Does your cat drink a healthy amount of water?

Cats and the Health Benefits of Drinking more Water

Go back 20 or 30 years most cat guardians fed wet food and it was unusual to see a cat drink. But in these days when dry kibble is so popular, it’s normal to see a cat with their nose in a water bowl.

What’s intriguing is that only now are we recognizing the link between drinking enough water and a healthy cat.  From kidney disease to bladder problems, the key to good health is drinking plenty of water.

To prove the point, one study looking at cats with regular episodes of bladder discomfort came to a striking conclusion. The researchers indexed all the variables, searching for the magic key to decrease the frequency of such episodes. The results came in that more than feeding a prescription diet, more than medication; the single most helpful factor was increasing the amount of water each cat drank.

If this has ‘wetted’ your appetite to know more, read on to learn all about the importance of water and how you can encourage your cat to drink more.


Drinking Habits and Cat Ancestry

The cat now curled on your couch is descended from felines who roamed the desert. The latest research points to your cat’s relatives being some 70,000 to 100,000 years old, originating the arid deserts of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries. Around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, our distant ancestors settled down to farm the land, and hit on the idea of keeping cats to protect crops from vermin.

Those desert-dwelling cats lived off a diet of small rodents. Their digestive system adapted to their lifestyle in two important ways. Firstly, they became ‘obligate carnivores’, meaning their all meat diet provided all the nutrition they needed. Secondly, their kidneys became so efficient that the body tissue of their prey provided all the water they needed.

It is this second adaptation, to conserve water, which means that healthy cats on a canned food diet rarely seem to drink.


Modern Lifestyle and Water Intake

Skip forward 70,000 years to homes, hearths, and the modern cat.

It’s common to feed out feline friends on dry biscuits, which contain a fraction of the water of moist diets. This means the cat no longer gets the water they need from food, and must learn to drink water.

This is harder than it sounds, because cats struggle poor to recognize when they’re thirsty (thanks to millennia adapting to desert life).

Whilst a healthy cat will do just fine, those with problems such as diabetes, kidney disease, or bladder issues need encouragement to drink more in order to flush toxins from their system.

So how do you get a cat to drink?

You have to get cunning, that’s how!


How Much Should my Cat Drink?

A back of an envelope calculation as to how much a cat should drink a day is:

  • 30 – 50ml per each kg body weight

Thus a 5 kg cat should drink around 150 – 250 ml of water.

If you think about it, canned food is around 80% water. Thus, feeding 250g of wet food provides around 200ml of water, in otherwise most of your cat’s daily allowance. Contrast this with a cat on dry kibble with is only 8 – 10% water! The result is a thirsty cat that doesn’t realize they are thirsty…

Now add in factors such as ill health. For example, cats with kidney disease are less able to ‘hold onto’ water because their kidneys can’t reclaim it from their blood. These cats are constantly at risk of dehydration, and need to drink plenty just to stand still.


Signs of Dehydration

Many older cats live in a constant state of mild dehydration. This is bad for their health as toxins to build up in the bloodstream. Thus, even the cat that drinks some of the time remains at risk of dehydration.

How do you tell if your cat is dehydrated?

General signs of dehydration include dull fur and in extreme cases, sunken eyes. Also, if you touch their gums these feel dry, rather than moist.

A vet tests for dehydration by lifting the cat’s scruff and letting it go. How quickly the skin pings back into place is a measure of how hydrated they are. This is simple to do at home and gives you vital information. All you need to know is the skin should snap straight back into place. If you can watch the skin slowly sink back over the shoulders, then the cat is dehydrated.


How can I Encourage her to Drink More?

When it comes to cats, especially older cats with health problems, encouraging them to drink will benefit their health. To do this you need to think like a cat and get sneaky when it comes to making them drink.

Here are some suggestions how:

  • Feed wet food rather than dry: Common sense dictates the cat automatically takes in more water.
  • Add water to the wet food: Boost the moisture levels by adding more fluid.
  • Provide plenty of water bowls: For the older cat with stiff joints place a water bowl in each room. That way she doesn’t have to walk far to get water, and so is more likely to drink
  • Use large dog bowls rather than cat bowls: Cat drink more from a bowl the size of a dinner plate. Opinion is divided as to why. Some say it’s because cats like seeing their reflection, others that they don’t like their whiskers touching the side of the bowl. Whatever the explanation, bigger is better when it comes to drinking.
  • Avoid tap water: Some cats object to the chemicals present in tap water and avoid it. They are more likely to drink when offered filtered water or mineral water
  • Provide running water: In the wild cats like to drink from slow moving streams. Many cats have a fascination with flowing water such as dripping taps, and you can feed into this desire to drink from drips by providing a cat water fountain.
  • Move the water bowl away from the food bowl: Cats prefer not to have their water bowl sited immediately beside their food bowl, but within sight of each other. Thus, ditch those double-diner bowls, and invest in two separate dishes, that you place a short distance away from each other.

So there we have it. A quick splash through the importance of drinking plenty of water to cats. What changes can you make to encourage your cat to drink more?