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The Importance of Moisture in Cat Foods

by Holistic Veterinarian Tom Cameron, DVM

(The Best Years in Life) Cats don’t generally like water - most avoid it like the plague. Cats and dogs are very different when it comes to water. Dogs love to drink and play in it. Cats don’t.

Did you know that the amount of water in the food your cat consumes daily has a powerful impact on its health?

About 100 years ago, dry dog and cat foods (kibble) were introduced. Kibble is a mixture of meat, grains and other ingredients that were heated and then formed into dry, crunchy bits. This quickly caught on as a cheap and convenient way to feed our pets. Kibble sales grew steadily, and in 2015, cat owners in America spent $3.8 billion on dry cat foods!

But is kibble the best food for your cat? The answer is NO! Could dry foods be causing them health problems? YES!

Cats evolved over the last 10-15 million years, living in mostly desert areas. So there was never much water around. To deal with this, cats got most of their water from prey animals (mice, rabbits, birds), which are about 75% water. Cats are genetically programmed to get most of their water from their food.

As long-time desert dwellers, cats naturally have a low thirst response. This means cats often don’t drink additional water, even when their food doesn’t provide it.

Cats are also less sensitive to normal signals of dehydration.

Fresh food (prey animals, canned food, raw food) is mostly water (about 75%). Dry cat food has much less water (10-15%). Since this is dehydrated food, your cat’s body must give up body fluids to soften the dry food before it can be digested. Cats eating commercial dry foods consume about half the amount of water (in their diet and through drinking), compared with cats eating canned foods. Eating dry food and not drinking much is a dangerous combination.

Imagine eating a whole meal of beef jerky. Your body would need extra water. If you don’t drink extra water, you get dehydrated. This is what happens when cats eat dry food. And to repeat, cats don’t naturally drink water, even if their bodies need it.

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Here are some effects of feeding only dry food to cats:

• Cats eating dry food produce less urine, so they urinate less frequently. While this is good news for those who clean the litter box, it can lead to health problems in your cat, such as the formation of urinary crystals, stones, or urinary tract infections.
• Because cats don’t have a strong drive to hydrate, they don’t drink to compensate for the low moisture content in dry foods. This can lead to dehydration.
• Constipation is a common symptom of dehydration.
• Chronic dehydration can affect all parts of the body, including the kidneys, heart, digestive system and brain.
• Recent research has proven that high carbohydrate foods cause the formation of crystals in the urine. (Most dry foods are high-carbohydrate foods - generally 30- 40%. Canned and raw foods are generally under 10% carbohydrate. Prey animals are 2-8% carbohydrate).

In my practice, I recommend Nature’s Logic canned and raw foods as the ideal diet for cats. These high moisture foods match your cat’s natural needs for high quality protein and fat, low carbohydrates and most importantly, plenty of water.

Many cat owners say their cat loves their dry food, and want to keep feeding it. While not ideal, I advise owners to keep the dry food to less than 1/4 of the total diet.

Cats are incredibly complex and unique creatures. Their bodies work differently than dogs. Cats don’t drink frequently, they require more protein, and they need to get most of their water from their foods. High moisture foods are by far the best choice for your cat.

See also:

The Importance of Moisture in Our Pet’s Diet!

Is Grain-Free Really Better for Dogs and Cats?

Choosing the Best Pet Food

Give Your Dog Optimal Nutrition and Save Money Too by Making Your Own Healthy Dog Food (Contains the Bonus Feature "Make Your Own Healthy Dog Treats")

The Best Years in Life Pets and Animals

References:

1. http://www.statista.com/topics/1369/pet-food/
2. Zoran, D. The carnivore connection to nutrition in cats. JAVMA 2002, Vol. 221; 1559-1567
3. Kirk CA, Debraekeleer J, Armstrong PJ. Normal cats. In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, et al, eds. Small animal clini- cal nutrition. 4th ed. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Co, 2000;291–351.
4. Funaba M, Uchiyama A, Takahashi K, Kaneko M, Yamamoto H, Namikawa K, Iriki T, Hatano Y, Abe M. Evaluation of effects f dietary carbohydrate on formation of struvite crystals in urine and macromineral balance in clinically normal cats. Am J Vet Res. 2004 Feb;65(2):138-42.

This article/blog originally appeared at NaturesLogic.com

 

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About the author:

Dr. Tom Cameron received his DVM from Michigan State University in 1982. He began practice in Waunakee, WI, concentrating on both dairy and small animal medicine. In 1994, he assumed ownership of the DeForest Veterinary Clinic, in DeForest, WI, an exclusively small animal practice, offering a combination of traditional and holistic treatment modalities.

Dr. Cameron’s primary interests include clinical nutrition, nutritional therapy, homeopathy, Bach Flower therapy and soft tissue surgery. Dr. Cameron sold his clinic in 2006, but still sees patients on a part-time basis.

 

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