Keeping your cat hydrated can sometimes be a tricky task. Thankfully, there are things that you can do to ‘encourage’ your cat to take in fluids and avoid related health concerns.
Cats do not require a lot of water to survive. This can pose a considerable problem for a pet owner given that there is a fine line between sufficient consumption and dehydration. If your cat begins to shy away from its water bowl, it may not be long before negative symptoms start to arise.
While refusing to drink appears to be an issue that can be rectified quickly, some cats can be really stubborn if you try to force them to do something that they don’t want to do. Just placing water in a bowl can be a fool’s errand if your cat has decided that this routine no longer interests them.
Importance of Hydration for Cats
A consistent water intake is fundamental to your cat’s survival.
Making up roughly 80% of your feline’s body, even a small decrease in intake can considerably impact your cat’s health. It can also open the door to a host of serious medical concerns.
Why is My Cat Not Drinking Water?
Cats have an ability to conserve water. Unlike humans and many other animals, they actually require a surprisingly small amount of water to survive. Most domestic cats do not have a high desire to drink. In truth, most cats do not even think about water most of the time.
While healthy domestic cats can drink limited water and still urinate regularly, it can become a problem if a cat refuses water and food entirely. Cats, for a host of reasons, can become utterly disinterested by water.
How Reduced Water Consumption Affects Cats
When it reaches a crisis point, cats will display many of the same symptoms that are common in people.
An inadequate intake of water can result in dehydration, kidney disease, lower urinary tract infection, and disease. While these conditions can be treated, you need to avoid letting it reach that stage.
When the loss of fluid within a cat’s body becomes too great, dehydration can be the result. Sodium, potassium, chloride, and electrolytes also become absent when water intake comes to a halt. This can cause your cat’s system to falter, and healthy body function begins to break down.
Although dehydration is often a symptom of a critical condition, dehydration caused by a deliberate refusal to drink enough water makes the situation clearer cut. Rehydration, replacing both water and electrolytes, is a crucial part of treatment once dehydration has been medically diagnosed.
- One of the signs of dehydration is a stark change in your cat’s skin. If you slightly pinch the skin of a cat, it will immediately return to its normal state upon being released. However, dehydration causes the skin to return to its normal position more slowly. It’s almost like watching a crumpled paper bag slowly attempt to regain its shape.
If an area of your cat’s skin refuses to return to its normal state, the condition could have severe consequences. You should contact your veterinarian immediately.
Other symptoms of dehydration may include…
- A refusal to eat
- No energy and mentally zoned out
- Dry and pasty gums
The above symptoms, especially if all are exhibited, will confirm the diagnosis of dehydration. Blood tests can also be performed to verify if any continued doubts exist.
During these tests, other issues may be confirmed. Water refusal can lead to dehydration, but dehydration can trigger other health problems. Not drinking enough can often have a domino effect.
Treatment plans include…
- Fluids under the skin
- Hospitalization (fluids are given intravenously for 24-28 hours)
- Treatment for the underlying cause
Severe dehydration can potentially result in kidney disease. Without the appropriate water intake, the kidneys will quickly become unable to flush out toxins.
Although feline kidney disease, especially in senior cats, can become a significant issue on its own, a refusal to drink water can lead to additional complications.
Several common symptoms…
- A decrease or the loss of appetite
- Drastic weight loss
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Change in water consumption
- Bad breath
- Cloudy urine (Bloody in extreme cases)
- Refusal to use a litter box
- Staggered gait (Drunk walk)
Urinary Tract Infection
When water intake grinds to a halt, it is common for the urinary tract to become infected and no longer function properly.
Reduction of urine production or the inability to urinate at all are the core symptoms. When nothing is going in nothing will come out of your cat. This can be uncomfortable. Lethargy, vomiting, and crying out in pain can be the outcome of this medical complication.
Fluid therapy and antibiotics are two of the best treatments available. Your veterinarian will determine the right treatment based on his expert opinion of the severity of the infection.
How to Keep Your Cat Hydrated
The key to keeping your cat hydrated is to make drinking water more fun. Convincing your cat to drink when liquid is disguised in some way or mixed with food is a really enjoyable experience for cats.
It is similar to the way that pet owners have to hide medications and pills in cat food.
Fresh Water and Clean Bowl
Adding water to a bowl when the contents become low should be avoided. They will know that new water has been added to stale water due to their heightened senses.
It is sensible to clean the bowl (thoroughly) and fill it with fresh (cooling) water.
In the same way that you would never consume room temperature water out of a dirty cup, your cat will often avoid the same scenario.
- Avoid using plastic bowls whenever possible! Serving from plastic containers can release chemicals that can enter the water. Additionally, plastic bowls can also become a nesting area for bacteria. Stainless steel and ceramic bowls are much easier to thoroughly clean.
Modified Serving Techniques
By placing water in different locations around your home, your cat’s curiosity will compel it to drink. Making hydration a game can change your cat’s outlook.
Many cats have a fascination with water. They are often childlike in that regard. By leaving water in a unique location, some cats will find it difficult to resist the urge to check things out. This curiosity may lead them to have a drink in the strangest of places.
If your cat feels as though they have stumbled upon an original source of water, your days of forcing your cat to drink could be over. Stale water sitting in a bowl is not attractive. Water sitting in a random saucer in the laundry room likely deserves a closer inspection by your cat.
Cat Fountain or Flowing Water Bowl
Many cats refuse to drink water because it presents no intrigue.
Felines, by nature, are drawn to things that capture their attention. They are curious creatures. The introduction of a fountain or flowing water bowl can be the perfect solution for a cat that refuses to drink from its bowl.
Your cat will be attracted to the constant movement of a clean stream. Complete with water filters, cat fountains often provide fresher water compared to a tap.
Serving your feline canned food on a daily basis is one of the simplest ways to improve their level of hydration. Containing a high concentration of water, your cat can receive plenty of much-needed liquids while enjoying their favorite meats.
Consider adding extra water to the food. Just a bit of water (or broth) can increase hydration. If consumed every day of the week, your cat’s liquid intake will dramatically increase.
Add Flavor to Water
If the taste of regular water is a turn-off for your cat then consider introducing flavor.
Mixing tuna juice (low sodium) into your cat’s water can change the flavor just enough to make it different. Cats will latch on to something new until it wears out its welcome.
It does not take much to turn something old and tired into something new and exciting. Cats are quick to notice the subtlest changes. Altering the water can introduce a new desire to hydrate.
- Dr. Patrick Mahaney, VMD suggests the use of tuna-water cubes as a creative alternative. Cubes that are made by taking a can of tuna puree (with water) and blending them together before freezing the mixture to form cubes.
Bottled or Filtered Water
Giving your cat water from a bottle can be a complete change of pace. If you are concerned that the bland taste of tap water is the reason your cat has stopped drinking, changing the source could help.
Another way to get rid of the tap taste is to use a filtering system. If you consume water through a filtration process, consider giving them some of the good stuff. If your cat thinks they are being rewarded with something special, they will likely keep coming back for more of it.
Consider alternating between bottled and filtered water. Just as an alternative, it would be wise to reintroduce tap from time-to-time. This can help with finicky felines.
Frequent Small Wet Meals
Because cats are far more likely to entertain food over a drink, supplying your cat with light meals of canned food can keep your cat hydrated during the day.
Cats can turn down water, but they are less likely to refuse food that tastes good. If you find quality wet cat food, then you should make the most of it. Hydrating a cat through feeding is the optimal combo.
Although ice cubes will not change the taste of water, they can provide entertainment. Bringing something different to the table is the key.
If your cat spots something unusual, it may become intrigued. Spending a few minutes pushing a cube of ice around a bowl can lead to licking the cube and the water it is sitting in.
If you have tried many ways to hydrate your cat with no luck, perhaps prepare a “happy accident” along the way. While making a mess of things is not wise, introducing a small puddle of water in a safe location of your home can get your cat’s attention.
Water in a bowl is old. However, water in a random area without barriers is an entirely new visual.
Place Bowls Around the House
If your cat finds water around every turn then odds of consumption increase. By placing fresh water at various high traffic areas, your feline will eventually (over the course of the day) be more inclined to stop and take an interest. The more opportunities, the higher the likelihood of this happening.
Cats that refuse to drink are also refusing to use their water station. However, by providing numerous water stations around your home, you will get your cat’s attention.
How Much Water Does a Cat Need Per Day?
The amount of water your cat needs per day depends on many factors…
- Hot or cold season
- Diet composition (Does your cat eat more wet or dry food?)
- Does your cat have any known health conditions?
On average, a cat will need 2-4 ounces of fresh water per day. This is in addition to its diet. Some cats naturally consume far more than the average if they enjoy wet food more than dry food.
- The average dry food can still hold as much as 10% water.
Cats who eat more dry food tend to drink more water. Logic suggests that this is due to thirst. One strategy that some cat owners may wish to apply is the thirst-provoking diet in the short-term.
Provide your cat with dry food (and plenty of available water) as a means to coax them to drink. Cats can deny water, but they will likely choose to accept it if their thirst needs to be quenched.
How to Encourage a Sick Cat to Drink Water?
Unless your cat is in dire need of emergency care, many of the same options will apply.
If your cat still has a healthy appetite, your immediate call to action would be to prepare wet food and manually increase the water content of the food.
Is Milk Bad for a Cat?
Milk and dairy products are bad for cats because most cats are lactose intolerant. Not equipped with the necessary enzymes required to digest lactose properly, cats can become sick.
Symptoms can include stomach pain, cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. This is the result of undigested lactose residing within the intestines rather than passing into the bloodstream.
This unfortunate process is similar to humans who are lactose intolerant.
Points of note…
- Not every cat is lactose intolerant. Some cats can accept milk without issue. However, there is no accurate way to tell without giving your cat milk and risking sickness. It is best to steer clear if you are not sure and avoid entirely if your feline has had a rough experience in the past.
- While lactose-free milk is a safe alternative that can be found in most pet stores, the best course of action is to continue to provide fresh water for your cat. While the notion of “water only” may not sound too pleasing to humans, cats are not internally equipped to accommodate a variety of liquids.
Cats are attracted to things that move and draw their visual attention. A new bowl or water fountain can change everything in an instant. The water that your feline stopped caring about is now desirable.
When it comes to hydration, it is all about the wrapping. How is it being packaged? Is the presentation appealing? Your cat will be interested if water suddenly becomes interesting. Think outside of the box.