Preventing Deadly Feline Kidney and Urinary Disease with a Simple Cat Food Choice

It's all about water

Water –  it needs to be in the food too

This post sums up vital information that cannot be repeated often enough. It’s an edited excerpt from the 45-page eBook that I give to subscribers for free.

In a cat longevity survey I did, at least 80% of the cats who lived for over twenty years had wet food as a regular part of their diet. (They ate it several times per week, though not always exclusively. Some had dry food in addition to wet food.)

Considering that most people still feed their cats dry food  – and most vets are still in the habit of encouraging dry food – this high percentage of long-living cats eating wet food strikes me as significant.

Which opens up a question…

Why would wet food promote longevity?

I believe wet food, whether canned, homemade, or raw, is longevity-promoting because it helps prevent kidney problems (CRF), urinary tract disease (FLUTD), and diabetes.

These diseases are all too common in cats today and can be fatal or shorten a cat’s life.

Cats don’t eat anything dry in nature. Even the grass they chew has a lot of moisture in it. Plus, 75% of kidney function has to be lost before serious abnormalities even show up on blood tests. By the time you find out, a lot of damage is already done. But there’s a bright side to being aware of this. It means that, even if our cat is prone to kidney disease for a non-diet reason, it’s never too early for us to take measures to prolong the onset of the disease.

Compelling expert statements on how wet food helps prevent diseases

“Concentrating urine predisposes a cat to renal injury. The chronic, mild dehydration that cats experience when fed dry foods exclusively can cause increased stress on the kidneys, leading ultimately to decreased kidney function.” Elisa Katz, DVM CVA

“Cats eating commercial dry foods will consume approximately half the amount of water (in their diet and through drinking), compared with cats eating canned foods… In older cats that tend to produce urine with a lower concentration, an increase in water consumption becomes even more important to avoid dehydration and development of prerenal azotaemiaZoran DL, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

“Contributing factors to the disease [chronic renal failure in cats], other than age, include genetics, environment and disease. I would also add diet to that list, as CRF is very often seen in cats that are fed only dry food.” Karen Becker, DVM

“The vast majority of kitties fed dry food diets live in a state of chronic mild dehydration. This puts significant stress on the kidneys and bladder, which contributes to the development of FLUTD and urethral obstruction.”  Karen Becker, DVM

“When a cat consumes a wet, meat-based diet, the resulting urine has a natural acid pH and is more dilute than the urine of dry-food-fed cats. These conditions do not allow the formation of crystals and stones, and eliminate inflammation.” Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM

The pH effect of the diet has become suspect #1 in FLUTD. This is explained very well by Fran Syufy’s article, Cats’ Urine pH Factor.

And that’s not all…

I have to mention the diabetes prevention factor because wet food is almost always lower in carbohydrates than dry food.

  • “…my indoors only [feline] patients that eat only low carbohydrate foods do not become overweight, and virtually never become diabetic.” Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM 
  •  “…if a high-protein, low-carb diet can eliminate the need for insulin in cats with diabetesit seems logical the same diet might prevent kitties…from developing the disease in the first place.” Karen Becker, DVM

Want more information?

See the unbiased, unsponsored list of my favorite wet cat foods here.

 

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35 Responses to Preventing Deadly Feline Kidney and Urinary Disease with a Simple Cat Food Choice

  1. Chandler April 22, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    Wow I had no idea that feeding your cat dry food would harm it so greatly. I always though wet cat food was bad for your cat because it went through their system very fast and caused diarrhea and other sorts of problems. It’s amazing how dry cat food can dehydrate your cat, it just never dawned on me before. I’m glad I came across this website because now I’m thinking about changing my cat food from dry to wet now. I want my animals to be healthy, happy, and safe so coming across this was a Godsend.

  2. Josh December 4, 2013 at 3:58 am #

    Thanks for this info. I have my cats on a mostly raw diet with Bravo food but still give them a bit of dry now and again. It’s not the best though so I’m wondering if, in addition to your wet food recommendations, you might also suggest the top dry foods? I realize that would go against the overarching theme of this article but it would be great to know your thoughts nonetheless.

  3. Bennie Irwin September 22, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    I really wish you had a PIN IT on here. Would love to share this important info with as many as possible. My Stanley love died two weeks before Mothers day this year when his Diabetes came back – seizure 🙁 would love to save others the heartbreak.

  4. Robin September 20, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting this info out there. I was in very small company in the 1980s when we saw the data and realized that feeding only dry food burns out kidneys and adrenals, and causes urinary issues. (From then to now, all of the 18+ year-old cats we’ve seen have had a mixture of dry and moist food, or moist only.) All these years later, as I speak with clients at the vet I work at, most of them have an idea in their head that moist food “rotts teeth”, or they will give the usual shoulder shrug that dry food is cheaper, and therefore, that is all that will be provided, and – as one client added today – the cat better be grateful for it. (So many pet owners fall into that mentality that pets should not cost much, and certainly their food should be dirt cheap. Then they wonder why the health issues happen.) So glad you have added your voice to this important topic.

  5. Terri September 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    My cat had a really strong urine odor. I found a pet water fountain in a clearance bin and bought it. He is now drinking A LOT of water every day. The ammonia urine smell is hardly noticeable any more. I have since bought a second fountain to put in a different room so he has access to water in more places. Seems to have cut down on his hairballs too.

  6. M.G September 20, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Your link for the free book will not work no matter how many times I try

  7. Michael Howard September 20, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    Good to know. As I feed my cats meat/wet food every day anyway.
    But always have bowls of dry food out for them too. Maybe that’s why I’ve never had any major medical issues with them. My oldest two cats are 8, & the oldest of them will be 9 in Feb. 2014. >^0,0^<__________~~

  8. Yvonne September 20, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    While I agree giving cats wet food is good for them, I do have to disagree that it’s why they live longer. I’ve had cats that have lived anywhere from 16-22 years eating mostly dry food. The trick is getting them to drink more water. I’ve found a fountain works great. My 5 cats all drink a lot of water. They do get wet food a couple a times a week, but to tell the truth only two of them eat a lot of it. I give my 5 cats a can of friskys and maybe a fancy feast can divided up between all of them and the baby eats most of it. Maybe with the popularity of water fountains for cats and dogs they are just drinking more. Cats are attracted to moving things and fountains are perfect. Do get one that is stainless steel or ceramic, with ceramic being the better choice. Plastic gets bad after awhile and can have lots of bacteria in it.

    • Michael Gabriel September 20, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      I was wondering if you could give me the brand name and model of the ceramic water fountain you were referring to. I have a cat with kidney failure and I have to give him 100ml of fluid subcutaneously every day. He put back on all the weight he lost and you would never think he was ill to watch him race around the apartment.
      I have another cat who is okay but I’d like to make the switch and not use the water bowls I leave out.

  9. gia September 20, 2013 at 5:40 am #

    good article. my cats are all on raw meat diet. my babyboy had a blocked bladder and it was because he was on dry food. i changed them right away. i give them fresh chicken , turkey, gizzards, etc.

    cats dont drink enough water. and they dont need to eat grain, veggies, rice, wheat, etc.
    knock on wood, my cat has been doing okay.

  10. Steve September 19, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    I am blind, but I am unsure of vaccinations, I avoid these for myself, but never thought of my kitties, I know the FIV are important, the cat flu and cat lucimia, not sure if there are others they get via the Melbourne Lort Smith Animal Hospital, but is it better to not vaccinate annually, perhaps bi-annually or…? I feed fancy feast but get confusing and conflicting advice from vets and pet supplier food stores, so what to do? I am lost, currently the fancy feast and Nutro organic cat dry food and the Advance dental for cats they get, so I want to do the best for them all, but I need a list of suggestions please, can you help me?

  11. Lisa September 19, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    What do you recommend for wet food? I have had such a hard time getting them to eat wet food consistently, let alone quality wet food. Seems the more holistic the wet food the more they shun their noses to it. And even the crap Fancy Feast still gets a nose up based on flavor.

    • Twila September 20, 2013 at 7:38 am #

      One more thought – this information is probably here on this blog, but what I’ve found works in switching our numerous cats to new foods is that it has to happen incredibly slowly. I do not invest in a lot of cans/bags of the new food/s, just small cans. Each day, I will put in TEENSY amounts of the new stuff in with the food they do like. I follow their lead – I don’t up it for days until I am sure they will keep eating it. This process can take weeks and weeks. I use foil or plastic lids and keep the food in the fridge. I’ve been quite successful with this – but, that being said, there are still times that various cats randomly will turn their nose up completely at food they have been eating/loving for a long time. They usually come back to it later in the day. I also find that not putting out more than 2-3 tablespoons (sometimes less) of wet food will save it from going bad (don’t want that pricey cat food being tossed out). Just some thoughts from my personal experience.

  12. Rita September 19, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    How often do you need to feed wet food to get benefits? I’m currently a graduate student and on a limited income but still want to provide some of wet food’s benefits for my 2 year old neutered male. Thank you!

    • Sooz October 8, 2015 at 10:06 pm #

      EVERY DAY !!

  13. Sabrina September 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    I have a 19 year old cat who was diagnosed with CRF in January. She is now on a strictly wet food diet but had her Vet given me this kind of information when she was young, perhaps we wouldn’t be dealing with this now. It’s very difficult. Thank you for sharing. I think it’s crucial for cat owners to be made aware of this and I will be happy to pass your article around.

  14. Chris A September 19, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Well, I have started mine on wet in addition to some dry for when he is screaming outta control LOL. He would eat 24/7 if I let him. But after reading alot about wet food, now I think this is a good idea, which I never did prior with my other kitties. They died early around 9-10. One from house plants, because I didn’t know and the other from cancer. I have been far more up to date w/ fb and all the sites and articles that were never available this easy. He is now just a year old and started this about 2 mos ago…. He licks all the juices then finishes the rest later in the night. But he still likes his dry to supplement.

  15. Twila September 17, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    Hi. Important info for sure. I’m just not so sure I think food is the total root cause. My experience with my love of life cat in 1997 when he was diagnosed with CRF was to extensively research it. I was convinced it was some combo of my feeding him “the best” cat food I thought was out there (Iams) and over-vaccination. This kitty lived 3 years beyond his diagnosis after I changed food (to at first homemade cat food and then a mix of dry and wet foods with NO byproducts, no meal, preservatives, etc.) and stopped vaccinations. His best friend cat ended up with CRF several years later and died from it. Now 10 years down the road, I have 8 cats. None of them have ever had crappy high end grocery store cat food (dry or wet). I have minimally vaccinated them – after initial set of vaccinations, they have ONLY received rabies because they are indoor/outdoor cats. I have cut back on dry food and they receive mostly wet food (again, no byproducts, meal, all the stuff I have researched that are bad, including BPA which we now have to watch for in our own food in cans/plastic but also our furry ones).
    After all this, my one cat Bosco is showing signs of renal failure in spite of my being HIGHLY aware, researching til the cows come home, doing the very best I can to feed them the right kinds of foods and not over-vaccinate. Our holistic vet said it is mainstream discussion that the vaccinations themselves may be causing CRF – because many/most/all? of the stuff for the vaccinations are grown in a culture of – FELINE KIDNEY CELLS. So, we inject our furry loved ones every 3 years (minimal/at the very least) with rabies vaccines (if they go outside, or if our vet convinces us to do this even for an indoor cat on some chance they may escape to the outside)… if you picture putting in a foreign substance made from feline kidney cells, the theory is that over time, basically the vaccines causes an attack on the cats kidney cells – resulting eventually in CRF. I am starting to believe this is true, as changing foods with Bosco, the one who is showing signs of CRF, has not change the outcome at all. There certainly are many factors at play… but i am hoping that people like yourself will start googling and gather the same information I have. I would be glad to send you many links that I have bookmarked related to this subject. It is not just “alternative” or holistic type of belief at all, it is out there. But there is money to be made on regular vaccinations…

    • Liz-cat September 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

      Good points Twila. There doesn’t seem to be much debate anymore about whether multiple ongoing booster vaccines are bad for feline health–I believe the consensus is that they are.
      In particular, distemper boosters may contribute to chronic renal failure (CRF), as explained by Dr. Jean Hofve in her excellent article here: http://www.littlebigcat.com/health/vaccination/

      I appreciate what Dr. Becker says – that there are other factors in CRF, but dehydration from dry food is at least one we can control.

      • Bonnie February 13, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

        Hi Liz-cat: I have 5 cats and they are all about 10+ years old. One of my male cats had crystals in his urine about 8 years ago and he had been eating Science Diet, which I learned is a bad food. I feed all of my cats now Orijen for dry food, and a canned food called “Wild Calling.” They all like it and Orijen grain free and the “Red” which all like. The canned food has no Carrigeenan in it and all the ingredients seem ok. So far I have no trouble with kidney disease or Urine problems with any of my cats. One of my cats has arthritis which I give Cosequin to her, and also feed them chews that I get from Chewy’s for Urine PH or whatever else they can get. It all seems to work. I like the article that says getting the cats their shots once a year can maybe cause CRF.

        Bonnie

    • Sandy September 20, 2013 at 5:31 am #

      I have a male cat that has a history of crystals in his urine. I almost lost him and now the vet wants me to feed him only IAMS cd both wet and dry which I have done for over a year and so far so good. I try to keep as much water available for him as possible so I keep a water bowl out all day with dry food and when I come home I feed him a little wet food with double the amount of water to make it a soup. He loves it. I am now giving that to his sister as well. CD is very expensive but if it keeps him alive and well, it’s worth it. I’ve heard conflicting reports on the health factors of it though so I’m concerned. What kind of food do you feed your cats Twila?

      • Twila September 20, 2013 at 7:27 am #

        Sandy, I feed our cats a mix of several canned foods and several dry foods. It is quite expensive and, honestly, about breaks the bank. My husband says we spend more food on the cats than ourselves . Part of that is we now have EIGHT cats (not on purpose, they all “found” us as strays). At least my husb agrees with me that we feed ourselves mostly organic when we can to keep our health issues/doctors at bay – and we hope to do that for the cats. So far, we have been able to, we don’t take our cats to the vets regularly at all. Only for rabies vaccines every 3 years.
        By the way, it is this very blog that I’ve glean information on canned foods – I keep a list of the foods I will try to eventually find and add in on a rotation. Some of them though are actually more expensive than what we are already feeding them! I’ve learned SO much from this blog.

        BTW, my premise for buying several types of canned and several types of dry food is with all the scares of contamination/melamine/etc., I realized that even the $$/no byproduct/no ethoxyquin/no meal/etc. foods may face similar problem. So I imagine if they have foods from multiple sources/manufacturers so that IF something like that should happen, any toxin would be diluted because they are not eating only one brand of food day in/day out.

        As for the canned food: The cats all get a mix of wet food once a day (morning) of grain free Wellness chicken or Wellness turkey (only small cans, the large cans have BPA lining) along with Halo Spot’s Stew (I know this one is controversial because of the veggies, though it is grain free). I’ve found some of the canned foods listed here on this blog at PetCo – and will buy just one or two cans of the smallest can at a time (well, the one that doesn’t have BPA) to see if they will eat it. That has included canned Nature’s Variety Instinct (but not the rabbit) and the canned Weruva’s Soulistic. I’ve written many manufacturers to confirm whether they use BPA or what kind of lining they use.

        Right now, we do give dry food but try to cut it back every day. I do need to ditch the first two (the Wellness and the Solid Gold Indigo Moon) because they do contain meal/carbs/barley. The dry foods: Wellness Complete Adult Health, Solid Gold Indigo Moon, and Halo’s Spots Stew chicken grain free dried food. I mix them all together in small batches. I’m working on slowly weaning them all off of it to where eventually it is only a treat or occasionally from the pet sitter when we have to go out of town. Out of 8 cats, on these foods, only one is a bit overweight, one is underweight, and the rest are normal. The overweight one is the only one who will sit and eat dry food until it is gone, more like a dog might. So, we no longer leave out dry food at all. They get the wet food in the a.m., then around 1 p.m., a sprinkle of dry and maybe a sprinkle later. Eventually will wean that to nothing in evening. Anyway, that’s what we are doing right now.

        Hope that helps. And, by the way, thanks so much for all this excellent information. This is the best place I’ve found to come for any info about cat health.

        • Brian September 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

          We have sworn off Solid Gold cat food, we had a bag that was bad (dry food and a load of ‘dust’ in the bag) I sent a message to customer service and they replied that they were having a problem with the outer coating binding to the dry food because our cats would not eat it with the dust.

          We threw the food away, I expected them to make some sort of action like issuing a refund or a credit/coupon as their food is NOT cheap but they did nothing.

      • N03113 January 2, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

        Sandy, I think this is a few months out on a reply – but we just went through a situation with FLUTD with one of our cats and the vet had prescribed Hills Prescription diet C/D. Whiskey, the poor guy, does not do well on grains at all (go figure) and previous to this, we had been feeding him grain free food – but it was dry food. He’s a picky eater and unfortunately the error lies in us because we became lazy owners and he suffered for that 🙁

        But back to my point… looking at the ingredients on the prescription food – it’s CRAP. It’s all byproducts and utter crap high in carbohydrates like corn… the only reason they work is that it has pH balancing for addressing Struvite Crystals in it for the urine and Potassium Citrate in it to break down oxalate stones if that was the issue. The dry version has high sodium to promote encourage thirst.

        After a week being on this food, Whiskey was not doing well at all… he had vomited up the food after eating… and started to refuse it… also the dry food has the digestive enzymes on it. we were trying to move him over to the wet food so we got both to try and gradually move him over to the wet. It was disaster!

        He had lost close to 3 lbs…. we went back to the vet and they just told us, this is the only food he can have otherwise he will be blocked again.

        We decided to get a second opinion – not to mention this vet really screwed up but cutting his nails to the quick and also put a 1/2inch gash into his leg removing the IV from his treatment among other things. (this was at a banfield btw) We found another vet, one that does both western and eastern vet practice.

        Key is maintaining the pH and upping the moisture – more moisture means more urine, means flushed out – it’s not a guarantee he won’t get blocked again, but it reduces the risk of struvites to form like they did. Also we’re giving him Crystal Formula Teapills.

        So now, we’re able to put him back on a wet food he actually likes and supplement raw foods like chicken pieces and shrimp etc… he’s back to eating and luckily didn’t suffer any liver damage that the prescription food could have triggered in him vomiting and not eating it.

        • Michael Gabriel January 2, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

          I read everything and I get it that all dry food is not the best thing to do. But I still don’t know what to buy. I go to Centinella Feed and Pet Supply and if anyone can tell me the brand name to get I’d appreciate it.
          I have one boy feral age 8 with kidney failure that I give 100ml of fluid subcutaneously every day and a girl feral age 8 that has hairball issues and a blockage that required surgery and almost killed her. I give her Hills Science Diet Hairball preventative cans.
          can someone give me brand names PLEASE. I have been using grain free dry food to leave in bowls also. PLEASE email me with your suggestions. THank you

        • jenn January 7, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

          no3113 what kind of what wet food do you feed your cats? my cat is 7 years old and took a senior panel and has high kidney values. i was told to feed him Hills prescription diet renal function dry and wet. i called hills and they advised me that the corn they use is GMO. I was told if i feed my cat low protein and low phosphorus food that will help him. Do you know of any wet food that may help him?? thank you! Jenn.

          • Liz-cat January 7, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

            Jenn, Check out http://www.felinecrf.org/canned_food_usa.htm#canned_usa

            Based on the information at http://www.felinecrf.org/canned_food_usa.htm#canned_usa, the only low-ish phosphorous ones I’m seeing on their canned list and my list BOTH are:
            Soulistic Harvest Sunrise Chicken & Pumpkin Dinner in Gravy

            phos: 0.68 (DMB calculation)
            Soulistic Good Karma Chicken Dinner in Gravy

            phos: 0.68 (DMB calculation)
            Addiction Safari Buffalo Meatloaf

            phos:1.00 (DMB calculation)
            Addiction Hunters Venison Stew

            phos:1.00 (DMB calculation)
            But keep in mind we don’t have phosphorous info for any of the raw or dehydrated foods as yet.

          • n03113 January 7, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

            I’m not really in any position to advise nutrition for a cat that has kidney issues. We’ve mainly been focusing on getting food that Whiskey will eat that is not dry food. At the moment we’ve tried tikka cat and weruva – along with the simply natural canned food. For ours, it was mostly that he does not like the loaf or pate, he prefers the texture of sliced, shredded, or minced. Our selections are not low in protein, but hopefully the comment from Liz helps with those links she provided.

            for us, our move is now to try to get him off the fish types and on to chicken based and then back to raw.

        • jenn January 7, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

          thanks for the info everyone. i think i will try switching him over to wet food excursively and maybe giving dry only in small amounts see how that goes.. im going to try the tika cat wet food you suggested liz and ween him slowly of the hills prescription diet. im gonna see his vet tomorrow and let her know of my plan! also called a holistc vet in ny dr. michelle yasson (the one on your holstic vet page liz) and hopefully the two can work together and we can figure out a solution! thanks again for your help:+)

          • jenn January 7, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

            also thanks for posting on your cat food page about raw food and how the bones are included and not good for cats with kidney issues. i was feeding him raw for a few months prior to vet suggesting food switch for kidneys…i had no idea!! so much to learn! thanks again.

          • Liz-cat January 7, 2014 at 9:33 pm #

            Jenn, you bet. Yes, a few vets have said the ground bones causes the phosphorous to be too high, though I haven’t seen exact numbers. (Also, cats with kidney disease tend to get constipated as well.)
            Now, regarding Tiki, I should clarify that I only have 3 Tiki flavors on my list – and their phosphorous is a bit above 1.00. But you make the call, based on what your doctor recommends. I just know that Tanya’s great site recommends keeping under 1.00 ideally.

            Tiki Cat Koolina Luau (chicken) phos: 1.5

            Puka Puka Luau (chicken) phos 1.20

            Tiki Cat Hanalei Luau phos 1.40 (salmon)

          • jenn January 8, 2014 at 5:46 am #

            What is worse high phospherous or carbs? I noticed on those foods u mentioned the starch is high. Or does one go with a higher phospherous like in Tiki cat?

        • Sheila September 23, 2015 at 7:16 am #

          Hi,
          This is my first time on this site. Thanks for all of the information!
          I just started trying to get my fat dry food addicted boy over to all wet food. He is liking Instinct Raw Food- I don’t see it on any recommended lists. Does anyone know if this one is a good one? It has veggies in it, chicken and turkey.
          My two still eat the cheap deli Friskies chicken- just trying to get them off the dry food. Is this terrible? And they are completely addicted to the Weruva freeze dried chicken!!!! It looks like it is healthy…. just a bit worried about the level of excitement when it comes out. Does this indicate a deficiency?
          Thank you so much, Sheila

  16. Jenna September 17, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    Hi Liz, Thank you for that very informative article. I wanted to pass it on to my friend and fellow cat lover and i noticed that the section where it says ” join the natural cat tribe” and gives instant access to your wonderful e-book was not working when i clicked on it. I thought you may want to know this so you can fix it.
    Thanks!

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