Water Requirements for Cats

Cats are known for not drinking a lot of water. The old saying should be altered to read, “You can lead a cat to water, but you can’t make him drink”. In the wild, cats get most of their water from their food. Mice, rats, birds, lizards, etc. contain about 75-80% water. Cats barely supplement their natural diet with much more than a few laps from a puddle. Domesticated cats are now fed dry commercial pet foods which usually contain no more than about 10% water. Cats are not accustomed to drinking and many times do not drink enough water with their dry food. Canned food diets are inherently better for water content. 

Whatever type of food you serve your cat, especially if it is dry only, make sure your cat is getting plenty of water. Some experts claim a cat should have between 4-5 or even 6-7 ounces of water per day1. Your cat is probably not drinking that much. Make water more enticing by adding flavors, putting bowls around the house (not just by the food), and adding a pet fountain. 

You can add low salt tuna water (not oil) from canned tuna, add some chicken broth (from fresh chicken – not bouillon) or any other thing that does not add too much fat or salt. Leave out fresh bowls of water as well and do not let the tuna water or broth water sit too long as it will grow bacteria very quickly. It would be best to make the water up in small amounts and give to your cat as a treat. Once again, always leave fresh water out at all times.

Add more bowls around the house. If you have one cat, put one bowl of fresh water next to the food dish and one in the bathroom. This way if he’s in the bathroom and he sees the bowl he might just get the urge to take a sip. A high percentage of cats prefer running water…….. if it’s moving, then it’s usually fresher. Cats will not drink water that has been sitting around for a few days. Clean the water bowl and put fresh water in it at least twice per day. Adding some ice cubes to make it cool usually lures cats to a bowl. Plus, ice cubes can be batted around while they are floating.

If you have a cat that prefers drinking from a running faucet, bathtub, or sink, a pet fountain could be added. Again, keep other bowls of fresh water out at all times but purchase a pet fountain as well. The best one on the market was invented by a veterinarian. It has an impeller system pump that can be taken apart and cleaned and you can add filters to it as well. It is a continuous flow fountain that plugs into any regular outlet. Some fountains can be rather costly but in the long run it may actually save your cat’s kidneys, maintain urinary tract health, and prolong his life. Pet fountains can be purchased from your local pet shop or on Amazon. Some of the cheaper versions ranging from $15 to $40 can have the submerged pumps fail after about 2-6 months. Replacing the pumps can cost between $10-$20. They may not be worth it. Some fountains also have an adjustable water flow knob so you can make it as slow or as fast as your cat prefers.

Otter using the Drinkwell Pet Fountain

The best water to give your cat is either distilled or filtered water. If you have a filter attached to your sink faucet use the filtered water instead of tap water. If you don’t have one at your sink and do not like those particular types of filtration systems, buy a Filter Water Pitcher and filter the water that way for your cat. Filtration eliminates possibly harmful chemicals and minerals from the water, giving your cat just pure clean-tasting water. Filtered or distilled water is also best for pet fountains, as the calcium and other minerals in the water will not form deposits on the mechanisms.

Water intake is one of the most important parts of a healthy balanced diet. While cats can live safely for a couple of days without food (more than 48 hours requires medical attention) water is an absolute necessity.

1 – Understanding Cats, Roger Tabor, David and Charles Book, 1995, p. 120

Information on this site is for general information purposes only and is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. This site is not intended to replace professional advice from your own veterinarian and nothing on this site is intended as a medical diagnosis or treatment. Any questions about your animal’s health or diet should be directed to your veterinarian.

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