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Most cats don’t drink enough water. Because cats are so self-sufficient, we assume they know what’s best for their health, and many times they do. But I learned the importance of getting a cat to drink more water — with a medical scare that involved a dehydrated cat. So, is your cat not drinking water or is your cat not drinking enough water? We’ve outlined what you need to know about cats drinking water, how to get your cat to drink water and more:
The cautionary tale of one dehydrated cat
A cat not drinking water could lead to serious complications. A couple of years ago, my cat Pugsley was spending a lot of time in the litter box, straining to pee. Nothing was coming out. Something told me this was not good. When I picked him up around his middle and he cried out in pain, I knew he was in trouble. It was Friday night at 10 (of course) and I rushed him to the emergency vet. Thank goodness I did.
Related: How Much Water Should a Cat Drink?
Pugsley’s urethra was clogged with urinary stones—one of the side effects of a cat not drinking water, or a cat not drinking enough water. They are like a “plug” of soft, compressible material consisting of minerals, cells and mucus-like protein. Urine backs up and the kidneys can’t remove toxins from the blood or keep fluids and electrolytes in balance. This can lead to death within 24 to 48 hours if not treated immediately.
Thankfully, Pugsley was treated in time, but the vet told me the No. 1 way to prevent him from reblocking and possibly requiring surgery was to keep him hydrated. You better believe I started looking into ways to get my cats to drink more water.
But a blocked urethra isn’t the only medical issue that results from a cat not drinking water. Just as with humans, cats’ urinary health is tied directly to water consumption, so things like urinary tract infections and crystals are less likely in a well-hydrated cat. Digestive health also benefits from increased water intake. I’ve made it a priority to try everything I can to get my cats to drink more water.
Is your cat not drinking water, or not drinking enough water? Avoid having a dehydrated cat by getting your cat to drink more water:
1. Switch to a mostly wet-food diet
Canned food simply has more moisture. According to my vet, this is the easiest way to get your cat to drink more water and avoid a dehydrated cat.
If your cat won’t eat wet food, add water or broth to dry food and see if he’ll eat that. If your cat digs canned food, add water or broth to it to make it even wetter. Some cats love the soupy consistency this creates.
2. Try ice cubes in your cat’s food
It adds moisture and it’s like a little treat for the cat. The cube takes on the food’s flavor, and while your cat’s licking the cube, he’s getting more water, too. Ice cubes in your cat’s water bowl might work with a cat not drinking water, too. Some cats prefer icy-cold water, just like some humans do.
3. Serve smaller, more frequent meals
Eating prompts thirst, so a cat not drinking water might drink more water if he gets food more often.
4. Place water bowls throughout the house
Make it super easy for your cat to get himself a drink by offering multiple agua stations throughout the house. These personalized bowls from Frisco are fun ($12.99, Chewy). A cat not drinking water might have trouble accessing the water in question. My cat Romeo loves drinking water out of my cups. Leaving a few strategically placed drinking glasses around might entice your cat to drink more water, too.
5. Be aware of the water bowl’s location
A cat not drinking water might not like his water bowl’s location. Keep your cat’s water bowl away from his litter box. Would you like to drink near your toilet?
6. Make sure the bowls are refilled regularly
Cats like fresh water—and who can blame them? Make sure to change the water at least once a day and wash out the bowl completely with soap and water regularly to keep it from getting slimy and fat.
7. Tap into the faucet
If your cat is attracted to running water, use this as a great opportunity to get him to drink more! A cat not drinking water might just need you to turn drinking water into a fun game. Try running the faucet a few minutes several times a day. Build it into your morning and evening routine, for example, and create some good bonding time … over a long, cold drink of water!
8. Flavor the water
A cat not drinking water might drink flavored water! You can try to make your cats drink more water by flavoring it with a bit of tuna juice or chicken broth.
9. Use cat fountains
Many cats like drinking out of fountains. It might take a while for them to get the hang of it, but once they do, they’ll love it! Fountains like this one from Cate Mate ($27.95, Chewy) are attractive because the moving water is interesting to the cat and it stays fresh. This definitely helps if you forget to change your cat’s bowl every day.
10. Experiment with different types of cat bowls
Cats are finicky about just about everything (big shocker!), and you can go ahead and add drinking bowls to that list. Test a few out (glass, stainless steel, ceramic or plastic) and you might discover your cat has a definite preference.
The bottom line on what to know about a cat not drinking water
We can all stand to drink more water, and your cat is no exception. Helping your cat to drink more water has many benefits and helps you avoid the dangerous health issues of a dehydrated cat. More water = more peeing = healthier kitty = happy everybody!
Top photographer: Konstantin Aksenov/Getty Images