HEALTH & CARE

How to Get a Cat to Drink Water: Does Your Kitty Drink Enough?

cat drinking water
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

The ancestors of our domestic cats don’t drink often—instead, they receive moisture by eating fresh foods. However, modern cats have a completely different lifestyle and are often kept on a dry diet. They need to drink water from bowls, but our kitties only seem to remember to drink every once in a while. So the question “How to get a cat to drink water?” is an important one.

To put it simply, cats aren’t the biggest fans of water, no matter if it’s just sitting in a bowl or if you are trying to give your cat a bath. Still, water is essential for the proper functioning of the body and all organs, and lack of it can lead to dehydration and a number of health problems. Luckily, there are ways to make water more appealing to your cat and get her to drink more of it.

In this article, we will tell you about common health problems that occur when a cat isn’t drinking enough water. And to prevent them, we will share effective and easy ways to solve the question of how to get cat to drink more water.

Health Problems Caused by a Low Water Intake

A cat’s body is 80% comprised of water, and it needs to stay hydrated at all times to work properly. Furthermore, water is one of six essential nutrients—and as some will argue, the most important one. Lack of it can cause several health problems that, depending on the severity, can become life-threatening.

#1: Urinary Obstruction

kittent having problems with urination

Cats that don’t drink enough water can develop obstruction of the urethra which causes painful urination or inability to urinate. The obstruction occurs when mucus, small crystals, or stones pass from kidneys into the bladder.

The cause of crystals and small stones aren’t fully understood, but diet and a low level of hydration are believed to be contributors.

Signs and symptoms of this condition vary and can be mild or severe. But in most cases, a cat will experience difficulty in urinating, frequent urination, blood in urine, painful urination, or urination outside the litter box.

If you notice any of these, it is important to take your cat to the vet immediately, since complete obstruction can be life-threatening.

A vet will run blood work, urine tests, and in some cases, x-ray to diagnose the condition properly. If the suspicions are confirmed, usually, a vet will try a non-invasive approach first which involves a vet-prescribed diet to dissolve stones and change the urine pH levels.

The vet will also advise that you increase your cat’s water consumption. Placing a syringe with room temperature fluid between the teeth and the cheek is how you can get a cat to drink water when sick and increase her daily intake.

If none of these works, your vet may suggest a flushing procedure that will induce filling of the bladder or surgical removal of the stones. A cat will be put under general anesthesia, and a catheter will be inserted into the urethra to flush the obstruction. After that, the bladder is flushed and drained to remove any sediment.

The catheter is left for a few days until the swelling subsides and then it’s removed, and if the cat is able to urinate normally, she will be discharged from the hospital.

The recovery usually lasts 14 days, during which a cat needs to wear a cone to discourage her from licking the wounds. When it comes to this condition, prevention is the key, and it includes a low sodium diet and regular water consumption.

#2: Dehydration

vet hydrating a cat

When a cat is dehydrated, she isn’t just losing water from her system; she is also losing electrolytes, which causes a disruption in normal organ functions. In most cases, dehydration is a symptom of a disease, but it can also happen when a cat isn’t drinking enough water.

The easiest way to know for sure if your cat is dehydrated is to pull up a small amount of a cat’s skin from the shoulders. If the skin goes back to place instantly, your cat isn’t at risk; however, if it takes more than a few seconds for the skin to go back, your cat is severely dehydrated. In this case, immediate veterinary attention is necessary.

Your vet will administer IV fluids to hydrate your cat, or he/she will keep the cat in a hospital for a few days depending on the cat’s condition. The best way to prevent dehydration is to encourage your cat to drink more water.

See Also: How Much Water Should Cats Drink

How to Encourage Your Cat to Drink More Water?

orange cat making a ray one drink

As you can see, low fluid intake can cause severe health problems, so it is important to learn how to get a cat to drink more water. At the same time, cats with health problems also tend to drink less, but it’s actually crucial that they drink more water when they’re sick. To break this death cycle, you need to know how to get a cat to drink water when sick.

The recommended amount of water intake is 60 ml per kilo of body weight or 30 ml per pound of body weight.

Once you know that, monitor your cat’s daily intake and use some of these tricks to stimulate her to drink more.

#1: Give Your Cat a Choice

All cats are different, and yours may not drink enough water because she doesn’t like her water bowl. In some cases, a cat may refuse fluids because the bowl isn’t wide enough and she needs to wet her whiskers to get to the water.

So try giving your cat a chance to try different bowls—who knows, maybe she prefers stainless steel. You can also offer glass, plastic, ceramic, and a variety of different styles until your kitty picks one.

Also, you should try different depths of a bowl, since some cats like drinking from shallow ones and some like deep bowls that resemble our water glasses. It’s all just a matter of personal tastes, and you should let your cat decide on the type of water bowl that works best for her.

#2: Keep the Bowls and Water Clean

Cats are peculiar creatures, and unlike dogs, they won’t drink whatever water is on the menu. The same goes for the bowls, so it is important to keep it clean. It may be as simple as that your kitty refuses to drink because she finds her bowl dirty and the water stale.

To make the bowl more appealing, wash it every other day with warm water and soap, and place it in the dishwasher once a week to be fully disinfected. When it comes to water, change it at least two times a day to make it as fresh as possible. Naturally, if you spend your days at home, you can change the water more frequently if you like.

#3: Give Your Cat Plenty of Options

water fountain for a cat

Having only one water bowl in the house can discourage your cat from drinking water, so it is up to you to give her more options. It is best to place several water bowls around the house, thus every time your cat passes by one, she will remember to drink.

Furthermore, if your cat has a few favorite lounging areas, you can place bowls strategically near them to encourage your cat to drink once she wakes up from her nap. It may seem strange having five water bowls for one cat around the house, but getting your cat to drink water should come first.

#4: Try the Tap

Although some cats are afraid of the sound or running water, some are intrigued by what is happening in the sink. If this is the case with your cat, you may try turning the tap on to see if your cat will venture to drink from it. In most cases, the curiosity will get the best of your kitty, and she will be compelled to investigate.

This can be a great way to encourage your cat to drink more water since tap water is fresher and cleaner than what is in her bowl. You should be warned that this practice will result in a slightly higher water bill, but can save you money on vet visits in the long run.

To minimize the costs, you can train your cat to drink during mornings or evenings and establish this as a routine.

#5: Try Bottled Water

You can buy a regular bottle of water and try giving that to your cat instead of the water from the tap. The tap water can contain chlorine or other purifying agents that taste strange to your kitty. Fill your cat’s bowls with bottled water and see how she reacts and if her fluid consumption increased.

You can also try offering room temperature or cooler bottled water and see which option works best for your cat.

#6: Consider Buying a Drinking Fountain

choosing a bowl for water for a cat

Some cats will refuse to drink anything but the freshest, and if that is the case, a drinking fountain may be a solution. Since the water flows through the fountain all day, your cat will be more excited about drinking and even playing with the running water.

There is a variety of great cat drinking fountains so you will have no trouble finding the one that will go with the general feel of your home. They can be quite expensive, but if you think that this will increase your cat’s water intake, then it’s a worthy investment.

See Also: DIY Cat Water Fountain

#7: Make the Water More Appealing

You can make the water more tempting to your cat if you add a little flavor to it. Depending on your cat’s tastes, you can go with a spoonful of tuna juice, chicken broth, or juice from wet cat food. If some of these flavors are a hit with your cat, then flavored water will be as well.

On the other hand, if none of these tempt your cat to drink more water, you can crush a little catnip and place it in the water bowl to see if that will encourage her.

#8: Consider Feeding Your Cat Canned Cat Food

kitten eating canned food

Dry food or kibble has only about 10% of moisture in it, compared to the 80% that some canned cat foods have. If you are worried about the amount of water your cat is drinking, try offering her canned food. Most cats simply love the smell and the taste of canned food and will eat all up, not realizing that they have ingested sufficient amounts of water.

The change to wet food is also advised for a cat that is experiencing some urinary problems as it will keep her body hydrated and working properly.

#9: Offer Small but Frequent Meals

Most cats drink water immediately after a meal, and by increasing the number of meals, you can get your cat to drink more water and stay hydrated. So try dividing your cat’s daily calorie requirement into four small meals to encourage her to drink after each of them.

The downside of this approach is that it only works if you are at home and are able to serve smaller meals throughout the day.

#10: Add Ice Cubes to the Water

Some cats really like to drink cold water, and by adding ice cubes to a water bowl, you can make the water more appealing to your cat. Besides liking the taste of cold water your kitty will enjoy playing with the ice cubes and may end up loving the water after all.

We advise you to place only one ice cube for starters and see how your cat reacts. This will prevent the water temperature to drop suddenly and shock your cat once she tries to drink. Once you see that your kitty is reacting positively to this change, you can add more ice cubes gradually.

#11: Pick a Good Location

water bowl for a cat

Placing a water bowl near the litter tray or a food bowl can discourage your cat from drinking enough water. Try to find some other location, preferably in another room for a water bowl. Just changing its location can motivate a cat to drink more fluids.

#12: Add Water to the Food

adding water to food

Even though dry food doesn’t contain much moisture, there are ways to increase its water content. You can try adding a little bit of water to soften the kibble or opt for a more tasty approach by adding chicken broth. Still, you shouldn’t exaggerate from the start and serve your cat with a kibble stew.

Go gradually, and start by adding just a tablespoon or two at the beginning. As your cat adjusts to the new consistency and flavor of her food, you can increase the amount of fluid you mix in.

#13: Make Flavored Ice Cubes

If your cat likes to drink cool water, you can make it even more appealing by adding frozen broth ice cubes. A cat will like the smell and the taste of the water, and this trick even works on sick cats that generally refuse to drink anything.

The great thing about flavored ice cubes is that you can play with flavors depending on your cat’s tastes and make fish, meat, or any other type you like.

Wrap Up

cat drinking water out of glass

Cats in the wild fulfill their need for water by eating fresh foods rich in moisture—that’s why indoor cats often forget to drink water straight from the bowl. Many cat owners struggle and wonder how to get a cat to drink more water.

Water is probably to most important thing when it comes to a cat’s body, and lack of it can cause serious health problems and dehydration. With that being said, it is very important to monitor your cat’s daily water intake and encourage her to drink more if you think that’s necessary.

Luckily for you, there are many easy and not so expensive ways to get a cat to drink more water. From placing several water trays around the house to adding delicious flavors to the water, you can try several things before you find the one the works best for your cat.

If you are dealing with a particularly stubborn feline, we advise that you use several of the listed tips to keep your kitty hydrated.

What do you do to make your cat drink more water and keep her hydrated? Do you have any other tips you can share with us? Let us know how it goes for you by placing a comment in the section below! If your cat is not eating enough on top of not drinking enough, check out our article on how to help a cat gain weight.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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