As a loving cat owner, we want nothing but the best for our furry felines, especially when it comes to their diet. The debate over whether to feed cats dry or wet food has been ongoing. There's no denying the convenience and long shelf life of dry food, however, not all dry food is created equal, and it's crucial to ensure that your cat's diet is well-balanced and meets their nutritional needs. You must also ensure that the food is right for your particular cat, as every cat has different needs.
That's where the ultimate guide to dry food for cats comes in. In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about dry food for cats, including the benefits, how different types of dry food are made, how to choose the right one for your cat's individual needs, and tips for transitioning your cat to a dry food diet. Whether you're a new cat owner or looking to change your cat's diet for a particular reason, this guide is the perfect resource for creating a healthy and balanced feline diet.
Benefits of dry food for cats and why a dry cat food diet is great for your cat's health
There are several benefits of feeding your cat dry food. Firstly, it is convenient. Most dry food can be delivered to your home with short delivery times or setup as a subscription so you don’t have to think about ordering (like Tippaws dry food).
Dry food does not need to be kept in the fridge, so this means you can bulk order your food or buy larger bags which is often more economical. If your cat is a grazer, you can leave it out to eat whenever they are hungry - just make sure you don’t leave it out too long as some dry foods can go off when oxidised. This is also useful if you work late or if you are going away for the night and want to use an automatic feeder.
Another benefit of dry food is that it can help promote good dental health. When cats eat dry food, the crunchy texture can help to remove plaque and tartar from their teeth. This is especially important as cats are prone to dental issues such as gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Dry food can also be used to intellectually stimulate your cat or as an outlet for their hunting instincts. You can use kibble play balls or kibble play mats to hide kibble in and get them to hunt it as a treat. If you choose a healthy kibble, you know they are getting a delicious and nutritious snack.
Types of dry cat food
There are two main types of dry food for cats: kibble and freeze-dry.
Kibble is the most common type of dry food and is traditionally made by cooking the ingredients at high temperatures and pressure. This process is known as extrusion. However, more modern pet food technology has allowed food brands and manufacturers to make kibble by cooking at much lower temperatures of less than 70 degrees celcius for longer. For example, this is how Tippaws dry food is made. This new process of extrusion protects the proteins, ensuring maximum digestibility and bioavailability of the nutrients for your cat.
Freeze-dry food, on the other hand, is made by removing the moisture from the ingredients without cooking them.
Kibble is available in a variety of flavours and textures, such as crunchy, semi-moist, and soft. Freeze-dry food is typically sold in small pieces or nuggets and may be rehydrated with water before serving.
Both kibble and freeze-dry food can be a good choice for your cat, but it's important to choose a high-quality brand that uses real meat or fish as the main ingredient.
Some dry foods may also be produced by means other than extrusion or freeze-drying, such as baking.
Ingredients to look for in dry cat foods
When choosing dry food for your cat, it's important to check the ingredients list to make sure you're giving your cat a healthy and balanced diet. Look for a brand that uses real meat as the main ingredient, such as chicken, turkey, or fish.
Some brands and information outlets may (hopefully unintentionally!) create some confusion or fear mongering around ingredients used in dry cat food. Some of the ingredients used in the manufacturing of pet food are described as animal or fish by-products. This is not always a bad thing, as FEDIAF (European Pet Food Industry Federation) points out: “These ingredients are the parts of the animal surplus to the requirements of the human food industry. Examples of by-products include liver, kidney, lung and various by-product meals; they all are fit for human consumption as they have been through a veterinary inspection. These ingredients come from species also most commonly found within the human food chain.”
It's also important to make sure the food contains all the necessary nutrients your cat needs, such as protein, fat, fibre, and essential vitamins and minerals. Look for brands that are a member of UK Pet Foods to ensure that they meet nutritional standards (as Tippaws is a new company, it is in the process of becoming a member of UK Pet Foods and we expect to confirm membership in June 2023) and ensure you read the full ingredients list of any food purchase.
Ingredients to avoid
There are some ingredients that you should avoid when choosing dry food for your cat. Firstly, avoid brands that use artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. These chemicals have been linked to health issues in cats and should be avoided.
Secondly, avoid brands that use excessive amounts of carbohydrates such as grains or potatoes. While some carbohydrates are necessary for energy, cats are carnivores and do not require a high-carbohydrate diet.
Finally, avoid brands that use ingredients that your cat may be allergic to. Common allergens for cats include dairy, beef, and wheat.
Dry food options for cats with specific dietary requirements
Cats, like humans, can have specific dietary requirements or sensitivities that need to be addressed when choosing dry food. Here are some dry food options for cats with specific dietary needs:
Some cats may have grain allergies or sensitivities. Choosing a grain-free dry cat food can help alleviate any digestive issues or skin problems caused by grains. Look for dry foods that use alternative carbohydrate sources, such as chickepeas or peas.
If your cat has a sensitive stomach or is prone to digestive issues, opt for a dry food that is formulated for sensitive stomachs or with minimum unnecessary ingredients. These dry foods often contain easily digestible proteins and limited ingredients to minimise the risk of gastrointestinal upset.
If your cat is overweight or prone to weight gain, a dry food formulated for weight management can help achieve or maintain a healthy weight. These dry foods often have a higher protein to fat ratio.
Urinary tract health
Cats with a history of urinary tract problems may benefit from a dry food that supports urinary health. These dry foods are formulated to help maintain a healthy urinary pH and reduce the risk of urinary crystals or stones.
How to transition your cat to from wet food to dry food
If you're switching your cat from wet food to dry food, it's important to do so gradually to avoid digestive issues. Start by mixing a small amount of dry food into your cat's wet food and gradually increase the amount over the course of a couple of weeks. This will allow your cat's digestive system to adjust to the new food.
If you are switching your cat’s dry food out for a new dry food, follow a similar switching schedule.
It's also important to make sure your cat has access to plenty of fresh water when eating dry food. Cats on a dry food diet tend to drink less water than those on a wet food diet, so it's important to encourage them to stay hydrated.
How much should you feed your cat
The amount of dry food your cat needs will depend on their age, weight, and activity level. Kittens and senior cats may require more or less food, so it's important to read specific feeding guidelines of the food you are buying for your cat or consult with your vet to determine the right amount for your cat. As our vet reminded us of with our cats, you can also start with an assumption based on feeding guidelines and then adjust up or down after a few weeks if your cat is losing and gaining weight. The good thing about cats is that it is quite easy to see if they are putting on weight or losing weight quickly. If your cat eats both wet food and dry food, trying using a feeding guide that takes this into account and considers the calories in both.
Tips for ensuring your cat enjoys their dry food
While finding a dry food that meets your cat's nutritional needs is essential, it's equally important to ensure they enjoy their meals. Here are some tips for making dry food more enticing for your cat:
Incorporate different recipes and textures of dry food to keep your cat interested. Some brands offer a variety of options, such as turkey, chicken, fish, or even mixed recipes. Rotate between these options to provide a diverse and more exciting meal for your cat.
Use puzzle feeders
Puzzle feeders are interactive toys that require your cat to work for their food. These toys can make mealtime more engaging and mentally stimulating for your cat. Fill the puzzle feeder with dry food, and let your cat figure out how to retrieve their meal.
Dry food doesn't have to be the only source of treats for your cat. Use small pieces of dry food as treats throughout the day to reward good behaviour or for training purposes. This will create a positive association with dry food and make it more enjoyable for your cat.
Additional supplements for a healthy feline diet
While dry food can provide your cat with a well-balanced diet, there are some additional supplements that can help promote good health. For example, Omega-3 fatty acids can help improve skin and coat health, while prebiotics can aid in digestion and boost the immune system. However, if you can get a dry food that has prebiotics and essential fatty acids in it already, you’ll save on time and money. Never mind the potential effort required to get your cat to eat it!
We’d always recommend consulting with your vet before giving your cat any supplements, as they’ll be able to advise 1) if it is really needed 2) if your cat is already getting the vitamins or nutrients from their current food and 3) if they will interact with any medication your cat may be on.
Can cats eat dry food only?
Cats require a complete and balanced diet so they can definitely get this from dry food only diet. However, most cats prefer a mixed dry and wet food diet and wet so it's good to provide variety.
Is dry food bad for cats? Common misconceptions
There are a few common misconceptions about dry food for cats. One is that it can cause urinary tract issues. While some cats may be prone to urinary tract problems, there is no evidence that dry food is the cause. In fact to the contrary, many dry cat foods including Tippaws have been developed to support urinary tract health.
According to the Veterinary Manual cats need acidic urine to maintain urinary tract health. The range varies depending on different circumstances, but the expert consensus seems to be that from around 6.3 to 6.6 is a healthy range. (The lower the pH, the more acidic the urine.) A pH above this range can lead to the growth of struvites (magnesium ammonium phosphate crystals or bladder stones). A pH lower than this range can cause the formation of calcium oxalate crystals.
Another misconception is that dry food is not a natural diet for cats. While cats in the wild historically would eat a diet of raw meat, the fact is that domestic cats have evolved a lot since then and dry food can provide a well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs. Of course your dry food should always contain an appropriate level of animal protein and taurine.
Dry food can be a great choice for your cat's diet, but it's important to choose a high-quality brand that uses real meat as the main ingredient and meets nutritional standards. When transitioning your cat to dry food, do so gradually and make sure your cat has access to plenty of fresh water. And remember, it's always a good idea to consult with your vet to determine the right diet for your cat. With the right diet, your cat can enjoy a healthy and happy life.
Subscribe to our newsletter to get 10% off your first order of Tippaws dry food.