It’s important to get your cats to drinks more water if you want them to be in tip top shape throughout their lives. I make sure my Yoshi boy drinks by using a neat little water fountain that he loves (see the video below). It’s especially important that my boy drinks, as his diet is more than 50% dry food. However all cats, and situations are not the same, so read on as I cover in detail how you can encourage your cats to drink more water.
Water is a vital dietary resource for cats
Water requirements will vary depending on your cat, its environment and diet. Our domestic cats of today have evolved from the North African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), which lived in arid climates where water was scarce.1 Living in a hot and dry climate means that wildcats have evolved to concentrate their urine rather than relying on drinking lots of water. (see how often should a cat urinate?) The animals wildcats eat (small birds and field mice) also have a high water content with over 60% moisture.2
Our pet cats’ behavior is still very close to their ancestor’s behavior. Cats in general don’t tend to drink a lot of water, but it’s important to encourage them as much as possible to do so. Dehydration due to low water consumption is a known risk factor for certain medical conditions such as kidney disease and urinary problems. Cats can be very fussy regarding water bowl, the type of water, etc. In this article, you will find top tips on how to encourage your cat to drink more.
Finding the right bowl will encourage drinking. You can use:
- Metal containers
Favorites are usually ceramic bowls when it comes to cats and water. Avoid materials such as plastic bowls as plastic can taint water which make it undesirable for your furry baby. Try leaving pint glasses or even ceramic cups filled with water on tables or a window sill. Avoid double bowls with one side food, one side water at all costs. Cats don’t like to drink where they eat.3
Watch out for metal bowls as some cats don’t like them at all! The reflection coming out of them is probably what puts them off. For those of you that have a cat flap working with a magnetic collar, avoid metal bowls completely as the magnet can stick to the bowl. Your cat will get splashed when trying to move away from the bowl and he will forever avoid that water bowl. 3
It is also important to have multiple water bowls at different locations, especially if you live in a multicat household where individuals don’t necessarily get on. This will provide opportunities for your cats to have some alone time drinking.
Try using wider bowls as cats usually don’t like their whiskers touching the sides of the bowl. They are usually quite fussy and sensitive. As a rule, a cat is more likely to drink water from a wide bowl, even if it’s shallow, as opposed to a narrow one.
Always fill the bowl to the brim! Cats like to see the meniscus of the water (the curve in the upper surface of the water close to the surface of the container). 3
Some cats love to drink running water, which is fresher. They have an innate instinct to avoid stagnant water which is more likely to be contaminated with diseases or unhealthy microorganisms. Some cats will drink directly from the tap. If this is not an option for you, then some cats will happily drink from a drinking fountain, which are now widely available. My cat Yoshi loves drinking from his water fountain. We always provide him with the option of a wide ceramic water bowl as well. Below you’ll see how much he loves his water fountain!
As mentioned previously, make sure you have multiple bowls of water, especially if you live in a multicat household. The rule is to have one for each cat plus an extra one!
- Place them at different locations in your house. If you have different levels in your house, place one on each floor.
- Place the water bowls away from food bowls as cats tend to not drink where they eat.
- Place bowls away from litterboxes.
- Place water bowls in hallway and window sills. They are more likely to lap a bit of water as they are passing by or whilst watching outside the window.3
- Place a water bowl in your garden that can collect rainwater. Some cats will appreciate drinking outside, especially if you don’t have a cat flap, and they might not be able to come in and out as they please.
- Place some water bowls in quiet locations, away from noisy appliances such as the washing machine for example.
- I would advise that you clean water bowls everyday unless your cat prefers his water stale.
Some, if not most, cats are very fussy. Try using different types of water to find out which one your cat prefers, such as:
- Tap water.
- Bottled or distilled water.
- Try collecting rainwater by placing a water bowl in your garden.
- Experiment by making broths using cooled down cooking water from cooked fish or chicken. But don’t add salt!
- Try using water from a tin of tuna. Don’t use ones with brine as their salt content is too high. You can make ice cubes by freezing the tuna water and add ice cubes to the water bowls. Some cats really enjoy that!
- Try running water by using a water fountain. Water fountains and their filters should be cleaned and changed as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Some cats prefer stale water as opposed to fresh water. They might favor drinking from ponds and puddles which is not the safest option as they might contain harmful microorganisms. In this case, place a large water bowl with water and change the water every few days.3
Feeding wet food vs dry food
Each cat has specific preferences when it comes to food. We take our feline patient’s food requirements very seriously in the veterinary hospital environment. Some cats would refuse to eat wet food for days, and then will gulf down dry food when offered. But all cats are different. It largely depends on what food they’ve been fed from a young age and the taste they develop with age. It is recommended to feed young kittens a mixture of dry food and wet food with different textures so that they don’t develop neophobia (fear or dislike of anything new or unfamiliar) later in life. 2
Each type of food has its pros and cons. Wet food contains over 60% water as opposed to dry food which contains less than 14%. Wet food will increase the water intake of your cat as it contains more water than dry food. Wet food can aid with constipation or overweight issues. Wet food also helps your cat producing more dilute urine which promotes urinary health as less urinary crystals are formed. But there are conflicting ideas about the whole wet food vs dry food debate. Wet food is usually more expensive than dry food. Dry food is easy and convenient. High calorie dry food is very useful in thin cats with low appetite as they can more easily meet their nutritional requirements with a small amount of dry food. 2 Many cats have lived long and happy lives on dry food.
Try adding a tablespoon of water to the wet food, but no more than that as the food might get too soggy for your cat’s liking. You can also try soaking dry biscuits and see if your cat takes to it.
Water is an essential requirement for your cat’s health. Water intake improves certain medical conditions. It is important to give extra opportunities for you cat to drink more. Finding out what your cats preferences are regarding water is helpful. You can experiment with different types of bowls, different types of water and find crafty ways to increase water consumption. If you live in a multicat household, multiple water bowls around the house will promote water intake. A cat drinking fountain is usually a winner as most cats love running water.
- Taylor, S. and Ellis S. (2016) Where have our pet cats come from? Feline Focus, 2016; 2(10): 269-271.
- Villaverde C. (2019) Feeding cats: wet and dry diets. Is one better than the other? Feline Focus, 2019; 5(7): 173-180.
- Bonnema, L. (2015) How to increase water intake in cats. Feline Focus, 2015; 1(8): 287-289.