Hydration for Health — Kitty Needs to Drink Up!

©Daria Kulkova | Getty Images

Does your cat shun the water bowl every time he walks past it? Ensuring your cat is well-hydrated can prove to be quite a challenge. But you know your feline friend needs to drink up to stay healthy.

“Adequate hydration is essential to the vascular circulation of blood,” says Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, owner of Kingsgate Animal Hospital in Lubbock, Texas. “Blood circulation enables for the transport of important substances, oxygen and carbon dioxide through the body.”

Water also plays a key role in ushering out body waste, in regulating body temperature and to act as both a shock absorber and lubricant for the joints. Dehydration can trigger seizures and damage kidneys. Bottom line: Without water, a feline body cannot function.

Now comes the tricky part. How can you tempt your cat to step up his water consumption?

10 easy hydration tricks

©Daria Kulkova | Getty Images

Catster reached out to a few stellar feline experts who share these tantalizing tactics:

  1. Elevate water bowls. “Some cats need their bowls elevated so that they do not put strain on their front legs as they lean over the bowl,” says Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, who operates the cats-only Chico Hospital for Cats in Chico, California. “Older cats who are likely to have osteoarthritis are not able to easily put a lot of weight on their forelimbs.”
  2. Dish up canned food early on. “I encourage my clients to offer canned diets to their kittens early on so that they recognize it as a food,” says Dr. Kathryn Primm, owner of the Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, Tennessee, and host of the Nine Lives with Dr. Kat podcast on Pet Life Radio. “Because of the high water content, it is a good idea to have a cat who will eat many types of canned foods.” Canned food typically contains between 70 to 80% water.
  3. Bring on the broth. “Many cats really like the flavor of chicken broth,” Dr. Colleran says. Bone broth, whether you make it or buy it, is another option. Just make sure the broth does not contain onions or seasonings.
  4. Pour water in wide bowls. “Cats rely on their whiskers as sensory organs to alert them to what is around them,” says Kate Benjamin. Founder of Hauspanther and co-
    author of the New York Times best-seller, Catification. “Cats do not like the feel of their whiskers scrunched when trying to drink water from a narrow bowl. I make sure my cats have wide water bowls so there are no whisker issues.”
  5. Pay attention to the water bowl’s location. Cats are fussy and don’t like having their water bowl positioned right next to their food bowl. “Cats are hunters and, because they eat what they kill, they try not to eat where water sources are for fear of contamination,” Dr. Colleran says.
  6. Disguise the water in something yummy. Renowned animal trainer Samantha Martin makes sure her Amazing Acro-Cats are well-hydrated so they can perform their circus-cat like moves onstage. “We boil chicken breast in water for treats,” says Samantha, who is based in Atlanta. “We give them this chicken water for added hydration and nutrition. They love it!”
  7. Clean the water bowls. Consider ceramic, stainless steel, glass or stoneware bowls, which clean easily and completely and don’t retain odors. Always inspect any bowls for scratches or nicks, and replace if necessary.
  8. Select drinking fountains with your cat — and your level of commitment — in mind. “One of the most highly developed senses in cats is auditory,” Dr. Colleran says. “If you can hear the pet drinking fountain, the sound is like screaming to cats and will cause some to avoid the fountain. Also, select fountains that can be easily cleaned in a dishwasher to avoid mold and mildew. Opt for a fountain with washable filters. Otherwise, you need to keep on a schedule to regularly replace the filters to keep the water clean.”
  9. Introduce a novel liquid. “Some cats really like bottled clam juice,” Dr. Colleran says. “And when you open that can of water-based tuna, squeeze out the tuna water and put it in a container that you can add purified water in, keep refrigerated and offer it to your cat.”
  10. Up the appeal of a catio. Kate says to place a fresh bowl of water in your enclosed catio every day. “It can entice the cat to drink while he safely gets to look, listen to and smell the outdoors.”

Exactly how much water?

Veterinarians recommend that cats need to take in about 4 ounces of water per 5 pounds of body weight daily to stay hydrated. So, the average 10-pound cat should drink about 1 cup of water per day.

Cats who eat wet food (which can contain up to 80% water) might drink less, while cats who eat only dry food will usually get more of their daily water requirement by drinking.

Water-drinking strategies

We asked pet lovers on Facebook to identify how they get their felines to drink water. Here’s what they dished out:

“We have water dishes in almost every room of our house, and I add a tiny bit of chicken broth to one or more of them for my two seniors, Uncle Satchel and Auntie Scarlette.” — Wendy Lindstrom

“I give my cats Maggie, Victoria and Turkey wet food and add extra water to their meals.” — Polly Smith

“Latte won’t drink out of a regular bowl with still water. I thought a fountain was gimmicky until we got one. I totally see the difference in how much water Latte and Ellie now drink.” — Katherine Kern

“I have a tall glass in a mug (for stability) on my nightstand so that my 14-year-old Haddie doesn’t have to go far for water at night. It started as a glass for me, but it was quickly co-opted.” — Tamar Arslanian

“Wet food, multiple water bowls and adding water to their food works for us. Bootsie is 9 and has had urinary issues. Foster cat Hallow is 2 and has had constipation issues.” — Allison Hunter-Frederick

“I have three different types of water fountains, each with different levels of movement. They are all on different floors of my house for my five cats: Mr. Meowgi, Vespertine, Tango, Tux and Morrisy.” — Danielle Jo Bays

About the Author

Arden Moore
Arden Moore
Arden Moore, The Pet Health and Safety Coach, is a pet behavior consultant, master certified pet first aid instructor, author and host of two shows: Arden Moore’s Four Legged Life national radio show and a podcast called the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio. Learn more at ardenmoore.com.

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