Since I was not looking forward to another expensive vet bill, you can bet I was going to get Cali and our other cats to drink more water. I cannot emphasize enough the chain reaction of dangerous health issues that can arise from cats who drink too little water or become dehydrated. They are more likely to suffer stones and UTIs (urinary track infections or more commonly known as FLUTDs, feline lower urinary tract disease) which in turn can damage or lead to kidney disease which puts them at higher risk for respiratory, urinary, digestive, and cardiovascular health problems. Simply put, -Why do you think doctors recommend that YOU drink 8 glasses of water a day? It’s all about hydration and maintaining healthy organs which goes ditto for cats!
1 in 3 cats will experience kidney problems in their lifetime.
Getting a cat to drink more water can be easier said than done. Remember that old saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”? Well, the same applies to cats and most humans. Cats are basically lazy drinkers and it’s low on their priority “to-do” list. Unlike their desert ancestors who caught fresh prey daily packed with moisture & nutrients, today’s feline relies on commercial wet and dry food supplemented by water intake. Unlike us, they don’t think to drink water when they’re thirsty, strange but true.
How much water a cat needs vary from cat-to-cat based on a number of factors: age, weight, overall health & medical conditions, level of activity, diet (wet/dry), heat and environment.
Here are the 10 best options to try:
- Add more liquid (water, chicken broth or ice cubes) to your cat’s current wet cat food. For some cats, adding a small amount of water or chicken broth for extra flavor does the trick. It’s sneaky I know, but most cats don’t notice the difference.
- Add a little warm water into the dry cat food to create moisture. This sometimes will work, but my past experiences have lead to wasted food that looks unappetizing and the cat won’t touch it. There are some dry food “stew” solutions where you can add water as an option which makes a gravy to serve “al dente” style to your finicky feline.
- Add an ice cube to the wet cat food. It will add more moisture to the food as well as take on the flavor of the food. You may also want to add a cube or two to the water bowl. Some cats actually prefer cold water to cool or room temperature water.
- If you cook for your cat, this is the opportunity to shine as feline chef extraordinaire. Homemade cat food allows you to control the ingredients and thus you can add more broth, water, and organs such as chicken hearts and chicken livers. Adding organs are not only a great source of water but provide beneficial nutrients. I’ll be adding a recipe section soon.
- Change out the type of water bowls. Fussy eaters can make for fussy drinkers. There are porcelain, ceramic, stoneware, earthenware, glass, plastic, bamboo, stainless steel and silicone to name a few. Then there are water fountains to be discussed at a later time. As silly as this sounds, none of my cats will eat or drink from a stainless steel bowl, metal bowls or silicone bowls. Don’t ask me why, it’s a cat thing.
- Size and shape of water bowl. A relatively new diagnosis found with cats is whisker fatigue. Your bowl should hold a few cups of water (not too shallow nor too deep), and be wide enough to allow drinking without whiskers touching the sides.
- Place additional water bowls throughout the house. With our two bedroom apartment we have one in the kitchen, living room, computer room, and master bedroom. For cats, it’s a matter of access when the urge hits. Unlike humans, cats don’t seem to drink when thirsty but as an afterthought when passing by a bowl.
- Location, location, location. One of my cats will not drink water from a bowl next to their food, while the other will not drink from the bowl in the same room as the litter box. When we spring forward to daylight savings time, the sun beams change location within my house. One location affected is the computer room water bowl location. The sun rays would hit the water dish 3-4 hours daily keeping the water temperature warm to hot in the summer months so requires moving to the other side of the room. Just something to think about when placing dishes in your house. Another thing to note are your vents for heat and air. Does it blow on the water bowl? Some cats find it distracting and thus a reason to avoid the bowl all together.
- Keep it fresh my friend. Yes, both water and bowl should be refreshed daily. Water can go stale and a water bowl not cleaned regularly will develop slime buildup, calcium buildup, bacteria, food debris and even collect cat fur. If you live in an area that has moderate to high humidity, it is mandatory to clean (yes, I mean wash out the bowl) and refill with fresh water since you can also add algae, mold, and bugs which collect in the water bowl.
- It’s the WATER! For starters, you can try adding a pinch of catnip to act as an attractant, but for my cats, the solution was the water itself. Dogs are well known for their keen sense of smell but cats? Humans have a mere 5 to 6 million scent receptors and dogs more than 220 million. Cats on the other hand fall in between with 45-80 million receptors which is less than dogs but definitely more than us humans. Easily translated, they smell something they don’t like. Tap water can be heavily chlorinated, contain a high of mineral salts and other contaminants. Just because we can’t smell it doesn’t mean they can’t. An informative source to check out what’s in your water is the EWG (Environmental Working Group) Tap Water Database. You’ll find a complete listing of contaminants detected in your water and if it meets federal health-based drinking water standards. Imagine my surprise discovering contaminants such as lead and arsenic could be found in water. Any hoo, long story short, we no longer give them tap water but distilled or spring water based on what’s on-sale at the time. After a few weeks of watching our cats drink more water it was time to up the antie and purchase another water fountain without spending much on one (this time a CatMate, best investment ever!). Of course, it’s been a few years and after we donated all our unused Drinkwells to Goodwill. Ugh!
It’s hard to believe that when Cali came to us as her forever home she really wasn’t so picky about water. The minute the seat was left up for cleaning, she was in it! Ewe!
It’s over 7 years now and Cali remains 100% “stone” free.