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Stop giving dry food to kittens; give them high-protein wet food

Dr. Jeff NicholALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: I have two kittens about 9 months old. They have access to water and dry food all day, and I give them wet food in the morning and evening. Is that too much? Should I change their feeding habits? I’ve noticed that when one of them visits the water bowl, it seems like she drinks forever. The other one rarely visits the water bowl at all. Should I cut down on the dry food?

Dr. Nichol: Have all the dry food you want. Your dietary proclivities are none of my business; I’m a veterinarian, for cryin’ out loud! I’ll address feline hydration instead.

An average adult-sized cat should consume no more than about 1 cup of water per day. A kitty of any age who drinks and urinates large volumes has me concerned. There is a generous list of possible causes, the most common suspects include kidney failure, diabetes and, in older cats, thyroid tumors.

Water is a good thing. Research has shown that cats are significantly less prone to bladder and kidney disease if they drink more. Attempting to incentivize your kittens in this life habit would be much like trying to herd them. They won’t tank up just because it’s important to you. Water fountains are fascinating, but they don’t trigger thirst either. You would think that cats who eat dry diets would drink more, but as it turns out, not enough more. Canned cat food, on the other hand, makes a difference.

Beyond the greater moisture content of canned diets, they contain far less carbohydrates than most dry cat foods. High-protein, low-fat, low-carb feline diets result in less obesity, diabetes and painful joint disease. If you permanently eliminate your kitties’ access to dry food, they are likely to self-regulate their intake and manage their weight naturally. Royal Canin makes an excellent diet.

The nutritional content of canned kitten food closely approximates a cat’s natural diet, which, of course, is mice. The best feeding schedule for any cat, feral or domestic: as needed. Our family feeds its two cats on-demand. One of them is more demanding than the other. I won’t mention any names, but his initials are Tony Nichol.

Dr. Jeff Nichol provides behavior consultations in-person and by telephone (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet questions at or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.