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12 Tips to Get Cats to Drink More Water

Do your cats visit their food bowls more than their water bowls?

Cat Drinking

If you said yes, blame their ancestors! Originally, cats were desert-dwelling animals. They adapted to dry, desert conditions by staying hydrated from the moisture in their prey.

Your indoor cats still have some of their desert animal instincts and may be picky about drinking water. Or, they may drink very little at all. 

How much water should cats drink?

What does “enough” water look like? Dr. Jennifer Coates, in an article for PetMD, recommends that a 10-pound cat on a dry food diet get about 1 cup of water/ day. If on a canned, wet food diet, a 10-pound cat needs about 1/3 cup of water/ day.

In addition to healthy hydration, there are medical reasons, such as vomiting, diarrhea, kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and fever where increasing water intake may help cats. 

Why Hydration Matters...

As with humans, it's important to keep cats hydrated! In an article about hydration, Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine explains that hydration is essential for temperature regulation, normal electrolyte concentrations, digestion, lubrication of joints, and delivery of oxygen and other nutrients to the organs of the body.

Orange cat looking up

On the flip side, dehydration can cause numerous health problems, including decreased circulation leading to multi-organ dysfunction, an inability to control body temperature, cardiac arrhythmias, neurologic dysfunction, kidney issues, and more.

12 Ways to Help Your Cats Drink More Water

Now you know why water is important for cats. But, what’s that old saying? You can lead a cat to water, but you can’t make them drink!

We're here to help! We've compiled a complete list of ideas to help hydrate your kitties. You may only need to make a couple small changes to see a large impact! 

1. Offer Multiple Cat Water Bowls

Do you have multiple water glasses scattered throughout your home? I'm guilty of that!

Make it easy for your cats to remember to take a drink. Place water bowls in multiple rooms. And if you live in a multi-level house, place at least 1 bowl on each level.

No judgment if walking downstairs to get water sounds like a big task for your cats. We get it!

2. Change Water Daily

In the wild, cats drink from fresh, running water sources. Cats prefer fresh water, not water that has been sitting around for days.

So, give your cats fresh water daily. Don't just top it off either! Dump, rinse, and refill. 

Also, if you see a bug, food or litter particle, or anything else floating in your cats' water bowl throughout the day, dump, rinse, and refill.

Your cats will thank you!

3. Clean Cat Water Bowls Often

How often should you be washing your cats’ water bowl? Keeping cats' food and water bowls clean is such an important topic that we share tips here

Wash your cats' water bowl at least weekly in the dishwasher or by hand with soap and hot water. We recommend these dishwasher safe bowls.

Dishwasher safe water bowl

4. Serve Wet Food

Remember that your cats' ancestors got moisture from their prey? Your cats get moisture from their food, too!

Dr. Debra Zoran, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences shares that "feeding cats a complete and balanced canned food will be the easiest way to assure your kitty meets their daily water needs." She adds that "cats that eat only dry foods consume less water overall and are more prone to dehydration."

According to the Pet Food Institute, dry pet food typically has a 10-12% moisture content and wet pet food has a 75-78% moisture content.

If your cats have never eaten wet food, slowly introduce to see whether they like it. Your cats may prefer certain flavors (chicken/ beef/ seafood), textures (pate/ stew/ gravy), and brands over others. So, try a variety to learn what they like best.  

5. Add Water to Food

Your cats prefer dry kibble…now what? 

Mix wet and dry food together. Or, try adding a small amount of water to dry food to see if your cats like soft, moist kibble.

Maybe your cats are already on wet food, but need to increase their water intake? In this case, create a cat food slurry by adding a little water to wet food.  

IMPORTANT: If your cats refuse to eat food mixed with water, stop and do not force it. You don't want your cats to begin to dislike their favorite food.

6. Try a Different Cat Bowl

The material and shape of your cats' water bowl matters. Stainless steel is the safest material for cat bowls, because of its antibacterial qualities. It also doesn't hold smells and tastes from leftover food - a real turnoff for cats. Learn more about the different materials for cat water bowls here.

Choose a whisker friendly cat bowl. Cats prefer wide and shallow bowls that allow their whiskers to remain above the bowl while they eat and drink. Look for bowls designed specifically for cats and bowls that prevent whisker fatigue. (Most dog bowls are too deep and steep for cats' sensitive whiskers.)

Cat drinking

Our cats use these bowls, since they are stainless steel, whisker friendly, and made in the USA. Check out the product reviews where numerous customers commented about how their cats started drinking more water after switching to this bowl! 

7. Experiment with Different Water

Your cats may be picky about the taste of their water. If tap water isn’t preferred, try filtered or bottled water. 

8. Let the Water Run

Your cats may want to be on the “hunt” for their water. Try running a slow drip from an accessible faucet in your home.

Or, see if your cats like a water fountain. Some cats love them, other cats (like my Bella and Lewie) aren't interested.

Cat drinking from sink

9. Change Location

Location, location, location! Where should you put your cats' water bowls? 

Maybe you have multiple water bowls throughout the house, but they are not in cat-friendly locations. 

Cats like to drink in quiet settings, away from their food or litter box.

What about food bowls? Read more about where to put cat food bowls here

10. Chill It

Do you prefer your water ice cold or at room temperature? Cats are like people with different preferences.

Drop a few ice cubes in your cats' water bowl to see if they like it icy cold! They may also be intrigued and try licking the ice.

Also, use a stainless steel bowl to keep water chilled longer (similar to your favorite stainless steel tumbler or water bottle). 

11. Add Flavor

Have you ever added cucumbers or lemons because you were tired of plain old water?

Tuna juice or low-sodium chicken broth may be a refreshing treat for your cats - either alone or mixed with food. Since salt and certain ingredients (garlic and onions, for example) can be harmful to cats, be sure to talk to your veterinarian first.  

12. Elevate Your Cats' Water Bowl 

Some cats find drinking from a raised bowl more comfortable. This cat bowl stand raises water 3 inches above the ground. 

Drinking from an elevated bowl is especially comfortable for cats that are older, larger, or have medical conditions - but any cat can benefit.

Raised water bowl

Making the Transition

Every cat is special! A tip that works for one cat may not work for another, so be patient. 

Most importantly, offer options!

Cats aren't fans of sudden changes. So, offer the change as an alternative and not as a replacement. 

For example, if you want to try a new bowl or new location, leave the current water bowl as is, and offer the new option as well. Show your cats the alternative, and observe what your cat prefers over the next day or two. 

Once I put water bowls on each floor of my house and separate from food bowls, both Bella and Lewie drank more water. Goal achieved! 

What tip are you going to try first? Please comment below! Also, feel free to comment with a question on this topic or share a success story. We love hearing from our readers!

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