich, and especially dry, diets have very smelly urine and feces. Is your cat’s litter box smelly? The main solution is not cleaning it three times per day. It’s changing your cat’s diet.
Okay, you can safely choose grain-free cat food, right? Nope. Most so-called grain-free cat foods replace grain with potatoes. While technically they are free of grain, they are not a bit better.
- Dry food contains too much preservative. If you dry out meat and fat, you must use some kind of preservative to keep it from spoiling while stored on a shelf. Not all preservatives are bad, or at least not all preservatives are very bad, but if you see a potentially cancer-causing BHT, BHA or ethoxyquin on the ingredient list, run away as fast as you can.
Note: Pet food manufacturers list only preservatives that they have added themselves. For example, if they add frozen fish containing preservatives, they will list “fish” and nothing else.
- Dry food contains artificial flavors and colors. What have we noticed about different brands of dry cat food? The higher the quality of ingredients, the less likely cats are to enjoy the food. Why? Dry foods have almost no smell (except that unmistakable bad one, which, by the way, is spoiled fats), and most of them contain ingredients inedible for cats. What’s that about? Producers add artificial flavor enhancers, just to make your cat believe the kibbles are edible and to make you believe their product is the best. But it isn’t. To make it worse, manufacturers also try to appeal to you by making kibbles colored. Brown, green, red and orange kibbles look fantastic in your cat’s bowl. The truth is, cats don’t care about colors; they’re not attracted to them, and even less to artificial colorants.
- Dry cat food does not clean teeth. This is not a disadvantage of dry food compared to other foods. But it is mentioned because dry food manufacturers often make claims about it in their ads. Science shows a minimal improvement in oral health of animals eating dry food.
Holistic veterinarian DVM Jean Hofve says, “I’ve probably examined at least 13,000 cats’ mouths. There was no real pattern to the dental and periodontal disease I saw.”
What really matters is that you clean your cat’s teeth. Is it mandatory? Nope, but if you care about your cat as you would care for your child, then it is. Learn more about it in our series about teeth cleaning for cats.
- Many medical problems are related to dry cat food. We already mentioned some of them, but a dry diet may cause or contribute to many other health conditions too. A few of the most common are diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, liver failure, renal failure, hyperthyroidism, allergies and skin problems.
Dry food is bad for cats! What now?
So what’s next? This article would be a complete scare tactic if we did not provide you with steps to follow. On the other hand, it should be scary.
- Stay away from dry food, because its only benefits are convenience and price. Would you want to trade those factors for your cat’s health?
- Choose a quality wet food. It’s not that easy to find one, but this article will help you. If you are ready to go even further, why don’t you try a homemade raw diet? You can find an easy-to-follow raw cat food recipe here.
- Introduce the new food gradually. If your cat’s body is used to one food, the sudden introduction of new ingredients may upset his stomach, causing vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. Many of us would then assume that the food itself was the cause and switch back to the original diet. Avoid that problem; instead, make a gradual introduction of the new cat food. This approach will also be beneficial if your cat somehow does not accept the new food as food. That commonly happens to cats who have eaten dry kibbles for their whole life.
That’s about it. Dry food is NOT good for cats, and the sooner you realize it, the healthier your cat will be – and the happier you both will be.