Why won't my cats drink water from the bowl?
January 31, 2006 4:40 PM   Subscribe

My cats will NOT drinks from their water bowl. Why, oh why not?

They WILL, however, drink from any and all other water sources - cups by bedsides, running faucets (they sometimes dart into the bathroom while I'm washing my hands), leaky things, and gross rain water outside. They are more than happy to EAT in the kitchen, where the water bowl is. I'm worried this may catch up to them and they won't be getting enough water. Thoughts?
posted by ORthey to Pets & Animals (43 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Some sources suggest keeping cats' food and water bowls relatively far apart. Might this be an option in your house? (Hey, one of my cats dips her paw into the water and swirls it around and then licks her paw. She doesn't usually make a mess, but sometimes she does.)
posted by bilabial at 4:43 PM on January 31, 2006

This seems to be a common enough problem that there's a LOT of products that try to solve it.
posted by Laen at 4:44 PM on January 31, 2006

I had a friend tell me it was due to cats needing some mysterious substance that was only found in running water, not still water. She was serious but couldn't tell me what the mysterious molecule was. I asked a vet and he told me more or less the same thing, but he couldn't tell me what the molecule was either. It may be true cats prefer running water instinctively, molecule or not, as it may be cleaner or less stagnant that way.
I had a cat who took years to drink from his bowl and he still prefers anything else and will only drink from his bowl if he's really thirsty.
posted by baklavabaklava at 4:45 PM on January 31, 2006

I've heard cats love water that's running (which appears to be borne out by your observations). Maybe you can try something like one of these.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:45 PM on January 31, 2006

Try throwing some ice in it. Some cats prefer their water cold. Dogs too.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:46 PM on January 31, 2006

My cat is the same. She has a strong preference for running water (faucets, fountains, leaks), closely followed by water out of pint glasses (our usual drinking glasses). She won't drink water from a bowl, she'll only drink water from a juice glass if she's dying of thirst.

We have a cat drinking fountain for her that she likes. I, however, loathe it. It makes a noise that makes me mental when the water needs replacing and it collects her long gray hair like that's its job. Ugh.
posted by birdie birdington at 4:51 PM on January 31, 2006

My cat's the same. I had to provide her with her very own coffee cup next to the sink (for some reason, that was fine). I did finally put a bowl on my bedside table that she'll drink from, but she waits for me to fill it up fresh before going to bed, and won't drink from it until I do. It's her world, I just live in it...
posted by airgirl at 4:58 PM on January 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

Move the bowl to the opposite side of the room from the food, or into a different room all together and change the water daily.

Running water is good too, but not as useful as separating her food and water.
posted by Good Brain at 4:58 PM on January 31, 2006

BTW, possible downside of the cat not getting enough water: kidney stones, and a cat who starts pissing in spots that are not its litter box, followed by vet bills.

Just something to keep in mind if moving the water bowl and changing it regularly starts to seem like an annoyance.
posted by Good Brain at 5:00 PM on January 31, 2006

Cats like running water instinctively. (Humans going camping should also drink from running water if at all possible - it's much less parasitey.) There are lots of solutions: run the tap for them, get an electric pump water bowl, or just figure that if they get thirsty enough, they'll drink from the regular bowl. Cats don't actually need that much water, especially if they eat wet cat food, so unless there's some reason to believe the cat is suffering due to lack of water, it doesn't matter much which of the above solutions you choose.
posted by jellicle at 5:02 PM on January 31, 2006

Mine are the same way, love water glasses. I need to get a cat fountain.

That said, if the little monsters get thirsty enough (like when I leave town for three days at a time) they WILL drink from the bowls I have put down for them.
posted by TeamBilly at 5:02 PM on January 31, 2006

Mine too! He'll meow and wake me up, not for food, but to turn on the bathtub cold tap to make a little stream for him. And it's not still vs. running water, because he will drink from any glass of water he can get his face down into - and I have the same Petmate fountain thing that the previous poster hates and he seems to ignore it.

I too worry about him not getting enough water, but he was just at the vet and apparently his renal function's OK. Still, it sure would be nice not to have to leave the tub running for him!
posted by nicwolff at 5:03 PM on January 31, 2006

I'm with the "move the water away" crowd. I've never had this problem, but then again, the water has always been in a different place.
posted by snsranch at 5:05 PM on January 31, 2006

Think of all the time and money you already spend on your cat -- food, toys, vet visits, etc. Then plunk down about $30 for a plug-in water fountain. Fill it with fresh cold water every night as part of your bedtime ritual. You'll be calmer and happier, and your cats will be calmer, happier and better hydrated. (If they're older cats, keeping them well hydrated is especially important.)

I thought my husband wasted his money when he brought home the fountain for our cats, but within a couple of days, each one of them was spending several minutes drinking water from it. One of our cats will still occasionally beg for water from the bathroom sink, or will mug us when we're drinking anything cold, but much, much less than she used to.
posted by rosemere at 5:10 PM on January 31, 2006

Response by poster: Since they will drink from still sources as much as running ones, the "move it away" theoretically seems like a good idea, although I've tried it once before... but I may not have left it in the new place long enough.
posted by ORthey at 5:11 PM on January 31, 2006

Our fountain is a few steps away from the kitchen where their food is, in the powder room in the hall. Yes, they did drink from still water before, but a fountain a few steps away from food is kitty heroin. Seriously.
posted by rosemere at 5:14 PM on January 31, 2006

We drink enough water around here that our cat always finds someone's half filled water, sticks her paw into it to stir it up, then drinks away. We've sort of given up. I'm pretty sure drinking pawed water isn't good for you though.
posted by sled at 5:17 PM on January 31, 2006

Supposedly, cats cannot see still water; their eyes are geared towards movement, and since still water in a bowl is very clear, the cat cannot always see it. My cats knew there was water in their bowl, but they couldn't see it so they often would stick their paws in it to make it ripple, and then they would drink!
posted by kraagenskul at 5:18 PM on January 31, 2006

As postroad indicated - have you tried tap water and mineral water?
posted by fire&wings at 5:20 PM on January 31, 2006

My cats also stopped drinking from the bowl at one point -- I switched them to a fountain and they stopped drinking from the sink.
posted by o2b at 5:26 PM on January 31, 2006

I've heard that cat's sometimes don't like getting their whiskers knocked, and so moving from a deep bowl to a wide shallow bowl can help.
posted by alms at 5:34 PM on January 31, 2006

I've got the same fountain linked above, and it works like a charm. My cats love it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:46 PM on January 31, 2006

Our cat will only drink from a yellow plastic cup placed at the opposite end of the house to his food. The cup must be freshly filled every day, all the way to the top.

He is also obsessed with borders on the floor. The cup must rest just over the threshold to the ensuite bathroom, so that he can sit on the carpet with his head over the tiles and drink.

If he's given any kind of food he can pick up (eg fresh strips of beef or chicken), he will run with it out of the kitchen, through the dining room to the door of the study. He'll sit on the wooden floor in the dining room, stick his head through the door, and eat the food on carpet (argh!).
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:57 PM on January 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have the same Petmate fountain as Medieval Maven and birdie birdington. They're both right. It works like a charm, the gurgling sound it makes when it needs a refill is horrible, and the vents on the submersible pump have more cat hair on them than my cats. But my cats are hydrated, and that's what counts.

My cats hated the corresponding dry feeder though. The noise the motor would make when it stirred the food scared them.
posted by Fat Guy at 6:08 PM on January 31, 2006

Ours will -only- drink from the toilet. He won't drink from bowls, the sink, fountains, or anything else we've tried. But he does seem to get enough water anyway.
posted by Kickstart70 at 6:10 PM on January 31, 2006

I have a friend who keeps a number of flower vases filled to the rim with water spread around his apartment. The cats sidle up to them, sit down, and drink without having to bend over at all. They seem to enjoy it a great deal.
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:27 PM on January 31, 2006

Same problem, same solution as others in the thread. A pet fountain solved all of our problems. I've got a Catit, but I don't think the brand matters too much.

And baklavabaklava, your mystery molecule is probably oxygen. Still water loses dissolved air as it sits, giving the water a "flat" taste. Cats, like people, seem to like the tates of water that's got more dissolved air in it rather than less.
posted by bonehead at 6:42 PM on January 31, 2006

The way I finally got my cat to drink was by moving his bowl to the bathroom counter. Not only is it farther from his food and from dirt off the floor, but it's also easier for me to remember to keep the water fresh.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:03 PM on January 31, 2006

Some pets won't drink out of metal bowls because they add a metallic taste to the water. So if you're using metal, try plastic.
posted by Hankins at 7:03 PM on January 31, 2006

Interesting, I got the Drinkwell a while ago and my cat wouldn't touch it. Plus as a previous person mentioned, it was high maintenence. I'd love to know others experiences with different fountains.

Our 19yr old cat essentially refuses any other water except the tub turned on to a trickle. She will sit at the top of the stairs and yowl. In the middle of the night if we get up to use the bathroom she'll follow us in and sit on the tubside meowing. And if we don't get up for her in the AM early enough, she'll meow until we do. Any sign of movement from us is an excuse to jump off her perch and run for the bathroom.

I am SO tempted to rig up an RFID detector to know when she's up there, turn on the tub a trickle and then turn it off if there's no movement from her for 10secs.
posted by bkdelong at 7:19 PM on January 31, 2006

Get the fountain.

You know what standing water tastes like. Would you want to drink it as your only beverage?

One of our two cats used to jump up to the bathroom sink and meow until I turned the faucet on, which she would then drink from. Eventually I figured it out and got the fountain. They took to it immediately (no need to gradually introduce it as the manual says).

Here's a tip, though. When you get it (because you will), remember to take apart and clean the pump occasionally, maybe every few months. I somehow forgot you could do this and was ready to replace our "broken" pump, when I finally looked at the manual. Of course there was a bunch of gunk in there and it worked fine after a cleaning, which took maybe five minutes.
posted by lackutrol at 7:30 PM on January 31, 2006

Oh, and the downsides: it does indeed make this growling noise when it's low on water, but that is easily remedied by refilling the water reservoir. You have to wash it to get out the cat hair, but we only do this maybe twice a month. As I said before, you have to clean the gunk out of the pump very occasionally.
posted by lackutrol at 7:36 PM on January 31, 2006

Yep. My cats mostly drink from the bathroom sink which I have dutifully let drip for the past 12 years. That's right -- my cats matter more to me than conserving water.
posted by gsh at 8:00 PM on January 31, 2006

Use a ceramic or glass bowl instead of plastic or metal. If you are not using a dishwasher; that is you are washing the bowl by hand, then rinse thoroughly. Soap residue can be hard to wash away sometimes, but the cat can taste it.

Also you can try using a rubber stopper in your sink, and then leave fresh water in the sink every time you use it.
posted by gearspring at 8:05 PM on January 31, 2006

We had a cat that would turn on the kichen faucet to drink from the stream (it would bat the handle till it came on). Our current cats would rather die than drink out of a bowl, they drink out of the filter on our fish tank. I don't know that it's the running part though, they'll also drink out of a nasty mud puddle outside.
posted by 445supermag at 8:14 PM on January 31, 2006

My cats use a pet fountain (and LOVE it). Some time ago my vet told me to get it after my male cat had a urinary tract blockage that eventually caused him to get his manhood taken.

She (vet) says that the a lot of water bowls with stagnate water build up bacteria (ever see red stuff in the bottom of your bowl?) and it's better for them to have the filtered.
posted by heartquake at 8:57 PM on January 31, 2006

Piling on for the cat fountain. One of mine loves it (after having it sit side by side for a few days next to her regular bowl) and drinks off of the top of the waterfall. The other cat in this house gets all of his water from ice cubes. He waits patiently beside the refrigerator when he's thirsty and we are trained to give him a couple of cubes. Tile floor, CA desert, they just evaporate. he won't lick them if you put them in a bowl.
posted by jvilter at 10:13 PM on January 31, 2006

My cat drinks from a bowl, he's never shown any interest in running water, but he does prefer filtered water to plain tap water. It may be just that the water from the tap is fresher than the water already in the bowl. Cats are fickle creatures anyway - I think drinking from puddles rather than the bowl you've carefully put down for them is probably their idea of a joke!
posted by featherboa at 2:43 AM on February 1, 2006

I have 3 cats. I decided to try a cat fountain because we were using a little bowl and we had to fill it all the time. All three would also frequently drink out of water cups left around the house, or currently being used water cups when we weren't paying attention. ;)

So, the Drinkwell, worked horribly. It had a tendancy to not go together 100% and would leak onto the floor. I tried several arrangments and it just didn't work. It was also a bit noisy. So we tried the CatIt. Certainly holds alot more. Used it for about a year now. However, it has some drawbacks. It's really hard to clean, it collects hair and dirt like nothing else, and it needs to be cleaned, often. The noise it makes when it's low is annoying, which I guess is more of a feature then a bug. The main issue is that it keeps becoming bacteria infested, and it's not exactly easy to clean. It only takes a refill or so before it needs another cleaning. So, for the last couple of months, it's been sitting on the kitchen counter. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it.

So, now I'm back to a somewhat larger bowl then I used before. A standard soup/salad bowl. It's in the same place as the fountain was, which is only a foot or so away from their food. They have no problems drinking from it. I havn't noticed the pawing action. The bowl is black, maybe it's easier for them with certain colors. It's easy to fill up every other day, and 'cleaning' is simply putting the old bowl in the dishwaher, and snagging a new one from the cupboard.

Fountain or bowl, they've always taken to water cups around the house. We have seen little health issues from switching back and forth from the fountains.

So, I suggest you don't bother with them, unless your cat has some medical issues where it needs more then normal water, then go for it. Personally, I see the bowl as the water they need, and the cups around the house as they water they like and keeps them more hydrated.

I'll probably end up testing the CatIt in the top rack of the dishwaher (minus the motor of course) and see how it works out. If it doesn't melt and works out, I'll probably use it again. Otherwise, it's going in the garbage.
posted by Phynix at 3:13 AM on February 1, 2006

The Drinkwell and the PetMate that myself and others linked to are different, just for the record. The Drinkwell has sort of a waterfall effect, while the PetMate has a waterslide thing. The PetMate doesn't splash and makes almost zero noise unless it's low on water. The PetMate has its own charcoal filter, like a fish tank, and the only time we had one to leak was one that was broken. I clean it out about once a month -- hot water and then I actually soak it in vinegar and scrub it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:45 AM on February 1, 2006

Your CatIt was a bacteria haven, Phynix? That's odd. How often were you changing the filters?

We've had ours for several months and that hasn't been an issue at all. None of our cats are big shedders, though, and we just may not find hair in the water for that reason alone.
posted by rosemere at 9:31 AM on February 1, 2006

I changed the filter about once a month, sometimes less. Basically if I popped the bowl off to refill and see it needed it, I cleaned the whole thing and put a new filter in. I figured it was pointless to put a new filter in a dirty bowl, so might as well clean.

Two of my cats are unfortunatly big shedders. ;(
posted by Phynix at 2:22 PM on February 1, 2006

--disclaimer! theory --

Think of your cat as a Tiger who has killed and eaten its prey. And left the carcase rotting on the ground. (Even though we know it will be picked up and put through the dishwasher by you). Jungle Cat doesn't want to drink from the puddle beside its feeding place - it is likely tainted now. This is why Jungle Cat wanders off and licks the shower tray/flower vase/toilet. And why moving the waterbowl away from the foodbowl can work.
posted by Catch at 3:52 PM on February 1, 2006

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