Cats can be finicky eaters. Many cats prefer wet food, but owners aren’t always on board. Wet food must be properly stored if open, and it can’t be left out for more than a few hours. It’s also more expensive than dry food. Is adding water to your cat’s food the solution you’ve been looking for? 

Is it ok to add water to dry cat food?

Perhaps your cat has begun to lose interest in their dry food. Perhaps they are young or old, and could benefit from softer food. If you are wondering if you can add water to your cat’s dry food, yes, you can. In fact, there are several solid reasons for doing so. 

Increasing Water Intake 

Dehydration is a big problem for cats. Most cats do not drink enough water, so they stay in a state of mild dehydration. Just like humans, cats can’t live without water. Lack of water will cause organ failure in only 24-48 hours for cats, compared to 72 hours for humans. 

Severe dehydration usually occurs in cats who are elderly or sick. However, even mild dehydration can cause health issues for your kitty. Cats become dehydrated because their thirst mechanism isn’t very strong. 

In the wild, they get most of their water, 70-80% in fact, from their prey. It’s not necessary for them to take in large amounts of water, because they are only supplementing what they get from their food source. 

Dry food only has 15% moisture. This means your cat must drink much more water to compensate. Mild dehydration can lead to a host of concerning issues, including UTIs, electrolyte imbalances, and circulation issues. 

When you add water to their dry food, you are making their diet more similar to what they would eat in the wild. This naturally increases their water intake. 

Increasing your cat’s water intake can improve their urinary health, circulation, and aid digestion. It also relieves constipation, which is a common issue for cats. Dehydration contributes to constipation, because water is needed to soften the stool. Cats are fastidious groomers, which means they swallow some hair each day. Without adequate water, the hair can form a blockage in the intestinal tract. 

If you want to test your cat for dehydration, the process is surprisingly simple. Just pinch the skin between their shoulder blades. If they are hydrated, the skin will go back immediately. If it stays pinched or tented, your kitty is dehydrated. 

Slows Eating

If you have a fast eater, you know what I’m referring to. They gulp their food down, seemingly without even taking time to chew. Once they are finished, they are likely to throw it up. 

Your cat doesn’t get the food they need, because it doesn’t stay down. And you are stuck cleaning up their vomit, unless they eat it, which is gross. 

If you have a fast eater, there are several ways to handle the problem. Puzzle feeders only allow your cat a bite or two of kibble at a time. This is great for play and snack time, but it’s not ideal for meals. 

Slow feeders have special ridges that prevent your cat from eating too fast. It’s sort of like eating with chopsticks for a human. You have to slow down and concentrate on picking up each bite. 

The other solution is to add water to your kitty’s food. This changes the texture of the food, and forces your kitty to take more time. The soft kibble can’t be swallowed as quickly, at least not without a quick chew or two. 

Bloat

I remember when rice was thrown at weddings. I also remember the cries of outrage, and claims that the practice was fatal to birds. Rice expands in the bird’s stomach. It can expand so much in their small body that it is fatal. 

Dry kibble isn’t nearly so drastic, but it does have a similar effect. Some dry kibbles will expand when they are exposed to water, as they are in the stomach. Let’s say the kibble expands by 50%. 

If your kitty eats 1/4 cup kibble, it will turn to 1/2 a cup in their stomach. If they were full from 1/4 of a cup, 1/2 a cup of kibble will be too much volume. This can cause stomach pain, digestive upset, and vomiting. 

Have you ever eaten too much and got a stomach ache? It’s not a good feeling, and certainly not a sensation you want your favorite feline experiencing. 

Adding water to dry kibble allows it to expand before your cat eats it. This reduces the risk of them eating too much, because the food gets bigger in their belly. When it starts out the same size it will be in their stomach, this isn’t an issue. 

Increasing Interest or Appetite

Does your cat turn their nose up at their food? Do they look at you with an expression that seems to say, “come on, would you eat this?”. Some cats are pickier than others. If your cat has a gourmet palate, simply adding water might be enough to entice them. 

Dry food doesn’t have as strong an aroma or flavor as wet food. You’ve probably noticed this difference yourself. When you open a can of wet food, the odor is positively pungent. When you pour out their dry food, you can barely smell anything. 

Adding warm water to your cat’s kibble can help. The warmth and moisture will help release the smells and taste of the food. Cats naturally eat their prey fresh after a kill, so it is still warm. Many cats prefer their dry food to be warm as well. 

Adding water also changes the texture of the food. Some cats may find the softer texture more appealing than the hard texture of dry kibble. 

How much water can you add to dry cat food?

You can add 1/4 cup water to your cat’s dry food. Filtered warm water is best. If there’s excess water that isn’t soaked up by the kibble, you can pour it off before serving. 

What ways are there to soften dry cat food?

The most obvious and simplest way to soften dry cat food is by adding water. However, there are other ways to soften your kitty’s food as well. 

Broth

Broth will not only make your cat’s food softer. It will make it more appetizing as well. Keep in mind that unlike water, broth does have calories and salt. 

You can choose a broth made specifically for cats. You may find it at your local petstore. you can also find it online. 

If you want to use a standard broth, choose one low in fat and sodium. A low sodium broth is safe for your cat. If you are concerned about adding too much salt and calories, you can mix the broth with water. 

To soften your cat’s food, add the broth to their food. Allow it to sit for a few minutes. If there’s excess broth, pour it off before serving to your cat. You can also microwave the food for 30 seconds. The heat will soften the food more, and help the broth absorb into the kibble. 

If you don’t want to use store bought  broth, you can make your own. You can make chicken or beef broth with bones and left over pieces of meat. Other meats can be used as well, including fish and shrimp shells. 

Add the bones to a large pot of cold water. Bring it to a light boil. You can skim the top to remove impurities, but this isn’t required. Chicken stock should simmer for 4 hours. Beef bones should be simmered for 8. This removes the flavor and nutrients from the bones and any remaining meat. 

Vegetables can be added after the water begins to boil. If you skim, add any vegetables after skimming. Carrots, potatoes, and celery are common additions. Vegetables aren’t required additions. They impart extra flavor to dishes, but this isn’t necessary for your cat. 

Once the stock is finished, you’ll need to strain it and let it cool. You can store it in the fridge. Mason jars work well for storing stock. If you plan on keeping it long term, store it in the freezer. Ice trays are perfect for storing individual serving sizes of stock to use in your cat’s meals. 

When it’s mealtime, pull out an ice cube. Heat it in the microwave, or simply allow it to sit on the counter until it melts. You can then add it to your kitty’s food. Microwaving the food for a few seconds will warm it to room temperature. 

Puree

If your cat has severe dental issues, you may need to make their food into a liquid. This allows them to lap up the food, no chewing necessary. To do this, you’ll start by adding water or broth to their dry cat food. 

Allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes. Then, add it to your blender. Use the blender to create a liquid. You can add more liquid or more dry food to change the consistency of the mixture. 

It can take a little trial and error to see what consistency your cat prefers. 

Be sure to remove the food once your cat has finished eating. Pureed food shouldn’t be left out for more than 1 hour. The extra moisture content promotes mold growth, and pureeing the food will cause it to oxidize quickly. 

Add Kitten Formula

Adding kitten formula is an excellent idea if you are weaning kittens. This method provides them with nutrition from milk, while allowing them to get accustomed to dry cat food. 

The milk is familiar, which may make them more likely to eat the food. It’s also soft enough for small mouths and teeth to chew. 

It may be tempting to simply add milk to a kitten’s food, but this isn’t a good idea. Cats aren’t designed to consume cow’s milk, which is very different from the milk a mother cat produces. 

As cats age, they also become lactose intolerant. Cow’s milk can cause digestive upset, which you want to avoid. 

You can also add water to kibble for kittens. Water provides moisture without extra calories. However, if you feel like your kitten needs a nutritional boost, it’s best to add kitten formula. 

If the formula is in powder form, mix a small amount with water. Then, add it to the kibble as you would water or broth. 

What to Avoid When Softening Your Cat’s Food 

There are a few things you dont’ want to do when softening your cat’s food. The first is leaving the softened food out. Once you’ve added water, the food is more prone to bacteria growth. 

You can safely leave dry food out overnight. Once the food is softened, however, it should not be left out for more than a few hours. It’s preferable to feed it to your cat immediately after preparing, and dispose of any uneaten food. If you’ve added broth to the food, this may increase the chances of it spoiling if left out. 

This has already been mentioned, but it bears repeating. Do not add milk to your cat’s food to soften it. Your cat can’t digest milk. It’s not good for their health. It will also spoil quickly if left out. 

Don’t add too much water. As important as water is to your cat’s diet, you don’t want to water down your cat’s food. This can deprive them of the calories and nutrition they need to grow. 

If your cat isn’t eating their typical food, you’ll need to investigate why. It’s important to get a veterinary checkup if you notice your cat isn’t eating, or they are refusing their food. 

There are many reasons your cat may not want to eat their food. Not all of them are medical. Your cat could simply be bored with their food. However, it’s important to rule out any medical causes of your cat’s mealtime changes. 

Author

I created and currently run Kitty Cat Tips, the website that you can go to when you have questions about your cat's behavior. It's my hope that you find Kitty Cat Tips to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your cat. You can read more about me and my website here.