Water is a vital component of a cat's diet, so they must have access to it at any time. Although cats do not drink lots of water, hydration is still needed for the body to survive and function. Dehydration can lead to health issues such as constipation, urinary tract infections, and even urinary blockages. Cats aged 11 and up need more water daily. Their kidneys need help to function at that age.
How Much Water Should a Cat Drink?
Cats usually drink an ounce of water per half an ounce of dry kibble. Many veterinarians suggest that a healthy cat drink about 4 ounces (about a half cup) of water per 5 pounds of body weight daily.
You have to ballpark your cat's water intake by checking the water level in the bowl, once at the start of the day and another at the end of the day. This amount differs depending on a cat's diet and underlying medical conditions. But don't forget that cats can also get water from places such as wet food, taps, or other pet bowls around the house.
Ways to Make Your Cat Drink Water
It's important to remember that milk, cream, and other liquid will never substitute for water in a feline's diet. Cats are lactose intolerant, so drinking milk could upset the stomach. If you think your cat is not drinking sufficient water, here are a few tips and techniques you can try.
1. Replenish their water supply daily.
The prospect of drinking from a glass that's sitting on the floor for several days isn't enticing. Your cat will feel the same, so give them a fresh supply daily.
2. Put bowls in different parts of the house.
Felines prefer drinking in different areas. Ensure that a water supply is never lacking, so they have plenty of choices.
3. Use different types of bowls.
Cats might also like a specific type of bowl. Plastic and steel bowls can alter the smell and taste of water, so try using a glass or a ceramic bowl. Cats also like wide and shallow bowls as it allows them to watch their surroundings while drinking. It also prevents their whiskers from touching the sides of the dish.
4. Try a water fountain.
Cats are enticed by the freshness and movement of flowing water, which is why you can sometimes see your cat drinking straight from the tap. A water fountain provides constant fresh water, and another benefit is that you don't need to leave your faucet dripping throughout the day. You can get water fountains like this to entice your cat.
5. Separate drinking bowls from litter boxes.
You don't want to drink water on your toilet. Cats are similarly not crazy about drinking where they defecate. Wild cats will keep their commode away from water sources to avoid contamination. Keep these two areas separate. Ensure you keep water bowls in quiet rooms, far from loud sounds and general traffic.
6. Separate food bowls as well.
Felines also don't like to drink close to where they eat. This also stems back to their African wildcat ancestors. These wild cats will keep their eating area away from water sources because their prey's gut contents might spill into where they drink and contaminate it. Place their food and water bowls in different areas.
7. Try feeding your cats wet food.
If you change your cat's diet, do it slowly to minimize the possibility of loose stools. Canned food has 70-80% water, which will help your cat get a good portion of its daily water requirement from eating. If they're eating predominantly dry kibble, they will need to drink a lot of extra water. You may also want to try soaking the dry kibble in water or broth to add water.
8. Add some flavor to their water.
Adding a few drops of tuna juice (from flakes in water, not oil) or chicken broth will attract your cat. Make sure that broth does not have excessive salt, which is harmful to your cat.
If you have tried every one of the above ideas and your cat is still not drinking water, please consult your veterinarian, as it can be a sign of a medical problem.
When Should I Call the Vet?
Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration if it happens long enough. This is serious and can be fatal. However, most cat parents are unaware of the symptoms until it's too late. Here are some signs of dehydration:
Dry gums: Gently press your index finger into your feline's gum and watch them turn from white to pink—this should happen in less than two seconds. If the gums are red, or your finger sticks, or the time it takes to return to the pink color takes longer than two seconds, your cat might be significantly dehydrated.
Skin tenting: Carefully pinch the skin between the shoulder blades or on top of the head and pull it upwards, then release. If the skin stays tented for more than a second, your cat is likely dehydrated.
Sunken eyes: The eyes will appear hollow with moderate to severe dehydration.
Constipation: When the body is dehydrated, the colon dries out the feces, causing constipation. If your cat is experiencing difficulty defecating, or you can find no feces, or you find small and hard fecal spheres, your cat may be constipated and dehydrated.
Vomiting/diarrhea: Both processes remove a lot of water from the body, making it hard for a cat to keep hydrated. One episode of vomiting or looseness of the bowels is not likely to cause dehydration. However, dehydration will happen if this persists.
Any of these signs can be worrying for dehydration, so it is crucial to immediately call your vet to discuss these signs and symptoms. You must consider an emergency vet if yours is unavailable, as dehydration can swiftly escalate and harbor different problems for your cat.
Cats with underlying wellness problems such as kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism are more susceptible to dehydration. Cats need to drink more water than usual if there is prolonged heat exposure or if they are physically active.