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 if it’s accompanied by a drop in energy or reduced appetite.
If you try these tricks and still can’t get your cat to drink, or if his water aversion is accompanied by other worrying symptoms, see a vet immediately.
5 Clever Tricks to Get Your Cat to Drink Water
1. Try Flavored Water
It’s a trick that works on both 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 figure out the optimal water-to-flavoring ratio for your cat. 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 by using ice cubes made from tuna juice or chicken broth.
Just get an ice cube tray and fill it 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 a little extra moisture into the kibble and your cat will enjoy licking it in between bites of food.
4. Create More Drinking Stations
If your cat turns his nose up at his water bowl, location may be to blame. 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 that 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 and creates an appealing sound that may prompt your cat to drink more often. You can also try turning your kitchen or bathroom faucet on just 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!
"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett