At the basic cat care guide from the ASPCA, the second most important thing you can do for your cat is to give them a supply of fresh, clean, water (Number one on that list is good food, and you can look at our reviews to help you get that right!) But many cat owners still find that their pets are drinking from the sink or toilet bowl, or for outdoor cats from puddles and ponds.
How can we make sure that our cats are getting the fresh water that they need? Many people put down a dish of clean water daily with their cat’s food only to see it go ignored. But with a little understanding of feline behavior, we can help to keep your pet well hydrated, healthy and happy!
How Much Do Cats Need to Drink?
The amount of water that a cat needs to have during the course of a day is determined by their body weight. Guidelines are that a cat should consume about 4 ounces of water per day, for each 5lbs of body weight.
Where this gets complicated is that your cat doesn’t need to drink that much water, they just need to take it on board. If you are feeding them on wet food either wholly or partially, they are getting some of their water from that. Wet food is often 70-80% water. A cat who is being fed on wet food will need to drink a lot less water than a cat who has a diet that is completely dry.
In short, you can’t really measure how much water your cat is drinking. If they are using their water bowl sometimes, get an idea of whether they are drinking more or less than normal by checking the level at the end of the day. If they’re not using their water bowl at all, we have some tips later on to help reluctant drinkers.
How Can I Tell if My Cat is Drinking Enough?
Isn’t it being a bit extra to measure how much your cat is drinking? If they’re healthy and happy then surely, we can just assume that they’re fine. Well, yes and no. You know your cat well, and will probably notice if they are under the weather, but drinking more than usual can often be the first sign of some serious health conditions such as:
- Kidney disease
- Hormonal disorders
- Endocrine disorders
And of course, if your cat isn’t drinking enough then they may become dehydrated. Signs to look out for include:
- They fail the skin test. To carry this out at home, gently lift up some of the skin at your pet’s shoulders, it should quite quickly return to normal. If it doesn’t, then your pet could be dehydrated.
- Dry or sticky gums. If you’re lucky enough to get kisses from your cat on a regular basis, you’ll know this can be a damp experience. If your cat’s gums are getting dry or sticky, they may not be drinking enough.
- Lack of energy. If your cat seems to be lethargic, or generally unwell.
- Looking drowsy, with sunken eyes.
- Panting. Cat’s don’t usually pant, and this can be a sign of overheating.
- Using their litter box less often or with less volume.
If you’re unsure what some of these terms mean, then you might want to consider going on a pet first aid course or reading a book on the subject to help you take better care of your fur baby.
|The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats
This book is a comprehensive guide to first aid for pets, from cuts & bruises to jellyfish stings. It also contains a helpful symptom finder to guide you to what could be wrong with your cat.
|First Aid for Cats
Written by a veterinarian, Dr. Stephanie Schwartz, this book is dedicated to feline illnesses and accidents. Readers have praised it for its easy to follow instructions.
Why Isn’t my Cat Drinking from Their Bowl?
To understand why a cat isn’t drinking that perfectly good bowl of fresh, clean, water that you’ve just put out for them, we need to go back in feline history. Most domestic cats are descended from African Wild Cats, and a lot of their behavior comes from that time.
Cats are quite easily put off from drinking from a water source if they think that it might be spoiled. In the wild, a cat would choose to drink from water that smells fresh and is ideally running water. If you’ve ever noticed your cat walk up to its water bowl, sniff and walk away then the chances are they didn’t think their water was fresh enough. This can be the case with plastic bowls, which can make the water smell unpleasant. A better choice for your cat would be a metal or ceramic bowl.
Types of Water Bowl
Some cats have very sensitive whiskers and dislike putting their head into a narrow bowl. The sides of the bowl will brush your cat’s whiskers when they put their head in, and that feels very uncomfortable to some cats – that’s known as whisker fatigue. For cats with this problem, which includes diabetic cats, choosing a bowl that has a wide top will encourage them to drink more.
Too Close to Food
Thinking back to those African Wild Cats; they don’t get presented with their food in a bowl. They have to hunt and kill their own prey, and then eat it as it comes. The remains will be left for the rest of nature to dispose of.
For this reason, cats don’t like to drink where they’ve eaten. They wouldn’t want their water source to get contaminated by the remains of their prey, and that habit is still true today. Cats often prefer to have their food and water bowls quite separate.
We also have to remember that, ancestrally, cats weren’t just predators; they were also prey. The same is true now, there are other animals such as coyotes and raccoons which will attack a cat if they let themselves get cornered.
For that reason, a cat likes to feel safe while eating. If your cat isn’t drinking, try moving their water bowl away from the wall so that they are able to position themselves with their back to a safe space while they drink.
|ViviPet Q Bowl
This ceramic bowl won’t taint the water like plastic, and it has a wide and shallow bowl that’s perfect for your cat. It’s also raised, to help with neck stress, useful for cat’s with arthritis – and it’s super cute!
|Dr. Catsby’s Cat Bowl
The original whisker fatigue design, Dr. Catsby’s bowl is made from stainless steel and can be easily cleaned in the dishwasher. It is non-skid and comes with a silicone mat to help keep it stable, and your floors safe from drips.
|Necoichi Raised Cat Bowl
At the perfect height for your cat to drink, this pretty bowl has a nice wide opening to prevent whisker fatigue. It’s sturdy enough not to skid around the floor and has an inner lip to prevent spills.
How to Encourage a Cat to Drink More
If you’ve remedied all the problems mentioned previously and you’re still concerned that your cat isn’t drinking enough, there are still ways that you can encourage a reluctant pet to drink more. Here’s a few of them.
Buy an Automated Water System
To give your cat the chance to drink from running water in a safe way, consider a water fountain. These come in a range of attractive designs, some of them pleasant enough to have in your living room as a water feature. Most have an in-built filter to keep the circulating water fresh and clean.
If you need help selecting one, we have an article on how to choose the best cat water fountain. It discusses the pros and cons of the different types, but if you’d prefer not to read that then our favorite (and the model that my two cats share) is this one:
|YouThink Cat Water Fountain
It wasn’t just the quirky design that made this one our favorite, although that’s a big part of it. It’s also the ease of changing the filter, the large capacity and the choice of three different flow rates for the water so even the most timid of cats can enjoy a fresh drink.
We, humans, prefer a bit of flavor to our water, that’s why we infuse them with fruit flavors. You can do the same for your cat but adding a little of the draining water from tuna to the bowl – as long as it was tuna in spring water, and not in brine. Alternatively, using a little chicken broth can make water more appealing to cats. Make sure that it is pure chicken, though, and doesn’t contain onions or garlic which can be poisonous to cats.
Embrace Their Quirks
Lastly, if you have a cat who likes to drink in a less than desirable way but they’re not swayed by any of these techniques? Just go with the flow. If you have a cat who likes to drink from your water glass? Find some sturdy tumblers that can’t be knocked over and pour one for your kitty.
If they like to drink from the tap, that’s OK too. But letting a little water drip into a sink so your pet can stay hydrated isn’t the end of the world. We can’t recommend letting your cat drink from the toilet, so make sure everyone closes the lid. You’re certainly not alone in the challenge, however, as this discontinued product shows:
You Can Lead a Cat to Water
We hope that this article has helped to give you a better understanding of why your cat needs to drink, and how they get their water. If you have a cat who is a reluctant drinker, then there are plenty of suggestions here to try and encourage them to drink more.
As always, if you have a concern about your pet’s health then you should speak to a veterinarian but we hope this advice will help you to have a well-hydrated fur baby!