Giving Your Cat Clean and Fresh Water


Water is essential to all living things, and the cat is no exception to this rule. Like most mammals, a cat's body is composed of 2/3 water. Water is critical to every system in the body. This includes the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, digestion and energy metabolism, and kidney function. Without sufficient water, dehydration and eventually death will result.

How Much Should My Cat Drink?

To understand your cat's water needs, let's review some basic biology. Your cat's distant ancestors were desert dwellers. They got most of their water from their prey, birds and small mammals, which are also composed of 2/3 water. There was little or no need to drink water on the side.

Fast-forward to today's house cat, eating commercial cat food. Canned or "wet" food contains a high percentage of water, similar to a cat's ancestral diet. If the mainstay of a cat's diet is wet food, the cat will naturally drink less water, perhaps only 1-2 ounces daily. In fact, you may rarely see her drink at all. Dry food, on the other hand, contains only about ten percent water. If a cat eats all or mostly dry food, he or she must drink more, several ounces of water a day, to meet dietary requirements.

Several factors, including environment, age, and health status, may increase your cat's water needs. Hot weather or exercise can make a cat thirstier. Certain health conditions, such as kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes, deplete the body's fluid stores and will sharply increase a cat's need for water.

Here are some ways to tell that your cat's water intake is on target. For specific guidelines tailored to your individual pet, please consult your veterinarian:

You Can Lead a Cat to Water . . .

. . . but making her drink can be a challenge! Your veterinarian may have specifically recommended that your cat drink more water because of a history of urinary problems or other medical issues. But research shows that even healthy cats can fall short on their daily water intake when fed only dry food. Why? One explanation is that, since cats get the vast majority of their water from their prey when in the wild, they're not genetically predisposed to be big drinkers; the signals in their brains that say "I'm thirsty" may not compel them to drink enough water to make up for what they're not getting in their food. Also, unlike dogs, cats are inefficient drinkers; it may require lots of lapping to take in enough water. Feeding your cat an all-dry diet, in effect, places a burden on your cat to drink much more than normal each day.

If your cat does not take in enough water on a daily basis, he may develop chronic low-grade dehydration and an increased risk of bladder problems. For example, insufficient water intake may contribute to the formation of painful crystals and even life-threatening blockage in the urinary tract. Cats require sufficient water (and subsequently urine) flowing through their systems to wash away solids before they have time to accumulate and become an issue.

Tips for Coaxing Your Cat to Drink More

Here are some ways to get more fluid into your cat:

You May Also Like These Articles:

Urinary System Blockage in Cats

Should You Get Your Cat a Water Fountain?

Should Cats Get Tap or Filtered Water?

Why Do Cats Hate Water?

Dehydration in Cats: How Can You Tell If a Cat Is Dehydrated?

Kidney Disease in Cats

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) in Cats

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