Understanding Your Cat’s Thirst Drive

As any good cat owner knows, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that their diet must consist of meat. Similarly to their big cat cousins, domestic cats have a biological need to consume the tissue of other animals to sustain their life.

As a species, cats have a low thirst drive, because the majority of their water requirement should be met by their food source.  Wet food is always recommended over dry food because of the water content; 70-85% for wet versus 11% for dry (and that’s being generous). For those who feed raw, white meat chicken, for example, is made up of 69% water on average. In the wild, small game will contain 70-75% water.
A diet of purely dry food can cause detrimental health issues in cats. For one, dry food has a very low water content which can contribute to chronic dehydration later in life. Cats, as obligate carnivores, subsist on meat which calls into question the unnecessarily high carbohydrate content in dry food. Lastly, many dry foods use cheaper plant-based protein to fill the place of animal-based protein. What’s so confusing about these facts is that cats don’t need or benefit in any way from plant-protein or carbohydrates.  
A water-rich diet is extremely important for cats considering their low thirst drive. Cats fed a dry diet can often be found drinking more frequently and in seemingly larger quantities than those fed a wet diet. This does not mean that the cat is getting enough water by any means. In fact, a cat fed on dry food will merely be half as hydrated, considering that they aren’t receiving any supplemental hydration from their food source.
If you take anything away from this article, please let it be that cats need water. Switch to canned food, make your own raw food, simply do your research (1, 2), and your cat will live a happy, hydrated life. 

Jacqui Litvan
Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor’s degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).