Healthy Hydration

When it comes to fluids,
cats can be fickle.

  1. Good hydration is vital to a healthy cat. Learn a number of ways to get your cat needed water.

    You might think setting out a bowl of water is enough. But could you do more to promote proper hydration in your cat?

    In their natural environment, cats get most of their fluids from the prey they consume. But they will supplement their needs with water.

    It’s been observed they prefer running or dripping sources of fresh water rather than water holes or puddles. They’ve also been seen licking dew off plants or rocks. Experts believe that this is due partly to the physiology of their mouth, which prevents them from lapping water up efficiently.

    Another theory is that standing water is more likely to be contaminated by bacteria or parasites than running water.

    That said, here are some things you can try to promote good hydration in your cat. 

  2. The Right Dish

    If your cat has to stick his or her head down into a tall-sided bowl to drink, the whisker sensation may be a deterrent from using it.

    Instead, try a wider dish with shorter sides. This lets your cat drink without impeding the whiskers, while promoting a comfortable environment by creating good sightlines of the surrounding space.

    To Complete This Step

    Try serving water in a wider dish with shorter sides. Describe any differences in the way your cat drinks from it.

  3. Keep it Fresh

    Cats prefer water that hasn't been standing long. So it’s important to change it daily at a minimum and to clean the water dish every 24 hours. Consider keeping a few on hand so you can rotate them as needed.

    To Complete This Step

    Change the water more frequently. Do you see your cat drinking from the dish more frequently? Make note of it in your Journal.

  4. Convenient Locations

    Keep one source of water available where you feed your cat. Then, try placing a second in another location, especially if you have more than one level in your home. If your cat is timid or likes to stay hidden, keep water available near favorite hideouts.

    To Complete This Step

    Make a second dish of water available. How long did it take your cat to discover this new source of water? How often have you seen him or her visit it? Record what you see. And upload a shot of the new location.

  5. Drop-by-Drop

    You may find your cat gravitates to water straight from the faucet. Open it up to a trickle and see if your cat will take a drink. Be mindful of waste - we don’t recommend running it, or leaving it unattended, for extended lengths of time.

    To Complete This Step

    If your cat seems drawn to this experience, upload an image of your cat drinking from a faucet. Watch the tongue and describe how your cat takes in the water. Does your cat vocalize or purr when the water goes on? As time goes on, will your cat come running when you turn on a faucet or learn to operate it without you?

  6. Always Moving

    Some water dishes are specially designed to appeal to a cat’s sensibilities around moving sources of water. These have a little pump that circulates the water, essentially turning a bowl into a fountain. You can find great options at your pet store, or even artisan-made versions on

    Much as you would with a dish, be sure to clean and refill the fountain regularly.

    To Complete This Step

    If you’ve purchased a cat fountain, describe how it’s working. Does your cat seem to frequent the fountain more often than a bowl? Does your cat appear to like the sound of running water? Take a picture of your cat drinking from it or any interesting behaviors you’ve observed. Make a note about what you see.

  7. Fluid Friendly Food

    Cats in the wild get much of their hydration from their prey. So in addition to providing plenty of fresh water, you can serve your cat wet food as part of her routine to provide another valuable source of hydration.

    To Complete This Step

    If you’re not currently feeding wet food as part of your your feeding routine as it will provide another valuable source of hydration. To learn more about the important role wet food can play in feeding, check out the Activity Wet + Dry Together. Describe your experience and upload a photo of your cat trying wet food.

  8. Test for Success

    Here are two ways to know if your efforts are paying off.

    Skin Elasticity

    Gently pinch your cat’s skin by the scruff of the neck. Pull back slightly to form a “tent.” If the skin snaps back into place quickly, this is a sign of good hydration. If it holds its form, it’s a sign of dehydration. You should consult your veterinarian immediately.

    Gum Test

    Lift your cat’s lip and slip a finger in between the gums and cheek. Your cat likely needs more fluids if the gums feel tacky to your touch. Another way to check this – press on the gums with your finger. When you remove your finger from the gums, you’ll see a white spot instead of pink. If the spot returns to pink within a second or two, that’s a sign your cat is adequately hydrated.


    To Complete This Activity

    Conduct both of these tests and record the results.

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