Mistakes People Make in Feeding Cats (cont.)

Cat Feeding Mistakes: Feeding Only Dry Food

"The biggest mistake people make is feeding cats dry food," says Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, a California veterinarian focused on feline medicine and nutrition, and creator of CatInfo.org.

As it turns out, today's domestic tabby evolved from desert-dwelling ancestors, a heritage that no doubt left our furry felines with their grace, hunting prowess -- and low thirst drive.

"We know that a cat's sensitivity to thirst is blunted compared to a dog," Case says. "They don't voluntarily drink water like a dog would." And because cats naturally produce highly concentrated urine "we're setting them up for urinary tract problems when their diet is low in liquids."

"When cats present with urinary tract problems, the recommendation is to get them on a water-rich diet," Pierson says. "However, why are we closing the barn door after the horse is a mile down the road? Why not practice preventive nutrition by feeding them [moisture-rich] canned food before they end up with urinary tract problems?"

Cats are designed to get their water with their food, Pierson says. Although mice, a cat's normal food, are about 70% water, and canned food about 78%, dry food is between 5%-10% water. That's why "canned food does a much better job of keeping your cat well-hydrated," Pierson tells WebMD. "Think of canned food as hosing down your cat's bladder several times a day."

Cat Feeding Mistakes: Offering Too Little Water

Clearly water is vital, for cats as well as people. Essential to life, water accounts for 60% to 70% of an adult cat's body weight, say ASPCA experts. A serious water deficiency can have critical repercussions for pets, causing serious illness or death.

Although wet foods can go far toward meeting your feline friend's water needs, cats should also have several sources of fresh water available through the house, say the pros. "Pay attention to where the cat likes to be so that there's water there," Case suggests. "And be aware that some cats prefer running water; others can detect the taste of chlorine in tap water so you might want to buy bottled water for them."

Here's a tasty tip to help encourage your cat to drink more, offered in The Veterinarians' Guide to Natural Remedies for Cats:

  • Locate a couple leaves of fresh catnip
  • Fill a bowl with water and crush the leaves under the water
  • Sit back and watch susceptible kitties ‘go wild'