Is Water Making Your Cat Sick?

Is water making your cat sick? Is it making YOU sick? It’s fairly common knowledge for American’s not to drink the water in undeveloped countries because of the risk of diarrhea. Yet we take for granted the water coming out of our faucets (“tap” in the UK) at home.

I’m not sure about the water supply in countries outside of the U.S.. Here we have a choice of two kinds of water coming out of our tap. The first is “city” water, meaning pipes have been run from the home and tied into a system where a company provides water for a charge. The second is well water, meaning the source of home water comes from a well dug on the property. Both of these have their dangers.

Cat Drinking Water From Bathroom Tap
Cat Drinking Water From Bathroom Tap (faucet). Photo by tinali778.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I’d like to start with well water first. I had well water back in the mid 1980’s. The taste was pure and there was no smell to it. The main concern with well water is to have the well dug as far from the septic system as possible so it doesn’t contaminate the water. One contaminate in well water that can cause diarrhea is sulphur. When sulphur gets into ground water it can cause hydrogen sulfide gas. Sulphur contaminated water can be treated with chlorine, but you’re putting yourself in a Catch 22 situation if you have to add one chemical to offset another. It’s easier to just install a filter. I can tell the readers here from experience that migraines may be caused by sulfites and nitrates. So if you have well water and it smells bad and you’re suddenly having headaches, keep that in mind.

I noticed a change in my cats when I moved back to the city in November of 1993. My gray tabby cats lost their beautiful silver sheen. Within six months, their fur had a brownish tint. I invested in a water filter once that happened and their fur once again grew out gray/silver. It was easy to determine the problem as this was the only change in the diet.

Most “city” water companies release a yearly report with specifics of the quality of the water. If you’re not satisfied with the report, there are companies out there who will test your water for a small fee. Even if you have the purest well water, it’s good to do an occasional analysis, especially if it develops an odor or you begin having digestive trouble.

The water where I live has become quite nasty over the past few weeks. The chlorine smell is stronger. In the U.S., chlorine is added to make the water safer and fluoride is added to help teeth. For those of you who think fluoride is a good thing, Google “skeletal fluorosis.” Sealy has developed a bit of diarrhea since we noticed the change. His tests didn’t pick up anything out of the ordinary. No parasites or other illnesses. One of my friends has a cat who had diarrhea. I told her it could be in the water and suggested a water filter for her faucet. Since installing one, her cats bowel disorder has gone away.

There’s a protozoa called Giardia that thrives in contaminated drinking water. Parasites may cause diarrhea in cats over a period of time. Giardia can come on suddenly as well as violently in cats.

Today I took my own advice and purchased a PUR water filter for the faucet. It’s exactly like the one I had years ago and cost $20. There are also pitchers with a built in filter. Those last for about 40 gallons while the faucet kind is good for 100 gallons or more before it’s changed. My cats go through a LOT of water.

There’s more to worry about that bad taste and chlorine and fluoride side effects. Until recently, people were told to flush old drugs down the toilet if they had reached their expiration date. This has really taken a toll on our water systems. According to a report released by USA Today back in 2008, antibiotics, mood stabilizers, anti-convulsants and sex hormones have been found in the drinking water of at least 41 million Americans. Between people flushing unused drugs and the body eliminating a small portion of ingested medications, this is a major concern that’s affecting drinking water everywhere.

Here are some of the problems unfiltered tap water may cause.

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Headaches (sulfites)
  • Cancer (chromium, radon)
  • Bone cancer (fluoride)
  • Acne
  • Joint pain

I also read a few articles concerning weight loss and not to expect it to happen if you’re not filtering all of the water you drink. Something about good bacteria in the body being offset by chemicals in the water. It makes sense.

Water filter systems are a good investment. It’s cheaper than buying distilled water (although that’s an option. There are also online instructions to make distilled water at home). The rule of thumb is the costlier the system, the more contaminates it will filter out. Also, think of the thousands of plastic bottles that can be kept out of landfills by using a good water bottle and filtered tap water!

I didn’t intend for this article to turn into how unfiltered water can affect OUR health. It just turned out that way. I’m not going to list a bunch of references of articles I read up on while doing this article. If you’re interested in learning more about how tap water may cause a medical condition, just Google “does tap water cause __________.” Several topic will pop up.

This is very scary. Unfortunately, it’s legal. Water is allowed to have a certain percentage of contaminants and still be determined safe for drinking. Every now and then an area will have a “boil water” order on the evening news when contaminants are found. Other than that, we usually trust the government and our water companies to keep our drinking water safe.

Readers, we have to take matters into our own hands when it comes to the health of our cats as well as ourselves.

Have any of you had any health problems you believe were caused by the water in your home? Did they go away when you purchased a water filter? I’m just curious.


Original photo on Flickr.

45 thoughts on “Is Water Making Your Cat Sick?”

  1. I’m still wondering whether filtered water is better than distilled water. I’ve heard distilled water will prevent UTI’s

  2. Seems ;like the water was the problem – her fur is coming back, though not as thick as it was. I tried to upload a couple photos, but got an error.

  3. My cat had been chewing the fur off her belly and hind legs for about 6 months – not to the point of causing injury, just like she was itching. Other than that she was fine, so I decided to try home remedies before taking her to the vet.
    I first tried changing the kitty litter (dust free, chemical free) and there was no change, then I tried a different cat food (grain free, high protein) and there was no change, then I decided to try giving her only bottled water (our tap is city water) – within days her fur is coming back. Finally after so many trials we have found the cause!

    • Wow is my response. That is extremely interesting and well done. It seems the water was causing an irritation in her skin. Perhaps an allergic reaction. I’ll do some work on that and try and do an article because it is, for me, the first time I have heard tap water causing this sort of reaction in a cat. Thanks Laura.

      If you have time please comment again in around a month to confirm that the benefit is permanent.

    • This is why I am at this thread today as well. My cat recently does what I call “angry licking” at his sides and has no fleas or other indications of why. Despite using a Brita filter I suspected our water is bothering him and possibly myself as well.. I’ve discovered (as stated above in the thread) that cheap home filters only reduce certain contaminants – not completely remove – and some they don’t touch at all such as fluoride.. Good news is after just a couple days with high quality bottled water ( note some have been shown to still contain fluoride etc) he hasnt stopped completely yet but it has been greatly reduced already. Now I’m trying to decipher which potential contaminant is in my water…

  4. my cat breaks out in scabs all over her body when The toilet seat is left open and she drinks city water. Mostly I try to keep her on distilled water. How do I get rid of this allergy?

    • Hello Gladys. Thank you for visiting and commenting. The first question I have is whether you are absolutely certain that drinking toilet water causes the scabs. The second question I have is whether this is an allergy. If it is an allergy then removing the cause, namely the allergen, should remove the allergic response. Therefore, if you stop your cat drinking the water the allergy should subside and gradually disappear. If you do block off the toilet to your cat and subsequently she stops drinking the water and the scabs don’t go away then you would have to conclude that there is some other cause.

      There is a page on this website which lists out the causes of scabs on cats.

      This may help you. Please keep in touch to update us if you can. And good luck to both you and your cat.

  5. Hi and thank you for the informative article. I haven’t posted on a board in many years but something compels me to do so tonight.

    My little cat has been having some serious health issues and I am concerned that water may play a part. Your article was helpful so I continued reading and came upon… Sylvan.

    Yes, his words can be read as hostile, arrogant, condescending or all of the above. However, not to defend him, but considering the fact that if, indeed, he is an analytical chemist his words were to correct misinformation only. Sometimes when addressing subjects directly, words may sound abrasive, cold, etc.

    What he said about facts is true! Maybe he’s a stickler for evidence, moreso than most, considering his profession. Regardless, he had important information and I was hoping to read further and learn more, as another person had asked him for more info.

    But…one individual who could not let go of Sylvan’s attitude, based on his writing only, decided to harp on it and now the guy is gone…with knowledge about water filters everyone seemed interested in.

    I’ve seen it happen in years past when I was a member of a community group. Subject started, discussed, unpopular comment that someone takes personally appears, all Hell breaks loose, the topic is tossed aside, the thread becomes an unprofessional show of interpersonal dysfunction.

    Yes, putting a name in quotation marks can be seen as highly sarcastic OR extremely grammatically correct. And yes, I would have been leaning towards the former had it been my name or nom de plume. But…before assuming and behaving as if one’s assumptions are facts by leaving behind a relevant topic to attack some random possible jackass…find out the correct answer. Ironically, facts are what Sylvan initially addressed.

    Either way, be he a sterile speaking, science-minded, grammatical perfectionist or a condescending know-it-all troublemaker, YOU (as in lady that just REFUSED to stop digging and put gas on the fire because she couldn’t control her emotions over words on her monitor), ruined it for people like me – the ones looking for information for important reasons and enjoying an article hoping to learn more in the comments.

    Irony No. 2 – Me – So Sylvan was run off before divulging the rest of his info and one person singlehandedly made a cat water thread about her anger which makes the site look bad to people like me. Here I am, ranting worse than probably anybody ever has at the entire community/site, like a person that’s batshit crazy. Why? Because it is just infuriating to see this type of thing still happening, to be worried about my cat but perusing the Internet as happily as possible, then…****POOF!**** As it seems that the answer lies around the curve Sylvan and his info is gone. Thank you, lady.

    Please pardon the lack of editing and remaining typos.

    With all due respect to the author of the article, I sincerely enjoyed and found it helpful.

    • Hi Dee, Thanks for visiting and commenting. I am sorry to hear that your cat has some health issues. I am not sure anyone put Sylvan off from writing anymore. I don’t think Sylvan wanted to add more. The responses to the comment were nice.

      Back to your cat. I guess you have tried purified water instead of tap water or even bottled water. In the UK tap water is considered purer than expensive bottled water.

      I would try purifying tap water using a relatively cheap purification system.

      What about this sort of thing:

  6. If a person is concerned about the fluoride they can purchase a more expensive filter (which may end up removing beneficial minerals as well) or buy bottled water. There have been problems reported with bottled water too. I buy Dasani, which is a Coke product. I trust the Coca-Cola bottling company, maybe because my dad used to work for them, so there it is. Others might say I’m wrong to use all those bottles. No one can please all people. But I know that whatever is added to my tap water was making my cat sick. Once it got so bad between diarrhea and puking that he had to go to the vet. Hairballs played a role there, but with his underlying chronic diarrhea it was worse than it needed to be. More recently I took him to the vet because he was dragging his butt on the carpet all the time. The vet said chronic diarrhea can lead to infected anal glands. Poor Monty is semi-feral and has a horrible time with the vet. It’s probably terrifying for him. So Elisa’s advice is very valuable to us in this case. It worked! Monty has been diarrhea free for over a month! He’d have stretches of a few days without, or even a whole week, but then again with the runny poops. Changing his water has had the single greatest effect for curing him. Obviously, Elisa was right! My husband can’t drink our water either, due to a chlorine allergy. Perhaps Monty has the same problem, or perhaps Elisa is right and cats’ systems are sensitive to chlorine. Is flouride a problem? I can’t say because bottled water doesn’t have flouride, so I don’t know if it was the chlorine or the flouride. Obviously, for Sealy, it was the chlorine. Can flouride be harmful? Maybe. It’s not pop science to ask that question. I think it’s a very good question, but answering it is probably beyond the scope of this article. Elisa suggests we research that and come to our own conclusion. But I think we should question whether things added to our water are really good for us and for our cats. It’ll take more than one article to answer those questions, obviously, so I can’t really see the harm of Elisa raising those issues. I also think it is very rude for Sylvan to keep putting Elisa’s name in quotes. Elisa is her pen name, which is a very common thing to have, and the choice of the name she writes under, a very personal decision for her, should be respected. Add information, sure, but personal attacks demean this site. There are far too many trolls on the Internet. At PoC, even when we disagree, we treat each other with respect. Michael sets a good tone of civility for PoC, which we do well to imitate.

    • Thank you Ruth. I use my middle name, my maiden name and my mothers maiden name as my pen name. I went by Elisa Black for awhile but there are several with that name. Adding the Taylor made me unique.

      As for now I’m through being demeaned by an outboard motor.


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