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 azotaemia” Zoran 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 diabetes, it seems logical the same diet might prevent kitties…from developing the disease in the first place.” Karen Becker, DVM
Want more information?
- Elisa Katz, DVM CVA, Diet, Kidney Disease and the Urinary Tract
- Karen Becker, DVM, Maybe NOW More Cat Parents Will Make the Switch from Dry Food
- Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM, Your Cat: Simple New Secrets for a Longer, Stronger Life.
- Karen Becker, DVM, The Devastating but Preventable Disease that Threatens Your Pet
- Frank G, Anderson W, Pazak H, Hodgkins E, Ballam J, Laflamme D. The use of a high-protein diet in the management of feline diabetes mellitus. Vet Therapeutics 2001; 2(3): 238-246.
- Zoran DL, The carnivore connection to nutrition in cats (2002) Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 221 pp1559-67