Should a cat's water be away from food?
Cat Food and Hydration

Should a Cat’s Water Be Away from Food?

When a cat will not drink water, it can be a cause of concern. The placement of their food dish will have a major impact on their reluctance to drink. The scents intermingle, and create an aromatic cocktail that doesn’t appeal to felines.

Should a cat’s food and water bowls be kept separate? Keep your cat’s food and water bowls far apart. Cats in the wild will never drink water close to where they hunt and eat prey. As far as your domesticated pet is concerned, the food you provide is a fresh kill. This means that their water bowl must not smell of food.

Proximity to their food is just one of the reasons that cats grow reluctant to drink. Felines are fussy when it comes to water, and always find excuses not to drink. We will explain where you should position their water bowl to boost hydration levels in cats.

Should a Cat’s Food and Water be Kept Separate?

It’s imperative that a cat’s water bowls are kept away from their food. We are using the plural here, as any cat should have multiple water sources.

Cats will never drink water that is positioned too close to their food. This is due to a cat’s survival instincts in the wild. Felines are innately distrustful of most water sources.

This is because wild cats hunt and kill their food. A feline will not always finish their meal, however. If they catch a field mouse, it’s small enough to eat in one sitting. A squirrel, however, may be too substantial for a cat’s tiny stomach.

As a result of this, cats eat and drink in different locations. They are concerned that the remains of their kill will pollute a nearby water source. This means that they’ll avoid drinking from such a position.

This instinct is hardwired into felines – even the domesticated housecat that shares your home. Just because you serve their food from a tin or bag, that doesn’t matter to your cat.

cat stopped drinking water

They still consider any food to be a fresh kill, especially if you offer your cat wet food. The smell will be very strong, and carry into a nearby water bowl.

The same also applies to dry food, too. Remember, cats have substantially stronger noses than humans. According to Cats International, they have 200 million scent receptor cells. Humans have a comparatively measly 5 million.

This means that your cat’s food and water supplies should never be positioned side-by-side. Ideally, they should be on the opposite side of the room. Your cat should also have access to other water sources.

If your home has multiple floors, place at least one water source on each level. You may notice that your cat gravitates to one more than the others. Just keep the water away from their litter boxes. That’s even worse than the food bowl.

If you have been keeping your cat’s food and water together, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t make a sudden change, and remove the water. That will cause your cat stress.

Instead, add a second, third and fourth water source in different locations. Eventually, you can remove the bowl next to their food altogether. Once your cat grows used to drinking elsewhere, they’ll barely even notice.

Why Has My Cat Stopped Drinking Water?

When a cat stops drinking water, it’s a concern. Like all mammals, cats need to drink to stay healthy.

Domesticated felines are descended from desert animals, which means they can last three days without hydrating. Just because a cat can go thirsty, it doesn’t mean they should.

If your cat has suddenly stopped drinking, check the placement of their bowl. If it’s too close to their food or litter, it will deter your pet.

There are many other possible reasons, however. These include:

  • The shape and size of your cat’s water bowl irritate their whiskers.
  • The amount of water of their bowl is inconsistent from day-to-day.
  • Your cat considers their water to be contaminated in some other way.
  • Your cat finds still water in a bowl to be boring.
  • The smell of tap water deters your cat from drinking.

The last of these is the most easily resolved. Your cat’s sensitive nose will detect chemicals, such as chlorine, in tap water. Consider offering your cat bottled water instead, and see if this helps. Alternatively, filter and purify tap water.

What this may not help is the fact that cats consider plain, still water to be dull. Cats like a moving, fresh water source. This is why they often drink from a fish tank, or even drink from the toilet.

The easiest way around this issue is to invest in a water fountain. This will keep a constant, mobile supply of fresh water running. You can turn these on and off as required.

Also, the water will not sit in a bowl and stagnate. This will prevent any unpleasant films forming in the bowl, and ruining the water.

This is the catch-22 of tap water for cats. If it’s fresh from the tap, it smells. If it’s left long enough for those aromas to dissipate, it develops a filmy coating. A fountain resolves all of these issues.

If a water fountain is not an option, try making your cat’s water more appealing. Drizzling the juice from tinned tuna is a way to do this. It won’t work for all cats, though. Remember, felines do not wish to mingle the scents of food and water.

Changing your cat’s water bowl is also comparatively simple. If your cat’s whiskers brush against their dish, it can become painful. As Modern Cat magazine explains, this is known as whisker fatigue.

You could use a lower-sided dish, that doesn’t touch your cat’s muzzle. Cats don’t drink that much at a time anyway. Just be consistent with quantities.

Don’t fill a water dish one day, and leave it half empty the next. This will leave your pet wondering why something has changed.

They’ll then put their paw into the dish to investigate. This contaminates the water in the eyes of your cat. You’re now back to square one. It’s no different to keeping the water bowl too close to your cat’s food source.

What is the Ideal Cat Food Dish Placement?

We have established that your cat’s food and water bowls must be kept separate. This begs the question, however – where should a cat be fed?

Eating is almost a sacred experience for felines. Just because cats are food-focused animals, it doesn’t mean they’ll eat anywhere.

Avoid placing your cat’s food dish in the corner of a room. This is appealing to human sensibilities, as it keeps your cat out of the way.

For a cat, corners are a worrying location. Felines feel very vulnerable when they’re eating. If they’re backed into a corner, they can’t see if somebody or something is approaching. More to the point, they have limited escape routes.

cat food dish placement

Place your cat’s food dish in a quiet room. In theory, the kitchen is the ideal location. That’s where you cook and eat, and it can make your cat feel like part of the family. Most kitchens have wipe-clean floors too, which helps.

 In reality, your cat will struggle to eat when noise and people surround them. It’s very distracting, and they’d much rather eat in peace.

If you can set up a spare room as your cat’s eating station, they’ll appreciate it. Just make it a room that your cat spends time in. If it’s unfamiliar, your pet may be distrustful and uncomfortable.

If your cat seems reluctant to eat, look into where they enjoy spending time. This is especially important if you have multiple pets in the home.

Separate feeding stations are always advisable in such a situation. If one of your cats is dominant, they may bully their way into more food. The same also applies if one pet is a fast eater and another savors their meal.

If your cat seems at their happiest in an elevated position, consider placing their food somewhere high. There will be safety considerations here. A desk, however, may be suitable.

Keep your cat’s food far away from a litter tray. Nothing kills feline appetite faster than the smell of their waste.

Convincing cats to drink can be a challenging experience. Felines are easily deterred from hydrating, with proximity to their food being a conventional explanation.

If you separate your cat’s food and water dishes, you’ll stand a higher chance of success. Choosing the right vessels is just as important. Also, you’ll need to find the appropriate locations.

Once you have done this, your cat will be perfectly content. They’ll eat and drink at will. Just be sure never to change these locations once your cat settles upon them. Changing a winning formula is a surefire way to ruin a cat’s day.