Water, and making sure your cat gets enough of it, is a key factor in maintaining their health. This issue is especially important for indoor cats, and those who are on a mostly or exclusively dry food diet. Why is this? As Dr. Spooner explains in her blog on cats and water, cats in the wild got a lot of their water from their prey. Nowadays, with cats eating mostly dry food, many cats receive much less moisture form their diets. As a species, they are not very good at knowing when they are thirsty. All this leads us to dehydrated house cats, which puts them at risk for a variety of diseases.
The urinary tract system consisting of the bladder and the kidneys are particularily susceptible to dehydration. Urine that is too concentrated has been associated with many diseases such as feline interstitial idiopathic cystitis — a chronic intermittent inflammation of the bladder. Women can also suffer from this condition and they say the pain is excruciating. Cats are also really susceptible to kidney disease as they age, and dehydration is very taxing on kidneys, so we want to make sure that we keep the them well hydrated from an early age to prevent kidney disease as much as possible.
Older kitties are even more likely to suffer from dehydration. As they age, just like us, their ability to know when they are dehydrated gets less sensitive. Aging cats also often have some degree of arthritis. Their joints need sufficient water so that they can stay lubricated, so dehydration can also aggravate the symptoms of arthritis.
Finally, not having enough water also leads to constipation. With time these cats with chronic constipation may get a very enlarged bowel—a condition known as megacolon. This condition often has to be surgically corrected. Not to mention that constipated cats are much less likely to use the litter box due to the pain associated with passing dry stool.
So what can you do to help keep your cat well hydrated and reduce the risks of these diseases? Here are Dr. Spooner’s recommendations for getting your cat to drink as much water as they need every day.
Do you notice your cat drinking water from the toilet? Does your cat prefer the dog’s bowl to their own? They are trying to tell you something! They must be pretty desperate to get another source of water if they are resorting to our smelly toilet and dogs’ saliva bowls! they are trying to tell you that they really dislike the small dish you provide for them. Studies have shown that cats like a large, flat surface. Ponds and birdbaths are big favourites for outdoor cats, even if they may be a little bit scummy. Think about that next time you are choosing a water bowl!
Many cats also prefer running water to still water. If your cat likes to play with tap every time you turn it on, or are one of those kitties who love to lick at faucets in the bathroom tub or sink, you cat is a very good candidate for a cat fountain! We are big fans of fountains here at La Clinique Veteriniare des Chats, and there are many types for you to choose from. Some allow water to slide gently down a slope, while other’s provide a more vigorous bubbling flow. Stainless steel fountains are much more hygienic and easy to clean than plastic ones.
Choosing the perfect fountain for you is definitely something that we can help you with! It’s also important to remember that it can take a few week for your cat to get comfortable with a new fountain, so don’t be discouraged if they don’t instantly run over to the bubbling new water source!
Where you choose to locate the bowl or fountain can also help increase your cat’s daily water intake. A recent study has shown that cats do not like their water to be right next to their food bowls. Similarly, cats are very hygienic, picky creatures, so don’t place it next to their litter box, either! More than one cat in your feline family? You will need multiple bowls, placed in different locations — at least one per cat.
A huge factor in cat’s dehydration is the food they eat. Try to avoid making your cat into a “dry food addict” — this happens when we feed them dry food all the time. Cats become fixated on texture rather than flavor, so a cat who has been eating dry food their whole life will not happily switch over to wet. In general, we recommend a balance of wet and dry food, so switch it up to some canned food with some different textures! Another trick we recommend is adding a little bit of extra water into your cat’s wet food, especially if they are older and have trouble with the texture. This works especially well with pate. Some choosy cats may also prefer distilled sources over tap water.
Once again, when changing anything in a cat’s environment it is really important to add, and not take away. In other words, leave the old water bowl in place until your cat chooses to use the new fountain, or bigger bowl. Remember: cats like to be in charge!
Lastly, If you see any changes in your cat’s thirst levels such as a marked increase in drinking, especially in older cats, please contact us! Changes in thirst can be important early indications of various metabolic disorders.