Hydration & Your Cat – Insight into Your Cat ’ s Water Needs
Cats are believed to have descended from a small desert cat native to North Africa, and as descendants of a desert animal, they drink little and conserve water by producing concentrated urine. Cat’s bodies are made up of about 70% water, andtheir desert-dwelling roots mean they’ve evolved to obtain their water requirements almost entirely from the moisture content in their food. The natural prey that cats would catch in the wild (e.g. small rodents, birds, amphibians, and insects)contain about 70-75% water when freshly killed. However, cats can become dehydrated when the water content of their food drops to less than 61%.
Are Cats Afraid of Water?
Many people are under the false assumption that cats don’t need water or they’re afraid of it: but drinking water is vital to a cat’s health. And some cats will play in, as well as drink from, fountains/streams of water.
Got Milk? You Still Need Water
Cats normally do not need to drink very much water. The amount of water drunk by an individual cat depends on a variety of factors including the cat's size and activity, the season, and whether the cat's diet includes wet food or dry food only. Factors such as high heat, exercise or lactation can double or triple the amount a cat drinks. And, of course, diseases such as hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, and diabetes will all greatly increase a cat's daily water requirements.
While our frisky felines may try to convince you otherwise, milk isn’t a replacement for water. Offering your cat milk instead of water may lead to dehydration. Many cats are also lactose intolerant after weaning, so you’ll potentially end up with kitty having diarrhea, which can also lead to dehydration.
Five to Ten Ounces a Day to Keep the Vet Away
A normal cat’s daily water requirement ranges from 5 to 10 fluid ounces per day. Modern day cats eat lots of dry food, which has very low water content (about 10%), so they need an additional water supply in the form of a separate water bowl. Cats eating canned food will receive much of their daily water needs from its food, since canned food is about 78% water. That said, they would still greatly benefit from a separate water supply. A cat consuming a predominantly dry food diet will drink more water than a cat consuming a canned food diet. A cat eating a diet of canned and dry food also must have a separate water supply. Normal cats eating canned food may need to drink less than 1 ounce of additional water per day, whereas a cat consuming only a dry diet may need to drink over 7 ounces per day to stay hydrated. In the end, when water from all sources is added together (moisture in their diet plus the water they drink) cats usually achieve what they need.
If you feed dry food to your cat don’t try to increase the water content by wetting the food because it often makes it much less palatable to the cat.
Water Bowl Weekly…Is that Okay?
Cats need to have access to fresh water at all times. To ensure your cat is drinking enough water, use a water bowl that is an appropriate size for your cat and maintain a consistent level of water in it. Don’t use a huge bowl filled with water as a way of only having to fill it once a week because the water will get stale, dirty and contaminated. Use a bowl that will hold a day’s water. Every day, wash the bowl with soapy water, thoroughly rinse it and refill with fresh water. Don’t just refill the water bowl without washing it because the water can taste bad and can become contaminated.
Cat’s On Tap
If you’re concerned your cat may not be drinking enough water, try installing a pet water fountain. There are multiple types available. Some look like water fountains and some create a bubbling action.
Your cat may have a preference. Since many cats like playing with the water droplets at the kitchen or bathroom faucet, offer the water fountain as a better alternative. Some fountains have flow regulators so you can adjust the water speed. Just as with a regular water bowl, make sure you keep the fountain clean. If you’re concerned about the cat making a mess with water all over the floor, you can buy placemats with raised edges that will keep any spills contained.
If you don’t mind your cat being on the counter you can also install a motion-activated faucet so the water will flow whenever she’s near it.
Gravity-fed water and food bowls are also very popular with pet parents. The one problem with the water container though is that the water can get stale. If you do decide to use a gravity-feed dispenser, you still need to regularly change the water and completely clean the dispenser and reservoir.
Many cats don’t like having their food and water close together, as this can lead to easy water contamination, and some cats won’t drink water from a dish at all if it’s too close to their food source. Your cat may not care whether he drinks tap water or bottled water, but if the cat is not drinking enough water you can provide bowls with different types of water until you discover his preference.
Hydrating Your Outdoor Cat
For outdoor cats, weather can play a role in the increase or decrease in water consumption. Your outdoor cat may drink more in hot weather. Make sure there is always a fresh supply of water available and that you monitor and clean the bowl daily. In hot weather, place the bowl in the shade. In cold weather, make sure the water doesn’t freeze.
If you notice a sudden increase or decrease in your cat’s water intake that isn’t explained by other weather or food factors, it can indicate a potential health issue. For example, an increase in water consumption may be a sign of renal failure or diabetes.
Overall, cats do not need to be drinking water the way we humans do. However, ensuring they have access to fresh water and are drinking daily is important in preventing dehydration and maintaining their overall health.
If you’d like more information about ways to keep your cat hydrated, stop by one of our stores. We’d be happy to chat about all things cat!
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