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How to get your cat to drink more water

"Today I'll chug a full bowl of water"
said no cat ever!
Out in the Serengeti all his hydration needs
are met through prey consumed. But the cat in your
living room may be chronically dehydrated.

Why your cat is not drinking enough water

cat drinking water funny cartoon

Last updated July 28th, 2018

Out in the Serengeti, Sly Pie’s friends are not quite sure about the watering hole.

Water is the essence of life on earth. 71 Percent of the earth’s surface is water, 50-65% of the average human body is made up of water. But did you know that the body water content of your cat is as high as 70-80%? Our pets need 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight for optimal health, cell and organ function, but most domestics cats are nowhere near that quota. Why is this the case?

'Today I'll chug a full bow of water' said no cat ever! Cats have a very low thirst drive, so what can you do to ensure they drink up?Click To Tweet

Our four-pawed fluffy house hunters are descended from the African wildcat (Felis Sylvestris Lybica) living in and around the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. They have evolved to derive most of their water requirements from the prey they consume and have adapted to conserve water efficiently; resting in shaded bushes during the heat of the day, hunting in the early evening or morning and drinking water when available. Our domestic cats have kept many of these traits despite living in an environment far removed from the wild. For this reason, we have to offer up some inviting hydration “watering hole” solutions to prevent dehydration, which can lead to many serious complications and illnesses.

July is Pet Hydration Awareness Month as declared by Petsafe, the makers of the Drinkwell Pagoda pet fountain that we at Chirpy Cats absolutely love. It gets a huge paw of approval by the Chirpies who have enjoyed drinking from this fountain for the past three years. Many cats love the sight and sound of running water which is an instinct ingrained in our little hunters’ DNA. Ollie, Baggy and Sarabi will come running as soon as they hear the bathroom faucet is turned on. In the wild cats prefer running water over stagnant, as a stream is less likely to be contaminated. When looking at it from your cat’s point of view, this fascination with running water seems less of a finicky quirk than simple scientific logic. Leaving the faucet running is not an option so having a fountain or two is the perfect setup for a watering hole station.

Inadequate water consumption and water loss due to vomiting, diarrhea or heat stroke can lead to dehydration. These are the symptoms to watch for:

  • dry tacky gums
  • lack of energy
  • lack of appetite
  • Excessive panting
  • loss of skin elasticity (if you pinch the skin on the shoulders, it forms a “tent” and skin does not snap back in place. This is a sign of severe dehydration which warrants an immediate vet visit)

6 reasons kitty is not drinking enough, and how to change that habit:

  1. Water bowls placed in close proximity to their food will often be ignored. Cats will never abandon their wild side, and as hunters first and foremost, in the wild, they do not drink near their kill for fear of cross-contamination. Yes, we provide them “fresh kill in a can” but according to cat logic, the water bowl is contaminated if it’s right next to his food bowl. Recreate that sense of separation by placing the water bowls in a different location to their food.
  2. Plastic bowls will often get the same treatment no matter how fresh the water. A cat’s sense of smell is far greater than ours and the slightest odor may be offensive to his nose. Plastic often retains odors from ingrained bacteria caught in scratches and perhaps leaves a bad taste in his mouth. For this reason, it’s best to use ceramic or glass. Have you noticed how kitty will insist on drinking from your glass? That makes perfect cat sense!
  3. Water that is not changed regularly. Standing water in a bowl for more than a day is a haven for gremlins to start lurking and your cat knows! Don’t just throw out the water; give the bowl a good wash with a mild soapy solution in hot water and refill. This is where a fountain is wonderful to keep water moving which aerates it, keeping the water fresher for longer.
  4. If you are adding anything to the water such as dental water additives make sure it’s gradual. Some cats may outright reject it, like our cat Charlie. We think that is what happened when we ended up at the 24-hour emergency vet with him due to a urinary blockage. We realized afterward that it could have been the additive in the water which the other cats tolerated but he decided outright it’s not for him. Pay close attention to your cats’ water intake, especially in a multi-cat household, which can be quite challenging to monitor.
  5. Water bowls are too close to the litter box. Need we say more!
  6. Not enough water bowls. This brings us back to their low thirst drive; they simply won’t drink if you don’t provide enough inviting fresh watering stations or watering holes as we like to call them. Like we have rules for an adequate number of litter boxes, there should also be enough water bowls to go around. Cats can be trained to make it a habit of drinking water when they wake from sleep after they have used a litter box, after a snack. Place water bowls near cat beds, near their favorite sun puddles, on lower shelves of your side tables, in the bedroom, in the living room, even in your bathroom if there is enough space. With so many watering stations strategically placed along their pathways, they will automatically develop drinking habits that you can be proud of. 

Cats fed exclusively dry kibble are generally chronically dehydrated and this can make them more prone to illnesses such chronic kidney disease (CKD) or urinary crystals over time. This is why it’s vitally important to nurture good drinking habits from the start. On the other hand, keep a look out for an unusual increase in water consumption and large urine “boulders” in the litter box. This is one of the early warning signs of chronic kidney disease. Take your cat to your vet for a checkup and some blood work.

Why the Chirpies and the humans love the Petsafe Pagoda fountain:

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase when clicking a link I will make a small commission which helps maintain this blog (and the Chirpies’ weekend catnip habit too!) but won’t cost you a cent more! Read my full disclosure.

We are not huge fans of plastic and went on a hunt for a decently priced, stylish ceramic fountain. Not only does this fountain fit all three criteria but it performs that most important function both humans and the Chirpies love and that is keeping the water fresher for longer. The Pagoda fountain continuously recirculates 70 ounces of fresh, filtered water. Replacement carbon filters keep the water fresher for longer, eliminating bad odor build-up. It tastes great for the kitties and the humans are smiling because we don’t have to change the water every day.

In a multi-cat household there is a lot of cleaning, so who needs to spend extra time cleaning complicated parts? Not us! The Pagoda fountain is elegantly simple to assemble and simple to clean. The upper and lower dishes provide 2 drinking areas for pets. It’s very funny to observe which cats prefer the upper tier and which prefer the lower bowl. The overall design makes it easy for cats to approach from any side, thus encouraging more drinking.

Did we mention how quiet this fountain is? The low-voltage 12V system ensures quiet operation, all you can hear is the sweet fresh sound of trickling water, just like a stream in the wild.

All parts are ceramic which makes for a sturdy design. There is no knocking over water glasses. You can try Baggy, but it won’t work! In addition, ceramic beats plastic in the hygienic department too.

cat drinking from ceramic fountain

Sly Pie loves to drink from the Drinkwell Pagoda Petsafe ceramic fountain.

Sly Pie above, drinking at his watering hole with his friends from the wild cheering him on!

Just for some giggles, below is a video of him stealing a slurp from The Big Man Cat’s (cat daddy) glass. This is still something that they love to do, even though they have their own fountains and glasses.

Verdict: The Chirpies have been drinking from this fountain for the past three years and we love the product. Quite simply, we think it’s the bee’s knees and we think your cat will want one too!

What is your watering hole station like? Do your cats love drinking water? Chirp us a line below and let’s talk #pethydration

About the author

The Lady Cat

Whiskers make me smile.
Coffee is good for you.
And cats are for life.
Helping cats live enriched lives with their people.
(Yasaar Nakchbendi)


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