You'll likely see three different options for cat food in your local grocery store or pet store: dry, semi-moist, and wet (canned). What's the difference?
Canned (wet) foods: This type of cat food contains about 78 percent water and, depending on the brand, may include more animal protein than a comparable amount of dry food. Both water and protein are critical to your cat's healthy diet. But canned food does come with disadvantages: It can be more expensive; it's messier to clean up; and it has a shorter life span than dry food, particularly after it's been opened. Cover and refrigerate unused canned food; use all of it within 48 hours after opening the can -- or just toss it and start fresh at the next meal.
Dry foods: This type of cat food contains 5-10 percent water and, depending on the brand, may include less animal protein than canned food. Dry products are less messy, can be left out all day, and help remove tartar from your cat's teeth. Dry food has disadvantages: It can be more difficult for your cat to digest than wet food, and it can be less appealing.
Semi-moist foods: This type of cat food contains about 35 percent water, looks like tiny chunks of meat, and is made mostly of meat and meat byproducts. Semi-moist foods are less expensive than canned foods and can be left out all day like dry foods. But they dry out fairly quickly, which may make them less palatable to your cat.
Veterinarians differ on whether cat owners should stick to one type of food or feed their pets a mix of all three. A good compromise is to offer all three types at least some of the time, simultaneously providing a good variety of textures, flavors, and content for your pet in the process. Note which foods get a "paws up" from your cat -- and which don't -- to make shopping easier the next time. If you decide to change brands, continue with the original brand and gradually add in the new while reducing the amount of the original product. An abrupt change of diet can be hard on your cat's digestive system.
Continued on page 2: Feeding Guidelines