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Canned Cat Food vs Dry Cat Food

Updated: Feb 5

Wise words from Dr. Lisa A. Pierson, DVM

I would much rather see a cat eat any canned food versus any dry food – regardless of the price-point of the canned food. This includes Friskies, 9-Lives, Fancy Feast, etc.

Canned food is healthier than dry food because:

  1. All canned foods contain an appropriate (high) amount of water which is critical for urinary tract health. Please Feline Urinary Tract Health.

  2. The protein in canned food is more apt to be higher in animal-based protein versus plant-based protein – contrary to most dry foods. Keep in mind that we are feeding cats (strict carnivores) not cows.

  3. The carbohydrate level of most canned foods is lower than that of most dry foods.

There is no dry food that covers all of the very important points listed above. None.

If you do not want to read any further and want three quick bullet points, here they are:

  • Get the dry food out of your cat’s diet.

  • See the Cat Food Composition chart. Feed canned food with less than 10% of calories from carbohydrates. Next, look at the fat and protein. In general, aim for higher protein (at least 40%) and lower fat (~50% or less).

  • If you are caring for a diabetic cat that is on insulin please read Feline Diabetes – especially the STOP sign section – and make sure that you understand the highly probable need to decrease the insulin dosage if you are decreasing the carbohydrate intake of your cat.

Here are a few general guidelines that I like to focus on:

  • Feed canned food only (or homemade) – no dry food.

  • Stick with poultry (chicken and turkey) and rabbit as the bulk of your cat’s diet.

  • I like to see liver in the diet but not as the first ingredient. Liver is high in vitamin A and D which can be overdosed. Liver only represents ~5% of a cat’s natural diet. Liver is cheap which is why it often appears first on the list in some diets.

  • Fish – I do not feed fish to cats for the following reasons:

    • high allergy potential (manifested as skin allergies or inflammatory bowel disease, and possibly asthma)

    • toxin/mercury contamination

    • PBDEs (fire retardant chemicals) – PBDEs are potent thyroid disruptors

    • often high in phosphorus and magnesium

    • highly addictive – the cat will not eat anything else

    • If you want to feed a fish-based food as a treat, please limit it to once or twice a week. (I do not feed any fish to my cats.)

  • Beef is another food allergen for some cats but many cats do just fine with beef.

Want to learn more from Dr. Pierson?

Visit her wonderfully educational website:

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