How To Soften Dry Cat Food –
Vet Explains

how to soften dry cat food

March 28, 2022

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Cat parents know that providing their pets with a high-quality diet is the best way to feed them and keep them happy and healthy.

There are two types of food available for cats: wet and dry. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Many cat owners choose dry cat food because it is:

  • Affordable
  • It has a long shelf life
  • It’s convenient to use
  • Cats love the crunchy texture, and
  • It keeps their teeth clean

Although dry food has many benefits, feeding it constantly to a cat that does not drink much water may lead to urinary and bladder problems. Also, the consistency may be too hard for some cats to chew.

To avoid these issues, you might want to add some moisture to dry food to soften it up. In this article, you will learn:

  • Why soften cat food
  • How to soften dry cat food

Let’s see how you can make that dry food your kitty loves softer.

Why Soften Dry Cat Food?
Benefits of Softening Up Dry Cat Food

Dry cat foods contain a small amount of moisture, somewhere around 10-12%. Therefore, long-term daily use can negatively impact your cat’s health if it is not keen on drinking water.

If your cat is not drinking enough water or getting the moisture they need from wet food, they are at risk of urinary and bladder problems.

In addition to the moisture softened dry food provides, it also comes with many other benefits, especially for cats with oral, urinary, or digestive problems.

On the other hand, your cat may find dry food too hard to chew on. Some cats may have a problem with their teeth, while others just prefer softer food that is easier to chew. Especially senior cats and kittens may need their food softened up for them.

Dry food is also harder to digest, so adding moisture may help digest it if your cat has a sensitive stomach.

With this in mind, cat owners often wonder if they can soak dry food to help their cats eat.

Softened cat dry food can come with a lot of benefits. It can provide your beloved kitty with:

  • Softer texture
  • Better hydration
  • Enhanced flavor
  • More chewable food
  • More digestible food

So when is it a good idea to soften your cat’s dry food?

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

When to Soften Dry Cat Food –
6 Most Common Situations Explained

Here are some of the most common reasons why you may want to soften your cat’s food:

1. Your cat is not drinking enough water

If you feed your cat dry cat food, it is very important to pay close attention to your cat’s well-being and how much water it drinks.

A cat should drink water as soon as it finishes eating. This way, dry food will be soaked in the stomach and digested properly. But unfortunately, this is impossible to control because we cannot force our pets to drink water, and offering water by force is not a solution! Also, many cats are not very keen on drinking water, which combined with eating dry food, may lead to

  • dehydration
  • problems with digesting food
  • urinary problems
  • kidney problems

If your pet has a low water intake, you can soak dry cat food to prevent dehydration and possible digestive and urinary problems. This way, you won’t have to monitor how much water your cat consumes.

soaking dry cat food

2. You have a senior cat

As cats get older, they may begin to experience oral problems such as gingivitis, tooth loss, toothache, or periodontitis. In these situations, chewing dry food may be difficult for them. Hard kibbles will rub against the surfaces of the teeth and gums, causing even more pain.

Senior cats can also experience digestive problems more often than young adults. In these cases, softening dry food can help elderly cats chew more easily and digest it better.

3. Your cat eats too quickly

Cats that eat dry food too fast may not chew the pieces of food but consume them whole. Unchewed kibbles can scratch the lining of the stomach, leading to gastritis and ulcers. Also, fast-eaters swallow a considerable amount of air, which can lead to bloating.

Soaking dry food can make cats chew their food before swallowing, which can prevent the development of gastric problems.

4. Your cat likes to sleep all-day

Inactive cats can develop intestinal problems, such as bloating and flatulence. Soaking dry food can help prevent these problems because it makes the food easier to digest.

5. You have a picky eater

Soaking dry food can enhance the flavor. Some cats are picky or simply get bored with the same food every day. Instead of spending money on another cat food, which your cat may not like, you can try to soften its usual food.

Also, cats that follow a veterinary diet can benefit from this as well because you do not have to change their diet if they have a problem with digesting the food, chewing it, or drinking too little water.

6. Your cat has a fever or an infection

Fever is another reason why you may what to try softening dry food. Cats with a fever tend to stop consuming food and water. Soaking the food can increase the flavor, make your cat eat, and help prevent dehydration.

How To Soften Dry Cat Food? – 7 Options

1. Soak dry cat food in water

This is the most popular method of softening dry food because it is simple and straightforward.

If you want to make dry cat food wet, all you have to do is add water. The water should be heated and brought to a temperature where you can keep your finger in it without burning (~60℃/140℉). Filtered water is safest for your cat.

The correct ratio is about 1/4 of water and 3/4 of dry cat food.

This usually translates to about ¼ cup or 60 ml, but it depends on the size of your cat’s food portions and how much water the food absorbs.

Don’t add too much water to prevent making a soup. You can pour the excess water out, but your cat may refuse the food if it is too runny.

Vet’s Tip: If your cat isn’t used to softened dry food, start by adding just a little water the first time. Leave it for 15 minutes, pour out excess water, and then give the food to your cat and see how it reacts. If your cat accepts soaked dry food, at the next meal, you can add the whole amount.

2. Soak dry cat food in cat milk

Soaking dry cat food in milk will give it more flavor than soaking it in water. If you want to encourage your cat to eat softened dry food, adding milk may be just what you need to coax your cat to eat. The steps and quantity are the same as when you add water.

Whiskas Cat Milk is one of our favorites.

3. Use a blender to get a creamier texture 

If your cat has no teeth or simply can’t chew, you can put the mixture in a blender. You will also start with ¼ cup of water at the amount of dry food your cat is eating at a meal. Depending on the desired consistency, you can add more water to make it watery.

By using a blender, you can turn dry food and water into a more of a pate type of mixture that is very easy to consume and digest.

If you don’t have a blender, you can use a fork or a potato ricer.

4. Aim for a chewy texture

Maybe your cat has a dental problem but still loves the texture of the kibbles and doesn’t want to try something else.

You can achieve this goal by adding water or milk liquids in the same quantity – ¼ cup. But this time, you will leave it only for 5 minutes and then drain the remaining liquid.

5. Use broth instead of water

Many cats won’t taste food that doesn’t smell appealing to them. Using chicken or bone broth will enhance the flavor of your cat’s dry food.

Regardless if you are cooking the broth at home or you buy it from the grocery store, make sure it doesn’t contain onion (it is toxic to cats), salt, or other spices. The amount of liquid and sitting time is the same as for using water.

The same thing you can do with tuna juice. But keep in mind that tuna juice is pretty salty and can lead to various medical problems if fed for the long term. Add tuna juice to make your cat’s food moist and promote eating. After your cat has started to eat softened dry food, replace the tuna juice with something less salty like broth or water.

broth to soften dry cat food

6. Use kitten formula for kittens

If you have a kitten and want to switch to solid food, you can add kitten formula over dry food. ¼ kitten formula to ¾ kitten dry food. Warm the kitten formula before adding it to dry food. Let it sit for 15 minutes and serve it to your kitten.

7. Mix dry and wet cat food

If your cat, for some reason, doesn’t want to eat dry food that has been soaked in water, milk, or broth, you can try adding wet food instead.

The proportions should be 30% wet food to 70% dry food (~two-thirds dry food to one-third wet food). You can read more about mixing dry and wet cat food here.

Tips On Making Dry Cat Food Soft

What type of water or liquid to use? 

  • Instead of tap water, you can use plain bottled water or filtered water.
  • When it comes to broth, always use the ones that do not contain salt or other ingredients that might make your cat sick.
  • Cat milk and tuna juice are also delicious options.

What is the proper water: to cat food ratio?

The proper ratio is ¼ liquid to ¾ dry food. Or you can add ¼ cup of liquid per meal.

Do not…

  • Do not boil the water and add it immediately to your cat’s dry food. It will make it mushy, and your cat could burn its lips, tongue, or esophagus.
  • Do not leave the soaked dry food out for more than 15-30 minutes, especially in the hot summer days, as bacteria and fungi can develop and make your cat sick.
  • Do not leave the dirty bowl out for too long; it will harden like concrete. Wash it as soon as your cat has finished eating.

Also Read: Best Soft Dry Cat Foods According To A Vet

Bottom Line

Most cats love dry food, but as responsible cat parents, we need to make sure they stay hydrated. Soaking dry food is the first step in helping them hydrate properly.

In addition to the moisture softened dry food provides, it also comes with many other benefits, especially for cats with oral, urinary, or digestive problems.

If you think your cat is not consuming enough fluids or is suffering from a medical condition, it is worth trying to soften its dry food, but not before consulting a veterinarian.

Vet’s Comment

It is recommended to change the initial diet with a soaked diet only if your cat has reasons to need it.

The change of diet will be done gradually, regardless of whether you are just adding water or you want to change it completely. It will not be easy for a cat to suddenly get used to soaked food, especially if it has eaten only dry food all its life.

Cats do not like changes, regardless of their nature. Be patient with your cat, and you will be rewarded! After all, all we want for our little felines is for them to be happy and healthy!

– 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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