What do cats want... in water?
October 4, 2016 8:23 AM   Subscribe

I realize this isn't the most profound pet-care question, but it drives me crazy. I've got 2 healthy indoor/outdoor cats and I can't figure out how to best serve their water needs. Sometimes they appear to strongly prefer fresh water and so I change it 3 times a day; other times they ignore the fresh and drink from a bowl that's been sitting out for a week. Are cats just weird?
posted by Jon44 to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Are cats just weird?

posted by zebra at 8:25 AM on October 4, 2016 [35 favorites]

It could be that they care deeply about which dish you're putting the water in. Truly. I had one cat who would not drink from any water dish except a huge mug that I got as swag from a company I worked for. She would watch me, bored, as I filled the regular ceramic dish for our other cat, and then stand there and stare at it. When I filled up the mug and put it down, she would drink. (She eventually graduated, if you can call it that, to drinking from the mug only if we put it in the tub under the faucet.)

So, yeah, cats are weird.
posted by holborne at 8:28 AM on October 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

1) Yeah, cats are just weird.
2) Perhaps you might like a fountain?

I have this fountain for my fussy little dog and it's great. He can drink the flowing filtered water from the fountain part or the water in the bowl part that's got his chin furs floating in it. It's entirely up to him.
posted by phunniemee at 8:28 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Most cats are fascinated by running water. They generally like aerated water too. They also frequently like not having to bend over to drink.

A couple of previous cats really liked cat fountains. This ceramic one is what I'd buy today, if I had to. We have the earlier generation and like it. The ceramic is easy to clean (dishwasher safe) and parts and filters are easy to get.

That said, our current two refused to drink from the fountain from the day they came in the house. They also didn't like bowls on the floor much (as evidenced by heads in the toilets). We're now just using a simple vase that's head-height for a sitting cat (like this). And they love it, stanky days-old water and all.

Go figure.
posted by bonehead at 8:32 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My cat does not drink from her dish and after trial and error I've discovered prefers a taller vessel, away from her food, in a place she can "discover," close to where water runs.

Cats are weird dudes, yes, but when I think about this, it actually makes total sense to me given her personality. She does not like to be "made" to do things and she likes a little adventure and she loves the sound of running water. (For this reason she drinks from a washed gelato tub in my bathtub. She freakin loves it.)

I still put water in a dish next to her food but that water is for kibble-moistening and flicking, duh.
posted by kapers at 8:35 AM on October 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I don't have time to dig up a cite right now, but I have read that cats care about where their water dish is placed in relation to their food. They regard food as their "kill," and any water nearby to that to be unclean or contaminated.

Our cat, who would never drink water beside her food, now drinks regularly out of the same dish which we now keep on the opposite side of the room.
posted by wats at 8:37 AM on October 4, 2016 [12 favorites]

I once had a cat who preferred what I called "free range water", which was water he licked off of the plants in our back yard, so yes, cats are weird.

I had a fountain for awhile, but got rid of it when it became clear that the cats enjoyed looking at it more than drinking from it (and it was a pain to keep clean--not that they particularly cared, but I found it grody).

Like kapers and wats, I've definitely had success in putting a water dish away from the kitchen/food (in our case, in a bathroom on the 2nd floor). The vet suggested it and I was skeptical, but they drank out of that a lot, it definitely surprised me.

Now that my cats eat only wet food, I've definitely had good luck upping their water intake (necessary due to urinary tract issues) by adding extra water to their food. They'll slurp up the gravy/water before finishing off the solids.
posted by msbubbaclees at 8:42 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @wats Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. That's got to be a key missing variable, as my cats have actual real "kill" they bring in to the porch area where the outdoor water dishes are. I bet I've been missing them avoiding the dish closest to the smell of the prey or the one they first drank from after eating prey....
posted by Jon44 at 8:44 AM on October 4, 2016

I have cats who don't care, one who preferentially drinks out of my glass OR the toilet, and I had a cat who would only drink water dripping from the tub.

It could be absolutely anything. It might be that it is near their food, or that it is the wrong shape bowl, or the wrong material, or that on Tuesdays they prefer fountains.
posted by jeather at 8:46 AM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Our cat gets water in a tall glass or mason jar, on the theory that he seems to like our water best. He seems to extra-like it when said vessel is on a table. Cats are weird.
posted by mchorn at 8:50 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Our cats also prefer a large mug for water drinking purposes. We have an ornamental fountain elsewhere in the house, and one of our cats is fascinated by it and will also drink from that.

Honestly, this is only something I would worry about if your cats aren't drinking and it's causing real issues for them. Otherwise keep doing what you're doing until you reach some kind of This Is Definitely What They Want consensus.

Most cats I have known (including my two current cats) will totally drink water near their food. This might fall into the "cats are weird" criterion, but seriously it's not a rule of thumb for cats that I'm aware of.
posted by Sara C. at 9:22 AM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

My cats like to drink from a tall water glass that's filled to the brim so of course that's what the spoiled fur balls get. I went away over night recently and set a huge Pyrex bowl of water right next to their regular water glass as a back up water option. When I came home, the tall water glass was half empty and one of my cats was sipping from the Pyrex bowl.

As I went through the unpacking and laundry routine, my other cat screamed bloody murder the first two hours I was home no matter how often I stopped to give her attention. Finally I did the, "Okay, kitty, show me what's wrong" thing and followed her to the kitchen. She circled their feeding area like a fiend and while I considered while she was so upset, I idly refilled the tall water glass and set it back down right next to the huge Pyrex bowl of water. She took a few laps from the water glass, walked away, and snoozed for the next 90 minutes.

Cats are weird.
posted by _Mona_ at 9:24 AM on October 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

One of our cats will only drink from a fountain (when we realized how much she loved it, we got another so she can have one upstairs and one in the cellar), the other ignores it and drinks from a water bowl... except every once in a while he drinks from a fountain. Cats are weird.
posted by languagehat at 9:33 AM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I bought a souvenir giant margarita glass on my last vacation just for my kitties. It's elevated, so my elderly cat can drink from it easily, it's too heavy to knock over, and it holds enough for several days. I also have to keep a bowl in the bathroom sink, one on the kitchen counter and one on the ground near their food. Three cats, three preferences that change daily. (Help! What have I done!?)
posted by jhope71 at 9:41 AM on October 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

My cats will only drink water that is served in large glass Pyrex bowls. Seriously. No other bowl will do. And they will gladly drink from a large glass Pyrex bowl no matter where it is located, even if it's right next to a litter box, their food, or something scary. Those bowls are sacred.

So yeah, cats are weird. It's why we love them.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:41 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

yup cats are weird

we provide our cats with 2 fountains. Herbert is very fond of the one in the kitchen. they both definitely drink out of the one in the bathroom. they also like the shower bucket and regularly drink out of that. Bellatrix will also drink out of any glass of water a human is foolish enough to leave in her path. I suspect they drink from puddles outside too...oh and Herbert loves to drink the 'raindrops' from the shower faucet :)
posted by supermedusa at 10:20 AM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Our cat likes cold water - he particularly likes iced water.
posted by HoraceH at 10:25 AM on October 4, 2016

Our older female cat will follow us into the bathroom in the morning and yowl until we run the shower a little bit so she can lick water off the floor.

I used to think she avoided the water bowls because they got dust and cat hair in them over the course of the day, but then I watched her drink week-old water from the reservoir of a humidifier covered in a layer of dust, hair, and a dead fly (which she consumed), so I think it's more that she likes wild water that she has stalked and captured herself instead of the tame water provided to her.
posted by telophase at 11:36 AM on October 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

My cats are freakin' spoiled and get fresh Brita-filtered water twice a day when I fill their food dish. They also love to play with ice, and one of my cats loves ice-cold water, so I frequently throw a few ice cubes in there too.

I'd like to know what the attraction is for taking a toy, like a glitter ball or a rubber band, and dropping it in the water dish. Why? Is this the same curiosity that makes toddlers flush all manner of items down the toilet?
posted by Autumnheart at 11:42 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

My cats like: the dog's elevated water dish (the dog will wait patiently until they are done), any glass of water I leave around, the mug I leave for them on my bedside table, and as a distant last their actual water bowl. I had a cat fountain once and they were nonplussed.
posted by maryrussell at 11:47 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

We have three cats. One drinks exclusively from the large, dog chewed knockoff tuperware bowl we use for our dog. The second prefers the dog bowl but will drink otherwise if the dog bowl is occupied. The third cat I've speculated likes the taste of chlorine; she will drink any water fresh out of the tap. In her bowl, out of the sink, even soapy bath water. As long as it came out of a tap in the last 20 minutes she is good to go.
posted by Mitheral at 12:20 PM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

To add yet another anecdote to the pile: a while back we accidentally discovered that our aging cat LOVES to drink out of a glass of a particular shape (a large tumbler, a bit wider and taller than a typical 12 oz coffee cup) but only when it's placed on top of a waist-high bookcase and far away from all other cat things. When such a glass is available, she'll drain it to the very bottom before she'll ever touch water that's in significantly different container or placed on the floor. We've tried a few similar glasses, and they all work equally well. She drinks three times as much when she has access to the proper setup as when she doesn't; no idea if that's actively healthful, but it seems unlikely to hurt. After three years, her enthusiasm for this particular drinking option hasn't wavered at all. And we now have a bookcase dedicated entirely for use as a cat bar, along with appropriate furniture placed so that she can climb up to it easily. (She's quite an old cat.)

I've not discovered a magic drinking location for past cats. But, "not near the food or the litter" seems to be a pretty common request. In short, cats are just weird. But, exploring widely within all possible drinking vessel / location parameter space can lead to slightly happier cats. If you want to have some fun with it, fill every container in your home with water and leave them scattered about at random. See which one the cat chooses.
posted by eotvos at 7:30 PM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I once knew a cat who only wanted to drink water out of a human's glass. But not just any glass, your glass, established by the fact that you had already drunk from it. She knew Human Water was superior to Cat Water and would not be deterred from her pursuit of the best.

The only way to trick her was to fill two glasses, drink from one of them (to establish it contained Human Water), then set it down on the table. (Bonus points for shooing her away to establish that you really wanted it.) Once she had stuck her face in the first glass, you were free to drink from the second glass, because it was clear to her it was your second choice option and therefore inferior.

Cats are weird.
posted by Owlcat at 12:56 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

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