Cats have a funny relationship with water. Have you noticed that cats do not drink much water at all? As with any feline habit in question, the first thing we will want to do is examine water’s role in feline genetic history. How did wild cats get their water? What sorts of drinking habits did they develop? When we observe ancestral felines in the wild, we will note that ancient cats had a very unique way of deriving moisture for survival.

The origin of the feline species is first noted in the ancient deserts of Africa. Water was sparse. Ancient cats learned to kill their prey and derive moisture from their bodies which were approximately 75% water. This was usually adequate moisture to keep the animals alive and well in the heat of the African desert land.

What does this mean for modern day felines? All this is to say that drinking water has become a learned behaviour in companion cats. This means that their genetic wiring lacks the desire to drink water on its own. Drinking water has become a behaviour that has been a learned practice that has come along with the feline species’ migration out of Africa and into Asia where tigers drink from streams as they catch fish. Following, wild cats came through the North American wild where streams and lakes are plenty. Despite the migration and evolution of cats and water, drinking water is still second nature for companion cats.

Aside from the genetic lineage of cats, there is a very pressing need for cat caregivers to ensure that their cats are drinking sufficient water. Many store-bought cat foods will inhibit moisture retention and cause havoc with the body’s water systems. Particularly dry food (kibble) can strip the body of almost all moisture. Because dry food is dehydrated and devoid of any moisture at all, in order for cats to process the dry food through their gastrointestinal systems, the dry food will draw water from all of the body’s vital organs so it can pass through the body to become metabolized and then eliminated. With prolonged and repeated exposure to this type of digestive process, the body’s vital organs become abused and depleted of water and energy. In the longer term, this is where early stage kidney failure begins.

Dry food also heavily increases the probability of constipation. Gastrointestinal systems devoid of water cause a build up of waste in the intestinal tract and prevent cats (and all other mammals) from a proper removal of waste through the bowel. In some cases, if the waste build up is full of toxins from low quality or malnourished foods, in addition to constipation we run the risk of causing inflammatory bowel disease, IBS, blood in the stool and other painful intestinal trauma.

Every companion cat needs at least a 90% wet food diet. Wet (canned) food is engineered to contain enough moisture for a healthy cat to live well. Even the lower quality grain free (for more information on why your cat’s diet should be grain free read: ) wet foods are infinitely better for our feline friends’ vital organs than high quality dry food. This is never to say that anyone should opt for lower quality anything when it comes to feeding our furry friends. However, if we are going to want a longer and healthier life for our kitty companions, wet food is unequivocally the best way to get there.

That said, cats still require a large enough volume of daily water to flush out their organs of toxins. Toxins are present in any environment, whether airborne, in food (any and all processed foods have toxins), outdoors- pretty much anywhere. Whatever the origin, the gall bladder and the liver have to work overtime to process the toxins and get them ready to be eliminated in the urine or stool. Clean water can help the process by aiding to flush out the liver, gall bladder and intestines. Of course, water is vital in terms of hydrating the kidneys so that they can relieve the body of its toxins. Drinking water can impede the kidney failure process that comes along with consuming dry food or low quality grain-based wet food.

Most cat caregivers have likely noticed that cats can be fairly reluctant to drink water. This is because, as many of us are aware, cats are finicky creatures. Though cats are infamous for doing what they want when they want to do it, we as caregivers must take a stand to ensure that they are adequately hydrated. For those who may yet be unaware, here are eight ways to help our feline friends stay hydrated:

1)    LOCATION– believe it or not, the location in your home in which you place your cat’s water bowl is likely the most significant reason why your cat may not be drinking. Again, in examination of the genetic lineage of the feline species, cats would never do their “kill” by a water source for fear of contamination of the water. Cats would kill their prey far enough away from the water to keep it clean. Translating to your home, by placing your cat’s water bowl beside her food, she may not be inclined to drink it due to the aforementioned genetic link. By placing her water bowl in another corner of the kitchen or feeding area, you may find that she is more inspired to drink.
Additionally, by choosing to place more than one water bowl around your home, your cat with appreciate that you are letting her (or him) be in “control” of the situation in terms of choosing where she or he wants to have a drink.

2)    WATER FOUNTAIN– Because some cats have difficulty with depth-perception, they are often confused by how much or how little water is in the water bowl. This will often cause them to put a paw in the water to gauge its depth. Once they have put their paw in, they may be reluctant to drink it because it has become contaminated. By creating a stream of water for your cat, s/he will always be able to see the running water and be comfortable with drinking it. In addition, if your cat is one who likes to ‘play’ with water, such as drinking from the water tap, shower or alternative sources to bowls, investing in a kitty water fountain will mirror this activity.

3)    SIZE AND SHAPE OF BOWL– As finicky as they may be, some cats take issue with the size and shape of their water bowl. Many cats will avoid drinking from a water bowl in which their whiskers do not fit. This is because the width of the cats whiskers let the cat know what he or she can and cannot fit into. Thus, if a drinking bowl compromises a cat’s whisker measurement, instinctively s/he will turn away from it. For their comfort, the size and shape of your cat’s water bowl should be in alignment with the size and shape of his head and whiskers.

4)    TYPE OF BOWL– many cats prefer metal or glass to plastic. This is because plastic water bowls tend to hold onto bacteria and germs that cause pimples around the cat’s mouth. Many cat caregivers fail to realize how easily plastic can amalgamate dirt and particulate matter. Cats are a genetically very clean species. Any human interference with that is not acceptable!

5)    BOWL CLEANLINESS– Many companion animal caregivers fail to realize the importance of a daily practice of cleaning out their animal’s water bowl. Cats are sensitive to the bacteria that can be found at the bottom of their water bowl should their people neglect to wipe out the bowl after they dump out the old water and before refilling it with new. According to your cat, washing the bowl before every use is the best way to entice him to drink.

6)    CLEAN, FRESH WATER– Cats prefer daily fresh, clean water. Some cats will drink day old water, however all cats will prefer fresh water every day. It is important to be mindful of what type of water we are feeding our kitty friends. Note that tap water is full of heavy metals and toxins that infiltrate the water systems and bloodstreams of your cat. While cats may not notice a difference when the water is fresh, finding the cleanest water source possible is always the best way to keep our cats healthy and living well for longer.

7)    PROXIMITY TO LITTER BOX– As per the earlier notation about contamination of water, cats will not appreciate having their water (or food) bowl close to their litter boxes. After all, would you poop where you drink or eat? For those living in smaller homes or apartments, take moment to be mindful of how far you from your cat’s bathroom you have placed their food and water. Be mindful that fecal germs can travel fairly far and your cat may be uncomfortable with the proximity between her bathroom and her water (and food) bowl.

8)    VULNERABILITY WHILE DRINKING– Especially for cats who are new to your home, placing their drinking bowls against a wall away from the room’s entrance way could be a deterrent. This is because while a cat is drinking (or eating or bathing), she is in a vulnerable position. A cat may feel threatened if, while drinking, she cannot see whether or not anyone is approaching her from behind. Genetically linked to this concept, if a cat in the wild cannot see if anyone (a predator) is approaching, she runs the risk of a surprise attack. Cats do not like surprises. This is why it’s best for you to place her drinking bowl in such a way that she can see the entrance ways to the room. Cats are most comfortable with their backs against the wall.

There are innumerable reasons why cats are so particular about their drinking experience. The above are 8 of many ways to remedy this. The underlying message is that companion cats need to drink far more water than most people are aware of. By guaranteeing that our cats drink clean, fresh water daily, we are on the road to keeping their inner organs healthier and giving them a better quality of life!



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