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    Cat Hydration Know-How

    Authored by Jodi Helmer

    While dogs eagerly throw their heads in their bowls and lap up giant mouthfuls of water, cats are dainty drinkers that are satisfied with a few short sips. Just because cats have a “low thirst drive” doesn’t mean they don’t need to drink. 

    Drinking water is essential for a cat’s health. Need help convincing cats to drink enough water? These strategies can help.

    How much water do cats need

    Cats need to drink about four ounces of water per five pounds of body weight per day. 

    Your 10-pound tabby might not drink one cup of water per day from their water bowl—but that doesn’t mean they’re dehydrated.

    Cats also get essential hydration from wet food. Canned cat food is 80 percent water and cats that get a daily serving of canned cat food may drink less. On the flip side, cats that are fed only dry kibble may drink more water.

    Why do cats need water

    Proper hydration is essential for a range of body functions from digestion and temperature regulation to joint lubrication and oxygen delivery to the organs. 

    Drinking water or eating canned cat food with a higher water content helps cats stay hydrated and prevents health issues like kidney disease, urinary tract infections, heart arrhythmias and brain swelling.

    Certain health conditions, including diabetes, diarrhea, vomiting and hyperthyroidism increase water loss and raise the risk of dehydration in cats; certain medications can also make cats more susceptible to dehydration.

    Watch for common signs of dehydration in cats:

    • Weakness
    • Lethargy
    • Poor appetite
    • Dry mucous membranes
    • Decreased skin elasticity

    Adding hydration to your cat's diet

    As little as five percent decrease in water consumption can lead to dehydration, making it extra important to ensure that your cat drinks enough water. Use these strategies to keep your cat hydrated.

    Fill the bowl

    Your cat should have unrestricted access to fresh, clean water. 

    Not only could dirty water deter your cat from drinking, dirty water bowls could also have bacteria, mold and algae. Wash your cat’s water bowl with hot, soapy water daily and refill it with cool, clean water. 

    Add extras

    Cats will drink plain water but adding nutrients or broth can make water more appealing, which can help with fluid intake. One study found that cats drank 27 percent more water every day when pet parents added sachets of cat-specific nutrients to the drinking water.

    Adding a splash of low sodium chicken broth (or freezing the broth and adding a few cubes to the bowl) can also increase your cat’s water intake.

    Make it move

    There’s a reason your cat sits on the bathroom counter and tries to drink the dripping water from the tap: cats are drawn to flowing water. 

    Buying a cat fountain that keeps water flowing can help encourage your cat to drink more water. In fact, research shows that cats drank more water from fountains than still water in bowls.

    Feed wet food

    It’s no secret that cats come running at the sound of a can of cat food opening; the aromatic foods aren’t just delicious. The moisture content in wet cat foods can be more than 80 percent (compared to just 10 percent in dry kibble) and it supplies essential hydration for cats.

    If you feed your cat dry kibble, consider adding wet food as a topper to supply more moisture content at each meal.

    The more strategies you use to encourage your cat to drink more water, the better the chances your feline friend will stay healthy and well hydrated. Want more guidance on your cat's hydration? Stop by one of our PetVet clinics to consult with a licensed veterinarian. 

    More about cat care

    Keeping your feline friend at a healthy weight is important for their health & well-being. Follow our cat feeding guide for tips on how much food to feed your cat.
    Diet dilemma? If you're having a hard time deciding between wet cat food or dry, or a combination, read more for benefits to both.