How to get your cat to drink more water

December 1, 2013

Drinkie, drinkie, boy!

The more I learn about litter box issues and urinary health for cats, I find it’s pretty much unanimous among experts that getting your cat to drink more water is a big part of the prevention and treatment of most urinary issues.

And, because medical problems are often the cause of inappropriate elimination (i.e. outside the litter box), it’s important for cat parents to make this a priority.

The irony is that cats aren’t big water drinkers so it’s up to us to entice, cajole and bribe (if your cat is particularly savvy) our furry buddies to get some more of that H2o in their bodies.

One way is to put your kitties on an all wet diet, like I’ve done for Romeo and Pugsley. Obviously wet food has more water in it than dry food. I also read a suggestion to moisten the dry food with water or broth.

Another way is to make sure there are multiple bowls of fresh, clean water throughout your house. Don’t forget to change the water bowls daily so they don’t get gross with particles of food and bacteria floating around in them.

Some experts recommend drinking fountains. I was fortunate to receive one from Petsmart for review recently. It’s the PetmateĀ® Cat Infinity Elite, a fountain that uses UV technology to blast bacteria for healthier, cleaner water. I loved the idea of the UV technology because it seems fountains I have had in the past have gotten really slimy, really quickly. So far, this one seems to be working out just great and, after a month of use, I haven’t had to scrub it out yet.

It took a week or so for Pugsley to start drinking out of it and another week before Romeo did, but now both boys are happily slurping up their agua from the fountain. So that’s good!

I also came across a terrific article by Dr. Donna Spector, who is the consulting vet to HALO, an all natural pet food.

Dr. Donna offers these good ideas for getting your cat to take in more water:

  • Feed an all wet food diet
  • Feed more frequently so the cats drink more frequently
  • Add more water or broth to your cat’s wet food to give it additional moisture
  • Use ice cubes or chips as treats

My vet also suggested putting a little tuna juice in the water to stimulate interest. I tried this once and the cats didn’t really “get” it but I think it’s worth another shot.

What have you done to get your cat to drink more water?

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Jadielady August 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Thanks for these tips! We recently moved and Tripsie and I both are having skin issues due to the drier air (though ultimately it is much better for us than the mold-infested townhouse we were in).
Both Tripsie and Kitty like to dip their paws in their bowls to scoop water up, so unfortunately the bowls get really gross really frequently with litter sediment. Any tips?

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Caroline August 6, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Jadie,

LOL I don’t know of anything! If I come across something, I’ll let you know! I bet it’s really cute to watch, though. :)

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Grace Elliot August 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Also using wide, dinner plate diameter drinking bowls helps. Cats like to see their reflection when they are drinking, and also hate it when their wiskers touch the edge of the bowl- so a really wide dish helps.
Grace x
( a UK veterinarian!)

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Caroline August 6, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Grace, that is GREAT advice, thank you so much for sharing!

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Dawn August 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Nicky gets ice cubes in his fountain every day! He “asks” for them by looking at the fridge and then at the fountain and then at me. He also bounces around when asked “You want cubes?”

He also loves, loves, loves to drink from the bathtub faucet! He runs into the bathroom and begs for it to be turned on. We call the tub his “office”! He sits and waits by the bathroom when we shower. he waits just long enough for the tub to cool off and then jumps in to drink.

I’m definitely a fan of the ice cube and faucet tricks. It keeps him hydrated!

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Michelle August 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I purchased some plastic margarita glasses for 25 cents each, my cats love them. They are wide and at least 6″ high. I swear they think they’re getting something besides water in the fancy glasses.

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Angela August 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Riley also likes to drink from the tub faucet. He started it as a kitten. He expects anyone who uses the bathroom to turn on the faucet for him. I give him ice cubes to bat around and eventually he drinks the melt cube. I put them in his water bowl to entice him to drink. He loves trying to drink around the cubes. Sometimes bats at them and it becomes a game for him.

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Pamela C August 6, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Had a Drinkwell but sold it because didn’t think I would have more cats, ahem, until the
rescue at Xmas. Got Lucky someone sold me a PetMate fountain for $2, Cook back
broth from chicken and put new water in stainless steele bowls throughout the day, but
at least twice because they like to wet their feet in bowls. Have another Petmate, bought
2 for $2, one without the pump and am looking for a really cheap pump. Can’t afford an
all wet food diet, I don’t trust most wet food since the 2 cats died after the 2007 pet
food recall. But you can be poor and still afford the broth and drinking fountains.

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martha August 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Thanks for the tips. My kitties don’t seem to be drinking much at all lately! They do eat wet food for dinner, and i always put extra water in it, but their water bowls don’t seem to be touched. Ugh. So I’m going to get a couple of new bowls to see if that helps. Does anyone know how much water a cat needs per day? I’m curious how much they should be drinking.

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Mary1000 November 13, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I make “soup” My cats love it!

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Brittany Murray December 7, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Hi,
I have 6 cats, and recently one of the two females starting having urinary problems. Even though I knew the importance of feeding canned food and making sure my cats drink lots of water, Riblet slipped under the radar as she is a very picky eater and will only consume dry food. I now know that I should have tried harder to get her to eat canned food like the other kitties. I recently switched her dry food (due to budget issues) from Merrick’s Before Grain to something cheaper. I can’t be positive, but I believe that this was a huge factor in her developing of struvite crystals and a urine p.H. of 8.0. In addition to low water intake, and stress, I think the switch to the grain rich food was too much for her. After her 3rd vet visit in two weeks, Ribs is doing much better, however, for two days I had to manually squirt water or broth down her throat with a syringe to increase fluids. Now that she’s feeling better, I use the advice of Dr. Lisa Pierson,DVM, at catinfo.org. to help her stay hydrated and free of urinary issues. I love this site. I also suggest the book, Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life, by, Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM. Esq. I refer to this book again and again to keep my cats healthy. I cannot stress enough how important and spot on these two resources’ information is. I am also so grateful to have come across this website. You do a great job. Riblet, Jaws, BandAid, Mamma Kitty, Myrhh, and Bobo send their thanks!

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Caroline December 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Hi Britney, Thank you so much for writing and sharing your very important story! Thanks for the link to catinfo.org too! You’re right, it’s a great site.
We are so glad sweet Ribs is doing better now!

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hillary johnson April 17, 2012 at 1:12 am

Hello, just read your artical :) I bought my cat Nola a foutian yesterday she was so happy and dipped her paw in and drank quite a bit of water we are doing a test trial to see if she still is into it but last night she wanted to go back into the tub and drink from the faucet and even woke me and my husband up to run the faucet (we didn’t) but I wanted to know we let the fountin run constantly and the water is cool so I was curious as to why she wants back in the tub..this is my first experience with a fountin before and wanted to know if you had this problem or is this just a habbit she needs to break? Also how long should I wait before I take the device back and select a new one? Any answers would be appreciated thankyou!

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MARIA July 7, 2012 at 10:49 am

We used to fill up flower vases with water and leave them in the corner of rooms or hallways. My mom used to do this as a way to humidify the air in the wintertime. But when we noticed the cat often drinking from them, we started filling them with fresh water daily for the cat.

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IsabellaB8271 August 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Hi,

After I place my kittens wet food in their bowl, I add water to the can and then pour that around their food to ensure they are getting enough water in their diet. They are totally used to it now and I’m so glad they are getting their daily water intake.

Last night I was playing with my kittens, Frankie and Charlie, by having them run around chasing the laser pen. Well, Frankie was panting afterwards because I made him run a little too much (never again), so I saved the liquid I used from a can of salmon I used for myself for salmon burgers thankfully. I put it in front of him and he drank a little bit. So I then, took a small container I had of homegrown dried catnip from my NJ garden and sprinkled a little on the salmon water and he drank it ALL. I even swirled the bowl a little bit to make it more interesting for Frankie and I’m so glad he was ok. Live and learn, right?

I grow tons of catnip in my yard, cut it down, hang it upside down to dry and store it in rubbermaid containers throughout the house. This way I always have fresh, organic grown catnip for my boys. You can even sprinkle it on their food if they don’t like the food at first.

Best!

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John November 18, 2012 at 9:51 am

06/22/2012: Karen from East Wenatchee, Wa: “Don’t give cats tuna or tuna juice or milk or milk products. They are too hight in magnesium and cause crystals to form and clog the bladder.

And I also read an article here about Tuna:

http://www.sfgate.com/pets/askthevet/article/Limit-the-fish-in-your-cat-s-diet-3543894.php

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Shayla January 13, 2013 at 2:01 am

Hi,
I’ve never actually read this blog before (though it sounds really good), and I came across it when I did a google search for how to get my dear cat to drink more water. She’s had some sort of…. Something. A stroke, maybe. Anyways, she flatly refuses to drink any water, so I’ve been mixing water with small amounts of canned food to make a sort of soup that she happily laps up. Other times I soak dry food in water to soften and moisten it. Tonight, I had an epiphany: what if I made a sort of game out of it? Like bobbing for apples…
I poured a small puddle of water into her food bowl, and then added maybe 10 pieces of dry food, which floated innocently on top of the water. Ms. Appetite hurried over as fast as she could (which isn’t saying much given her current state) and tried to grab up a piece of food with her thorny teeth, then discovered the water- and she licked it!! She drank the water!! I seriously did a happy dance, which you were lucky not to see.
So, this is what worked for me finally, but if your cat is anything like mine, if you play this trick on him/her too often, she’ll figure it out and stop falling for it. So, if you try this, don’t do it too many times in a row.
I hope this helps, and I’m going to keep up my research on ways to get my cat to drink. Thank you, owner of this blog, for writing it. Hope all is well in the new year.

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Doris March 15, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Henry, who I took in from my yard the end of 2012, doesn’t seem to drink water. Adding water to wet food is a good idea, and I do, but if I go away overnight, and leave only dry food out, this does not work. I will try some of the ideas suggested and hope one will work….. My 3 other cats are fine with water dishes and the water fountain, but not Henry ! !

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Patricia Cole March 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I open a can of tuna and mash the tuna around to get most of the tuna water out.
I warm it slightly before offering it to my cat. The smell is stronger so they will go for it easier.

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Chris Ray August 5, 2013 at 2:09 am

Just tried a clean ceramic bowl of water and putting a little bit of water in it,then i got a handful of dried food and let the cat smell it.
I then dropped the food into the water,the result was he had to lap up the water to get to the food, heheheheh,I win !

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Kris August 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Ditto on the website: Dr. Lisa Pierson,DVM, at catinfo.org. Great info, and form a knowledgeable cat vet.

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Kris August 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Ditto on the website: Dr. Lisa Pierson,DVM, at catinfo.org. Great info, and from a knowledgeable cat vet.

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Tricia Rule August 22, 2013 at 8:09 pm

One of my cats has kidney disease so she’s constantly hovering over the water bowl. I do keep extra bowls of water around and I’ve found that they love it when I put ice in the water. I also add water to their wet food especially since Misty, who has kidney disease, has had a couple of UTI’s.
Love all your helpful hints Caroline!

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