Adequate water intake is important to the health of your cat. It’s vital that you monitor your cat’s water intake so that you’ll be alerted to any potential medical problems. A change in water consumption (either an increase or decrease) could indicate an underlying medical problem and the sooner you’re aware of a change in your cat’s habits, the better the chances of successful medical intervention.
Provide fresh water
Step #1 in ensuring kitty drinks an adequate amount of water is to make sure what is available to her is clean and fresh. Water that sits around in the bowl for days can taste stale and can become contaminated. Wash the water bowl every day and make sure all traces of dish soap are thoroughly removed. Detergent residue can burn the cat’s tongue. If your cat has a negative experience at the water bowl she may reluctant to return there. When you fill the bowl with fresh water, be sure to refill to the same level each time. This will help you monitor how much water is being consumed each day (harder to do in a multicat environment though).
Cats who eat wet food may drink less water than cats on an all-dry diet because they’re getting more water through their food. Canned food contains approximately 70% water whereas dry food contains approximately 10%.
Many cats prefer not to have their water source located close to the food source. The smell of food close to the water can deter some cats from drinking. Many cats prefer not to smell leftover food in-between meals. Additionally, if you use a double feeder bowl that has food on one side and water on the other, it can be one reason why your cat might not be drinking enough water. Another downside to the double feeder is that food particles can fall in the water and cause contamination and give the water a bad taste.
If your cat shares her home with a large dog, she may not enjoy sharing one large water bowl with him. Provide a second water bowl for her that’s a more appropriate side and locate it in an area that the dog can’t access – such as on an elevated location. This will offer your cat the choice of either drinking from the dog’s water bowl or from her own.
Gravity-feed water dispensers are certainly convenient, especially if you leave your cat alone for longer periods but keep in mind that the water in there can become contaminated and stale. Wash the dispenser and the reservoir often.
If you have a cat who is fascinated by the faucet and has actually trained you to turn the water on so she can play with the drops that fall from the spout, this may be a sign that she needs more environmental enrichment. If the water droplets are the only things to play with, then it’s time to increase the fun factor in your cat’s life. Use puzzle feeders and other activity puzzles for the times you aren’t home and also schedule a couple of interactive play sessions on a daily basis.
There are several pet water fountains that will entertain cats who enjoy playing with water. This can also provide your cat with a convenient opportunity to drink more water during playtime. The constant circulation of water keeps it oxygenated and as a result, it has more taste appeal. Some cats will only drink from running faucets and some owners have gotten into the habit of letting the faucet drip constantly. A better alternative is to purchase a pet water fountain. This way, you can set the fountain up in a convenient location and kitty won’t have to hang out on the kitchen or bathroom counter when she wants to engage in water play. There are several types of fountains that provide different flow options such as a trickling fountain, waterfall and even bubbling water. Take your cat’s preferences into consideration when shopping. Many of the fountains have a flow regulator as well so you can decrease or increase the flow rate.
Important reminder: If you think your cat’s water intake has changed, have her checked out by the veterinarian. There could be an underlying medical cause.
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For more information on cat behavior and training, refer to Pam’s books.
Note: This article is not intended as a medical diagnosis. Please consult your veterinarian.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.