You can lead a cat to water, but you can’t make it drink
This revision of an old proverb speaks true to a lot of cat owners. As we all know, cats are infamous for being water haters. And while the occasional viral video does pop up of a cat drinking water and showering in the rain, these videos serve as exceptions that prove the rule.
And because they’re so stubborn, there’s not much that cat owners do to make our cats tolerate the innocuous liquid. But does this dismissal bode well for our feline friends?
Water, like all sources of nutrition, provides hydration and lubrication for their digestive system. It keeps them fresh, awake, and alert, very much in the same way it works for us. That’s why, if your cat isn’t drinking its fair share, you should be worried.
Why Is My Cat Not Drinking Water?
According to a study conducted on the average cat’s drinking habits, a cat weighing 4–5 kg should drink 200–250 ml of water per day. That’s 6–8 ounces of liquid that should receive via food and drink.
Typically, if your cat needs water, it seeks water one way or another. That’s why we recommend keeping water bowls in every room of the house. But, if you see that your cat is staying away from water, and has done so for a while now, here are some reasons why your cat might not be drinking water:
It is Already Getting Enough Liquid Through its Food
The hydration problem among cats has existed for a long time. Many companies now offer wet cat food that provides cats with enough water to last them a day to rectify this issue.
If your cat doesn’t drink water, chances are it might already be getting its share from the food you give it. Wet food is delicious and nutritious, after all. If you manage your cat’s diet by balancing their dry and wet food intake, your cat may not need as much water for a long time.
It Doesn’t Like the Water
You won’t likely drink from a stale glass of water that’s been sitting out for days, so don’t subject your cat to the same.
Cats like staying clean. If their water isn’t changed every day, your cat will shun the bowl and look for water elsewhere.
When giving your cat water, try to get water from a filtered source so your cat isn’t exposed to any foreign chemicals. Keep in mind, though tap water is fresh, it is chlorinated and treated with chemicals to keep it clean.
Because of the cat’s heightened sense of taste and smell, they’re able to sniff those chemicals out pretty quickly, which makes the water pretty nasty for them to drink.
Top that off with any smell of dishwashing liquid that may have been left on the bowl, and you get yourself a petri dish of horrors that your cat won’t touch with its paw for tons of wet food.
The Water is in the Wrong Type of Bowl
This might seem ridiculous but hear us out!
Cats prefer ceramic or glass bowls over plastic bowls because of many qualities, but the main benefit comes from their cooling ability. On hot days, glass and ceramic bowls allow the water to stay cooler for longer, making that option very tempting for a thirsty cat.
Also, genetically speaking, cats go for cool water more because it spells freshness for them. So, if you can manage to find a glass bowl for your cat, make the swap as soon as possible. And make sure the bowl is big enough so your cat doesn’t have to bend its whiskers. They do not like doing that.
Did you change something around the house recently, or travel somewhere, or move house? Did a friend visit a while back? Whatever the change may be, your cat did not like it and is now going on a thirst strike.
Cats thrive on routine and hate changes in their everyday life. Even if its water bowl’s location is moved elsewhere, your cat will make sure you know it disliked your behavior.
If there’s been a recent transition in your home, slow it down and bring in your cat’s normal routine to make things the same as possible. Also, add water bowls to different areas of the house, away from their food bowl.
If your cat still doesn’t check the bowls out, be on the lookout for an external water source. Remember, cats are quirky. Your cat may just be getting its fill from a leaking tap, water in the bathtub, or even a pond outside.
It May Have a Health Problem
Is your cat not as playful as it was before? Does it have an elevated heart rate?
Signs of dehydration often point to health issues. Problems such as kidney issues, hyperthyroidism, dental infections, and gastrointestinal diseases can do a number on your cat’s immune system. As a result, your cat may start getting diarrhea or may even vomit.
If those last two symptoms start occurring, their water stores deplete quickly, which results in your cat not being as interested in water as it was before. Be sure to check if your cat was involved in any heavy activity or was out in hot weather. Extreme weather conditions can affect your cat’s water intake too.
Should I Be Worried that My Cat is Not Drinking Water?
If your cat shows dehydration symptoms, like sunken eyes, loss of appetite, panting, dry mouth, lethargy, or an increase in skin elasticity, be worried.
Sometimes though, cats don’t show these symptoms at all, so try the Skin Tent Test. Pinch the skin around their shoulder blades gently, and lift it. When you release it, check how the skin falls back. If it does so quickly and smoothens, this means your cat is hydrated.
If it takes time to come back down or, worse, peaks, this means your cat’s water reserves are very low.
How Do I Make My Cat Drink Water?
If changing your cat’s bowl or even its water source doesn’t work, the best steps you can take are by giving your cat water without letting it suspect you:
Swap their Water Every Day
Like it’s mentioned above, cats are clean creatures. If there’s something in their bowl, like dander or food particles, they will not go near it.
Every morning, wash the bowl thoroughly with warm water, wipe it clean, and fill it with filtered water. This way, your cat will have a trusted source of good, clean water. And make sure not to serve the water too hot or too cold. Chilled water doesn’t work, but cooler water with an ice cube thrown in will be the perfect temperature for them.
Make Drinking Water Fun
If your four-legged best friend loves drinking water from the faucet instead of its bowl, accept defeat and turn this habit of theirs into a game so that they can get their share. Build this drinking habit into a routine for morning and night by turning on the faucet for a little while, several times a day.
Check when your cat approaches the tap and drinks. Note down that time, and add that to its schedule.
Flavor Your Cat’s Water
Considering how sensitive a cat’s tongue is, your cat may dislike the taste of the water you give it, even if the water is filtered. Instead, add a little bit of chicken broth or tuna juice to their water.
Check which flavor they like. If possible, turn this water into ice cubes for those long, hot days.
Get a Water Fountain
You’ll find a wide variety of affordable small water fountains that can be plugged into your main.
These water fountains keep the water flowing constantly. That rapid movement, in turn, oxygenates the water and gives it a cooler, fresher taste. Plenty of water fountains even offer charcoal filters you can replace.
Those remove odor and bad tastes. Others come with an adjustable water flow and even noise features, so the sound of the motor running doesn’t put off your cat.
If All Else Fails
If you’ve tried everything and your cat doesn’t come near the water as much, here are some steps that will substitute for water while giving your cat nutrition and energy:
Substitute Water for Other Delicious Choices
Broths don’t just work miracles for humans!
Homemade low-sodium beef broth, bone broth, or low-sodium chicken broth are the next best options if your cat runs away from water. These broths give your cat the nutrition and hydration it needs and deliver it through the best flavors money can buy.
Use Tuna to Make Water Cubes
These are special treats you can use if your cat doesn’t complete its daily water intake. Don’t just use the liquid that comes in canned tuna for flavor. Instead, remove the tuna and put the liquid in ice trays to freeze.
The liquid doesn’t take a long time to freeze, so once it’s done, put one in a plate and let your cat have a delightful treat at the end of the day.
Make its Food More Wet
You’ll find plenty of wet food in the pet store that’ll substitute your cat’s necessary intake of water. Canned food, dehydrated food, and even beefy stews make a big difference in your cat’s hydration.
Should I Take My Cat to the Vet?
Problems with the endocrine system, such as liver disease, makes cat lose thirst. More serious issues such as kidney disease and cancer also make your cat lose its appetite for food and water.
Not to mention that if your cat has a dental issue, this makes drinking and eating very painful.
So, even if your cat doesn’t show any ulterior signs of dehydration, take them to a medical professional, especially if it stops eating altogether.
Many cats worldwide don’t drink as much water as they should but lead perfectly healthy lives. So, if your vet gives you the all-clear, your cat doesn’t show signs of dehydration, and you note your cat’s food to be highly nutritious and hydrating, don’t go calling the emergency vet.
Keep setting out those bowls of water and swap the liquid in them every day anyway. And take action if you ever see any signs of sickness in your cat. Otherwise, do not worry.
Your cat is a cat, and a healthy one at that. As a cat owner, you know that if it starts feeling bad, your cat will definitely let you know!