Does Feeding Wet Cat Food Prevent UTIs? The Surprising Answer

What is a UTI in cats?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) in cats is a bacterial infection of the urinary system, including the bladder and urethra. It is caused by bacteria, most commonly Escherichia coli, entering the urinary tract and multiplying in the bladder (VCA Animal Hospitals).

Symptoms of a UTI in cats include:

  • Frequent and painful urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Crying out while urinating
  • Urinating outside the litter box
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Straining to urinate

UTIs occur more often in female cats due to their shorter urethras. Other risk factors include stress, obesity, diabetes, bladder stones, anatomical defects, and a diet high in dry food. Bacteria can enter the urinary tract through the urethra and multiply if the bladder environment promotes bacterial growth (Guilford-Jamestown Veterinary Hospital).

Difference between wet and dry cat food

Wet and dry cat foods differ significantly in their ingredients, moisture content, and nutritional profiles.

Dry cat food typically contains more carbohydrates and plant-based proteins than wet food. The main ingredients in dry food are meat meals, grains like corn and rice, and vegetable proteins like peas or potatoes 1. Wet cat food often contains higher quality protein sources like fresh meat, poultry, or fish. It has fewer carbohydrates and more animal-based proteins.

The moisture content also varies greatly. Dry cat food contains about 6-10% water, while wet food typically contains 70-85% water 2. Cats generally don’t drink enough water, so wet food’s high moisture content helps them stay hydrated.

Due to the differences in ingredients, wet cat food tends to be higher in protein and fat, while dry food contains more carbs. However, high quality versions of both can meet cats’ nutritional needs. It’s best to read labels and consult your vet to ensure your cat’s food has complete and balanced nutrition.

How diet impacts urinary health

A cat’s diet plays an important role in maintaining urinary health. Two key factors influenced by diet are hydration and urine pH balance. Staying well-hydrated is crucial for diluting the urine and flushing out bacteria, crystals, and stones from the urinary tract. Wet cat foods contain much higher moisture content than dry kibble, providing the hydration cats need. Dry foods only contain around 10% moisture whereas wet foods can contain up to 78% moisture. According to the ASPCA, feeding an exclusively dry food diet doubles the risk of cats developing urinary tract disease compared to wet food diets.1

Along with hydration, maintaining a healthy pH balance in the urine can help prevent crystal and stone formation. Urine that is too alkaline allows struvite and calcium oxalate crystals to form and aggregate into stones. Wet foods create slightly more acidic urine which helps dissolve these crystals and stones. Dry foods tend to alkalinize the urine more than wet foods.2

Evidence linking wet food to UTI prevention

Clinical studies have shown that increased water intake from feeding moist foods can help prevent UTIs in cats. One study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that feeding a moist therapeutic urinary diet significantly reduced the recurrence of feline idiopathic cystitis compared to a dry diet ( The researchers conclude that the high moisture content of the wet food led to increased water intake and urine dilution, which helps prevent crystal formation.

Additionally, many veterinarians recommend feeding wet food to cats prone to UTIs and crystals. The moisture content of canned food more closely matches the natural diet of felines, and the extra water supports urinary tract health. By keeping your cat well hydrated, wet food can help flush bacteria from the bladder and reduce UTI risk. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, canned food significantly reduces the chance of recurrent UTIs compared to dry food alone (

Other UTI Risk Factors

In addition to diet, certain other factors can increase a cat’s risk of developing a UTI. According to VC Animal Hospitals, some of the key risk factors include:


Certain breeds may be more prone to UTIs, including Persians, Himalayans, andomestic shorthairs. Their anatomy can make it easier for bacteria to travel up the urethra. Purebred male cats are also at higher risk.


Female cats are more likely to get UTIs since their urethra is shorter. This allows bacteria quick access to the bladder. Male cats can also get UTIs, especially if they have bladder stones or anatomical defects.

Underlying Conditions

Cats with other medical issues like diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, and hyperthyroidism have a compromised immune system. This makes it harder for their body to fight off bacteria leading to UTIs. Any condition that causes increased bladder inflammation or urine retention also elevates UTI risk.

Additional UTI Prevention Tips

There are some additional steps cat owners can take to help prevent UTIs in their feline companions:

Increased water intake – Make sure your cat always has access to fresh, clean water. Consider using a cat water fountain, as the moving water can encourage drinking. Place multiple water bowls around your home. Offer wet cat food, which has high moisture content. Avoid dry kibble as the sole diet.

Litter box hygiene – Scoop waste from litter boxes daily. Empty litter boxes completely every 1-2 weeks and wash with mild soap and water. Use unscented clumping litter and have at least one litter box per cat in your home. Place litter boxes in quiet, accessible areas.

Annual vet exams – Take your cat to the vet once a year for a wellness check-up. Your vet can monitor for early signs of urinary issues. Cats over 10 years old may need biannual vet visits.

Other tips include feeding cats a high quality diet, avoiding stress, and providing environmental enrichment. Monitoring your cat’s bathroom habits can also help spot potential problems early. Contact your vet promptly if you notice signs of a UTI.

Signs of a UTI requiring vet care

If your cat is showing signs of a potential UTI, it’s important to get them checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Some of the most common symptoms that indicate a vet visit is needed include:

  • Straining to urinate – This involves frequent, prolonged attempts to urinate with little success. It’s a sign your cat is feeling discomfort or even pain when trying to pee. According to the Village Vets, straining is one of the most obvious signs of a UTI in cats.
  • Blood in urine – Red or pink tinged urine points to bladder inflammation and infection. As PetMD notes, blood in the urine is often the first sign of a UTI in cats.
  • Frequent urination – Going to the litter box more often, especially if only small amounts of urine are passed, can signal a UTI. Frequent urination helps relieve discomfort but doesn’t resolve the infection.

While these signs don’t necessarily confirm a UTI, they do warrant having your cat seen by a veterinarian. Catching a UTI early improves chances of effective treatment with antibiotics to clear the infection. Left untreated, the infection can spread to the kidneys and become life threatening.

UTI Diagnostics and Treatment

If a UTI is suspected, the veterinarian will start by performing a urinalysis to check for signs of infection such as increased white blood cells or bacteria ( The urine sample may be obtained by cystocentesis, catheterization, or free catch. Once an infection is confirmed, antibiotics will likely be prescribed.

Common antibiotics used to treat UTIs in cats include amoxicillin trihydrate and clavulanate potassium (Clavamox) and Orbiflox ( The antibiotic course is usually 2-4 weeks. Cats may also receive supportive care such as pain medication, fluids, and dietary changes.

It’s important to give the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your vet, even if symptoms improve, to prevent recurrence. Follow up urinalyses may be needed to confirm the infection has resolved.

When to Switch to Wet Cat Food

For cats prone to urinary tract infections or other urinary issues, switching to a wet food diet may help promote urinary health. Wet foods have high moisture content, which helps increase a cat’s water intake. Increased hydration leads to more frequent urination, helping flush bacteria from the urinary tract.1

Even cats without current UTI issues can benefit from a wet food diet for prevention. The moisture in wet foods helps dilute the urine and prevent crystal formation that can lead to blockages.2 Feeding only dry food long-term can contribute to chronic mild dehydration, so making wet food a regular part of the diet is ideal for hydration.

For optimum urinary health, aim to transition a cat prone to UTIs or crystals to a predominantly wet food diet. Feed wet food for at least half the daily calories, if not more. Work with your veterinarian to determine the best wet food and optimal feeding schedule for your cat.

Choosing a high-quality wet cat food

When selecting a wet food to help prevent UTIs in cats, focus on three key factors:

Meat-based ingredients

Look for a food where meat, fish, or poultry is listed as the first ingredient. Meat provides essential proteins and nutrients for urinary health. Avoid by-products.

Moisture content over 75%

The high moisture content of wet foods helps cats stay hydrated, diluting the urine and preventing crystal formation. Aim for at least 75% moisture.

Limited carbs

Carbs from grains or veggies can alter urinary pH. Choose a wet food with minimal carbs and fillers.

Wet foods that meet these criteria can help maintain urinary tract health and prevent recurrent UTIs in cats.

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