Like all living things, cats need water, but many kitties just don’t seem interested in staying hydrated. When leaving a bowl out isn’t enough, how do you get your cat to drink water?
Cats that don’t drink enough water are at risk of dehydration, which can lead to weakness, kidney problems, mood changes and even death. But cats don’t seem to fully comprehend this — or if they do, they don’t care enough to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to make water more appealing to your cat. These creative tricks will help you add moisture to your cat’s diet and keep him properly hydrated.
A Word of Caution: Don’t Ignore Dehydration
In some cases, refusal to drink water can be a sign that something’s seriously wrong with your cat. This is especially true if your cat suddenly refuses water or is accompanied by a drop in energy or reduced appetite.
See a vet immediately if you try these tricks and still can’t get your cat to drink, or if other worrying symptoms accompany his water aversion.
5 Clever Tricks to Get Your Cat to Drink Water
1. Try Flavored Water
It’s a trick that works on humans and cats: if plain water isn’t appealing enough, try adding a splash of flavor and watch it get gulped down lickety-split!
Though we usually flavor our water with mint or fruit, cats prefer more savory additives. So break out those meaty liquids: low-sodium chicken or beef broth, clam juice, and tuna juice are all great options.
You’ll need to experiment to determine your cat’s optimal water-to-flavoring ratio. Some cats need just a few drops in their bowl to go wild, while more finicky cats may need stronger flavors to acknowledge their thirst.
2. Switch to Wet Food
If your cat hunted his own food, his dinner would have a moisture content of around 70%. That’s the average amount of water in a prey animal’s body — and the optimal amount of moisture in your cat’s food.
But dry cat food contains just 5-10% moisture. Cats that eat exclusively dry food are more likely to be dehydrated, as they’re just not wired to drink enough water to compensate for the lack of moisture in their food.
Wet cat food, on the other hand, usually contains at least 70% moisture. That’s on par or better than the prey your cat would catch in the wild.
So if your cat is open to a new diet, switching from dry food to wet food will essentially trick him into drinking more water. He’ll just be drinking it while he eats — how’s that for efficiency?
3. Add Meaty Ice Cubes to Your Cat’s Food
Maybe your cat won’t eat canned food, or maybe he’s on a prescription dry food diet for a medical issue. If that’s the case, you can still add water to his food using ice cubes made from tuna juice or chicken broth.
Just fill an ice cube tray with your cat’s favorite meaty liquid. Smaller cubes or balls are best, but if you don’t have an appropriate tray, use a normal one and fill the compartments only partway up.
Make sure to label the tray so you don’t accidentally toss a chicken broth cube into your morning smoothie or lemonade pitcher!
Then, when dinnertime rolls around, put one of the cubes into your cat’s food bowl, add the kibble and mix it up a bit. The cube will impart extra moisture into the kibble, and your cat will enjoy licking it between bites of food.
4. Create More Drinking Stations
The location may be to blame if your cat turns his nose up at his water bowl. Many cats won’t drink from bowls that are next to their food or litter boxes.
And if your cat is lazy, he may not be willing to walk all the way across the house to get a drink, even if he knows he should.
So rather than relying on a single water bowl, place many bowls around the house. Try putting them on the floor, under tables, in different rooms, on the cat tree, or on furniture your cat is allowed onto.
5. Ditch the Drinking Bowls
Many cats prefer moving water to stagnant water. It’s a holdover from their wild days when flowing river water was more likely to be safe than water from a puddle or pond.
An electric water fountain keeps your cat’s water circulating, creating an appealing sound that may prompt your cat to drink more often. You can also try turning your kitchen or bathroom faucet on slightly so your cat can drink the dripping water drop by drop.
Some cats even enjoy drinking from rabbit-style bottles, which dispense water via gravity when the bead in the nozzle is pushed up. In this case, it’s not just the flow that’s important for the cat — it’s the fun of manipulating the ball with his tongue.
Try introducing your cat to a few new water vessels and see if they inspire him to drink up!
10 Tips to Help Your Cat Drink Water (Video)
1. How can I encourage my cat to drink more water?
To encourage your cat to drink more water, try adding a splash of flavor to their water with low-sodium chicken or beef broth, clam juice, or tuna juice. You can also switch to wet food, as it contains more moisture than dry food. Creating multiple drinking stations around the house or using a water fountain to provide moving water can encourage your cat to drink more.
2. What are the signs of dehydration in a cat?
Signs of dehydration in a cat include weakness, kidney problems, mood changes, and reduced appetite. If your cat suddenly refuses water, has a drop in energy, or has a reduced appetite, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian immediately, as refusal to drink water may indicate a severe issue.
3. Can I add ice cubes to my cat’s food to increase water intake?
Yes, you can add ice cubes made from tuna juice or chicken broth to your cat’s food to increase their water intake. This can be especially helpful if your cat is on a prescription dry food diet for a medical issue. Just fill an ice cube tray with your cat’s favorite meaty liquid, then mix a cube into their kibble at mealtime to add extra moisture.
4. How many water bowls should I provide for my cat?
Instead of relying on a single water bowl, place multiple bowls around the house to encourage your cat to drink more. Try different locations on the floor, under tables, in various rooms, on cat trees, or on allowed furniture. This will increase the chances of your cat drinking water by making it more accessible and convenient.
5. Are there alternative drinking vessels that my cat might prefer?
Some cats prefer moving water to stagnant water, so an electric water fountain can be appealing. You can also try turning on a faucet slightly to allow your cat to drink the dripping water. Another alternative is a rabbit-style bottle that dispenses water via gravity when the bead in the nozzle is pushed up. Experiment with these different vessels to find which one your cat prefers.
"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett