Can you help me figure out why my cat is so manic about water?
September 7, 2011 7:04 PM   Subscribe

Why does my late middle aged cat always crave water?

First off - the living conditions. The cat is an indoor only cat. I feed her a mix of wet and dry food. I used to use high quality organic foods, but she prefers Science Diet. So I've been feeding her that, just to make sure she eats regularly.

I live in the desert, and with the AC, the humidity is typically < 8%. Originally I inherited her in SF, where it's pretty humid. She also seemed to be pretty happy when we moved to the Pacific Northwest (humid, and chilly).

Twice a week I take the cat to the vet for a sub cutaneous fluid injection. I've taken to buying bottles of spring water - she always has a bowl of good water available. And she drinks from it regularly.

Even with that much fluid pushed in to her, the cat is still manic about water. Any time I'm in the bathroom, she whines until I open a tap so she can drink. She will wake me up before sunrise, screaming until I stumble in to open a tap for her.

Another bit of history - when I inherited her ten years ago, she wasn't so worried about water. But a couple years later, she started to lay in the sink - I think as a cue fpr water. She wasn't this manic until the move to the desert, where the humidity is low.
posted by krisak to Pets & Animals (37 answers total)
Has the vet tested her for diabetes? Or, what information has the vet given you, and what tests have been run?
posted by Houstonian at 7:06 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

If she always has a bowl of water available, I would guess the demanding you're seeing is more behavioral than physical.

What has your vet said about this?
posted by tomswift at 7:06 PM on September 7, 2011

Cats are weird about water. I've known lots of cats with no health problems, living in temperate climates, who beg for water from the tap or tub. Obviously ask the vet about diabetes or kidney problems. But, failing an actual diagnosis, chalk it up to C.A.W.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:08 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Good point, Houstonian. She was tested for diabetes about two months ago. She had a full blood panel done. The only abnormality was her kidneys, which were a bit weak, but not troubling.
posted by krisak at 7:09 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Need kitty pix, pls. If she's a Maine Coon, they're known for being water babies.

Do you have more than one water bowl? My cats prefer to drink far from their food, so I have a couple scattered around the house.

Since you mentioned sub-q, have you tried doing the fluids yourself? It's not usually difficult and doing it at home will save tons of money/aggro. I'm on my second compromised kidney kitty; memail me if you want tips.
posted by cyndigo at 7:13 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Many older cats develop kidney conditions. My family has a car that is 18 years old (!) who needs the subcutaneous fluids every other day, and still she drinks water constantly. The vet has said her kidneys are shot but the fluids are what is really keeping her alive. I'd suspect that your cat has developed the normal cat kidney weakness that many older cats do. The dry air and climate probably just exacerbates it.
posted by emily37 at 7:14 PM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: cyndigo - she's a calico. Kind of a Russian coloration, but has the calico personality.

The multiple bowls is a good idea - I'll try that.

I did try it myself. But I'm a programmer and a mechanic. I just wasn't able to calm the cat down and deal with the injection in such a way that the cat didn't freak out.
posted by krisak at 7:18 PM on September 7, 2011

there are also bowls that have running water, which she might like, and bother you less to turn on taps
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:21 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: emily37 - that makes sense. Except that her last blood panel indicated that her kidneys were pretty much okay.
posted by krisak at 7:22 PM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the link, 5-Mr. Suspicious Numbers. I've used those in the past. The downside is they get kind of gunked up. So now I just leave bowls of bottled water out for her.

I did think about designing a machine washable setup that would be far easier to deal with the the commercial designs.
posted by krisak at 7:24 PM on September 7, 2011

I have one of those cats who's weird about water. He had a kidney infection a couple months ago, and went into full-blown constant water drinking, but even now that he's got a 100% clean bill of health again, he's still odd about it. Jumps up to the tap if it's running, checks out the shower, etc. I think there's just a preference in some cats for water that is running, like you'd prefer in nature, if you had to drink water in the wild.

One of the ways I keep him hydrated is mixing water into his dry food. A couple of tablespoons. He drinks the kibble-flavored water up and then eats the slightly softened crunchy bits. I like to think this is counteracting the 'dry food' effect which certainly would make me want to drink water more.
posted by Miko at 7:29 PM on September 7, 2011

My cat used to bug us about water all the time until we got one of these. Now the running water seems to satisfy him.
posted by cabingirl at 7:36 PM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: Miko - that might be the answer. She did have a kidney infection about a year ago, and has been obsessive since then.

She always has dry food out (which she happiyl eats). And every morning I make a soup out of her wet food (1/'2 food, 1/2 water). She usually drinks all the water out of the soup, then eats the dry food.

Your suggestion might work - I'll have to add some water to the dry food.
posted by krisak at 7:47 PM on September 7, 2011

While cushing's is not as common in cats as it is in dogs, it causes cats to be thirsty. If you are seriously worried about it and want to get to the root of the problem, get a referral to an internal medicine specialist and have them run a full diagnostic (RDVMs can be pretty useless at running tests and interpreting them correctly).
posted by TheBones at 7:49 PM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: TheBones - thanks, I'll try to track one down here.

Sakurat - No, she exhibited the same behavior on Halo and Fancy Feast brands.

However, you may be right about the chlorine dissipation. She does like it when I've let water sit in the sink for a day or two. And she always returns to the bowls of "mountain spring water" that I give her.

And it is 80 degrees in here during summer. Ill see what her drinking patterns are during winter when it's much cooler.
posted by krisak at 7:59 PM on September 7, 2011

Also, why are you taking the cat in twice a week for sub-q fluids? There should be no reason a healthy cat is going into the vet for sub-q fluids twice a week.
posted by TheBones at 9:45 PM on September 7, 2011

I did try it myself. But I'm a programmer and a mechanic. I just wasn't able to calm the cat down and deal with the injection in such a way that the cat didn't freak out.

Did you try it during feeding? That's what works for me -- my cat loves to eat, and while she's intent on her food she doesn't freak out when I poke her with the needle. I try to leave things up to her, though: if she's patient she gets the whole dose, but if she tries to leave I always take the needle out and let her go. I'd rather try again later than risk teaching her to fear her food.
posted by vorfeed at 10:02 PM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: TheBones - can you elaborate please? I was told that she needs sub-q fluids twice a week.

I have noticed that when she gets dehydrated, her personality changes. That, to me , indicates an issue. When I take her in for a fluid injection, she gets a lot more more active afterwards.
posted by krisak at 10:05 PM on September 7, 2011

Oh, yeah, and excess drinking does seem to be connected to kidney disease. If anything, it's probably a good thing, as it means she's getting more fluids. I'd also suggest switching her off dry food -- moist food is much better for cats for precisely this reason.
posted by vorfeed at 10:07 PM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: vorfeed - I tried a couple times during the day. But ultimately - I'm an engineer. I tried to inject the fluid into her. But I'm just not someone who can do it.
posted by krisak at 10:08 PM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: vorfeed - you make a good point. And I typically give her two choises. One bowl of dried food. And one bowl of soup. She seems to want to eat from both.
posted by krisak at 10:10 PM on September 7, 2011

Your RDVM is an idiot and shouldn't be practicing if they say that your cat NEEDS sub-q fluids twice a week, but there's nothing else wrong with it. You need to find out WHY your vet thinks your cat needs it twice a week... and then get a second opinion. Seriously, go see another vet, an internal medicine specialist who can help you suss this out.
posted by TheBones at 10:22 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Amateur hour comments:

If her kidneys are in fact OK, then maybe (wild speculation) she's drinking too much water. That could change behavior via electrolyte dilution and elimination. In this scenario, the subQ fluids would be restoring electrolytes. Could you measure her water intake? (Since you're an engineer: the cat as a control volume.)

I've done the palliative sub-Q injections for kidney insufficiency/failure. It is actually easy once you get it and learn all the tricks and figure out a good protocol. The learning curve is nasty, but there's a whole bunch of videos online showing different approaches.
posted by coffeefilter at 11:26 PM on September 7, 2011

I have two cats. They prefer any kind of moving or recently-moving water to standing water. They will ignore a bowl of pure water sitting on the ground in favor of dirty, slightly soapy water in a dirty dish in the sink that has recently been jostled. The cats now have a ceramic cat water fountain. They LOVE it. Highly recommended.
posted by Cygnet at 5:42 AM on September 8, 2011

PS. The cat fountain I linked to uses charcoal filters that should be replaced every 2 weeks. They cost about $2 each. So far ours is not gunky at all.
posted by Cygnet at 5:45 AM on September 8, 2011

I just put down my second cat with diabetes. (This, I add, is kind of devastating. ) I think I had others in the past, too, that were undiagnosed.

I know soooo many people with diabetic cats. I am thinking there's too much carb in the cheap commercial foods. I have been feeding Science Diet DM cat food,which is much higher protein.

I'm not sure if cats get diabetes insipidus or not, but its primary symptom is water craving. My dad had it, and would drink water until he went into a coma, literally. Had to be restrained until he died. Sad.

Don't stop looking for answers with one vet. Diagnosis is a developed skill, and normally distributed. Same with human docs; one answer is not always the right answer. You may have gotten the only answer this vet had available. Find someone with gray hair and a few decades of experience if your vet is youngish. Just saying.
posted by FauxScot at 7:43 AM on September 8, 2011

I had a cat with this issue. The sad side--kidney failure. She was hypothyroid (on meds) and then at 17 her kidneys began to fail.

I have a border collie with this issue. Recurrent UTIs with no known origin. Next step after baytril--ultrasound to see if a birth defect didn't close up an area for recurrent UTIs (thus the needs for water).

OR---vet said I have a neurotic border collie who needs puppy prozac.

Those are my pets' experience with those symptoms.
posted by stormpooper at 9:04 AM on September 8, 2011

Response by poster: TheBones - I think you may be right. I'll get recommendations for a second vet to take her to.

coffeefilter - I tried, really did. Sat with a person at the vet as they did the injection and got a good demonstration. I'm just not able to do it at home. You theory about electrolytes might be correct - I'll find out more once I get a second opinion.

Cygnet - thanks for the link, I'll probably pick up one of those. The plastic one, even with the filters, tended to get slimy and I had to wash it about every other week. The ceramic one might not get gunked up so quickly.
posted by krisak at 9:51 AM on September 8, 2011

Response by poster: FauxScot - I don't disagree with you. I've tried high protein food, but the cat simply refuses to eat it. I've also bought multiple brands, and the higher protein brands she tends to avoid. Sadly, the cat, like many Americans, enjoys her cheap food...

stormpooper - 17 years for a cat is a decent lifespan. And a slightly neurotic border collie sounds like a fun dog (I'm dealing with a formerly abused sheltie). After a round of antibiotics a year ago thankfully my cat hasn't had any further UTIs. So I think that isn't the cause.
posted by krisak at 10:17 AM on September 8, 2011

When my cat gets his occasional dry-food-nugget meal, he gets super thirsty. The rest of the month, on wet food, he does not crave it so much. I switched little buddy to a wet food diet based on vet recommendation (cat was having urinary problems when on a primarily dry food diet).

I'm going to sound like a dick, but let your cat not eat for a day if it won't eat the wet food. What I mean is, just offer the wet food for a day, and no dry food. That's what I did. Cats still have survival instincts, and usually will eat the wet food, if it is all that is offered. Cats fast in the wild every so often, meaning that a meal a day is not guaranteed, so they should be physiologically able to not eat for a day with no ill effect if that is your worry. I'd bet on your cat eating the wet food though if no dry food was available.

If it helps, your cat may be more inclined to eat chunky wet food, as opposed to the mushy stuff. Try many different wet foods, eventually you'll find one that kitty will tolerate.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:15 AM on September 8, 2011

Response by poster: jabberjaw - I've actually tried only leaving out wet for for over a week. She ended up starving herself down to 4.5 lbs. At this point I try to leave a combination of both out so that she at lest gets enough food in her. (And I've tried both chunky and pureed wet food, with the same results on both.) I think on normal cats your advice would work, but mine seems to be a Special breed of stubborn.
posted by krisak at 12:33 PM on September 8, 2011

Cats can and do starve themselves rather than eat food they don't find palatable, so if your cat really will not eat wet food, dry is a reasonable solution.

That said, if you're willing to experiment it's usually possible to find a brand they'll eat. One of mine refused to switch to wet food, and the guy at the healthy-pet-food store recommended the Tiki Cat brand... and it worked! If I give him a bowl with his favorite dry food and the Tiki Cat, he'll even eat the Tiki stuff first. Maybe you could try that, or ask which brand your local store recommends for picky cats?

IMHO wet food is worth the trouble, if it's at all possible -- "every $1 spent on wet food saves $2 to $3 in vet bills" has, sadly, been my experience with kidney failure in cats. But again, if she just won't eat then anything is better than nothing!
posted by vorfeed at 1:06 PM on September 8, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks vorfeed - I'll try that brand. I've tried a few healthy brands and had no luck, but that's not one I've bought before.

Cygnet - Something I just remembered. Cats can't see still water. Hence why they prefer drinking from a fountain - they can see the motion of the water. Mine, when she drinks from the water bowl, smacks it a few times with her paw so that she can see where it is.
posted by krisak at 1:30 PM on September 8, 2011

Cats! So picky. Good luck. Under your circumstances, I'd try every wet food on the market and the water fountain. Have you tried mixing her dry food into her wet food? Good luck!
posted by jabberjaw at 1:56 PM on September 8, 2011

Cats can't see still water.

It's quite true, at least for some cats. My other cat has a habit that shows it clearly - he walks to the water bowl, stares, then takes his paw and tugs the bowl a little. The water starts sloshing, reflecting light, and as soon as he sees the surface, he drinks.
posted by Miko at 6:38 PM on September 8, 2011

Response by poster: Jabberjaw - I just tried mixing her dry food, wet food, and some water into a kind of soup. She ate some, but not any more than she would when confronted with just dry food.
posted by krisak at 8:37 PM on September 8, 2011

But the question is not whether she ate more food, but whether the wetter food helped quell her need to drink so much water.
posted by Miko at 7:26 PM on September 10, 2011

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