As a cat owner, you probably think a lot about the food. Clearly: the variety of complete feeds and treats on the market is huge and the preferences of your house tiger may be very specific. It is supposedly a little easier with the supply of drinks: It simply comes from the tap into the bowl without any further effort. But while most cats will be fine with tap water without a murmur, you should pay proper attention to your velvet paw’s drinking habits. However, the question is not so much what the cat is drinking, but whether it is drinking enough.
How much do cats drink?
By nature, cats have a relatively low need to drink. The ancestors of cats were desert animals and come from regions where water availability is limited. Cats have therefore learned to get by with less drinking water and to cover most of their liquid requirements with food, i.e. meat. For this reason, cats do not have a particularly pronounced sense of thirst. This can become problematic if the cat consequently takes in too little water. A guiding value for an adequate liquid supply of an adult cat is about 50 milliliters per day per kilo of body weight. A five-kilo cat needs at least a quarter of a liter of liquid a day, but this does not have to be in the form of tap water. The cat also covers part of it with the moisture content of wet food, which consists of around 80 percent water.
If the cat does not drink or does not drink enough water, this can result in significant damage to its health.
There is a little trick you can use to check whether your cat’s body has too little moisture: When you are cuddling together, carefully pull up the skin fold in the neck area. This crease should straighten out immediately. If this is not the case, there may be a problem with the fluid balance, which must be clarified by the veterinarian.
What can I do if the cat stops drinking?
If the cat thinks it drinks or actually drinks too little, you need to investigate the cause. If the water bowl seems to remain untouched, watch your velvet paw closely. Some cats prefer to quench their thirst in places you wouldn’t expect.
- Is there an aquarium, large flower vases, watering cans, a garden pond, or a swimming pool within reach of the cat?
- Isn’t the cat actually boycotting the liquid at all, but rather the dosage form in the bowl?
If it turns out that the cat isn’t drinking from other sources, there are a number of tricks you can use to encourage the cat to drink. Cats that prefer running water also quench their thirst at babbling indoor fountains. However, no additives such as fragrances may be added to these decorative objects, which also improve the humidity in your living space. Alternatively, there are drinking fountains in specialist shops that have been specially developed for cats and can be triggered by the animal using a sensor or mechanical switch if necessary. It may take a while before the animal understands how to use the device – but then uses it as its preferred drinking source.
Other cats prefer to drink stagnant water. As a test, try not to fill the bowl directly from the tap, but instead leave the water in a jug for a while. Still, other animals prefer to have their own places to eat and drink. This also has genetic reasons: wild cats do not eat at the watering trough so as not to scare off potential prey. Make sure there is a distance between the two bowls and, if necessary, place several water bowls where the cat often stays: a sip is often taken “to go”.
How do I encourage a kitten to drink?
If a very small kitten is unable to compete with her littermates, or if the mother is not producing enough milk, you will need to be patient. If the kitten is not drinking, first try to temporarily remove all littermates from the kitten’s nest and latch the problem kitten to the mother’s teat. If that doesn’t work and the kitten doesn’t start to suckle instinctively, you should have the kitten rearing milk around the house to ensure bottle feeding if necessary. In the weaned kitten, the transition between drinking mother’s milk and consuming water is fluid. In this sensitive phase, the kitten must learn to help itself regularly from the water bowl in order to maintain its hydration level. If it doesn’t learn what the bowl is for by imitating its mother, you can take advantage of the mini cat’s play instinct: a small ball or an ice cube in the water bowl tempts the kitten to play fishing. If the little paws get wet, they are licked off: the connection between bowl and water is learned.
What can I offer my cat besides water?
There is no alternative to drinking water for cats. Even commercially available cat milk is less of a drink and more of a food that should only be offered to the animal as an occasional treat. As is well known, cow’s milk is not always well tolerated by cats. Adding a bit of tuna juice or unsalted chicken broth helps to refresh the water a bit and make it more interesting, especially for cats who desperately need to drink more.