How to Get a Cat to Drink Water

Importance of Hydration

By Lorie Huston, DVM

Water is one of six essential nutrients your cat needs to thrive, though it may arguably be the most important nutrient on the list. That’s because water makes up roughly 80% of your cat’s body. Even a small deficit in the amount of water your cat consumes can make a big difference in your cat’s health.

Let's take a look at a few more things about your cat's water consumption you hadn't considered.

What Happens if Your Cat Doesn’t Drink Enough Water?

If your cat doesn’t consume enough water, he may suffer from a number of different problems, including dehydration. Inadequate water consumption can also cause or contribute to kidney disease and lower urinary tract disease.

Why Do Cats Not Drink Enough Water?

Cats evolved from desert-dwelling creatures that developed an ability to conserve water quite well and didn’t need a lot of water to survive. As a result, many of our cats today don’t have a high thirst drive.

Many cats simply don’t drink because they don’t think about it. Unfortunately, though our current-day cats still have the ability to concentrate their urine quite well, they can still find themselves in trouble when they don’t drink enough.

Equally troubling is that inadequate water consumption is not an uncommon problem in the cats we live with today. However, there are some steps we can take to encourage our cats to increase their water intake.

How to Get a Cat to Drink Water

If your cat won't drink water, one option you have to increase his water consumption is to feed him canned cat food. In comparison with dry food (kibble), canned cat food contains a much higher volume of water.

Consuming a cat food with high moisture content is a quite natural way of increasing your cat’s water intake. Some cats prefer the taste and texture of canned food to dry as well.

Try Adding Water to Dry Cat Food

Adding water to your cat’s dry food can also be a good way to increase your cat’s moisture content. This can be useful for cats that prefer dry food over canned.

However, you may need to start slowly—adding only a small quantity of water to you at first and then gradually increasing as your cat becomes accustomed to the change. Never try to force your cat to accept any change in diet. A cat that refuses to eat for any reason can develop a serious liver complication known as fatty liver disease.

Try Feeding a Combination of Canned and Dry Cat Food

You can also feed a combination of canned and dry cat foods. Sometimes, mixing a bit of canned food into the dry food can convince a finicky cat to accept canned food more easily.

As your cat becomes accustomed to the change and begins to accept the canned food more readily, you can increase the percentage of canned food offered or even switch to diet solely consisting of canned cat food.

Consider Using a Cat Water Fountain

A cat water fountain is another option that can encourage your cat to drink more. Water fountains are available in a variety of different configurations and styles. Many of them feature a waterfall as well as a bowl area from which your cat can drink.

For many cats, these fountains prove to be very tempting and can be quite successful in encouraging a cat to drink larger volumes of water.

…or a Water Faucet

Dripping water is tempting for many cats. This can be accomplished by allowing a water faucet to drip and allowing your cat access to the faucet.

This will, of course, result in a higher water bill for you. Keeping your cat healthy may well compensate for any increases though, and may even result in lower veterinary costs, saving you money in the long run.

When All Else Fails, Make an Appointment with Your Veterinarian

If you are concerned about whether your cat is drinking an adequate amount of water or if you think your cat may be dehydrated, consult with your veterinarian. 

One sign of dehydration in cats to watch for is a lack of elasticity in the skin. When you lightly pinch your cat’s skin and pull gently upward, the skin should return to its normal position quickly. In a cat that is dehydrated, the skin does not retain enough elasticity to return to its normal position as quickly as it should and will remain in a tented shape for several seconds or even longer.

Other signs to watch for include a dry mouth, sunken eyes, depression, lack of appetite, panting and/or an increased heart rate.

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