Water is an essential nutrient required by every living organism on earth. Water is required for the body to function properly and perform almost every metabolic process. It is important to state that the cat is composed of about 70% to 75% water which makes it easier to understand why they require so much.
The primary purpose of water in the diet of cats, dogs, and other living organisms is to move nutrients into and out of cells that are inside the body. It helps digest food and absorb nutrients efficiently. It would be suffice to say that every important function that the body performs and carries out requires this valuable nutrient in order to do its job properly.
Since water cannot be stored, cats need to drink an adequate amount each day to remain healthy and hydrated. Without fresh water each day, your cat could easily become ill and dehydrated. Organs that require water would become permanently damaged due to a deficiency. The first organ that would be damaged would be the kidneys which could lead to many more issues.
The Amount of Water Needed
Dogs and cats both need around 30cc of water per pound of weight every day. 30cc of liquid is equal to 1 ounce of liquid. A cat that drinks noticeably more or less should be examined by a veterinarian in the case they are doing so due to a medical condition such as diabetes. It is a good idea to monitor how much your cat drinks normally as they are an individual then keep that number in mind when observing the amount that your cat is drinking each day.
For example – a 10 pound cat would need right around 10 ounces of water every 24 hours which is exactly 300 cc. Less than 10 ounces of water could lead to dehydration and other medical issues. More water may be required if your cat is outside for long periods of time in the heat or cold, or is performing more work than a normal cat.
Provide fresh water for your cat to make sure that it is enticing. The water should be poured out and cleaned with a soap solution and sponge once a day to prevent the formation of mineral deposits and the accumulation of biofilms.
If you rub your hand across the bottom of your cat’s water bowl and encounter a very slimy goo – that is a combination of mineral deposits and biofilms. Biofilms attract bacteria which can then breed and multiply in the water bowl which usually start forming after 24 hours. If your animal drinks from a water bowl that has biofilms in it, this can weaken the immune system and make them much more susceptible to certain diseases.
Always make sure to wash the bowl when you empty them… refilling each water bowl is not enough. Bowls that are not cleaned out well enough could be one cause of recurrent urinary tract infections. You can clean the water bowl with an unscented cleaner like vinegar that is diluted with water at a 1:1 ratio or Dawn dish soap.
Why Domestic Cats Lack Water
There are many tricks that you can employ to make water more appealing to domestic cats. I say domestic cats because wild cats get most of their water from prey, which contain about 70% water. Since your cat will not be eating live prey for water, we need to look at creative ways of increasing their water intake.
The problem today is that hard kibble contains only about 10% to 12% water. You will need to make up the lack of water by making the water more presentable or offering canned food. Canned cat food can be given as a treat and contains about 78% water as opposed to the 10% that is in dry. Animals that eat canned food get most of the water they need for the day but will still need an external water supply so they can drink during the day.
It is also possible to put your companion animal on a canned only diet. A canned only diet is very healthy because it contains more protein and less carbohydrates. The canned food diet is also much more natural for them. The average sized cat on canned cat food will need about 1 to 2 ounces of canned food per pound, depending on the amount of carbohydrates in each can. Cats need between 20 and 30 calories per pound of weight each day.
Inside cats that do little work will be closer to 20 while active outside cats will be closer to 30. The average can of canned cat food contains between 180 and 230 calories per 5.5 ounce serving. Always make sure to completely read the ingredients list and check the calories online prior to serving.
The Best Water Bowl
Your second option is to take a hard look at the water bowl that you are using. You will want an adequate sized water bowl for your cat. Some cats hate that their whiskers touch the outside edges of the bowl. Avoid depending on an automatic waterer as they are often ineffective, too convenient, and are usually plastic.
Plastic bowls should be avoided as they can lead to health problems. Plastic bowls may become scratched and hold bacteria in the scratches which can cause your cat to come down sick. Allergies, rodent ulcers, and acne have all been reported with the continuous use of plastic dishes.
The best bowl to use is a stainless steel water bowl. Stainless steel water bowls are sturdy, hard to scratch, and easy to clean. You could go one step higher than that and introduce a stainless steel water fountain.
Water fountains often have settings for speed, bubbling, and even sound effects that could entice your cat to drink more. If you worry about your cat playing with the water from the fountain, I recommend buying place mats to catch the scatter.
Water fountains will increase the amount of water that your cat drinks by at least double. Cats like moving water just like they enjoy moving toys. You can buy water fountains that have anywhere between 2 and 5 water spouts. Water fountains also filter water so they can go 2 to 3 days without being cleaned. The most popular model is the Drinkwell 360 water fountain which filters and circulates the water often to make it fun and more palatable.
If you and your cat feels so inclined, you can turn on the faucet for him each day. Some cats enjoy drinking from the faucet more than any other water source. Turning on the faucet 2 to 3 times per day would benefit your cat greatly. Watch the video below to see a cat enjoying the faucet. If your cat really loves drinking from the faucet, you could buy a motion activated night light and a motion activated faucet for your cat.
Other Ways to Encourage Water Drinking
You may try to place more than one water bowl throughout the house. If you could leave just one extra water bowl in the house per cat, this would save money on veterinary bills. You can also place an extra water dish per floor for lazy cats or cats that have arthritis and find it hard to move around.
Some individuals make the mistake of putting water bowls too close to the litter box to save floor space. Drinking stations that are located too close to the litter box are often avoided. Bowls that are also located too close to a food source might be overlooked because cats do not like to eat near where they drink. All of your drinking stations should be at least six feet away from the litter box and food bowl to make the water desirable to cats.
One cool trick you can try is adding in 3 drops to 4 drops of tuna juice to the drinking receptacles. Tuna juice is fine for a cat to drink and ingest as long as you do not give your cat straight tuna. One final tip I have to give is not to give your cat cows milk. Cows milk will dehydrate a cat and cause diarrhea.
Signs of Dehydration
Dehydration can occur if your companion animal loses too much fluid from their body. Electrolytes also lost from the body will prevent normal body function and cause issues. Dehydration is more common in breeds that are sensitive to the heat such a white colored cats and Siamese cats.
Hydration therapy is done by replacing the water and electrolytes such as potassium, chloride, and sodium. Subcutaneous fluids administered through the skin and the use of pedialyte are two methods that you can do at home for restoring hydration. You will need to ask your vet for the fluids and administration syringe. Unflavored peidalyte can be given in small amounts every 10 minutes.
If you think your cat or is dehydrated, there are several easy ways for you to tell. The most common symptom of dehydration is when your cat’s skin becomes tented. If you pinch and lift the skin over your cat’s shoulder blades and let go, the skin should snap back in place right away. The longer it takes for the skin to go back in place, the more dehydrated that your cat is.
You may also notice the following symptoms in a dehydrated animal.
Gums that are dry and tacky
Refusal to eat, move, or play much if at all
Small or infrequent urination habits
Sunken eye balls and third eyelid popping up
Cold paws due to poor blood circulation
A capillary refill time test can be administered to the gums in addition to these signs. This test is to see how long it takes for gum capillaries to restore color after pressure is applied to them. It should take less than two seconds for color to return. Intravenous fluids may be required for any animal that becomes severely hydrated. Your animal is likely to be hospitalized for several days for serve dehydration. Subcutaneous fluids are not well absorbed by animals that are so dehydrated that they can barely move or unable to perform other bodily functions.
Urinary Tract Infection
Feline lower urinary tract disease covers a number of disorders that have to do with the urinary tract. This disease occurs in both male and female cats. About 1 percent of cats are impacted each year. Male cats are at an increased risk of complete blockage due to having a narrower urethra. Any changes in litter box usage could warrant a veterinary visit.
Obstruction in the urethra, straining to urinate, and blood in the urine are some of the cardinal signs of a urinary tract infection. Excessive licking of the genitals, frequent trips to the litter box, and urinating outside of the box are also common in infected cats.
Animals also tend to play less, hide more, and become much more vocal when sick with any disease. If you suspect your cat is infected with urinary tract infection or is blocked, this is an emergency that should be taken seriously. Cats can die in small amount of time when they cannot urinate properly because their kidneys start to shut down.
Zachariah Atteberry has over five years of shelter experience and has professional experience dealing with many areas of animal care such as behavior, medicine, and nutrition. He looks forward to sharing his expertise with you.