Paws and Effect
Claire's cat will not drink water. Not cold, not warm, not broth of any kind. Is there something wrong with her cat, or is a cat not drinking water OK?

Do you have to worry about a cat not drinking water? Photo by Carilien van Oigen on Unsplash

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable  Kitties:

My kitty won’t drink water; bottled, filtered, warm, tepid, cool, from any type of bowl. Also not broth (even homemade, no seasoning), not clam juice, only sometimes milk, warm please. I have to sneak water by teaspoons into her wet food. She doesn’t get dry food since most teeth were taken out. I have to monitor her stool to avoid constipation. Is this common?

~ Claire

Thomas: Well, Claire, let us put your mind at ease. Your cat is almost certainly getting enough moisture in her food, particularly since you’re feeding her canned food and adding a teaspoon of water to her meals.

Bella: We cats evolved as desert creatures, which means our bodies got used to having a lack of clean, safe water to drink. Therefore, we are designed to get the water we need from the prey we eat.

Tara: That’s right. So a cat not drinking water is actually more normal than a cat drinking water every day!

Thomas: Cats that are fed a diet of exclusively kibble clearly won’t get the moisture they need from their diet; therefore, they need to drink water just to get enough for their biological processes. And because cats’ thirst drive doesn’t trigger them to drink until they’re pretty dehydrated, kibble-fed cats are almost always somewhat dehydrated.

Bella: That’s one of the most important reasons we say cats should be fed a wet-food diet, whether that’s canned, pouched, or raw.

Tara: We eat a raw diet here–freeze-dried raw rehydrated to the consistency of canned cat food–and the only one of us who actually drinks water is Thomas!

Thomas: And I actually drink water because my kidneys aren’t working right.

Bella: If a cat drinks a lot of water, that can be a sign of a number of illnesses including diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and chronic kidney disease.

Tara: So don’t worry if your cat isn’t drinking water, because that’s actually pretty normal. We would suggest maybe adding another teaspoon of water and putting about 1/8 teaspoon of (flavorless, obviously!) Miralax in her food when you see her starting to strain in the litter box.

Thomas: Mama puts Miralax in my food every once in a while because even though I drink a lot of water, sometimes it’s not enough, even with subQ fluids, to stop me from getting constipated.

Bella: Another thing you should know is that cats are very sensitive to the smell of the water they’re given. Odors like chlorine are very off-putting, so you may consider providing filtered water (for example, through a Brita pitcher or similar).

Bella: There is one more thing you can try if you really want to see your cat drinking water, though, and that’s a pet fountain.

Tara: That’s right. Sometimes a cat not drinking water is simply due to the fact that they’d prefer flowing water to standing water. After all, our instincts say that flowing water is bound to be safer to drink.

Thomas: Mama got a pet fountain–and a really nice one, too!– from Thirsty Cat Fountains. She decided she wanted a fountain that could be a beautiful feng shui feature if we didn’t use it. We didn’t, so now it’s sitting on Mama’s balcony making beautiful good energy, along with all the plants she planted this year!

Bella: The plants sure do smell good. But there’s no catnip! *sniffle*

Thomas: Don’t cry, Bella. Mama bought some catnip seeds and she’s just waiting to plant them until she gets a planter we can roll around in if we want!

Bella: Really? Wow! When can I roll in it?

Tara: She hasn’t even planted it yet, Bella. It’s going to be a while.

Bella: *pout*

Thomas: Bella, pouting is very unbecoming. Come on, let’s get back to this issue of a cat not drinking water.

Bella: Okay, I suppose. So, fountains: another good thing to try. We recommend in the strongest possible terms that you not get a plastic fountain! They’re generally the cheapest, but we think it’s worth spending a little more to get a higher-quality fountain. Cats don’t like the smell of plastic, and it’s very difficult to clean and sanitize. Metal, glass, and lead-free ceramic are your best choices.

Thomas: And one more thing: you can check your cat for dehydration by gently pinching the loose skin between her shoulder blades. If the skin pops right back down again after you pinch it, then your cat is well hydrated. If the skin stays pinched up, that means your cat is dehydrated.

Bella: If your cat is dehydrated, talk to your vet and ask them for advice on how to get your cat to drink water. They may have more advice than we’ve been able to give you since they actually know your cat.

Tara: Ultimately, Claire, a cat not drinking water is not a big problem, as long as they’re getting the moisture they need through canned or raw food. As long as your cat is peeing every day, you’re good.

Thomas: What about you other readers? What tricks have you used to get your cats to consume more water? Do you have any suggestions for Claire? Please share them in the comments!

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