Cats don’t naturally drink water
Cats don’t naturally drink water: Wild cats receive nearly all the fluids they need from the prey they eat—small rodents, lizards, birds, bugs—which usually have a moisture content of about 70 percent. What most people don’t know is that cats do not like to drink water. Some may learn to do it because of their totally dry diets, but it doesn’t come naturally.
The theory is that today’s cats are not water drinkers because historically they were dependent on their prey as the principal source of fluid. It is thought that this nutritional quirk remains as the result of cats first being domesticated in Egypt, which has a hot, dry climate and where water is scarce (hence those camels with handy humps for “refueling”).
It is believed that the feline system evolved into one where survival did not depend on finding drinkable water; instead, cats had to depend on their prey for their fluid intake, deriving it from the blood and other internal fluids of small birds and rodents, which are about 70 percent moisture.
Today’s cat who is given nothing but dry food becomes dehydrated, causing her urine to be highly concentrated. Healthy urine should be dilute, or “watered down,” and so highly concentrated urine commonly leads to urinary tract problems for cats, such as the formation of crystals and stones. Problems such as constipation and intestinal blockage can also be traced back to a cat’s natural disinclination to drink fluids.
In addition to the modern problem that cats do not get enough moisture in their food (i.e., no moisture at all in dry food) and the fact that drinking water does not come naturally to them, because of their acute sense of smell cats are especially sensitive to the odor and taste of their water.
They are so picky about odor that if water doesn’t smell right to them (if there is a chlorine or other chemical odor, or if another pet has taken a drink from the bowl), they won’t touch it.
Getting Your Cat to Drink More Water
- Offer bottled water if your cat refuses tap water and shows a preference for a particular bottled variety; you may want to make the investment in bottled water for long-term health benefits.
- Buy distilled water in large jugs if bottled spring water is too costly.
- Water at room temperature appeals to some cats, especially prior strays who are used to drinking out of puddles or other standing water.
- Try a recirculating pet water fountain (sold in most pet stores). A little pump feeds water down a plastic slide into a bowl and recirculates it back up again. Some cats are enticed to drink by the moving water, though others are not fooled by the same old water going around.
- Avoid plastic bowls, which retain odors no matter how they are washed.
- Get a bowl big enough not to squash her whiskers when she puts her face in to drink.
- Do not keep the water bowl next to the food dish—many cats dislike this.
- Scrub out the water bowl every day and refill with fresh water.
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