A Guide To Encouraging Proper Hydration in Your Cat or Kitten

Hydration is the physiological state of the balance of electrolytes. Just as it is for people, it's important for cats to take in enough fluid to maintain that balance.

When you consider water's role in everything from circulation to digestion, it's easy to understand why. However, water intake is often ignored but can cause problems for cats if inadequate. As always, we acknowledge that all cats are different and have individual tastes. We encourage you to use this guide to provide your cat with different sources of water in order to find out what she enjoys.

Common Signs of Inadequate Water Intake

If a cat has inadequate water intake, it may lead to:

- Dry mouth

- Lethargy or Depression

- Panting

- Loss of appetite

- Decrease in the elasticity of skin

If you recognize one or a combination of these signs with your cat, we recommend working with your veterinarian to rule out any potential illnesses.

Why Cats Enjoy Running Water

Observing cats in nature suggests that some tend to avoid still water sources. One theory for this avoidance is that these cats may have learned to associate still water with possible contamination with bacteria and parasites. So many cats instinctively gravitate to sources of running or dripping water.

Experts also think it may be preferred by cats because it appeals to more of their senses: they can see it move, hear the sound it makes and they may taste the difference.

Another reason why cats may prefer running or dripping water might be the physiology of and the way they use their tongue. While dogs use their tongue to form a "spoon" to lap water, cats use their tongue to form a J, with only the outside bottom of the J touching the water. When they pull their tongue back into their mouth, they pull a column of water with it that they "bite off" before the water falls down.

This was proven and explained by physicists at MIT. To find out more details about this research project, check out this November 11, 2010, feature from The New York Times.

Four Ways to Increase Your Cat's Fluid Intake

  1. The Right Bowl: Many cats do not like deep and narrow bowls because they impede their whiskers and prevent them from being able keep the room in their view. Try a wide and shallow bowl with a smaller lip to see if it makes a difference.
  2. A Fresher Fresh: Cats prefer water that hasn't been standing long. So be sure to refresh her water bowl at least once per day.
  3. Add Motion: Run a faucet at a trickle so your cat can drink directly from it. Or if you want a solution for when you're not around, try a cat fountain. You can find these at your pet store, or even artisan made versions on ETSY.com. These have a little pump that circulates the water, essentially turning her bowl into a fountain.
  4. Wet Food: Cats also source fluids from their food. So another easy way to promote proper hydration is by including some wet food in her diet.