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  • Writer's pictureSue Hartley

You can lead a cat to water ...

Updated: May 9, 2022

Although cats are physiologically designed not to require much fluid intake, it’s still important for all cats to have access to sources of water that are ‘cat friendly’ to help keep them happy and healthy.

An increase in water intake is also helpful in the management of some common medical conditions in cats including feline idiopathic cystitis, urolithiasis, diabetes and chronic kidney disease.

Here are some strategies to help increase your cat’s water intake:

o Offer wet/moist food – having access to wet food as part of their diet is one way to help ensure your cat gets the water intake they need. For cats who prefer dry food, you can try adding some water to the dry food and see if they’re still happy to tuck in.

o Type of water bowls – most cats prefer glass or ceramic. Experiment with your cat by offering different shapes and sizes. Most cats like wide, shallow bowls but some like drinking out of a tall glass or jug.

o Fill to the brim – most cats don’t like to put their head inside the bowl so fill to the brim.

o Multiple bowls – water bowls should be available throughout the home so your cat can access water easily. This is also key in multi-cat households so individual cats can drink alone without competition from other cats in the home. Use the formula of a minimum of 1 bowl per cat plus 1 extra and have bowls on each floor/level of the home.

o Location, location, location – water bowls shouldn’t be next to food bowls, litter trays or in busy locations. Ensure bowls are available in quiet locations where your cat won’t be ambushed or snuck up on by another cat, dog, or child and where there are no household appliances that can startle the cat (e.g. washing machines). Avoid dual bowls designed to have water on one side and food on the other. Bowls should be away from walls so your cat(s) can position themselves anywhere around the bowl where they feel safest.

o Extra opportunities – placing a water bowl in a hallway or on a windowsill where your cat often sits might also encourage them to have a drink when passing by.

o Consider raising the bowl – older cats (age 10 yrs +) often have osteoarthritis which can make bending over to eat or drink uncomfortable. Water and food bowls can be placed on an unturned bowl or box to lift them by a few inches. Alternatively, invest in a specific raised bowl.

o Clean bowls – a daily clean is advisable unless individual preference suggests otherwise, but even then, clean regularly.

o Type of water – try offering collected rainwater, mineral water and tap water and see if your cat has a preference. Put a bowl outside to capture rainwater for your cat to drink from when they’re out and about.

o Room temperature – offer water at room temperature, chilled water tends to be less appealing to cats.

o Offer flavoured waters and broths – examples include the liquid from a defrosted packet of cooked prawns or a drained tin of tuna in spring water (avoid brine or oil). Flavoured waters can be created by poaching chicken or fish in water. The water left over after cooking can be cooled to room temperature and offered as a drink. You can also offer a broth or soup made by liquidising cooked fish or prawns in water (without added salt).

o Offer ice cubes – some cats like licking ice cubes, place some in a bowl or on top of wet food. You can also make tuna ice lollies for your cat as an occasional treat:

o Consider moving water sources – for example, water fountains, a tap left dripping on its own or with a bowl left underneath it, a ping pong ball in a wide shallow bowl for your cat to play with may encourage them to drink.

If you’re ever concerned or unsure about anything to do with your cat’s diet, their nutrition, how much they’re eating or drinking, any changes you’ve noticed (e.g. your cat has started to drink more), get in touch with your vet as it could be a sign that something’s amiss.

The Understood Cat -

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