Do Cats Really Need Water If They Eat Wet Food?


There has been an ongoing debate among cat owners and veterinarians around whether wet cat food provides enough hydration for cats or if an additional water bowl is still required. This mainly stems from the significant difference in moisture content between wet and dry cat foods.

While dry kibble contains only around 10% water, wet cat foods are typically 75-85% water. Many cat owners have assumed the high water content of wet food is enough to meet their cat’s hydration needs. However, some experts warn that cats still require additional fresh water access even when fed a wet food diet.

This article will analyze the water requirements for cats fed wet vs dry food and provide tips on ensuring your cat is properly hydrated regardless of their diet. We’ll also discuss the benefits of adding water to your cat’s meals and signs of dehydration to look out for.

Wet cat food generally contains a much higher percentage of water compared to dry cat food. Most wet cat foods have between 75% to 78% moisture while dry cat foods may contain between 6% to 10% moisture ([SOURCE]). The high water content in wet foods comes from the raw ingredients like meat and broths.

There can be some variability in the moisture content of wet cat foods depending on the specific formula. For instance, a pâté style wet food may have a slightly higher moisture content than chunks in gravy. However, most wet foods will have significantly more water than even the most moisture-rich dry kibble. It’s important to note that even within the same brand, moisture contents can vary across flavors, so check the guaranteed analysis on an individual product to know the exact percentages.

Water Content in Wet and Dry Cat Food

Daily Water Requirements for Cats

According to sources from Cornell University and Royal Canin, most adult cats need approximately 50-70 ml of water per kg of body weight per day (roughly 4-8 ounces of water per 5 pounds of body weight). This means a typical 10 pound cat needs about 1 cup of water daily.

Kittens have a higher water requirement of around 100 ml/kg per day. Elderly cats have similar requirements as adults, unless they have health issues like kidney disease which causes an increased need for hydration.

Other factors like temperature, diet, activity level, and health conditions can affect a cat’s daily water needs. Cats who eat dry food or canned food with low moisture content will need more water than cats who eat wet food, which has high moisture content. Very active cats or cats in hot environments may need more water as well. Any diseases that cause increased urination like diabetes will also raise a cat’s daily water requirement.


Benefits of Providing Fresh Water

Even if cats get moisture from wet food, providing fresh water daily has important health benefits for your feline companion. One key benefit is that it helps prevent urinary tract diseases like crystal or stone formation. Cats who don’t get enough water are at higher risk for these painful and potentially dangerous conditions. According to veterinarians, increased water intake helps dilute urine and flush out any minerals, crystals or stones before they can develop into problems. A constant supply of fresh, clean water encourages cats to drink more frequently.

Additionally, offering both wet food and a water bowl provides some variety that can entice picky cats to increase their overall fluid intake. Cats can get bored of one water source and having multiple options makes it more likely your cat will drink adequate amounts. Fresh water also provides a nice complement to the rich flavors in wet cat food. Providing both food with moisture and a water bowl is ideal for promoting good feline kidney and bladder health.

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Signs of Dehydration in Cats

There are several telltale signs that your cat may be dehydrated. According to PetMD, some of the most common symptoms include:

Dry gums – Dehydrated cats often have sticky, dry gums instead of nice and moist pink ones. You can check this by lifting your cat’s lips and feeling their gums. Healthy gums should feel slippery and wet (PetMD).

Skin tenting – This involves pinching or lifting the skin on the back of your cat’s neck and then letting go. If your cat is hydrated, the skin should snap back immediately. But with dehydration, the skin stays tented for several seconds before retracting (WebMD).

Sunken eyes – A dehydrated cat often develops sunken, dull looking eyes. This happens as the eyeballs sink back due to fluid loss (PetMD).

Being aware of these signs can help you identify dehydration early and take steps to get your cat the fluids they need.

Transitioning to Wet Food

When transitioning your cat from dry to wet food, it’s important to do so gradually over the course of days or weeks. Abrupt changes in diet can upset your cat’s stomach and digestive system. Follow these tips for a smooth transition:

Start by mixing a small amount of the new wet food in with your cat’s regular dry food, gradually increasing the ratio of wet to dry over 1-2 weeks. A gradual transition gives your cat time to get accustomed to the new texture and taste.

Make sure to provide extra fresh water during the transition period. Since wet food has higher moisture content, your cat may drink less at first while adjusting. Placing multiple water bowls around your home can encourage drinking.

Feed smaller, more frequent meals during the switch to help avoid digestive upset. It can also be helpful to transition different wet food flavors and proteins one at a time.

Monitor your cat during the transition for signs of gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. Slow the transition if necessary and consult your veterinarian if problems persist.

Be patient and understand your cat may resist or be hesitant about the new food at first. Try different wet food brands, textures and flavors until you find varieties your cat likes. The transition may take some time, but the health benefits of wet food are worth it!


Tips for Encouraging Cat Water Intake

There are several creative ways cat owners can encourage their feline friends to drink more water each day. According to Pet Health Network, using a fountain water bowl can entice picky cats to drink more often (Pet Health Network). The flowing water motion and sound provides extra appeal. Cats prefer fresh, oxygenated water, so a fountain replicates natural drinking sources.

Strategically placing multiple water bowls around the home increases accessibility and reminds cats to take a drink. As PetMD advises, locate bowls away from food stations since cats don’t like water near their food (PetMD). Try different bowl styles and sizes to accommodate preferences.

Adding cat-safe flavored waters can also promote hydration. A few drops of tuna juice or unsalted chicken broth adds taste without calories, as suggested by Cats Protection (Cats Protection). Freeze flavored ice cubes for crunchy treats. Monitor health and ask a veterinarian about appropriate additives.

When to Provide Extra Hydration

Certain cats may need extra hydration beyond their normal daily water intake. These include:

Kittens and senior cats – Kittens and older cats can be prone to dehydration since their bodies are still developing or may have a harder time regulating hydration. Providing extra fresh water access and creating flavored waters can encourage better hydration for kittens and senior cats.

Ill or recovering cats – Cats who are sick, have an infection, undergoing treatment, or recovering from an illness may become dehydrated more easily. Adding extra water bowls around the home, using fountains, or adding broths to their water can provide vital hydration while ill or healing.

Hot environments – Cats in very hot climates or during summer heat waves will need to consume more water to stay hydrated. Having multiple water sources around the home and chilling water can promote drinking. Adding ice cubes to the water bowl can also boost interest.

In all cases, speaking with your veterinarian is wise to determine if extra hydration measures are needed for your individual cat’s health situation.

Ask Your Veterinarian

Speak to your veterinarian about your individual cat’s water needs. They can provide professional advice based on your cat’s age, health status, activity level, and other factors.

Veterinarians recommend monitoring your cat’s water intake to ensure they stay hydrated. Look for signs of increased thirst like frequent water drinking. Decreased urination can also indicate dehydration.

Routine veterinary checkups allow assessment of hydration status. Your vet may recommend lab tests if concerned about kidney function or diabetes. Bring up any questions about water intake or sources.

Some cats require prescription diets or medications that affect hydration. Your vet can suggest adjustments to water and wet food to compensate if needed. Working together provides the best care for your feline companion.

With your vet’s guidance, you can meet your individual cat’s hydration needs. This promotes good urinary tract health and overall wellbeing.



In summary, while wet food does provide cats with hydration from its moisture content, it’s still important to give your cat access to fresh, clean water at all times. Cats need water to help digest food, regulate body temperature, and transport nutrients. Signs of dehydration like lethargy and dry gums mean your cat needs more water intake right away. Providing a water bowl, fountain, or canned food topped with extra water can all help encourage hydration. Check with your vet if you’re transitioning to wet food or your cat won’t drink. Keeping your cat properly hydrated with plenty of fresh water will help keep their urinary tract healthy and prevent serious kidney problems down the line.

The key takeaway is that even cats on wet food diets still require additional water sources. Be sure to monitor your cat’s water intake and provide clean, fresh water at all times. A combination of wet food and extra hydration will help keep your feline friend happy and healthy.

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