Is Tap Water Safe For Cats?

Is Tap Water Safe For Cats

You probably drink tap water every day. You might even have a filter on your faucet to make it slightly healthier. But are you aware that tap water might not be safe for your cat?

In this article, we will answer a very common question asked by new cat owners – “Is tap water safe for cats”? So, if you are concerned about the safety of tap water and want to know more on the subject, keep reading! We will also tackle the question of why most cats are obsessed with faucet water and the safer alternatives to ensure your furry friend is well-hydrated.

Can cats drink tap water?

Tap water is water that comes out of your faucet. It is also sometimes referred to as municipal water. Municipal water systems are large networks of pipes that run throughout an entire city, whose purpose is to provide clean water to all the city’s residents and businesses.

However, heavy metals, microbes, and other pollutants might also get into the water supply – not to mention the hard minerals like fluoride. This means that the water you are getting out of your faucet may not be completely safe!

While some of the contaminants can be removed by your home filtration system, not all of them can. This means that allowing your furry friends to drink tap water might not always be entirely healthy for them, either. 

Is tap water safe for cats?

In a nutshell, unfiltered tap water might not be safe for cats. 

Tap water can be unhealthy for them in a number of ways. When it comes to health risks, there are two major concerns about tap water: The first is the presence of chemicals and heavy metals such as lead, which is toxic to both humans and animals. The second is the presence of microbial contaminants like bacteria, parasites, and viruses that can cause diseases.

Although heavy metals in water are naturally occurring, they are often more concentrated in municipal water than they are in other sources like well water or bottled water. Lead is toxic to cats as well as to humans, and it can cause a variety of adverse health effects, including gastrointestinal issues and kidney damage. 

Cats are also found to have a higher rate of lead toxicity than humans. For example, cats given water containing 2.9 parts per million (ppm) lead can experience kidney damage. However, this same lead level would have caused no harm to humans.

Other concerns related to tap water are summarized below:

  • Minerals, such as iron, present in tap water can stain your cat’s fur around the mouth area.
  • Minerals like magnesium and calcium can cause urinary tract infections, cystitis, crystalluria, and incontinence in cats.
  • High levels of fluoride can damage the kidneys and cause cancer.
  • Ingesting high amounts of arsenic can cause abdominal pain and lethargy.
  • Fecal waste can sometimes reach the water systems and contaminate tap water with parasites like giardia. This infection can cause diarrhea in both humans and animals.
  • Dangerous strains of E. coli can be present in tap water and harm your furry friend in many ways. The infection can cause an increased heart rate, lethargy, upset stomach, lack of appetite, vomiting, and depression in cats.

Why cats are obsessed with water faucets

So, you lovingly offer your cat a clean bowl of water, only to be snubbed! Later, you find her sticking her whole head under the faucet and enjoying the dripping tap water. But why do cats prefer to drink water from the faucet?

The answer boils down to evolution. It is part of a cat’s survival instinct not to trust stagnant water sources. Somehow, cats are smart enough to know that the safest water source is running water. 

Stagnant water is often contaminated with harmful bacteria, while water running straight from its source is cleaner and safer to drink. Cats are extra sensitive to the smell of water, so they will likely avoid a stale water bowl that has not been changed or cleaned regularly.

Plus, the dripping sound from the faucet can attract a curious cat. Hence, aside from thirst, your furry companion probably enjoys visiting the kitchen sink just to play and have fun!

But again, water from the faucet might not be always safe for your cat, especially if it is unfiltered. If you think your kitty has developed a habit of drinking water from the faucet, consider buying her a water fountain instead. This will entice her to drink more and keep her away from the faucet.

Is it okay to give my cat tap water?

Some veterinarians strongly advise cat parents to provide their furkids with the same drinking water that humans can safely consume. So, if your tap water is not of a high quality, you should consider a safer alternative for your cat that is free of contaminants and harsh minerals. Here are some of the recommended options: 

1. Filtered tap water

Most water filters are great at removing excessive minerals like lead, chlorine, fluoride, arsenic, and copper from tap water. Some of the affordable options include a water dispenser pitcher or a sink filter system that you can fit onto your pipes.

2. Bottled mineral water

Bottled mineral water tends to be the safest yet the most expensive option. That is because mineral water goes through several testing processes to ensure that it is free from harmful contaminants and harsh chemicals.

But, if you do not mind the extra cost, then bottled water is probably the best drinking water for your fur baby.

3. Reverse osmosis system water

Installing a reverse osmosis system can be expensive, but it provides long-term benefits for you and your family. Some of these benefits include the removal of microbial contaminants and the reduction of sodium and other minerals. Water that has undergone reverse osmosis tastes better, too, so your cat will likely enjoy drinking it.

How to safely hydrate your cat

As mentioned, the best way to hydrate your feline friend is to provide her with a cat water fountain. This popular option will not only entice her to drink more, but will also provide a good source of entertainment to satisfy her curiosity.

If you do not yet have a water fountain, consider these tips:

  • Use a water bowl that is made of stainless steel, glass, or porcelain. Plastic bowls tend to harbor more contaminants, especially if the water has been left stagnant for some time. These contaminants are transferred from the cat’s saliva and can breed quickly in the water bowl.
  • Make sure to rinse your pet’s water bowl regularly. Consider washing it with soapy water and sanitizing it with hot water a few times a week.
  • Do not forget to throw away the water if it has been sitting for too long. You should be refilling your cat’s bowl with fresh, clean water up to a few times a day.


Depending on the quality of your water source, certain tap water might not be safe for cats. This is primarily because of microbial contaminants that might be present in unfiltered tap water, as well as high levels of minerals like fluoride, chlorine, and lead. All of these can be detrimental to your cat’s health.

Bottled water might seem like the safest option, but it might not be cost-effective for many cat parents. A reverse osmosis water system can provide an excellent water source for both your pets and family, although it also comes with a significant initial cost. Faucet filters are, by far, the cheapest option. Hopefully, you will consider one of these alternatives to ensure that you and your kitty have clean, safe water to drink!

Image: / AaronAmat