Dehydration is a common problem in cats. Thanks to their desert ancestry, they don’t need a huge amount of water each day to survive compared to other animals. But that doesn’t mean that water isn’t a crucial part of their diet!
Besides, some medical conditions require cats to drink more. If your cat is drinking but not peeing, it might be suffering from urinary tract infections or blockages. In fact, you spot your cat trying to pee but only a little comes out they need to go to the vet for treatment. But increasing water intake can help to flush the infection.
Kidney disease is another medical condition worth mentioning. Cats with kidney disease cannot concentrate their urine, so more liquid is lost through their pee. They need to up their fluid intake to compensate for this loss and avoid the negative health complications related to dehydration.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to know how to get a cat to drink water, you’re in the right place. Upping your cat’s water uptake might seem like an impossible task. However, I’ve listed 12 tips and tricks on this page that will help. Why not give some of them a go?
How to Hydrate a Cat That Won’t Drink Water?
It can be difficult knowing how to get a cat to drink water. Cats aren’t big drinkers naturally, but they do still need water to stay hydrated and healthy.
Below are some top tips and tricks that you can use at home to try and encourage drinking. These are all recommended by vets, so are totally safe. However, make sure you never force your cat to drink water. Instead, it is about learning their preferences and putting these in place so that drinking becomes a more appealing and enjoyable activity.
1. Ensure Their Water is Fresh
Cats are notoriously finicky creatures and most cats will only drink fresh water. We can’t blame them really – have you ever sipped from a glass of water that has been left out overnight? It does have a horrible stagnant taste to it. And cats have much more heightened senses than us humans, so to them, a bowl of stale water is going to taste even grosser!
A cat’s preference for fresh water is also linked to survival. In the wild, drinking unfresh, stagnant water carries a higher risk of contracting an infection. Comparatively, drinking fresh water is considered safe. Although the water in your cat’s bowl isn’t going to be carrying any deadly illnesses this instinct for fresh water persists.
Make sure you put fresh water in your cat’s bowl at least twice per day. I recommend doing this once in the morning and once in the evening. Getting into the habit of this makes the chore effortless and is one of the easiest ways to up your cat’s water intake.
2. Move The Location of the Water Bowl
The next thing you should consider is the location of your cat’s water bowl. Is it in a high-traffic area? Most cats won’t enjoy drinking if their bowl is in a noisy location with lots of stuff happening around. How can they focus on drinking with everything else that is going on?
Your cat’s water bowl should also be far away from your cat’s litter tray. You wouldn’t want to drink next to where you pee, so don’t force your cat to do this either. This is also linked with survival – water sources near toilet areas are more likely to be contaminated. Do your kitty a favor and place their water bowl in a different room entirely.
Many cats don’t like drinking where they eat either. This one comes as a little more of a surprise. As humans, we love washing down our dinner with a refreshing drink. But cats don’t feel the need to do this. They don’t want bits of food floating in their water, so they’d rather the two be kept separate.
3. Get More Than One Bowl
Want another easy way to force a cat to drink more water? Make water more accessible to them by putting multiple water bowls throughout your home. Chances are that at least one of these bowls will be in a spot that your cat approves of, meaning they’ll be more inclined to drink from it.
There also might be times when you accidentally cut off your cat’s access to water. Or, if you have more than one cat, they won’t be able to both drink at once. If one bowl gets knocked over, having multiple bowls means there is still plenty of water your cat has access to. If you want to encourage your cat to drink more, more bowls are best.
4. Fill the Bowl to the Top
Another easy fix is to fill your cat’s water bowl to the top. Many cats suffer from something called whisker fatigue. These cats’ whiskers are extremely sensitive, and when they touch the edge of a bowl it can cause a sensory overload to their brains. This can be extremely stressful and can put cats off eating and drinking.
Filling the bowl right to the brim means their whiskers won’t press against the side each time they drink. Instead, they can hover their faces above the bowl and lap up the water with their tongue. No touching whiskers, no sensory overload, and nothing to deter your cat from drinking.
If you are going to use this trick, opt for spill-proof cat water bowls so your kitty doesn’t make a mess. Another alternative is to swap to a saucer of a special whisker fatigue bowl. These are wide, shallow dishes that have plenty of space to fit your cat’s face and its whiskers inside. You won’t need to fill these bowls to the top, so you won’t need to worry about spillages as much.
5. Use a Different Style Water Bowl
Another simple way to get a cat to drink water is to switch bowls. Whisker fatigue bowls are one example that I’ve already discussed. These are great for any cat with sensitive whiskers thanks to their wide design. But cat water bowls come in all other shapes and sizes as well!
To encourage drinking in senior cats, an elevated cat bowl might be a good shout. As the name suggests, these bowls are elevated slightly above ground level so your cat doesn’t have to bend down to drink. Older cats – especially those with arthritis or other joint conditions – may struggle to crane their necks and prefer drinking from a bowl that is already at face height.
Cats also find it easier to see the water level in elevated cat bowls. Although they have killer long-distance and nighttime vision, cats’ up-close vision is poor. If your cat can’t see any water in its bowl, it isn’t going to try and drink it. But elevated bowls help with this issue. They’re also a fantastic option for messy cats as their raised design makes it harder to tip the bowl over.
6. Wash Their Water Dishes Regularly
Make sure you aren’t just topping your cat’s water bowls up, but that you wash them too. After all, even the most perfect dish in the perfect location is no good if it is dirty! Cats are very fussy, and a dirty bowl is going to discourage them from drinking for sure.
Now, you don’t need to wash your cat’s water bowl every day as you do with their food bowls. Yet you should completely empty it and clean it with soap at least once per week. Water itself isn’t dirty, but a slimy layer of biofilm can form around the edges. This needs to be removed or it will make your cat’s water taste gross.
Besides, dirty water bowls and the biofilm around the edge harbors bacteria and pathogens. If you aren’t cleaning your cat’s bowls at least once per week, you are increasing the likelihood of your cat falling sick. For a healthy and hydrated cat, keep on top of the washing up.
7. Switch to a Cat Water Fountain
If water bowls aren’t working, you might consider switching to a cat water fountain. Cats like running water, and so many show a preference for fountains over regular bowls. This again links back to survival in the wild – running water is less likely to be contaminated, so drinking this is a safer option when compared to a stagnant pond or puddle.
Cat water fountains have become hugely popular and there are hundreds of different products you can choose from on the market. I think that cordless cat water fountains are best. You can place these anywhere in your home and you need not worry about the cords acting as a hazard. However, AC-powered fountains are another option if you prefer.
Always consider your cat’s personality when choosing a fountain too. Some water fountains are more violent and noisy than others, which will likely scare off timid cats. On the other hand, more outgoing felines might love the excitement these fountains bring. Have a shop around and find a fountain that suits you and your cat.
8. Try a Different Material
Consider the material your cat’s water bowl is made from. Plastic bowls tend to be cheaper, but plastic does cling onto odors. Constant use means these odors can seep into the water and make it taste funny over time. Besides, these bowls can easily become scratched and the tiny crevices left behind act as an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
For this reason, most vets recommend either stainless steel or ceramic cat water bowls. Not only do these not cling onto odors that could leak into the water, but they’re also super easy to clean. And I’ve already mentioned how important clean bowls are in terms of encouraging water intake and good health and hygiene.
You have the same choice of materials if you are using a cat water fountain. Stainless steel cat water fountains and ceramic cat water fountains are your best bets for encouraging drinking. However, plastic fountains are on the market if you’re on a tighter budget.
9. Make Their Water More Appetizing
If your cat still won’t drink water, try changing what is in the bowl to make it more appetizing. One option is to add flavor – add a little juice from a can of tuna or a dash of chicken broth to their water. Most cats won’t be able to resist the tasty smell of meat or fish. They’ll be much more inclined to drink.
If you are adding tuna juice, make sure it is from tuna packed in water and not oil. Adding oil to your cat’s water is not a good idea whatsoever. Also, check that the broth has a low salt content. Salt isn’t part of a cat’s natural diet and too much of it can affect their electrolyte imbalance. In worst cases, this can cause sodium poisoning.
An alternative is to add a few ice cubes to the water. This will keep the water cooler, fresher, and more appetizing for longer. Plus, many cats will enjoy playing with the ice cubes. The more fun they find drinking, the more likely they will be to do it. For a double-whammy, make ice cubes by freezing broth or tuna juice and add these to the dish.
10. Feed Them Wet Cat Food
Want my top secret on how to hydrate a cat that won’t drink water no matter what you do? Increase the water content of their food. It doesn’t matter how your cat is getting their healthy dose of water, only that they are. If your cat can only get this through their diet, that’s okay.
Wet cat food has a lot more moisture than dry kibble – 70% to 80% more to be precise. This means that by simply switching to wet cat food, your cat will receive a good portion of its daily water requirements. It won’t matter that your cat isn’t drinking much. Instead, their wet food is making sure they stay hydrated.
Before you make a sudden diet change, I advise consulting your vet. And if you do decide to make the switch, do it slowly. Mix a little of the new wet food in with their dry kibble and gradually switch over. This will help limit any stomach upset or stress while your cat adjusts to its new diet.
11. Add Water to Their Food
Perhaps you don’t want to put your cat on a new diet. After all, it does take a little time to complete the transition and there is no guarantee that your cat will respond well to their new food. Or maybe your cat is extremely fussy and you know she won’t eat anything other than the dry kibble you’re already feeding her.
If this sounds like you, a good alternative is to add water or a low-sodium broth to dry kibble. This way, your cat’s water intake will increase but they don’t have to get used to new flavors of food. You can also play around with different flavor combinations until you find something that your cat loves.
12. Encourage Your Cat’s Quirks
My final trick on how to force a cat to drink water is to encourage its unique quirks. For example, does your cat like jumping on the counter and drinking from the faucet? Let it jump up every now and again and have a drink before switching tap off.
Likewise, I often find my cat drinking from a glass of water I have poured for myself. Let them get on with it! It is safe to take a drink from a glass your cat has drunk from and you won’t fall sick, so you don’t need to worry about this either. In fact, the worst thing that could happen is you get a loose piece of fur floating around in your drink.
With that being said, the one place you should always discourage cats from drinking is the toilet. Many cats like drinking toilet water as it gets oxygenated every time you flush. However, toilets are a breeding ground for bad bacteria. Try and remember to keep the toilet lid closed to discourage drinking or your cat might fall sick.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Now you know how to get a cat to drink water, you can ensure they stay happy, healthy, and hydrated at all times. You don’t need to implement all of the above tips and tricks to see an improvement either. Choose which you are going to find the easiest to implement and stay on top of. Your cat will be drinking a lot of water in no time!
However, if you are concerned about your cat’s health at all or none of these tips seem to work, speak to your vet. A dehydrated cat can soon fall very sick! You’ll want to get your cat looked over to avoid any health complications. On the other hand, excessive thirst is also worrisome. If you notice your cat drinking a lot of water and meowing, take them in for a checkup.