Dehydration Related Illnesses Is the Leading Cause of Death in Cats

OUR STORY: First, I want to address my huge passion behind this article. I’ve run an animal rescue for over 10 years and adopt out approximately 200 cats and kittens a year. This article was written after hearing about too many of our adopted felines developing problems and dying from kidney-related issues and urinary blockages – even cats as young as 2 years of age! All these incidents had one thing in common; these cats were NEVER given wet food in their daily diets! Dry food left out daily is fine, but giving your cat at least half of a 5.5 ounce can of wet food every night (with a few tablespoons of water added if you can) is A MUST. I hope that this article will help you understand why wet food is so important and encourage you to change the way you feed your own cat, as I know this change will save lives.

Unlike humans and dogs, cats have a low thirst drive, so making sure your cat consumes plenty of water cannot be emphasized enough. When eating an all-dry kibble diet, a cat’s water intake easily falls under what is actually needed. This causes dehydration, which can lead to kidney-related and urinary tract diseases. Many think these problems only occur in male cats, but both males and females can develop these serious issues, and they are more common than you may realize. According to a study conducted by VetCompass, kidney failure is the most common cause of illness and death in cats over 5 years old. Wet food in a cat’s diet is essential and provides additional water, a crucial and necessary nutrient for a healthy life, to your cat’s diet. Simply put, wet food now, fewer problems later!

Here is some more information about your cat’s water needs, feeding your cat wet versus dry food, costs involved with adding wet food, and an action plan to get your cat to drink more water and have a longer, healthier life.

1. WHY CAT’S HAVE A LOW THIRST DRIVE: The reason dates back centuries. The ancestors of our domesticated felines were desert wild cats who had to adapt to having few water sources. Their diet was mainly prey with a moisture content of approximately 80%, which satisfied their daily water needs. Although today’s domesticated cats have plenty of access to fresh water in their homes, they drink very little. Their natural instinct is to get their daily fluid needs from their food. The problem is that many cats’ diets simply don’t provide the water their bodies need.

2. WHAT CATS NEED: According to Dr. Lynn Wilson, a Volusia County based veterinarian with over 20 years of experience, an average healthy 10 lb. cat needs at least 15 tablespoons of water a day to maintain healthy hydration.

3. WATER CONTENT OF DRY VS. WET CAT FOOD: Dry cat food is at most 10% water and provides only about 1/2 a tablespoon of water. Wet food is approximately 78% water and provides 6 to 9 tablespoons of water. Wet food is closer to a cat’s “natural diet” as it is high in both protein and water Content.

4. DEHYDRATION: When a cat becomes dehydrated, it is susceptible to many painful, and sometimes fatal, urinary tract infections, bladder inflammation, cystitis (inflamed bladder), feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD) and the formation of life-threatening kidney stones. “Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of feline health issues that were most likely caused by feeding dry food exclusively,” Dr. Wilson says. They could have potentially been avoided had they been given wet food in their daily diet. An all wet food diet is even better, but I know that’s not always economically possible. In our practice, we believe that wet food in the diet gives cats the best chance to attain a healthy 15 to 20 year life-span.”

5. OTHER HEALTH HAZARDS OF A DRY FOOD ONLY DIET: Dry food is almost 3 times higher in sugar and carbohydrates than wet food. High sugars and carbs are big factors in feline obesity, as well as in the development of diabetes. Just as with humans, obesity in cats can lead to heart disease and early death. Dry food is also heavily processed which includes being subjected to high temperatures for a long time resulting in the alteration and destruction of needed nutrients. They are also much higher in plant-based verses animal-based proteins. All proteins are NOT created equal! The protein in dry food, which is often heavily plant-based, is not equal in quality to the protein in canned food, which is meat-based. Plant based proteins are cheaper-the reason pet food companies use them in their dry foods.

6. DENTAL HYGIENE: It’s a common belief that dry food promotes good dental hygiene in cats because it scrapes tartar off the teeth. Research has proven this to be a myth! Cats don’t chew dry food – they swallow it whole. To put it simply, dry food doesn’t clean a cat’s teeth any better than eating pretzels cleans ours! For information on the importance of brushing your cat’s teeth, Click here “KEEPING YOUR CAT’S MOUTH HEALTHY.”

7. MY CAT DOESN’T LIKE WET FOOD: Talking with previous adopters, I have often asked about their cat’s eating habits. One main reason they gave for sticking to a dry food only diet was that their cat “hated wet food.” In reality, it isn’t a matter of them “hating” it, but rather them being accustomed to a particular texture and taste. Cats are creatures of habit and the food they normally consume becomes their preference. Many cats will resist switching to a new food unless they are hungry enough. Begin by limiting the amount of dry food you give him during the day and feed him only wet food, or a dry/wet mixture at night. Experiment with different flavors and textures of wet food to find some that your cat prefers. Since cats are very sensitive to smells, you can also add a small amount of the liquid from canned tuna, salmon or mackerel to the wet food, as these are flavors that most cats love. This has the added benefit of adding even more liquid to their diet. Just remember to be patient as getting a cat accustomed to daily wet food can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, but this change is important enough, so don’t give up. Remember, wet food or a wet/dry combination should not be left out for longer than 4 to 6 hours in a cool environment.

8. THE COST OF WET CAT FOOD: If cost is a consideration, you’ll be happy to know that adding wet food to your cat’s diet costs only pennies a day, far less than the vet bills if your cat develops diabetes or some form of bladder or kidney issues. The average 5.5 ounce can of supermarket wet cat food costs 50 cents or less. Feeding your cat a half a can a night only comes to about $7.50 a month – a small price to pay for your cat’s health!

9. WHAT WE RECOMMEND: We would love cat owner’s to view wet food as their cat’s MAIN diet, while dry food being their snack, but at the very minimum one helping a day is a great start. Continue feeding your cat dry food as usual if this is the routine your cat is used to, but the evening meal should be one-half of a 5.5 ounce can of wet food, with at least 1-2 tablespoons of water mixed in. This can be a slow transition, adding a 1/2 tablespoon of water at first and increasing every few weeks, but most will not notice the added water, so why not? Just be consistent with the added water and add the same amount every time and not just some of the time. Of course, wet food with added water given twice a day is even better. Try adding warm water as it can enhance the flavor even more. For 2 cats, use a full 5.5 oz. can of wet food with 2 or more tablespoons of water and so on, either alone or mixed with a little dry food. Always leave out fresh water, of course. With my own cat, Solo, I leave dry food out all day for him to snack on, but he gets a half a can of wet food twice a day with 3 tablespoons of water added every single time. He never leaves a drop of water behind. Since we can’t tell exactly how much he drinks from his water bowl or fountain, it is reassuring to see him getting a good part of his daily water needs in his wet food. We also purchased a cat water fountain to help encourage him to drink even more as cat’s love moving water. To learn some tricks to get more liquids into your cat’s diet, Click here, “TIPS TO GET YOUR CAT TO CONSUME MORE WATER.

TO SUM IT UP: Wet food is clearly the best choice for a cats diet as they need much more water and better animal-based proteins than a dry food only diet provides. Very few cats drink enough water on their own, even with those fancy pet fountains. A lack of sufficient water causes dehydration, which can lead to painful and sometimes fatal urinary tract and kidney disease, obesity, heart problems and diabetes. We all want our pets to live longer and healthier lives (with fewer vet bills), so make the change for them! Give your cat wet food now – for fewer problems later!