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

Should a Cat’s Water Be Away from Food?

The placement of your cat’s food dish can lead to a reluctance to drink. The scents intermingle and create an aromatic cocktail that doesn’t appeal to feline senses. It should be avoided.

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 her water bowl must not smell of food.

The proximity of water to food is just one of the reasons why 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 the 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 her food bowls. Every 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 her meal, however. If she catches a field mouse, it’s small enough to eat in one sitting. A squirrel may be too substantial for a cat’s tiny stomach.

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, including the domesticated housecat that shares your home. Just because you serve her food from a tin or bag, that doesn’t matter to your cat.

cat stopped drinking water

She still considers 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. Remember, cats have a stronger sense of smell than humans. According to Cats International, cats have 200 million scent receptor cells. Humans have 5 million.

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 her 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 her food altogether. Once your cat grows used to drinking elsewhere, she’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 she should.

If your cat has suddenly stopped drinking, check the placement of her bowl. If it’s too close to her food or litter, it will deter your pet. There are other possible reasons, including:

  • The shape and size of your cat’s water bowl irritate her whiskers
  • The amount of water in her bowl is inconsistent each day
  • Your cat considers her 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 drink from toilets.

The easiest way around this issue is to invest in a water fountain. This will keep a constant supply of fresh, running water. 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 from 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 one way to achieve 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 her dish, it can become painful. Modern Cat magazine states that this is called 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.

She’ll then put her paws into the dish to investigate. This contaminates the water in the eyes of your cat. 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?

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

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

For a cat, corners are a worrying location. Your cat will feel vulnerable when she’s eating. If she’s backed into a corner, she can’t see if somebody or something is approaching. More to the point, she has 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 distracting, and she’d much rather eat in peace.

If you can set up a spare room as your cat’s eating station, she’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 she enjoys spending time. This is especially important if you have multiple pets in the home.

Separate feeding stations are always advisable. If one of your cats is dominant, she may bully her way into more food. The same also applies if one cat is a fast eater and another savors her meal.

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

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

Convincing cats to drink can be challenging. Felines are easily deterred from hydrating, with proximity to their food being the most common 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 crucial. Also, you’ll need to find the appropriate locations.

Once you have done this, your cat will be perfectly content. She’ll eat and drink at will. Just be sure never to change these locations once they are accepted by your cat.