A Feline Expert Gives Tips on Keeping Cats Hydrated


Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.

In the middle of a sound sleep, I’m often rousted awake by the noise of Casey’s metal identification tags clanging against the stainless steel water bowl in my bedroom. Instead of being irritated, I smile knowing that my orange tabby is staying hydrated by lapping up water.

Unlike dogs, most cats are not big gulpers or slurpers at the water bowl. And I’ve yet to see any feline expert consistently train a cat to drink water on cue. But, like dogs, cats need ample daily supplies of water to keep their coats shiny and their skin and organs well hydrated. In fact, a cat’s body is made up of about 70 percent water.

For insights into H20 for cats, we turned to a champion of all cats: Dr. Ernie Ward, America’s Pet Advocate and a member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners’ cat-friendly practice advisory council.

Dr. Ernie Ward

Catster: How much water should an adult cat drink each day to stay hydrated?

Ward: Because cats evolved in the desert plains of Mesopotamia, they require a little less than an ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. An average 10-pound domestic shorthair indoor cat will typically need to drink 7 to 10 ounces of water per day.

Should we be concerned if our cats don’t always drink this recommended daily amount of water? Or if they seem to be drinking excessively?

The biggest problem of water consumption in pets involves excessive drinking. If your cat is suddenly lapping at the water dish frequently, drinking from unusual sources (like the toilet bowl), or is urinating more than normal, have him examined by your veterinarian immediately. Diseases that cause increased thirst include kidney and liver disease, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, and cancer. One in three cats will experience kidney disease.

Photo by Shutterstock

If a specific cat doesn’t drink much water, is there a Plan B to make sure he stays hydrated?

Feeding a canned diet is an excellent way to provide water for your cat. Canned food is between 70 percent to 80 percent water. Many cat owners who feed a moist or wet food rarely observe their cats drinking from a bowl or a water fountain, and they shouldn’t be alarmed. This is because their cats are consuming much of their daily water requirements from their diet.

Any ideas to make water sources more interesting or inviting for our cats, especially if their primary food source is kibble and not canned food?

Many cats seem to prefer fresh, running water from a pet drinking fountain or circulating water bowl. While it’s unclear why many felines prefer bubbly water, one theory is that running water signals safety. Cats may have evolved with a preference for running water because still, stagnant water can harbor infectious parasites, fungi, and bacteria.

Any tips on the best type of water bowl to provide for our cats?

Most veterinarians recommend using stainless steel or ceramic food and water bowls for cats instead of those made of plastic. Some cats are sensitive to plastic and can develop skin allergies over time. Other concerns are that volatile compounds contained within the plastic may leech into food or water, causing potential harm. If you use plastic bowls, make sure they are BPA free.

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Photo by Shutterstock

Drink up these tips

  • Serve water in wide, stainless steel bowls, as most cats do not like to have their whiskers scrunched inside narrow food or water bowls.
  • put a few water bowls throughout your house, strategically placed near areas your cat spends most of his time. and park the water bowl far enough away from the food bowl so food pieces don’t end up as floaties in the water bowl — a big “yuck” for most dignified cats.
  • Jazz up the taste by plopping an ounce or so of low-sodium chicken broth into one water bowl for your four-legged (meat, please) obligate carnivore. Still keep another bowl filled with fresh water replenished daily.
  • provide your cat with bottled water when traveling to minimize his chance of gas- trointestinal upset from drinking less-than-pure water from a hotel faucet.
  • Got a cat who loves water play? Save on your water bill by not letting the bath- room sink faucet drip. Instead, treat your cat to a pet water fountain where he can make a safe splash and drink clean, circulating water.

About the author: Arden Moore is a pet-behavior consultant, author, and master pet first-aid instructor who often teaches hands-on classes with her cool cat, Casey, and very tolerant dog, Chipper. Each week, she hosts the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio. Follow Arden on Facebook and on Twitter. For Catster print magazine, she promises to give advice about healthy eating habits for your feline. Email your questions to arden@fourleggedlife.com

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