Adding Water to Dry Cat Food –
Vet Explains Why & How

adding water to dry cat food

March 29, 2022

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Cats are adorable pets, but sometimes they can be finicky about their diet. While some cats may refuse to eat anything but their favorite brand of cat food, others may drink very little or accept only wet food.

As a responsible cat parent, it is your job to keep your cat nourished and hydrated. But what if your cat drinks very little and you’re concerned they may not be getting enough moisture from their food? Or your cat has a hard time chewing kibble or digesting it?

Still, you would like to stick with the dry food you are feeding your cat because it’s your cat’s favorite -and convenient and affordable.

What about adding water to dry cat food? Could it be the solution?

In this article, you will learn:

  • why and when you should add water to dry cat food -and
  • how to do it correctly.

Let’s find out!

Adding Water to Dry Cat Food – Why & When

There are many reasons why veterinarians and numerous cat parents recommend adding water to dry cat food:

1. Cat is not drinking enough water

The most common reason for adding water to your cat’s food is that it does not drink enough water.

Outdoor cats usually drink water during their walks. If your cat has a habit of going outside, you shouldn’t be concerned if it doesn’t touch the water bowl when it gets home.

When it comes to indoor cats, it can be difficult to estimate how much moisture they get from their food and how much water they should be drinking on top of it.

The water requirement for a cat can be estimated based on the following:

  • Cats weight – an average cat drinks 45-50 ml/kg (~1.5 ounces/pound) per day
  • Food water content – dry food has less water than wet food
  • Temperature – the warmer it is, the more water a cat will consume
  • Activity level – active cats will consume more water than passive ones

In the wild, cats get most of the water their bodies need from the prey they feed on. Therefore, cats are not adapted to eating only dry food and can be finicky about drinking water from a bowl.

If you think your cat may not be getting enough water, adding water to its food will help with stay hydrated.

Tip! If your cat does not like drinking still water from a bowl, a water fountain may help it stay hydrated. Cats have a natural aversion to water that is not moving because moving water is less likely to make them sick in the wild. We recommend the Veken Automatic Cat Water Fountain to make sure your cat gets the water it needs. Check it out on Amazon.

2. Cat is only eating dry food

Because cats’ have adapted to eating small animals such as rodents and lizards, they are used to getting the moisture their body needs from the juicy meat of their prey. However, domesticated cats usually eat commercial cat food, and many cat owners choose dry food because of its convenience and affordability.

Dry cat food contains very little moisture, so your cat needs to drink water to stay hydrated if it is on a dry food diet. However, many cats are not interested in drinking from a bowl and making sure they get enough water can be stressful for the owners.

If your cat is only eating dry food and is not very keen on drinking from its water bowl, it is recommended to add water to its food. By doing so, you will be making sure your cat stays hydrated.

3. Oral or dental problems

If your cat loves dry food but finds it too hard to chew, adding water will make the food softer and more chewable. Softening the food can be especially beneficial for

  • small kittens with small mouths
  • senior cats that can’t chew well
  • cats with dental or oral issues

Remember that when dry food is made softer, it loses its ability to remove plaque and help keep the teeth clean. If you are adding water to dry cat food, make sure to brush your cat’s teeth regularly.

You May Also Like: Soft Dry Food For Cats With Bad Teeth

cat eating cat food with added water

4. Sensitive stomach or digestive problems

Dry food can be hard for the digestion to process, and adding water to it will make it easier to digest. Softening up dry food will make it more gentle to your cat’s stomach and prevent digestive issues like constipation, vomiting, or bloating.

Adding water to dry cat food will help cats with sensitive stomachs, or gastrointestinal problems digest their food better.

5. Your cat is refusing food it is used to

Also, sometimes your cat may be refusing food it is used to, but you don’t want to change the brand because your cat’s stomach doesn’t take changes very well. By adding water to dry cat food, it will become more aromatic and flavorful, which may encourage your cat to eat more.

Also Read: Soft Dry Cat Food – Yay or Nay?

Can You Add Water to Dry Cat Food?

Yes, you can definitely add water to dry cat food.

Many cat owners choose dry food over wet food because wet food is pricier, spoils more easily, and is not as convenient.

However, wet food is better for animals suffering from

  • gastrointestinal problems
  • sensitive stomach
  • obesity
  • oral or dental issues
  • dehydration

Wet food will also help prevent urinary and kidney problems.

However, by adding water to your cat’s dry food, you can solve these problems and continue to buy dry food for your cat.

Should You Add Water to Dry Cat Food?

Adding water to your cat’s dry food comes with many benefits.

It is a good idea to add water to your cat’s food if:

  • You have an inactive cat that suffers from gastrointestinal problems, such as bloating and flatulence
  • Your cat has a sensitive stomach
  • You have a picky cat that got bored of the dry food it eats every day
  • Your cat is suffering from oral or dental problems
  • Your cat doesn’t drink enough water
  • Your cat is eating too fast

Adding water to your cat’s dry food can have a lot of benefits for your cat’s health, but talk to a veterinarian first before making any drastic changes in your cat’s diet. If your cat is refusing dry food or not drinking, there could be underlying medical issues that need to be treated.

Also Consider Reading: Mixing Wet And Dry Cat Food – Should You Do It?

What to Consider: Benefits & Risks

Water, like food, is vital for your cat to be healthy and live as long as possible. A healthy cat survives for an average of 3-4 days without water, and a sick cat for about 24 hours.

Regardless of your cat’s health status, always talk to your veterinarian about any changes you want to make to your pet’s diet
– Dr. Iulia Mihai, DVM

A cat that has a diet based on wet or canned food receives a lot of moisture from it. The water content of wet food is about 80%, which is similar to that of a natural diet of wild cats.

A cat that eats wet food may need 30 ml of extra water per day, compared to a cat that eats dry food, which may need up to 200 ml.

Although adding water to your cat’s dry food has a lot of benefits, always talk to a vet first.

Benefits of adding water to dry cat food

There are many reasons why we choose to add water to our little felines’ dry food, among which we list:

  • To enhance flavor to encourage cats to eat
  • To help cats with dental problems chew their food
  • To help cats get moisture from their food and stay hydrated
  • To make dry food easier to digest
  • To prevent cats from eating dry food too fast
  • To reduce bloating

Enhancing dry food flavor

Most cats get bored with the food they eat every day at some point. Who wouldn’t? On the other hand, even the slightest changes in diet may cause your cat to lose interest in food or suffer from digestive problems.

Adding liquids to your cat’s food can enhance the flavor, making it more palatable for your cat.

water to moisten dry cat food

Making food more chewable

Cats that suffer from oral problems such as toothache, tooth loss, periodontal disease, gingivitis, etc., are usually in pain. When in pain, cats cannot chew as they would normally do. Also, they may refuse to eat due to the pain. Adding water will make dry food softer and easier to chew.

There are cases when a cat has no teeth, so making a paste out of blended dry food and water can be an alternative to syringe feeding your cat.

Helping your cat consume more moisture

Cats often get their daily water intake from their food. Since dry food has a moisture level of 10-12%, cats that are not fed wet food or are not keen on drinking water from a bowl may suffer from dehydration.

Cats that do not consume enough water are more prone to dehydration, which can lead to various urinary problems and chronic kidney disease.

To prevent this from happening, you can add water to your cat’s dry food to make it moister.

Making food easier on the digestion

Due to the high water content (78% and more), wet food is known to be more digestible than dry food and is suited for cats with sensitive stomachs.

Dry food is very compact and dense, and it lacks moisture which makes it difficult to digest. Also, cats that do not chew food properly, eating whole kibbles, can suffer from indigestion.

If you have a cat with a sensitive stomach, adding water to its dry food will make it easier to digest.

It stops fast eating

Sometimes our cats can gobble up their food too quickly, causing indigestion. You can help a fast eater with puzzle feeders or by adding water to its dry food to change the texture.

Reducing bloating

Consuming only dry food can result in bloating, especially if your cat is not exercising enough. Adding water to its kibble can help prevent bloating and aid digestion.

Risks of adding water to kibble

There aren’t many risks in adding water to your cat’s dry food. Still, here are a few factors to take note of:

  • If it is left out for too long, especially in hot weather, expanded and moist dry food has a higher risk of molding and spoiling than dry food that hasn’t been softened with water.
  • Another downside of moistened dry food is the mess it can make. Because cats don’t like to have their whiskers and muzzles dirty, they sometimes scatter food when eating.
  • Softened dry food hardens like concrete when it dries, and washing the bowl can be time-consuming if you don’t have a dishwasher.

Vet’s Tip!

It is not a good idea to add water to your cat’s dry food if your pet has soft stools or diarrhea. The water in the food will add more moisture to your cat stools, making them even more watery, which can lead to dehydration. If this is the case for your cat, talk to your veterinarian and feed your pet a diet that is appropriate for their condition.

Feeding Guidelines –
Tips for Adding Water to Dry Cat Food

These are the guidelines you should follow when adding water to dry cat food:

What kind of water should I use?

If your tap water is suitable for human consumption, you can add it to your cat’s food too. You can also use bottled plain water or filtered water.

Adding warm water to dry cat food

Also, the water should not be cold, but even slightly heated. Warm water will enhance the flavor even more.

Always make sure the water is not too hot to prevent it from burning your cat’s mouth. The water should be heated and brought to a temperature where you can keep your finger in it without burning (~60℃/140℉.)

How much water do I put in dry cat food?

When adding water to your cat’s food, try to find the right consistency. If you add too much water, you can pour the rest out, but your cat may not like food that is too mushy.

As a general rule:

Add ¼ cup of water to one portion of dry cat food.

The correct ratio is about ¼ water to ¾ dry cat food.

You may need to adjust the amount of water depending on how much water the kibble you are using absorbs and your cat’s portion size.

Add water and let the mixture sit for 15 minutes to let the kibble absorb the moisture. Pour out any excess water before serving it to your cat.

How long can I leave wet kibble out for my cat?

Wet kibble shouldn’t be left out for more than 30 minutes, as bacteria and fungi may start developing and make your cat sick.

If your cat has finished eating, put any leftover food in the fridge or throw it away.

Read More: How To Soften Dry Cat Food? Tips From A Vet

Summing up – Is It Good to Add Water to Dry Cat Food?

Adding water to your cat’s dry food to make it moister has plenty of benefits, from enhancing the flavor to aiding digestive problems and oral health.

If your cat is used to eating dry food, only add a small amount of water the first time and gradually increase the amount of water so your cat can get used to the new consistency.

Regardless of your cat’s health status, always talk to your veterinarian about any changes you want to make to your pet’s diet.

Vet’s Comment

Good nutrition is key to a healthy and long life, not only for cats but for everyone!

Adding water to your cat’s dry food can primarily promote hydration. Cats are well known for not drinking enough water, so it is important to provide them with the daily water intake they need through all sorts of tricks, such as leaving water bowls around the house, in the places where they spend the most time, buying water fountains, or by adding water or other yummy liquids to their food.

– Dr. Iulia Mihai, DVM

NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your pet’s specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.

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