It is in feline DNA to detest water. Historically, cats evolved in a desert-dry environment, so this is the adaptation that evolved. Back some 9500 years ago, the first domesticated cats developed in the Middle East. These desert-dwelling creatures had no experience with swimming or any water-oriented activities, so of course, they learned to go for very long periods without hydration.
Though some individual cats are water-curious, generally the only cats that are good with water are the big cats, like tigers and lions that evolved in jungles and areas not as arid as the deserts of the domestic feline. That said, most house cats do not drink enough water. The result is a dehydrated cat, and a dehydrated cat can suffer any number of medical complications brought on by not drinking enough water. As cat caretakers, we must be vigilant and do whatever we can to encourage adequate drinking for optimal urinary and digestive health in our cats.
So, how much water should a cat drink? The exact answer depends on the size of your cat, season of year (winter is the driest time), and if your cat eats wet food with its naturally high water content. Of course, cats on a dry food or kibble diet need significantly more water than cats that regularly dine on wet food. Cats given dry food will require at least 2-4 ounces of water a day. Cats eating canned food will can get much more hydration from their food, which is about 80% water.
How to tell if Kitty is Dehydrated:
Skin Elasticity. If you pull up the skin on the scruff of the neck, it should spring back quickly. If it is slow to return, she could be dehydrated.
Lethargy. If she is disinterested in physical activity, she could need more water.
Dry, dull coat instead of shiny & luxurious. This can signal dehydration.
Inadequate urination. If you see less than 2 or 3 new litter clumps in a day.
How to Encourage Adequate Water Intake:
Transition from dry to wet food. And add extra water to food as well. Do this over time, so they acclimate. Often, cats will find a soupy consistency to their liking.
Change water twice daily. Keep water fresh and clean and cold. Adding ice cubes will help freshen in between changes of water.
Have multiple water locations. You may want to position water bowls in various places in the home--as long as they are not right by their food. Since their “prey” is considered unclean, cats will often not drink from bowls placed near their food.
Check water quality. Cats love running water. You may want to provide a water fountain where the water runs continuously. Alternatively, try providing them with filtered water or water that is flavored with tuna juice or chicken broth.
Find the right water Bowl. Finicky felines tend to prefer stainless steel, glass, or ceramic over plastic. Try out several kinds of materials, if possible, so you can see which material is most successful at encouraging regular drinking.
As we all should know, you can lead a cat to water, but she will do whatever she wants in the end! So, it is our job as cat parents to provide our cats with water in whatever form and in whatever container she finds most palatable.
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