Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: June 23, 2023 by Crystal Uys
If you could do one simple thing that would improve your cat’s health for the rest of her life, wouldn’t you want to do it? Well, there is. Stop feeding dry food.
Dry food is the equivalent of junk food for cats
Dry cat food, even the high-priced premium and veterinary brands, is the equivalent of junk food for cats. It’s really not all that different from feeding sugared cereals to kids. Cats are obligate carnivores: this means they need meat not just to survive, but to thrive. They cannot get enough nutritional support from plant-based proteins such as grains and vegetables, because, unlike humans and dogs, they lack the specific enzyme that processes plant-based proteins metabolically. They need few or no carbohydrates in their diet. Feeding foods high in carbohydrates can lead to any number of degenerative diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Dry food is the leading cause of most urinary tract problems in cats
Cats need moisture in their diet. While cats who eat only dry food will generally drink more water, they still don’t get enough moisture to support all their bodily functions and essentially live in a constant state of low level dehydration, which can lead to bladder and kidney problems. For more on why this happens, please read Dr. Lisa Pierson’s comprehensive article Feline Urinary Tract Health: Cystitis, Urethral Obstruction, Urinary Tract Infection.
Studies substantiate that moist is better
When I first started speaking out about the dangers of dry food, I felt like a bit of a lone wolf (or tiger). The major pet food companies certainly don’t support this view, with their seemingly endless array of bags of dry food, all touting the nutritional balance and completeness of their contents. Thankfully, I’m not alone anymore. More and more studies are substantiating that a species-appropriate diet high in meat and moisture with few or no carbohydrates is the right diet for our feline family members.
As far back as 1998, a study conducted by Dr. Tony Buffington at the Ohio State University on the effects of diet on lower urinary tract diseases in cats came to the conclusion that high moisture content of a cat’s diet can reduce the recurrence of idiopathic lower urinary tract disease in cats by more than half.
A more recent study conducted at the University of California-Davis concludes that cats eat less, lose weight and maintain healthy body composition when fed wet diets. The UC-Davis researchers also found that the cats in the study preferred canned food to either freeze-dried or dry food.
Another study, conducted at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University in The Netherlands analyzed the diet of cats living in the wild. Not surprisingly, researchers found that feral cats are obligatory carnivores with a diet high in protein and fat, but low in carbohydrates (only 2% of daily energy). I was particularly delighted at the conclusion the authors of this study arrived at: future research should focus on the value of feeding a natural diet of whole prey as an enhancement of feline health and longevity.
Make the switch to canned or raw
If your cat is still eating dry food, I urge you to consider changing to either an all canned grain-free diet, or to a raw diet.
Featured Image Credit: SURKED, Shutterstock
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.