6 Facts about Cats and Water

Many people, including cat owners, assume that cats hate water.

After all, we’ve all seen a cat shaking the water droplets off a paw after stepping into wet grass. However, if you spend any time online, videos of cats playing in the sink, drinking water from the faucet or even swimming are not unusual. I think cats, being the sometimes mystical creatures they are (or want us to believe they are), just like to keep us guessing.

Cats Originated in the Desert

Wild cat species are found all over the world but the cats that were the ancestors of today’s domesticated cats lived in the deserts of the Middle East. About 10,000 years ago, mankind began farming more than hunting and gathering, and vermin were attracted to stored foods. So they used cats to hunt and control the vermin.

Animals that live in hot, dry areas learn to conserve water. They will hunt or forage for food in the early morning or evenings, and will spend the hottest part of the day napping in the shade. They will drink their fill when water is available and can go longer between drinks than many other animals do in other terrain. Many desert animals can also get much of their water needs satisfied from their food. Although today’s domesticated cats are many years removed from those early cats, they do still share some of those characteristics.

How Much Water Does a Cat Need?

A cat’s needs for water depend on many factors. Heat, obviously, will increase the water needs as will exercise. Diet also affects how much water is needed; a food with a high moisture content will decrease how much water the cat will need to drink while a dry food will increase it.

The average adult cat weighing about 8 to 10 pounds needs to ingest about 8 to 10 ounces of water. If the cat is eating canned cat food with a lot of moisture, then she will drink less water. These figures will vary by the individual cat and the food being consumed. Cats who drink too little water can suffer for it; the most common issue is urinary tract problems.

Tips to Increase Water Consumption

If your cat doesn’t really care about water, how can you make him like it? It turns out it just takes a little ingenuity.

Find out through trial and error what canned or dehydrated food is your cat’s favorite. For example, my two adult cats, Spock and Scottie, both love the Honest Kitchen’s Grain Free Chicken Recipe. So for one meal each day, when I add water to the food, I add 50 percent more than recommended so the food is soup-like. They lap it up and I know that they are getting plenty of water. Their other meals are mixed according to directions, which also provides water (but not as much as the soupy mixture) and a bowl of water is always available.

You can do the same thing with canned food. Mix a couple of ounces of water to the canned food and mix it together well before offering it to your cat.

A few crushed leaves of catnip in a bowl of water attracts many cats. A tablespoon of low sodium chicken or beef broth (with no seasonings) added to your cat’s water bowl is also appealing.



Moving Water Tempts Cats

Many cats will sit on a counter and watch water drop from a faucet, drip by drip, for a long time. Other cats will touch the surface of the water in a bowl with a paw and then lick the water off their paw. Other cats will play with an ice cube floating in water. Cats may not admit to liking water, but it does arouse their curiosity.

There are a variety of fountains created solely to tempt cats into drinking more water. The cat fountains move water around, often filtering it as it moves through the system, so that cats are more attracted to it than water sitting still in a bowl. For cats who are reluctant to drink, these often solve the problem.

Water Aversion Varies

One of my cats, Spock, will sit outside in the fenced in catio (cat’s patio) in the rain. Since he has easy access to the cat door to come inside, I assume he doesn’t hate the rain. I don’t think he loves it but he doesn’t seem to hate it. His litter brother, on the other hand, will not go outside to the catio in the rain, ever, not one little paw.

Water aversion seems to come from a couple of different things. The cat’s individual personality certainly plays a part; especially an individual cat’s spirit of adventure or bravery. Spock is certainly braver than his brother and is more willing to investigate new things.

Plus, cats who are introduced to water early in life in a nonthreatening manner seem more able to tolerate water than those cats who are not introduced to it. A kitten who is gently bathed in warm water, for example, and then is gently dried will have more positive associations with water than a cat who gets caught in the shower or a downpour outside.

Pay Attention

It’s important to keep an eye on your cat’s water consumption as it does have a significant impact on his health. Keep an eye on the litter box, too. If it seems like your cat is not urinating as much as he normally does, if he’s spending time in the box straining or if you see blood in the litter box, call your veterinarian right away.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika, CDT, CABC

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant as well as the founder and co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in northern San Diego county. Liz is also the founder of Love on a Leash therapy dogs; her dog, Bones, goes on visits on a regular basis. A prolific writer, Liz is also the author of more than 80 books. Many of her works have been nominated or won awards from a variety of organizations, including Dog Writers Association of America, San Diego Book Awards, the ASPCA, and others. Liz shares her home with three English Shepherds: Bones, Hero, and Seven, as well as one confident and bossy orange tabby cat, Kirk. To relax from work, or to take work on the road, Liz and her crew travel the West and PNW in their RV. If you see an RV on the road named "Travelin' Dogs", honk and say hi!

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