Is Dry Food Bad for Cats?

July 7, 2014 in Aerowood Animal Hospital

If you are feeding 100% dry to your cats, the answer is probably yes. A study published recently in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found a strong correlation between feeding mostly dry food and urethral obstruction – a deadly condition known commonly as a “blocked cat.” There is mounting evidence that a dry food diet does not provide enough moisture to cats.

100% canned food may not be realistic for many cat owners, however, because cats are usually reluctant to switch from a dry food to canned food exclusively.

Another option is to mix your dry cat food with water, but you are unlikely to get the dry food close to the 85% water content typical of canned foods or the 75% water content typical of cats’ prey.

Cats do not have the same thirst drive seen in other animals. They are built to get their moisture from fresh kills, not from drinking. In fact, if you see your cat lapping up lots of water with the same frequency as a dog, this is usually a sign of some health problem.

The urethra is the tube that urine travels during urination. When cats have less than optimal hydration, the kidneys are more likely to form mineral crystals or plugs of inflammatory material. These sand-like materials pass through the bladder and build up in the urethra. When the cat can no longer urinate, the bladder cannot empty; this quickly interferes with kidney function; the kidneys can’t filter waste products like usual, and toxins accumulate in the blood stream. If not treated promptly, cats die in days. Early signs that a urethra blockage is forming include irritability, restlessness, blood in urine, frequent trips to the litter box, straining while in a squatting position (giving the appearance of constipation), and urinating in different locations in the house.

It appears that too much dry food may be connected with urinary tract problems in general. An older study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that cats on a certain dry food were more than 3 times more likely to develop feline idiopathic cystitis – another disease of the urinary tract. (Journal of the AVMA, 1999 Feb 1; 214 (3): 36105) Assuming that the correlation between dry cat food and urinary tract problems is based on suboptimal hydration, it is possible that stress is being placed on a number of organ systems.

Dry Food Cats

Print Friendly