Your cat has no problem drinking from anywhere else but his drinking bowl. You have caught him drinking from the leaky faucet or your betta tank numerous times. And yet when you check his water bowl, there is little to no sign that he has drunk from it.
Why cats prefer running water
Your cat’s preference for running water can be attributed to a large part to his ancestry. Your cat’s ancestors are desert dwellers whose drinking habits are more or less similar to your pet’s.
In the wild, animals, including your pet’s ancestors, show a preference for running water. One reason for this is that wild animals instinctively know that standing water can sometimes be contaminated and unfit for consumption.
In contrast, running water is, for the most part, safer to drink. Apart from that, the movement of the water makes it cooler and increases oxygen content.
Another reason why most cats like running water is because the act of drinking from a water bowl makes them feel vulnerable. Remember, your cat is both predator and prey. And as such, he hates being put in a situation where he thinks that his safety is compromised.
When your cat drinks water from a bowl, he has to momentarily let his guard down as his vision is obscured. In the wild, that brief moment can spell life and death. Although there is no real threat to your cat’s life inside your home, that does not prevent your pet from feeling vulnerable and uneasy from such a simple act.
Some cats are not necessarily averse to drinking still water. These cats drink running water because their water bowls are so small that their whiskers touch the sides of the bowls. In turn, when the whiskers touch the side of the bowls, these cats suffer from a condition known as whisker fatigue.
Another water bowl-related issue that causes cats to opt for running water is the location of their drinking bowls. In the wild, your cat’s ancestors do not eat near water sources. Instinctively, they know that eating near water sources can contaminate these with bits and pieces that are flung while they eat their quarry.
The same thing applies to your home. If you place your pet’s drinking bowl near his food bowl, he will hesitate to drink water because he thinks that he might contaminate the water inside the drinking bowl.
Cats need to drink more water
Like most animals, cats need to drink an adequate amount of water to ensure their health and wellbeing. The problem is that cats do not have the propensity to drink water. Again, that has a lot to do with their ancestry.
In the wild, your cat’s predecessors got water from the food they eat. A wild cat can easily satisfy his water requirements because small animals like mice contain around 70 percent moisture.
The modern domestic cat, on average, needs around five ounces of water for every five pounds of bodyweight. If your cat eats wet food, he meets about half of his water requirements just by eating. But if he eats kibble that barely has water, you will need to coax your cat to drink more water.
Drinking enough water is vital for the prevention of a variety of diseases and disorders from dehydration to kidney and bladder issues.
How to entice your cat to drink more water
No matter what your cat’s drinking preference is, running or still water, one thing is important: he needs to drink more.
But how exactly do you encourage your furry little pal to do that?
1. Switch to wet food
If you have been feeding your cat dry food, consider switching to wet food instead. As previously mentioned, wet food can provide a substantial amount of water to a cat compared to kibble.
2. Put your cat’s drinking bowl in a different location
Do not place your cat’s drinking bowl beside his food bowl. For humans, that may not make sense. But cats behave differently.
Instead of putting your pet’s drinking bowl near his food bowl, place it in another room.
3. Make fresh water always available
Place several drinking bowls around your home so that your cat will have ready access to water. But more importantly, you need to make sure that you clean the drinking bowls regularly and fill these with clean water daily.
Remember, food and dirt can accumulate inside the water bowl. And when that happens, your cat will not drink from it.
When you clean the drinking bowls, wash and rinse them thoroughly. Cats have a sensitive sense of smell and they will not drink from water bowls that have a lingering scent.
4. Choose the right drinking bowl
Cats hate it when their whiskers touch the sides of the drinking bowl. That usually happens when the drinking bowl is too small.
Buy a drinking bowl that is large enough to prevent your cat’s whiskers from touching the sides. Also, choose ceramic or stainless steel bowls over plastic ones.
5. Invest in a cat water fountain
If you have tried and failed to coax your cat to drink enough water from his water bowls, consider buying a cat water fountain which can be purchased online and offline.
A water fountain appeals to your pet’s instincts and eliminates the hassles associated with drinking still water from a bowl.
Monitor your cat’s water intake
Cats need to drink enough water to prevent health problems both in the short and long term. But how do you know if your cat is drinking enough water?
The best way to do that is to give your cat the same amount of water daily. At the end of each day or even at the start of each day, check how much water is left in his drinking bowls before cleaning these.
This will give you a good idea of your pet’s water intake. If you feel that your cat is not drinking enough water, check for signs of dehydration like appetite loss, loose skin, sticky gums, and lethargy. If he exhibits these signs, bring him to the vet for diagnosis and proper treatment.
On the converse side of the coin, if your cat has been drinking more water than usual, it can be a sign that he is suffering from a condition known as polydipsia which is a symptom of disorders and diseases like kidney and liver diseases, diabetes, and urinary tract infection.
Your cat’s preference for running water comes from a long list of baffling behavior. But baffling as that may be, drinking running water is infinitely better than not drinking enough water.
Your cat needs to drink enough water to stave off diseases and disorders, some of which are life-threatening. Cater to his preference if it means that he drinks more.
Image: istockphoto.com / Nataliya_dv