Does Wet Cat Food Cause Loose Or Soft Stools?

  • Time to read: 10 min.

All cat owners want to do the best for their cats, including choosing the best food for them. There is a large variety of wet and dry cat food available. Most cat owners end up cleaning litter trays and so become intimately acquainted with their cat’s stools. It is unpleasant and worrying to clean loose stools. As a result, many people become concerned about how cat food affects the cat’s stools. 

Wet food does not cause loose stools. The wet food needs to be good quality digestible food with high protein content. The moisture in the wet food is absorbed in the cat’s intestines and does not affect the stools. Wet cat food high in vegetable fat may cause loose stools. 

In this article, we will consider a cat’s dietary needs and how different foods meet these needs. We will also look at how a cat’s digestive system works and how different foods affect a cat’s stools. Cats are animals that do not always drink a lot, and the reasons for this will be examined. Abnormalities in stools and defecation habits and what to do about these will be considered.   

What Is A Cat’s Natural Diet?

Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that cats are designed to obtain all their dietary needs from protein. This dietary need differs from dogs that can eat carbohydrates as well as proteins. In the wild, the cat’s food is obviously wet as it is freshly killed. A cat’s digestive system does not cope well with carbohydrates or food from vegetable origins. 

What Is The Difference Between Wet And Dry Cat Foods?

Dry cat food is sometimes lower in protein and contains more carbohydrates or plant matter than wet food. Cat food manufacturers use carbohydrates as fillers in dry food. Carbohydrates bulk up the food, making it more affordable for cat owners. They also allow the food to be formed into pellets and hold the shape of the pellets over a long period. Oils in dry food are often of vegetable origin and are used to coat the kibble. The moisture content of dry foods is much lower than that of wet foods.

Wet cat food usually contains a higher protein and fat content. The fat is commonly of animal origin, although not always. There is a big difference in the water content in wet foods. Wet foods contain over eighty percent moisture which is much higher than the six to fifty percent found in dry foods. Wet foods commonly contain jelly, which helps to increase the water content. 

Understanding The Composition Of Cat Food.

Cat food must contain the nutrients, ingredients, and percentage of the various components on the package. The moisture content of food differs considerably between wet and dry foods. To compare the two, you need to apply a formula as follows:

  1. 100 – moisture percentage = dry matter percentage.
  2.  Protein percentage divide by the dry matter percentage.
  3. Multiply the above answer by 100 to obtain the actual percentage of protein in the food.  

Moisture content can be compared directly without any need for calculations. 

The Digestive System Of Cats.

Cats are carnivores and have a relatively short digestive system compared to the digestive system of herbivores such as cows. In cats, it takes approximately eight to twelve hours to digest and process food completely. In herbivores, it takes three to five days for food to pass through the digestive system entirely.  The reason is that herbivores must use fermentation processes to break down the tough fibrous matter found in plant foods. There is no place for fermentation to take place in a cat’s digestive system. This factor explains why cats struggle to digest carbohydrates. 

Cats have a very low pH in their stomachs – below two. This makes their stomachs highly acidic. The acid breaks down the meat and destroys pathogens that may be ingested with the raw meat.  The food moves from the stomach following the gut path into the small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed, and further digestion occurs. The large intestine is the nest section of the gastrointestinal system. Once the food is in the large intestine, the moisture is absorbed from the food, and the waste matter moves out through the rectum and anus.  

What Makes Up A Cat’s Stools?

Fecal matter is made up of the waste materials from food, dead intestinal flora ( normal bacteria in the stomach), pathogens or toxins that may have been ingested, and water. Normal stool is about seventy-five percent water. Diarrhea or soft stools occur when the water content of the stool increases. This can occur because of bacteria or food allergies that cause an upset in the digestive process. The food may move too rapidly through the gastrointestinal tract, which does not allow enough time for excess water to be absorbed in the large intestine. Another problem could be that the water moves from the body into the gastrointestinal tract, increasing moisture content in the stools. 

Constipation occurs when there is too little water in the stool, making it hard and challenging for the cat to pass.  The body regulates the uptake of water through the colon so that the correct amount is absorbed. The body adjusts to wet food and absorbs more moisture. The result is that wet food does not cause loose or soft stools. 

Does Dry Cat Food Cause Constipation?

Dry cat food that is low in moisture content can cause constipation in cats. It will also affect the kidneys, causing the development of kidney and bladder stones. Veterinarians caution cat owners against dry foods low in moisture. There are many potential health hazards from such a diet. 

Does Wet Food Make Cats Poop More?

The amount of fecal matter produced is determined by the quality of the food that is fed. Food high in carbohydrates and plant protein cannot be easily digested by cats, resulting in bigger poops more often. If you provide high-quality, high animal-based protein cat food, you will find your cat’s stools become smaller, and he will poop less often. 

How Often Should A Cat Poop?

Cats should poop once or twice a day. If you monitor your cat, you can identify his toileting habits, and you will notice when something is different. Cats that do not poop at least once a day are probably constipated and need some assistance. Kittens poop more often and will often poop after every meal. Kitten’s food needs to be highly digestible, and so it passes through their systems quickly. 

What Causes Loose Stools In Cats?

 Loose stools can be caused by the cat consuming food that cannot be easily digested and consequently irritates the gut. Carbohydrates and plant-based proteins are a common cause of loose or soft stools. Many people like to give cats milk, but they cannot digest it easily, and this can cause gut issues. Irritable bowel can develop and will result in the digestive system passing food through too quickly. There is not enough time to absorb the nutrients properly, and nutrient deficiencies can arise. 

When cats eat a lot of plant foods (carbohydrates or proteins), their stomach does not maintain its naturally high acidic levels. The stomach becomes more alkaline. Cats are designed to have high acidity in the guts to deal with the pathogens associated with eating freshly caught prey. If your cat’s stomach has become more alkaline and he or she catches and eats a mouse or bird, there is a much higher likelihood that the cat will become ill from ingesting bacteria present in the prey.  This will result in diarrhea which will probably need medical attention.

Cats can also contract illnesses from other cats, bird droppings, and other miscellaneous organic matter. The bacteria or viruses contracted can affect the digestive system causing diarrhea. Worms and other parasites are another common reason for the development of loose stools or diarrhea. Diarrhea in cats needs to be addressed by a veterinarian. Cats do not show illness quickly, and so by the time you notice the problem, it is usually severe. Do not waste time with home remedies. Seek professional veterinary help for your cat. 

Do Cats Need To Drink Water?

Cats are carnivores and eat meat. Their gastrointestinal system is designed to eat moist, recently killed prey that will contain a high water content. A cat is uniquely adapted to absorb water from its food. Wild cats can absorb almost all their water requirements from food and only drink occasionally. If you choose to feed your cat canned food, you may notice that they do not often drink water. 

Dry food can have as little as six percent moisture which can create problems for cats. They are not genetically programmed to drink large quantities of water, as dogs do.  Some cats adapt and will drink water, but others will become dehydrated due to a diet low in moisture. Sometimes a cat drinks water but is not drinking enough to fulfill his daily needs. This is why veterinarians advise that cat owners choose cat foods that have high water content. 

How Much Water Do Cats Need?

A five-pound cat needs to consume 3,5 to 5 ounces (100 ml to 150 ml) of water a day. If your cat weighs ten pounds, double the amount he needs to drink. The water can be taken in through food or drinking from a water bowl. Cats are very fussy about water bowls. They will not drink from dirty water and often dislike drinking from small bowls. Cats are easily influenced by smells. Plastic bowls may exude an odor, even though we can’t smell it, which will put the cat off the water. Stainless steel bowls are a better option for a cat’s drinking bowl. It is also best to have several water bowls situated around the home. 

Our Pets Durapet Cat Bowl (Heavyweight Durable Stainless Steel Cat Food Bowl or Cat Water Bowl) [Holds up to 1 Cup of Dry Cat Food or Wet Cat Food]

Symptoms Of Dehydration In Cats.

Cats can become dehydrated from diarrhea or from not taking in enough moisture through their food or drinking water.  Dehydrated cats will show the following symptoms:

  1. Loose or folded skin. You can do the pinch test. If you pinch a section of skin and the fold formed does not quickly return to its normal position but remains tented, then your cat is severely dehydrated and needs urgent medical attention.
  2. Dry lips and eyes.
  3. Lethargy.
  4. Nausea or vomiting.
  5. Increased heart rate.
  6. Disinclination to eat.
  7. Seizures.
  8. Panting.

If symptoms of dehydration are seen in your cat, take the cat to the veterinarian urgently, as dehydration is life-threatening. 

Why Are My Cat’s Stools Smelly?

Cats should have a high protein diet. Any animal that eats large amounts of animal protein will have stools that smell unpleasant. There are, however, sometimes when stools can become excessively smelly. There are several possible reasons for this. 

  1. Infection with bacteria or viruses.
  2. Worms or other parasites.
  3. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD):  is an autoimmune disease that causes the gut to function poorly.
  4. Blood in the stool from foreign objects or infection in the gut. 
  5. Inadequate gastrointestinal flora. 

Why Does My Cat Poop In Strange Places?

Cats are known to defecate in unusual places for various reasons. Diarrhea or constipation can cause a cat to go to the toilet in some unacceptable areas. Anxiety is another common cause of poor toileting choices. The anxiety may be caused by a new family member or pet, a house move, building or renovations, or anything that disturbs the cat’s routine. Sometimes even a new cat in the neighborhood can cause a cat that goes to the toilet outside to become anxious and defecate inside the house. 

Cats have high standards with regard to their litter boxes. If a litter tray is dirty, the cat may poop outside of the tray. If you have numerous cats in your household, you will need to have multiple litter trays. If there are too few litter trays, the cats will often refuse to use the litter boxes and defecate in a place they feel comfortable. Most cats do not like to have their litter boxes in areas where there is high traffic in the home. If your cat is pooping in other places, try to move the litter trays to more private, quieter areas of the house. 

Cat Litter Can Make a Difference.

There is a wide variety of types of cat litter on the market, ranging from gravel to silicone to soya. They can come in granulated, crystal, or pelleted forms. Some cats may object to certain litter substrates. It is worth experimenting with different litter types if your cat is pooping in unacceptable places.  Litters can go a long way to controlling the odor from cat feces. Many of them are highly absorbent and contain ingredients that counteract the odors. 

Enclosed Litter Boxes

Enclosed litter boxes provide the cat with privacy which is particularly useful with anxious cats. They also help to control the offensive smells associated with a cat defecating and urinating.  An open litter tray can be off-putting and unsightly to some people, and a closed litter box makes the presence of the litter tray more acceptable to many people. 

MS Cat Litter Box for Easier Handling of Cat Litter, Enclosed Design, Easy to Clean, Prevent Sand Leakage, Easy Assembly and Large Space, with Cat Litter Scoop (Moss Green)

Conclusion

Wet cat food does not cause loose, soft stools in cats. Wet food is often better for cats that do not drink a lot and are at risk of dehydration. It is advisable to dampen dry food if the food has a particularly low moisture content. It is wisest to purchase the best quality food with the highest protein levels that you can afford. Cats need to be fed a diet with a high percentage of animal protein to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system. This food will lessen the volume and quantity of the cat’s stools as the majority of the food can be digested and processed with limited waste products. Loose stools are caused by gastric upsets resulting from bacterial or viral infection or an inability to digest the food provided. Inadequate water intake and low moisture content food can result in the cat becoming dehydrated and constipated. 

References

Coates, J. 2014. Are Some Dry Cat Foods Better Than Canned? Surprising Levels of Protein in Dry and Canned Cat Foods

Hill’s Pet. 2018. Cat Poop: A Comprehensive Guide. Cat Poop: What Should it Look Like? | Hill’s Pet