Updated: March 30th, 2020.
Water is very important for cats, just like it is for humans and every other living creature. Did you know that 1 in 3 cats develop kidney problems in their lifetime?
It’s very important to keep your cats properly hydrated at all times to avoid future complications such as UTIs and irreversible kidney damage.
So right now, you might be asking, "well, if the water is so important, why is my cat not drinking enough water or not drinking at all?"
There is a lot of misinformation and confusion online about this subject, so we’d like to break it down for you in full detail.
Why is fresh running water appealing to your cat?
Cats LOVE fresh water. Standing water is a dating service for bacteria, mold, and parasites, and its likely cats can smell or taste these harmful and unwelcome guests.
If you provide your cat with a bowl of water instead of a cat water fountain, it’s more likely she’ll be drawn to fresh water in a toilet or coming out of a faucet because it’s a step up from what she’s used to. At a minimum, put fresh water in her bowl once a day to keep the gross stuff that grows in it at bay, and wash the bowls every 1-2 days.
Renowned Internal Medicine Specialist and Feline Expert Dr. Deborah Greco also explains:
“It’s hard for cats to get water because they can’t really see still water well, and they may feel vulnerable sitting at a bowl, especially if it’s in a corner, so they have their back to other cats who might jump on them.”
Remember: Most of the time, cats are driving to fresh water for non-health related reasons, which we’re about to cover. However, if your cat seems excessively thirsty, it’s important to have them checked by a vet. There are a number of illnesses and diseases that cause excessive thirst, so make sure you rule those out first.
Drinking filtered water could help your cat prevent UTIs
UTIs are urinary tract infections located in the urinary system. If not treated early, UTIs can negatively affect the kidneys.
UTIs in cats can be asymptomatic. Routinary checkups are a must to avoid further health complications.
Untreated UTIs can also cause cell damage due to the abundance of bacterias.
What causes cat urinary infection?
Urinary tract infections happen when bacteria travels into the bladder and the urethra. Cats that drink tap water directly are at a higher risk of developing UTIs due to the heavy metals, chlorine, fluoride minerals, and other chemicals found in tap water. Depending on where you live, the water can be harder or softer.
Trupanion, Inc., one of the leaders when it comes to medical insurance for cats and dogs, released a report that identifies a connection between urinary health conditions and hard water in the US.
According to Trupanion:
One cat covered by the Trupanion policy struggled with urinary blockages for weeks, being seen every four or five days for treatment, diagnostics, and hospitalization. When his chronic condition couldn't be controlled, he received a perineal urethrostomy (PU), where his anatomy was surgically reconstructed. The total cost of treatment was more than $11,600, not to mention the amount of time and stress the pet owner and the cat had to endure.
Excessive water drinking
Excessive licking at abdomen and urethra
Urinating outside the litter box
Lack of bladder control
Treatment and Recovery:
With early detection and proper treatment, your cat may totally recover without further issues.
Proper water intake is crucial for your cat's kidneys
We all can agree that the kidneys are vital to your cat’s life. Kidneys manage their fluid balance. They stimulate the proper production of red blood cells, regulates blood pressure, and are in charge of removing the waste from the blood.
Drinking plenty of water is very important because dehydration can cause kidney stones, which can lead to many issues, including kidney damage.
Kidney stones are small crystals or stones that form due to the accumulation of different minerals and tiny particles in the kidneys. These stones, usually start very small and most of the time, pass unnoticed until they grow bigger and begin irritating the kidneys, causing improper function.
What causes cat kidney stones?
Drinking unfiltered water from the toilet or the faucet. Only-dry-food diets.
When kidney stones are still tiny, they often don’t cause any symptoms and only can be detected while testing for another health condition. When the stones grow. They can cause these symptoms listed below:
- Acute Kidney Pain
- Abdominal Discomfort
- Loss of appetite
- Severe weight loss
- Blood in the urine
There are three main categories when it comes to kidney disease: inherited, chronic, and acute.
Inherited kidney disease: Older cats are not the only ones who are at risk of developing kidney disease, kittens can also be born with it.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the continuous loss of the proper function of the kidneys over time. It normally starts early in the life of the cat and gets complicated over time. This is the most common type of kidney disease.
The early stages of CKD are very hard to detect. Cats often don’t show any symptoms, and just like with kidney stones only can be detected while testing for another health condition. You may notice these symptoms listed below:
- Subtle weight loss
- Increase in urine production
- Increase in water consumption
Moderate to advanced:
- Increased urination and thirst
- Severe weight loss
- Less grooming
- Increase in sleep time
Acute kidney disease: This is when the illness is very advanced, and your cat starts agonizing in pain. At this stage, cats may stop urinating, which very sadly often leads to the cat passing away.
Early diagnosis and proper care are key to making sure your cat lives a long and enjoyable life.
Precautions to take before it's too late:
In a post for The Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Goldstein states that to reduce the risk of kidney and bladder stones, you should make sure that your cat has access to running water 24/7 and monitor that she's drinking it. Dr. Goldstein also points out that at least 50% of a cat's diet should be wet food.
Choose a free-flowing water fountain for your feline.
Since cats love clean-fresh water, why not give it to them all the time? Cat water fountains contain a pump and water filter to help keep the water flowing and clean! Your cat will be drawn to the sound and appearance of running water, plus its freshness will make him more inclined to drink and stay hydrated.
There are a lot of cat fountains to choose from, and the search can be overwhelming. Here are a few considerations:
Water flow. Look for a fountain that simulates the way water flows from a faucet, with either a spout or some other attachment that allows your cat to lick the water as it’s flowing out.
While water coming up from a hole is still fresher than stagnant water, your cat will be licking the actual surface of the fountain, transferring bacteria from their tongue, requiring more cleaning and then putting you back into the situation of more germs.
Pump & Filter
Many fountains have a plastic container inside that holds the filter and the pump (together, in the same place). This common design is flawed because the pump and filter get very gunky.
Instead, find a fountain where the pump stands alone and pushes the water into the filter. This will keep the pump much cleaner and eliminate the filter/pump container, which also gets super gross quickly.
Assembly and Disassembly
Find a fountain that’s easy to put together and take apart, because even the best fountains need to be cleaned.
Let’s face it. You don’t want some ugly bulky thing in your home. Look for a fountain with a simple, modern design and a calming color.
Consider how many pets you have and make sure you don’t get something too small for your fur babies. You can’t refill a fountain when you’re not home.
Nearly every fountain comes with a filter, but not all filters are created equal. Make sure you pick a fountain with filters that are affordable, easy to replace (and order), and will last a decent time period.
Some filters don’t work as well, and replacing a filter weekly is time-consuming, expensive, and should also make you question the quality of the fountain itself.
But cats come from the desert, so they don't need to drink much water, right?
There is a common misconception that cats don't need much water. That's not completely true. It's true that cats in the wild get most water from their food, but most indoor cats don't.
The problem is that many cats don't eat enough wet food. Dry-food-only diets are very detrimental for their kidneys, and they need to consume a lot of water to support that deficiency.
The other problem is that wet-food-only diets are not ideal. Dry food also has a lot of benefits so that a balanced diet would be your best bet —50% to 70% wet food and the rest dry food accompanied by proper amounts of filtered water.
In the fantastic book Think Like a Cat, Pam Johnson-Bennett explains why water consumption is so important for cats. She says:
Water — The underappreciated nutrient
Every process of life depends on water. A cat’s body is made of up to almost 70 percent water. So when thinking about how to supply your cat with the best nutrition, don’t forget that overlooked essential nutrient: water.
Your cat needs to have access to clean, fresh water at all times. Your responsibility doesn’t end with just filling up the water bowl every time it’s empty, though. Your responsibility includes monitoring how much or how little your cat drinks. Note any changes in water consumption, as it could indicate a medical problem (such as diabetes or kidney disease).
The water in your cat’s bowl should be changed daily, and the bowl itself washed to avoid contaminating any freshwater you refill. Don’t get a huge bowl, thinking that you’ll only have to refill it once a week. Water gets stale, and cats can taste that.
How could I treat cat UTI at home?
Although there are many "natural remedies" online and even though some may or not be kind of beneficial, we recommend you to visit your veterinarian if you suspect your cat may have a UTI. Please, do not wait until it's too late.
If my cat already has kidney disease, would a cat water fountain help?
Absolutely. A cat fountain with an effective filtering system would definitely help because it will encourage your cat to drink more. It's especially important for cats with this medical condition.
Note: You should also know that a fountain for cats, no matter how good it is, will not cure kidney disease or make kidney stones disappear. It may help to prevent it, and it also helps cats with kidney disease live longer.
Why cats love toilet water?
Although your toilet itself is dirty, the actual water in the tank is not. It’s often a cool temperature, which is refreshing to your cat, and it’s just as clean as the water coming from your faucet. When it fills the toilet bowl, the water is clean, but the bowl likely has germs on it, or, if you just cleaned it, deposits from the disinfectant. The size of the bowl also allows your cat to drink more comfortably since his whiskers won’t touch the sides.
How can I get my cat to stop drinking from the toilet and the faucet?
As always, don’t yell at your cat. She’s doing something that makes sense to her, and your yelling will just confuse her and not have the desired effect because you’re basically yelling at her for drinking fresh, clean water.
The toilet is an easy one: Keep the lid closed. The hardest part of this is just reminding guests (and husbands) to put it down too. You can also keep the bathroom door closed at all times.
For the faucet, it can be a bit more complicated. There are a few methods to try.
- You can put aluminum foil around the sink. Cats don’t like the sound of it, and most cats won’t want to step on it.
- Teach your cat to “stay” with treats by placing treats on the floor while you’re at the sink. This can be done with verbal commands or even clicker training (click then put the treat down repeatedly, and your cat will start to associate the click with the treat).
Keys to a balanced & healthy feline life
Water is vital for your cat's life and proper water consumption can prevent many health complications such as dehydration, kidney failure, UTIs and more.
You should make sure your cat has access to filtered running water all day and night so she stays hydrated and happy. Do not procrastinate and get your cat water fountain today. It's also important to consider a balanced diet with at least 50 to 60% of it being wet food. Dry food is also important so don't neglect it, just be moderate with it.
Sources and useful information:
Dr. Marty Becker, DVM - Why Does My Cat... Drink From Weird Places Like the Faucet or the Bathtub?
Research by Morgan Simon - The Advancements of Feline Renal Allograft Transplantation Techniques and Treatments
Lisa A. Pierson, DVM - Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition