Because of their North African wildcat inheritance, domestic cats tend not to drink enough water. The problem is exacerbated by the prevalence of dry cat food nowadays which contains about 10% water compared to about 80% in wet cat food. They don’t compensate enough for the lack of water in dry cat food. This can lead to mild dehydration.
Here are 7 common sense tips to get your cat to drink more:
- Place the water bowl away from the food bowl. This may help. Some cats might not like the two bowls close together perhaps for reasons linked to their wild cat heritage. There is an argument which goes that water can be contaminated by a prey animal and this subconscious thought may affect domestic cat drinking.
- Running water is said to be more attractive to domestic cats than still water; once again because of their wild cat inheritance. So, one of those fountains you can buy on Amazon might help. The problem with these is that you have to maintain them which means cleaning them regularly otherwise bacteria builds up and you might end up doing more harm than good. And it may not help but then again, they’re quite cheap and they are worth a try.
- You can mix water into dry cat food and change its texture and appearance completely. This automatically adds in water. Some cats might find this acceptable and they might even like it more than pure dry cat food.
- What about using rainwater? Tap water normally contains a chemical such as chloride to sterilise it. Although humans can hardly taste it, cats are more sensitive to the sorts of abnormal tastes. It may put them off slightly depending upon the individual cat’s preferences. Erecting a water butt at your home and using the rain water from that to supply your cat may produce a beneficial result. This idea is supported by the fact that domestic cats prefer dirty rain water puddles to clean tap water in bowls.
- What about trying a different water bowl? Something as simple as using a transparent, glass water bowl may encourage drinking. It may look more natural to them. It is certainly worth a try. I certainly wouldn’t use a plastic bowl anyway because you may have heard that as plastic is scratched it can harbour bacteria which can cause feline acne. I don’t think this problem is very prevalent but it’s a thought. In general, the best bowls are either metal or ceramic both for food and water.
- Occasionally, I microwave some frozen fish, add cold water to it and provide that on an ad hoc basis to increase the water intake of my cat who, regrettably, sometimes refers dry kibble to high quality wet cat food. He likes Hill’s Dental Care cat food which is good quality.
- Mixing dry cat food with wet cat food is often done by many cat caregivers to try and balance out the problem with the lack of water in dry kibble.
There would have been no need to write this article about 40 years ago because hardly anybody was feeding their cat dry kibble in those days. But it is incredibly popular because of its convenience. Convenience outweighs the potential detriments to cat health in consuming dry cat food as their main food source.
You probably know that you can tell if your cat is dehydrated by gently pulling up the loose skin at the back of their neck (the scruff) and then releasing it. If it goes back to its original position quickly, they are not dehydrated. The reason is that the skin loses its elasticity when dehydrated. Another test is to see if your cat’s gums are wet and glistening rather than dry and tacky to the touch. When dehydrated their saliva is sticky and tenacious. In severe cases the eyeballs become sunken and the cat suffers shock.
Logically speaking, dehydration happens when your cat loses body fluids faster than he can replace them. Typically, dehydration is caused by prolonged vomiting and diarrhoea. Dehydration also causes the loss of electrolytes which are minerals such as potassium and sodium.
Kidney failure is very common in elderly domestic cats. It is important that these cats take in enough water to compensate for their large urine output. For a cat with kidney disease these tips are more important. Providing wet food only is a necessity.
In kittens, their kidney function is about 25% of what it will be when they are adults. As a result, kittens excrete large amounts of dilute urine. When they stop nursing, they dehydrate quickly. If a kitten fails to thrive consider dehydration as a compounding cause to add to being chilled and losing weight. If a kitten has diarrhoea it can lead to dehydration which in a kitten is a serious matter.
Below are some more articles on dehydration.