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How to Choose Between Wet and Dry Cat Food for Your Older Cat

By India Stone

Did you know senior cats may have special dietary needs? Once they reach the age of seven years, older cats may develop health issues related to weight, kidneys, joints, and vision. What type and brand of cat food you choose depends of a variety of factors which will be explored shortly. But regardless of whether you choose wet or dry food, making sure your senior cat is getting the right amount of nutrition is the number one factor in determining what food to feed your cat. Many premium cat food brands offer cats of all life stages a balanced diet that is tailored to the cat's specific needs.

Now, to determine whether to feed your aging cat wet cat food or dry cat food, first ask the following questions:

  • Is your cat overweight?
  • What is the condition of your cat's teeth and gums?
  • Does the cat have frequent symptoms of urinary tract infection or kidney problems?
  • Does the cat have frequent diarrhea or messy bowl movements?
  • Does your cat's coat appear shiny or dull?
  • Is the cat's vision failing?
  • Is the cat hearing impaired?
  • Can the cat jump and run normally?

Wet Cat Food

The decision of whether or not to feed a cat wet cat food can be a matter of preference for the cat owner, or it could have to do with your cat's specific health issues. Wet cat food can be fed alone or alongside crunchy cat food as a treat for the cat. It all depends on prefrence and what works for both the cat and for you as the owner.

Let's weigh the pros and cons of feeding wet cat food:

Pros of Feeding Wet Cat Food

  • Palatability. Generally, cats tend to enjoy eating wet cat food more than dry cat food and will come running when they hear you open the can.
  • Moisture content. This could be good for cats with chronic kidney problems.
  • Weight control. Cat owners tend to feed cats one serving of wet food in a single setting as opposed to allowing the cat to nibble from a bowl of dry food all throughout the day. The increased moisture content of wet cat food also allows cats to feel fuller at meal time. The cat gets all of the nutritional value of the wet food while absorbing the extra moisture as water, especially when fed premium wet cat food.
  • Easy on unhealthy teeth or gums. If a cat has tender gums or missing teeth caused by old age or poor oral health, feeding wet cat food can be more beneficial and humane than forcing a cat to chew dry food.

Cons of Feeding Wet Cat Food

  • More expensive.
  • Messy and smelly. Some cat owners dislike the smell of wet cat food, especially if a cat's food bowl is located inside the house. In addition, if a cat doesn't eat all of the cat food, wet cat food can attract gnats and flies if left out for too long.
  • Lack of oral health benefits. If a cat is never fed dry cat food, plaque can build up on a cat's teeth and cause gum disease or tooth decay.

Dry Cat Food

Dry cat food is probably the most popular type of cat food. Unlike dogs, most cats tend not to over-eat if dry food is left out all day. This makes it easy for cat owners to care for cats. If you aren't sure how your cat will react when offered food free choice all day, try leaving a small amount in your cat's bowl and observe how much your cat chooses to eat.

Here are the pros and cons of feeding dry cat food:

Pros of Feeding Dry Cat Food

  • Less expensive.
  • Oral health. Chewing dry cat food naturally helps remove plaque build-up from cats' teeth.
  • Palatability. Some cats prefer the texture of dry food over that of wet food. This may be a factor you won't know about until you try feeding your specific cat.

Cons of Feeding Dry Cat Food

  • Less palatable. Most cats prefer the taste of wet cat food. If a cat has gotten used to eating wet food, and you introduce dry food, the cat may reject it because of the different taste and/or texture.
  • Painful to eat for some cats. If your cat has poor oral health or missing teeth, chewing dry cat food kibble could be painful.

Common Health Concerns in Senior Cats

Older cats have a few very common health concerns you should be aware of as you select the best cat food for your pet. Long-term feeding of premium cat food may help prevent health problems in cats due to the higher nutritional content. Ingredients such as vitamin D, vitamin E, and omega fatty acids are all known to reduce the risk of certain health problems in animals and humans. Why not start early by feeding your cat the best?

Obesity in Older Cats

Obesity in senior cats is especially harmful to your cat's health. As the body ages, extra weight begins taking more of a toll on the cat's overall well being.

Senior Cats and Digestion

Wet cat food can cause loose stools in some cats, while other cats adjust quite well to wet food. It all depends on the cat. If you are switching from dry cat food to wet cat food, try introducing a small amount of wet food alongside the dry. Then pay close attention to your cat's litter box over the next 24 hours. If the cat's stools and behavior seem normal, perhaps try introducing a higher ratio of wet to dry for the next feeding. Always consult with your veterinarian if you see diarrhea or abnormally loose stools in your cat's litter box.

Nutrition for Senior Cats

Senior cats have special nutritional needs. Pay attention to your cat's behavior and appearance to determine whether you should look at switching the type or brand of cat food.

A dull coat of fur could mean your cat isn't getting the right amount of nutrition. Consider switching to a premium brand cat food. Regardless of whether you choose dry or wet, premium cat food such as 4health offers cats more nutrition in every bite and does not contain "filler" ingredients.

If your senior cat is underweight, consider introducing wet cat food as a way to encourage your cat to eat more. It could be painful for your cat to chew dry food, or your aging cat's taste may have changed and it simply doesn't like the taste of dry food any more. Always consult your veterinarian before changing your cat's feeding plan.

Loss of Senses in Old Cats

Long-term feeding of premium cat food could help prevent or delay health problems such as failing eyesight or hearing loss. However, even if you haven't been feeding your cat premium wet or dry cat food and you observe any decline or loss of senses in your cat, it never hurts to consider switching over to a premium brand that offers increased percentages of essential vitamins and minerals.

If your cat doesn't seem to respond to visual stimuli as well as it used to, this could be a sign of poor vision. Another sign of vision problems can be seen as a milky or foggy appearance to the cat's eyes.

Do the cat's ears perk up when you whistle or call its name? If not, this could be a sign of hearing loss.

If your cat seems less willing to jump to and from high places or run after toys, bird, or squirrels, this may be a sign of joint problems. Like humans, aging cats experience pain in the joints of their legs, hips, and feet. Omega fatty acids and chondroitin supplements help with stiffness and pain in the joints.