There is an article on the catster.com website which addresses the question in the title. It starts off with the words, “most cats don’t drink enough water”. This is incorrect. It would be correct if it applied to domestic cats who are only fed dry cat food. However, if domestic cats are fed wet cat food then they are able to gauge the amount of water they require and drink enough. A lot of their water requirement comes from wet cat food.
It is only when you feed dry cat food that cats are unable to gauge the amount of water they require because dry cat food is unnatural. Domestic cats have evolved from the North African wildcat and that cat feeds mainly on rodents. Rodents are made up of 70% water which is the prime source of water for this wild cat. Food, therefore is the major source of water for domestic cats.
If the food is wet and of good quality then the cat will obtain most of the water that they need from the food. A lot of wet cat food contains more water than a mouse at around 80%.
I will quote from Dr Bradshaw’s book Cat Sense which deals with this issue very succinctly:
“Cats do have two notable nutritional advantages over humans. First, their kidneys are very efficient, as expected for an animal whose ancestors lived on the edge of deserts, and many cat drink little water, getting all the moisture they need from the meat they eat. Second, cats do not require vitamin C.”
So you can see that cats do not drink enough water if the diet does not contain enough water. That is the crux of the matter. So the question in the title is really about feeding your cat dry cat food and how to make him or her drink more water than they actually want to drink.
One barrier may be that your cat companion might not like tapwater which contains fluoride to purify it (at May 2000, 42 of the 50 largest U.S. cities had water fluoridation – Wikipedia). You might therefore try distilled or filtered water. You may even use bottle water or make the water cold by refrigerating it or adding ice cubes.
It may be that your cat prefers to drink water out of a different bowl. I have heard discussions about using clear balls rather than opaque bowls, for example. The positioning of the bowl may be a factor as might be the number of bowls available. Therefore you might use more than one water bowl and make them clear, putting them around his or her environment to allow a choice.
It is said that water fountains are irresistible to some domestic cats. This is because cats might be tapping into their ancestral instincts when drinking out of running streams in the wild. Domestic cats often drink muddy or messy water rather than tap water which indicates a resistance to drinking processed water over rain water.
So there are certain things one can do to encourage drinking but the best way to get your cat to drink or to take in water is to provide a food which is largely made up of water and which is therefore more natural for the feline diet.
As a postscript, some veterinarians think that when you feed a cat dry cat food you gradually dehydrate the cat and they are put into a state of permanent slight dehydration. This can lead to urinary tract problems especially if you add stress into the life of the domestic cat. The author of the Catster.com article refers to a problem that she had with her cat in which he developed urinary stones resulting in a plugged urethra.