Can we talk about water?
Back in my early days of living with cats, I recall a young veterinarian’s advice to not bother feeding anything but dry food. “You’re wasting money on nothing but water with canned food.”
Nothing but water? Water is not empty filler: it’s an essential nutrient that supports so many of a cat’s vital function.
Fortunately — or hopefully — that outdated and misguided paradigm has begun a slow shift, at least in some circles. It remains discouraging, however, to see the shelves of veterinary clinics remain lined with dense rows of dry food.
There’s no way to emphasize enough just how vital water is to a cat’s well being. A cat that is drinking supplemental water alongside a dry food diet still only gets about half the moisture of a cat eating canned (or home-prepared) food.
Descended from desert dwellers, the cat is a largely thirstless animal that Mama Nature designed to get moisture from food. Today’s cats descend from ancestors who survived with very little water intake – producing a very concentrated urine and relatively dry feces that minimized water loss.
We put these mysterious, magical creatures at risk if we don’t accommodate the fact that a cat’s normal prey is made up of up to 75 percent water. Dry cat food only has about five to 10 percent water, not nearly enough to keep a cat properly hydrated. That’s a 50 percent cut in the life-nourishing and essential urinary-tract flushing (just for starters) flow of water through the body.
Just a handful of the many downstream impacts of too little moisture for a cat include:
An insufficiently flushed urinary tract. Keeping the bladder flushed is essential. As Dr. Lisa Pierson puts it vividly: “To be quite frank, if humans – including many of my veterinary colleagues – had a cork inserted into their urethra until they experienced the excruciating pain secondary to bladder distension and rupture, I have no doubt that they would start to take this issue much more seriously and STOP condoning the feeding of dry food to cats.”
Kidneys that can’t keep up with the need to filter impurities: Chronic dehydration can be deadly for cats with any amount of kidney compromise. Remember: kidneys are the body’s system for filtering impurities out of of the blood. Cats with renal insufficiency need all the water they can get. While subcutaneous fluids can be extraordinarly helpful to cats with advanced CKD, administering those while still feeding dry food defies common sense.
Compromised digestion: Water is the medium that moves vitamins and minerals to a cat’s cells. It breaks down food and works to help the gastrointestinal tract absorb nutrients.
Do your furry friends a favor: don’t allow them to miss out on the life-sustaining nutrient of water.