Dear Ms. Kitty,
My cat wants to drink from my kitchen faucet. I want her to get enough water but don’t want her in the sink and I don’t want to waste precious water. I have a dish with water but don’t see her drink from it very often.
Perplexed in Pueblo
You’re right to want to encourage your kitty to stay hydrated, especially as the summer heats up. Water is vital because it affects everything from organ function and nutrient transportation to circulation and digestion. It also helps decrease the likelihood of infections, urinary stones and helps the kidneys flush out toxins.
Cats evolved from desert dwellers, and therefore have a low thirst drive and would naturally get moisture from their fresh food. If you cat eats a dry food diet, she is most likely chronically dehydrated and should be encouraged to drink.
When cats lap water from a bowl, they curve their tongue into a J-shape and bite off a column of water, which is incredibly inefficient. Research has determined that cats only end up with 3/100 of a teaspoon per lap!
How to Get Your Cat to Drink Water
Choose the Right Water Container: If your cat’s current water bowl is deep and narrow, it may touch her whiskers, which is uncomfortable. Try switching your cat’s water bowl to a wider, shallower dish with a smaller lip to see if she drinks more.
Some cats seem to like drinking from water glasses or mugs. If so, designate one for her and keep it full. Other cats like a raised container that allows them to drink standing upright.
Experiment by providing multiple shapes of water containers and see what she uses. This is an easy way to give your cat choices and let her tell you what she prefers.
Place it in the Right Location: Although it is tempting to stick your cat’s food and water bowls in an out-of-the-way area, cats do not like being boxed into a corner. They prefer locations where they can see their surroundings with a quick glance and do not have to worry about anyone sneaking up behind them.
See if moving her water bowl to a new location helps. They also prefer to have their water away from their food to avoid food particles fouling the water. Those double cat dishes are not a good idea.
Keep it Fresh: Put fresh water in her bowl one to two times a day. The bowl needs to be washed with soap and water daily to prevent a biofilm from forming. Biofilms are the nasty coating that can develop on the surface of the bowl and grow bacteria.
Tap water may have chemicals that smell or taste bad to your cat. Consider providing filtered water.
Try a Cat Water Fountain: Cats love running water and there are many theories why. It may appeal to more of their senses, as they can see it move, hear the sound it makes and even taste a difference. A cat water fountain can make drinking water more exciting and pleasurable for your kitty.
Some cats will drink when they hear moving water so if you do not have a cat fountain, put a bowl near the faucet in the kitchen or bath.
Add Wet Cat Food to Her Diet: Water is not the only way to keep your cat hydrated. If you feed a wet food diet, you are giving her fluid at each meal. You can add warm water or broths to her wet food to give her even more hydration.
Melissa Shandley is one of the founders of Happy Cats Haven, a Cat Behavior Consultant and Cat Care Provider.
Thanks also to to Life After 50 for publishing our monthly Ask Ms Kitty column.