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Water is the most essential nutrient for all animals, including cats. Healthy cats will generally meet their need for water through a combination of what is present in their food and drinking from available sources, but maximizing water intake is an important part of treating and preventing several common feline diseases, including:

  • Idiopathic cystitis
  • Bladder stones
  • Obesity
  • Chronic kidney disease

If your cat has one of these conditions, or you want to encourage water intake as a health maintenance measure, how can you go about getting your cat to drink more water?

Feed Canned Food

One of the easiest ways to get cats who have been eating dry food to “drink” more water is to switch to them to a canned variety. Canned cat foods typically contain 75-80 percent moisture; dry formulations are closer to 10 percent.

Healthy cats who eat nothing but canned food will have almost all of their water needs met through their food. You can even mix in a little extra water to boost their intake. If feeding a canned-only diet sounds too time consuming or expensive, try offering just one canned meal daily. As long as your cat is slim, you can keep a bowl of dry food out throughout the day to provide any extra calories and nutrition your cat might need.

Research has shown that obese cats tend to lose weight faster when they eat diets with a higher water content, so emphasize the canned food. If you must feed a little bit of dry, measure out just the amount necessary to reach your cat’s calorie goal.

Keep Multiple Clean Water Sources Available at All Times

Don’t make your cat work to find water. Place several drinking stations around your home so that water is always easy to reach. This is especially important if your cat has limited mobility. Some cats prefer to drink out of a particular type of container (e.g., shallow saucers versus deeper bowls), in specific locations, or even from a running source of water, like a dripping faucet or kitty water fountain. Try several options to determine your cat’s preferences. Refill containers with fresh water daily and wash them with hot, soapy water at least weekly.

Learn How to Give Subcutaneous Fluids

Sometimes a cat’s fluid needs will exceed his or her ability to take in water orally. This most frequently occurs when the kidneys can no longer conserve water, resulting in the production of large amounts of dilute urine, dehydration, and electrolyte disturbances. In these cases, giving intermittent boluses of fluid underneath the skin can quite literally be a lifesaver. The procedure is easy to learn and many cats are quite cooperative, seeming to understand that the fluids are responsible for making them feel better.

Talk to your veterinarian if you think your cat could benefit from subcutaneous fluid therapy or if you have any other questions about how much your cat is, or should be, drinking.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: mik ulyannikov / Shutterstock

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