We've been conditioned to think that cats avoid water and despise getting wet, which to some degree are valid points. Although I am sure we have all seen our fair share of cats playing with water from faucets or enjoying bath time, for the most part, as descendants of desert felines, the majority of cats have their qualms about water.
The lack of desire for water also extends to their water intake, which can lead to an onslaught of health issues. To understand why this has become a major issue, we need to look back on the history of a cat's nutrition. Our four legged friends have lived among humanity for thousands of years. Originally introduced to our households and farms as a way to keep rodents away, farmers and "domestic" cats mutually benefited from each other's company. Cats lived off the rodents that would pester farmers' grains and crops. Thus, most of their diet consisted of fresh caught meat.
It wasn't until dog kibble was popularized that the convenience of a high corn diet also became the norm for cats. Although canned cat food was also an option back then, it wasn't the same quality as some of today's wet foods.
As a species with predatory instincts, cats received the majority of their hydration from the prey they caught. Having a high meat diet is important to the hydration of cats and is closest to their ancestral diets. The lack of hydration in dry food can cause problems to our feline friends, which is why wet foods, which are more species appropriate, are important to a healthy cat.
Kidney/Urinary Tract Issues
Cats who struggle with dehydration can develop kidney issues from Urinary Tract infections (UTIs). UTIs can play a role in conditions such as struvite crystals, which are caused from a build up of minerals in the urinary tract. Hydration and the acidity of a meat diet can help prevent these mineral buildups.
Low Thirst Drive
As descendants from desert felines, cats are not naturally drawn to drink plenty of water. This makes hydration through their diets vastly important. Cats are known for being finicky with food and that translates to their drinking methods. Instinctually, cats prefer to drink from running water versus stagnant water due to still water being more prone to bacteria. Having a high quality wet food as their primary diet helps keep them hydrated.
Ease of Digestion
Since wet food contains more water than kibble, it requires less moisture to digest. With as little as 10% moisture in kibble, for a cat to process the nutrients, they require a good amount of their hydration levels which can be a problem with the little that they take in naturally.
One of the main reasons why cat kibble was created was for convenience and ease of use. There are many pet owners who are prone to free-feed their pets instead of giving them appropriate portions. Over feeding can lead to issues with weight. With wet food, it is easy to portion out their meals and put the unused portion back in the fridge.
When looking for the correct diet for your furry friend, remember their needs when it comes to staying hydrated. Since most of us don't have a rodent problem we need help with, opting in for a diet that is closer to their ancestral one will help your cat live a better life.