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The Importance of Drinking Water for Cats

Cats have descended from their African desert-dweller Felis sylvestris lybica (the African wildcat) and have adapted to a dryer environment. 

In the wild, the cat eats food with high water content such as mice and this delivers the majority of its water. 

Our companion cats are very close to their wild ancestors in terms of behaviour and are not very good at drinking water. 

By paying attention how cats naturally eat and drink, owners can significantly decrease dehydration and reduce stress

Pet cats are often fed foods low in water content, less water can be a risk factor for medical conditions such as obesity and lower urinary tract disease.

When you understand your cat’s natural drinking behaviour, it can help ensure your cat gets adequate water.

How to Encourage your Cat to Drink Water

#1. Type of Water Bowls

  • Avoid materials such as plastic, which can taint the water.
  • Use glass, metal or ceramic containers. 
  • Choose a bowl from which your cat will want to drink by experimenting with various types of dishes. 
  • Provide the water in a large wide container which enables the cat to lap from the edge. 
  • Some cats like drinking from glasses (choose a non-breakable one if placing on a high surface).
  • Most cats prefer a wide shallow bowl so they don’t need to put their head inside the container. Cats don’t usually like their whiskers touching the side of their water or food bowl – the broader the better. 
  • Certain cats don’t like the reflection of metal bowls, they will avoid it at all cost! 
  • Stay away from double bowls where one side for water and the other for food. 

#2. Quantity of Water Bowls / Stations

✔️ Have several water bowls or stations to ensure your cat does not need to go far to find a container (i.e. each level of your home or in several rooms).
✔️  In multi-cat households: multiple water bowls that allow cats to drink alone are important.

#3. Water Placement 

Water consumption takes place at different times to feeding and in separate locations to where cats consume food.

✔️ To encourage cats to drink, water should be placed away from food areas

✔️ Never place food or water adjacent to the litter tray
✔️ Water should be positioned in a quiet location – away from doors that are heavily used or busy traffic places.
✔️ In multi-cat households cats are unlikely to override social tension to get to water (place multiple dishes in separate areas that can’t be blocked by another cat).
✔️ Water stations should be placed in an easily accessible area.
✔️ Being a desert dweller, cats are ‘wired’ to drink when the opportunity arises: by placing a water bowl in the hallway or on the window sill (where the cat often sits) might make them take a lick every time they pass.

#4. Different Types of Water Supplies and Tasty Liquids

Free flowing water is often more attractive to cats than water in a bowl. This relates to a natural instinct to avoid still water which may be stagnant.
  • Placing a bowl under a dripping tap is also beneficial. 

  • Running water or cat drinking fountains can offer convenient ways to provide moving water as well supply fresh and non-stagnant water as in nature. 
  • A shower tray or leaving a little water at the bottom of the sink/bath with a small amount of water in it is also valuable. 
  • Placing a ping pong or small ball inside a large bowl full of water will stimulate drinking as well as help to create movement of the water which numerous cats like
  • Many cats don’t like heavily fluorinated water, try collecting rainwater from containers placed in your balcony or garden. 
  • Lots of cats prefer to drink from puddles and water sources in the garden. 

  • You can try mineral water if your cat likes it. 
  • Consider other liquids such as water left after poaching fish or a piece of chicken. Prawns, fish or meat liquidised in water that has a soup like consistency. 
  • You can also try liquid from a can of tuna in spring water, avoid brine since it contains a lot of salt. 
  • For some cats adding a cube of frozen flavoured liquid to their normal bowl of water will encourage drinking. 
  • Avoid milk, salty liquids and anything containing onions such as stock (onions are poisonous to cats)! 

When to Encourage your Cat to Take in more Fluids

✔️ Cats with kidney disease are more vulnerable to becoming dehydrated and this can worsen their kidney illness. 

✔️ Cats with idiopathic lower urinary tract disease also known as FIC; since producing larger volumes of more dilute urine helps to prevent decline of this condition. 

✔️ Older cats experiencing old age metabolic and brain changes, stiffness or pain associated with arthritis will be less reluctant to move and find water on regular basis. 

✔️ Stressed cats may be limited by mental barrier which may inhibit normal drinking behaviour.

Final Tips for Increasing Fluid Intake

  • Feed a wet diet (cans or pouches) rather than a dry diet (consult your vet prior to making changes to your cat’s diet).
  • Offer water and other liquids at room temperature where possible (flavour is reduced in cold liquids). 
  • Adding extra water to wet food can help increase water intake (about a spoon, if it’s too soggy most cats won’t eat it). 
  • Some cats will happily eat food that resembles soup
  • Keep the water topped up so the cat does not need to lower its head into the container and lose sight of the meniscus of the water. 
  • Fresh vs stale water – selected cats prefer drinking from puddles while others prefer stale water that hasn’t been changed for few days. 
  • Bottled or distilled water for fussy cats is an alternative source of water. 
  • If your cat will only eat dry food try adding water to their food! 


It’s often difficult to precisely measure your cat’s drinking consumption, however if you notice changes in their drinking behaviour such as: repeated trips to the water container/bowl, drinking from unusual locations (specific to your cat), increase in urination regularity, variations in appetite and demeanour, vomiting and/or diarrhoea, please seek veterinary advice since early detection and treatment will improve outcome.

When making changes to your cats’ diet, water intake or routine it’s vital to do it gradually since cats DO NOT like unexpected changes – be caring and persistent.

Whatever you can do will make a difference and your cat will THANK YOU! 

written by Melina Grin from Pet Nurture for Australian Cat Lover, January 2020 (all rights reserved).


Bonnema, L. (2015, July 24). How to increase water intake in cats. UK: ICATCARE/FELINE FOCUS. Retrieved January 08, 2020
Caney, D. S. (2018, March 20). Encouraging your cat to take in more fluids - Vet Professionals. Retrieved January 09, 2020, from Vet Professionals.
Care, I. C. (2019, April 20). ISFM Certificate in Feline Nursing - Food and Water. UK. Retrieved January 10, 2020
Medicine, I. S. (n.d.). ISFM Guide Feline Stress and Health. (D. S. Sparkes, Ed.) Wilshire, Great Britain. Retrieved January 05, 2020

About the Writer

Melina’s love of animals began in childhood, when she would care for sick or stray dogs and cats while dreaming of becoming a Vet. While working in the Veterinary field she found a distinct interest and passion in Small Animal Rehabilitation and Animal Behaviour. Melina has many years of experience handling and caring for animals: her own, as well as pet sitting, cat minding, dog walking, cat & dog training, nursing and rehabilitating her clients’ beloved companions.

Melina is currently studying to become a qualified Veterinary Nurse with a view to progressing to Animal Behaviour Therapy. Melina’s discovery of holistic natural therapies started several years ago following her own diagnosis of a recurring digestive disorder, which was treated successfully with alternative treatments. Then, when her beloved cats suffered from anxiety, skin, mobility and digestive conditions of their own, natural therapies and bodywork were used in combination with western veterinary medicine to bring them back to full health.

Melina is also the founder and admin of the newly created Facebook group: Feline Seminars, Workshops, Webinars & Events

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