Water is essential for all life forms.
Your cat doesn’t have a strong thirst drive compared to other species. Cat’s & Kitten’s are designed to get almost all the water they need from the food they eat.
Healthy cat’s don’t lap up water like other animals do. Many kitties are obsessed with moving water, of course, but they’re more interested in watching it or playing in it than drinking it.
With very few exceptions, only cats with underlying disease will drink a lot of water. Often the disease involves their lower urinary tract, especially if they are suffering from chronic, moderate dehydration thanks to a primarily dry food diet.
Cats in the wild hunt prey, and prey consists of about 75 percent water. Canned cat food contains at least that much moisture. Dry food, on the other hand, contains only about one tenth of that amount.
If you’re feeding your cat or kitten mostly dry food, he’s probably drinking more water than he would if his diet was high in moisture content. But as a general rule, cats on dry food diets consume only about half the water cats on moisture-rich diets consume.
Now think for a minute about your cat’s lower urinary tract – specifically the bladder and kidneys, which need to be flushed constantly with adequate quantities of urine. It’s easy to imagine the growing stress on those vital organs when your cat’s body is operating on half the amount of water it requires to function normally – day in and day out, for months, years, or a lifetime.
It can’t emphasized enough the importance of transitioning any cat still eating kibble to a canned food diet, and then hopefully, to a balanced, species-appropriate raw diet.
There is little to nothing about dry cat food that is species-appropriate nutrition for felines, and the lack of moisture is especially detrimental.
So if you’re still feeding dry food to your kitty, it is strongly recommended that you do a nice, slow transition from dry food to canned.
Many cats are picky eaters. Others are addicted to a certain type of poor quality pet food. There is a right way and a wrong way to transition your kitty from dry food to a more nutritious diet. Perhaps your kitty is overweight, which many kitties are these days thanks in part to low quality, ‘low fat’ dry food diets loaded with fiber — an entirely species-inappropriate ingredient when it comes to felines.
A Word About Carbohydrates
If the dry food you’re feeding your kitty is high in carbohydrates like corn, wheat, rice or potatoes, chances are she’s addicted to carbs.
Even though cats have no physical requirement for carbohydrates, unfortunately, they can become addicted to them quite easily.
Canned cat food can be very low in carbohydrates and some brands have no carbohydrate content at all. You’ll need to keep this in mind if you’re trying to convert a carb-addicted kitty to a low or no-carb canned food.
Making a Slow, Safe Transition from Dry to Canned Food
It is recommended to transition your cat from dry to canned food in one of two ways…
But first — if you’re in the habit of serving your kitty an all-day, all-he-can-eat buffet of dry food, it needs to stop. You’ll never convince your cat to eat canned food if he has constant access to a bowl of the dry stuff he craves.
Also, a key ingredient in getting your kitty interested in canned food is to create pockets of hunger in him. He’ll never have the chance to get a bit hungry (which is not to be confused with a dangerous self-imposed period of fasting which can cause serious health risks) and curious about that serving of canned food if he’s eating from his dry food bowl whenever he likes.
The next step is to determine how many calories your kitty needs on a daily basis. You can ask your veterinarian for guidance, or if you want to figure it out yourself, you can view a video and discussion here.
- Method Number 1: Divide your cat’s entire daily allowance of dry food into three equal portions. For the first week to three weeks, serve your cat three meals, one at breakfast, the next at mid-day, and the third at dinner time. This will help your kitty grow accustomed to portion controlled meals rather than his all day buffet.
Initially, your cat will return to his empty breakfast bowl and wonder why there’s no food in it. No matter how your kitty reacts, you’ll need to practice tough love.
At noon (no sooner!), put down kitty’s second serving of dry food. Similar to what happened mid-morning, at some point in the afternoon he’ll return to his empty bowl and try to convince you by whatever means possible that you’re neglecting him. Remember – tough love!
At dinner time, give your cat his third and final serving of dry food.
Eventually your beloved feline will begrudgingly accept his new three meals-per-day schedule.
Once kitty is comfortably eating three portions of dry food per day, replace one of those meals with a serving of canned food. Since canned and dry food have different caloric content, make sure to adjust portion sizes to insure you’re still feeding the right amount of calories per day.
The daily mix has now changed from three meals of dry food to two dry, one canned. The transition has begun!
Now, some cats will do fine with this method – others will be quite opposed to it. If your kitty is in the latter group, again, tough love will be required. And consistency – determination – patience!
The two meals of dry food will provide enough calories that your cat will not develop liver problems. The pocket of hunger from reduced caloric intake should provide the stimulus he needs to eventually sample the canned food.
Once your cat has been comfortably eating two meals of dry food and one of canned for several weeks, change the mix again – to two meals of canned food and one dry. Don’t forget to adjust portions to achieve the right calorie count.
After several weeks of success with the two canned/one dry combination, you can complete the transition by serving only canned food at all three meals.
Congratulations! The toughest part of transitioning most cats to a nutritionally appropriate diet is the step from dry food to canned. If you’ve followed the steps above and your kitty is now eating only canned food, the worst is very likely behind you and you are most likely on the way to a healthier, happier cat.
Food should be about thriving not just surviving. 🙂
References: Dr. Karen Becker, DVM.