Just like humans, about two-thirds of a cat’s body is made up of water. Cats need a healthy amount of water to survive and to maintain their health. When living in the wild, they obtain water from the moisture content in their food. This includes prey like insects, birds, and rodents, which also contain a high water content. Your domestic cat has a very different diet, and gets her water delivered in a bowl or through wet food.
Because cats can concentrate their urine, they can survive on smaller quantities of water than other animals. But they also have a low thirst drive, which means that they don’t feel the need to drink water very often. If your cat is dehydrated, you may not know it until she develops a problem. Dehydration can lead to cat bladder problems and urinary diseases, including kidney disease and feline lower urinary tract disease. Other common conditions from dehydration are bladder inflammation (cystitis), tumors, ruptured bladder, and stones. Bladder stones can lead to life-threatening urethral blockages, particularly in male cats.
There are a few ways you can tell if your cat is dehydrated. One of the best tests is to pinch your cat’s skin and gently pull upward. If her skin does not return to its normal position quickly, she is probably dehydrated. Also pay attention to signs of panting, depression, lack of appetite, sunken eyes, dry mouth, increased lethargy, and increased heart rate.
Encouraging your cat to drink water
The amount of water your cat needs to drink varies depending on her size, activity level, health, and diet, but ranges from 5 to 10 fluid ounces per day. If you have trouble trying to get your cat to drink water, there are a few ways to encourage her.
Location is essential. Put a few water bowls around the house, in areas with low foot traffic. Water bowls should also not be placed anywhere near her litter box. This could make her uncomfortable and cause her to stop eating, drinking, and using her litter box. She may not even like having her food and water bowls near each other.
Some cats are really particular about drinking water. Your cat may like cold water better, so drop a couple ice cubes in the bowl. On the other hand, she may not even like her bowl. If she has a tendency to tip it over, switch to a wider one with a rubber base. She may not like the taste of her water either, so if you have a plastic bowl, you may want to switch it to a metal, ceramic, or glass bowl. You should also replace your cat’s water daily in an effort to keep the water from tasting stale.
Even pickier cats won’t use a bowl at all, and would rather drink straight from your tap. In the wild, cats will usually only drink moving water, as they have learned that this helps prevent them from getting sick. So, if you see your continually tipping over her water dish and drinking the water as it spills across the floor, she’s probably not doing this to spite you, but rather she’s more comfortable drinking moving water. There are a number of ways to provide your cat with moving water without all the cleanup of a spilled water bowl. Consider motion-censored cat water fountains that constantly circulate the water, or allow her to drink from the tap or a running bath faucet–just remember to keep the water at a cool temperature.
You can also add more moisture to your cat’s diet. Canned food has a much higher moisture content than dry food. If she prefers dry food, you can try adding water to her kibble. If you add a small amount of water gradually through meals, she’s more likely to get used to the texture. A combination of dry food and canned food is also an option.
Whichever method you choose, it is important to encourage your cat to drink water. While many may think milk is a good substitute, it is only a myth, and can even cause digestive problems with your cat. Getting your cat to drink water is just as important as feeding her a proper nutrition. If you think that your cat might be dehydrated, talk to your veterinarian.