The Importance of Cat Hydration

Does your cat drink enough water?

It’s a question that might invoke a pause from many pet owners before they answer.

We make certain there is fresh water in their bowl, supplement their diet with wet food, and even catch them sipping from the toilet bowl—but does that mean your cat is drinking enough water to stay healthy and hydrated?

We often think that because cats are so self-sufficient they know what’s best for them and their health. Yet, cats can be super finicky when it comes to drinking water.

In fact, most cats don’t like drinking water when it is standing or still—which seems to explain the affinity many felines have for drinking from a running faucet. However, for even the most devoted pet owners, hydrating your cat by continually turning the faucet on and off to accommodate your cat will undoubtedly become a time consuming task you might want to avoid.

The Importance of Cat Hydration

Just like every living thing, our furry four legged felines need water to survive. In fact, because about 60-70% of their body weight is water, it is essential for them to ingest a decent amount of water on a daily basis if they are going to maintain their health.

Proper hydration is vital to a cat. It is essential in balancing a feline’s physiological state; affecting everything from organ functioning to circulation and digestion. Proper hydration also helps the kidneys flush out toxins and decreases the chances of your cat developing urinary stones. Hydration is responsible for healthy skin and a cat’s shiny coat.

Causes of Dehydration

Unfortunately, many cats can become dehydrated for a few reasons:

  • For the most part, cats are inactive creatures so they don’t feel the need to drink water as much as dogs (or other animals).
  • Cats have the ability to concentrate their urine, so they can survive on less water than other animals.
  • It’s in their genes—because cats come from a long lineage of desert dwellers, they innately have a low thirst drive so they might not be drinking as much water as they should to maintain optimal health.
  • Even when cats drink they may not get a sufficient amount of water intake because of the shape of their tongues and the mechanics of efficiently lapping up water. According to Live Science, when it comes to cats, drinking water is a delicate balance between inertia and gravity. A cat uses the tip of their tongue to pull water upward, closing its jaw before gravity pulls the column of liquid back toward their bowl.
  • Generally speaking, cats can be overly sensitive to both the taste and presentation of their water source. Many cats also have an aversion to standing or still water, especially if the water in their bowl has been sitting for a while. Cats are curious by nature, so they are instinctively drawn to fresh moving water.

As a pet owner, it is important that we monitor our kitty’s water intake to not only make sure they are hydrated enough, but also to recognize the signs of dehydration.

Proper Cat Hydration

So, how much water should a cat drink?

The amount of water your cat should consume will depend on a range of factors, including but not limited to: the size (weight) of your cat, the time of year (changing seasons), activity level, and whether your cat’s diet includes wet cat food or dry cat food only.

Typically, cats require 2-4 ounces of fresh water in addition to their food. Dry food is only 10 percent water, while canned is approximately 80 percent water. ‘Rule of paw’—if your kitty only eats dry food, they are going to need to increase their water intake.

Although cats have the ability to produce water within their own bodies, and can retain a certain amount of water from the food they eat, drinking water is still the best option for getting a significant intake. Cats who are not sufficiently hydrated can experience a number of serious health conditions including, but not limited to:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Urinary tract disease

As a pet owner it is important that we monitor our kitty’s water drinking habits (intake) to not only make sure they are hydrated enough, but also to recognize the signs of dehydration. The following tips will help in keeping your cat hydrated.

Tips for Keeping Your Cat Hydrated

Location – The location of where your cat’s water bowl is placed is almost as important as the water in it. Placing multiple bowls of water around the house will provide your feline easy access to water and encourage them to drink more.

Cats are more comfortable drinking in low traffic areas. Place their water bowl in an area where they won’t feel vulnerable to a ‘sneak attack’ from other pets in the house.

Cats dislike anything mixed in their water; separate the water and food bowls to reduce the risk of having food find its way into their water. Always avoid putting the water bowl anywhere near their litter box.

Water Bowl – Generally, cats don’t like when their whiskers touch water. Wider and shallow bowls are best. Stainless steel, ceramic, or glass bowls are preferred over plastic because they are odorless and more resistant to bacteria.

Ice Cubes -Some cats prefer icy cold water, so transforming their tepid water with an ice cube might just encourage them to drink more. You can also freeze flavored ‘water’ cubes (beef/chicken/fish broth) and toss one in their food. Ice cubes, whether in the water bowl or food dish can be very tempting and entertaining for a frisky feline.

Fresh Is Best -The longer water sits, the more likely particles will collect in the bowl. To a thirsty cat, there is nothing worse than stagnant water, so fresh water is always best. Refill the water bowl to the brim at least to two times a day.

Cat Water Fountain– Since most cats prefer running water, it might be a good idea to invest in a water fountain that keeps the water circulating all day. Drinking water from a fountain is more appealing to a cat because it’s moving and fresher.

Wet Food – Canned food offers more moisture content than dry. Switching to an almost all-wet food diet can provide the hydration your cat needs. For cats that only eat dry kibble, try mixing a bit of water (about a tablespoon per dry scoop or toss in a broth-flavored ice cube) to add moisture to the kibble, but not so it’s soggy.

Filtered Water – Although many cats are quite happy drinking water from the tap, there are those felines who are sensitive to the smell and taste of the high concentration of minerals or chlorine found in some tap water. Purchasing filter water for your cat can be costly; instead consider buying a filtered pitcher or a filter that attaches directly to your faucet. Filtering your own water will be more cost effective and a worthwhile investment because both you and your cat will be able to enjoy ‘cleaner’ water.

What about Milk?

Although kittens drink their mother’s milk until they are weaned, they should also be provided with water to drink. Milk is generally not recommended for cats because many kittens, after they are weaned, lose their ability to digest milk efficiently.

Symptoms of Cat Dehydration

One popular method for identifying dehydration is gently lifting the skin along your cat’s neck or between the shoulder blades. Upon release, if the skin is slow to return to its normal position or remains in the ‘pinched’ raised position, it’s a sign your cat may be dehydrated.

Other symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Lethargy & Depression
  • Panting (elevated heart rate)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decrease in skin elasticity
  • Reduced urination

If your cat exhibits any of the above symptoms you will want to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. Your vet will most likely recommend pathology testing that requires a blood and/or urine sample to help determine the cause of the dehydration. Depending on the symptoms, a vet might even recommend administering intravenous or subcutaneous fluids.

You can lead a cat to water, but you can’t make them drink

For many felines, multiple bowls of clean, fresh water, cascading cat fountains, and even the most scrumptious wet food simply won’t be enough to entice them to drink.

If under your watchful eye of monitoring your cat’s drinking habits, you still don’t feel like your kitty is consuming an adequate amount of water—give your vet a call. He or she will be able to recommend a cat hydration supplement or give you additional tips to help increase your cat’s water intake.

Water is vital for a cat’s survival. Helping your cat stay hydrated not only provides numerous health benefits, it decreases the possibility of serious health issues. As responsible, caring pet owners, that should always be our goal… to keep our furry four-legged felines happy, healthy, and hydrated!