How do I get my cat to drink his water?
June 27, 2004 7:41 AM   Subscribe

I have a cat who will not drink water. Recently he's been begging for food more often, probably for the moisture content. I say probably because I give him friskees in a pouch, which is largely water, and he will lick all the syrup/water up and leave the little bits of meat. But he won't drink his water. How do I get him to drink his water?
posted by Grod to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Supplement the moist food with added water.

A trick to determine whether the little guy is dehydrated: pick up a handful of neck-scruff, and watch how it settles back into place. It should basically 'snap' back into place. If it takes time to return to shape, he may be short on water.

If you're really concerned, you might want to take him to a vet and have his urine tested - insufficient water intake can lead to kidney problems, as you're no doubt aware.
posted by stonerose at 7:58 AM on June 27, 2004

Just a SWAG; he doesn't like the way his water bowl smells. Try a different bowl (maybe a cereal bowl).

Also, see how he responds to running water (kitchen sink)
posted by filmgeek at 8:00 AM on June 27, 2004

Our cat also refuses to drink from a bowl. She only likes running water -- or water from other sources like the watering can or puddles in the shower. Try showing him a dripping faucet and see if he's interested.

Also, what about milk and other liquids?
posted by Ljubljana at 8:01 AM on June 27, 2004

The Cat -- that's his name, btw -- is a complete aquaphobe. He hates running water, puddles, etc. I'll try changing his bowl tho. I give him filtered water, the same stuff we drink, straight out of the Brita.
Stonerose, how long is "time"? I mean, it's not like a rubber band. However, it doesn't take more than maybe, 1/3 second.
I thought cats had trouble digesting milk, Ljubljana?
posted by Grod at 8:08 AM on June 27, 2004

Humph. The GF says that it does too snap back and I'm paranoid. I'm not so sure.
posted by Grod at 8:13 AM on June 27, 2004

1/3 of a second to snap back is definitely not dehydrated.

Doesn't that friskees in a pouch stuff have sugar in it? I would consider finding a healthier food to start out. My cats have always lived to be over 20, and I feed those healthier foods that they don't sell in grocery stores.

The cat does not drink water because he gets all the water he needs from his food. I would find a healthier canned food and perhaps serve it with a little water mixed in. A cat that only eats "syrup" could be headed towards diabetes.
posted by free pie at 8:40 AM on June 27, 2004

If he hates all water then I don't know if this will work, but my cat, too, does not drink water from a bowl (and I tried different bowls and different water, tap and bottled). However -- he loves drinking water from a cup on the bathroom sink! I found this out by accident because I had left a cup of water for myself there once and found him drinking water from it. I was so happy he was drinking water at all that it became his cup.

I was so worried that he wasn't drinking water that I also put a cup of water on his table next to the window, and he drinks from that too. I have no real idea why he likes the cups but not the bowls. Maybe he likes being higher up when he drinks (both cups are elevated off the floor -- counter, table) but I also tried a bowl on the counter & table and he refused them! Maybe he thinks he's human??
posted by rio at 8:43 AM on June 27, 2004

If the cat is drinking so little water that it's a health problem, try giving him "tuna water". Ie: buy a can of tuna fish, pour the water into the cat's bowl, dilute dilute OK! OK! And take the cat to the vet.
posted by Nelson at 8:45 AM on June 27, 2004

Toots prefered drinking from freshly-flushed toilets, and learned to flush it for her own entertainment. Wasteful of water, no doubt.

Someone mentioned a fountain bowl made for cats who prefer running water, but that probably doesn't apply to The Cat, since you say he is aquaphobic.

If the weather is hot, maybe some ice cubes would get licked.
posted by Goofyy at 8:51 AM on June 27, 2004

Here, scroll down. Cats often don't drink much plain water. Make sure it's available in a dish that's not plastic. If you're really worried, call your vet for some reassurance, but I think your cute kitty is fine.
posted by theora55 at 8:54 AM on June 27, 2004

Another suggestion would be to try a glass bowl rather than plastic; it doesn't hold old smells as much. Also, it should be a shallow bowl -- a cat's whiskers are sensitive and they often won't stick their head in a bowl if the whiskers brush the sides.
posted by transient at 8:56 AM on June 27, 2004

I read somewhere that cats prefer their food and water to be located in different locations. You might try moving the water somewhere else.
posted by kindall at 8:56 AM on June 27, 2004

insufficient water intake can lead to kidney problems

Or result FROM. I'd say it's vet time.
posted by rushmc at 8:59 AM on June 27, 2004

rushmc is entirely right. Sometimes the insufficient water intake is the result of kidney problems. That happened to my cat of 8 years last April; we didn't get him to the vet in time =(

The best way to check at home is the cat's litter box. Is it moist and does it smell of ammonia? Are there lots of urine splotches? Then the cat's probably okay and just drinking in times and places you don't watch. Still, the only way to be sure is a trip to the vet and a blood test.
posted by jbrjake at 9:11 AM on June 27, 2004

kindall is right about cats instinctively preferring their water to be away from their food. It can make a HUGE difference in water consumption. I would get the cat checked by the vet though.

And I second the suggestion about looking into other cat foods. There are good brands(Wysong, Innova, Felidae, etc.) out there that only use human grade meats and grains and some that don't use meat by-products. Rotted, diseased, moldy, contaminated meat can be put into pet foods. Many have way too much cereal. And they use dyes and sugars.
posted by lobakgo at 9:59 AM on June 27, 2004

My dog refuses to drink filtered/spring water. He drank it for the first 1.5 years of his life and then flatly refused. He drinks a shitload of tap water though, so you might want to try taking out the brita.
posted by dobbs at 10:14 AM on June 27, 2004

One of my cats won't drink still water - we have a Drinkwell pet fountain. Though that doesn't seem to be the problem with yours. I remember seeing somewhere that cats like to think they've discovered water - if you leave several mugs in different, unusual locations, they will think they've happened upon them, that they're not dependent on some big bald giant thing that's always trying to pick them up.
posted by ferociouskitty at 10:47 AM on June 27, 2004

The Cat says thanks!
posted by Grod at 11:07 AM on June 27, 2004

My cat doesn't drink water from a bowl; he doesn't like to get his nose wet and so he pretty much avoids the bowl entirely. If I spill it on the ground, however, he laps it all up. FWIW.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 11:41 AM on June 27, 2004

Just a thought that occured to me, try sprinkling some catnip into the water. It's like pot in brownies!
posted by brownpau at 11:43 AM on June 27, 2004

One of my GF's cats only drinks out of glasses or cups as well. Very irritating, but may solve your problem.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:16 PM on June 27, 2004

Perhaps you could try a Cat Water Bottle?
posted by SPrintF at 12:20 PM on June 27, 2004

We have a device which consists of a water dish, a small submersible pump, a water reserve, and a lightweight filtration system. I can't for the life of me remember what it's called, but the device was about $30 and provides continuously running water that attracts all 3 cats. Check out one of those Pet Hut stores if you're interested in one.
posted by majick at 4:46 PM on June 27, 2004

A better place to judge hydration status than the scruff is the skin on the top of the head, between the ears (just gently pinch and pull straight up, if kitty has a Mohawk, he's dehydrated), many cats have loose scruff skin and that can give you an inaccurate hydration indication. I second the suggestions to change bowls, the best in my opinion are stainless steel, they have no taste, can go in the dishwasher, don't absorb smells like plastic does, they last forever, and many cats won't eat or drink from glass (my last cat wouldn't, I think he had trouble judging where the bowl actually was because it was clear). I also second the suggestions to switch foods, Friskies (and anything else you can buy in the supermarket, for that matter) is the kitty equivalent of McDonald's. In my opinion, Felidae is one of the best cat foods on the market, and most cats will eat it happily (for one suggestion) - smaller pet shops should carry it - better-quality foods are more expensive, but you feed less of them. A kitty fountain may be just what's needed here, as others have said, many cats don't like standing water. But a trip to the vet is probably the best first-line thing to do, it's never a bad idea to get a checkup, especially if there's a change in eating, drinking or litterbox habits.
posted by biscotti at 8:20 PM on June 27, 2004

Our cat only drinks from running tap or in case emergency from clean toilet bowl. It absolutely refuses to drink from bowls or cups.

I also tried Drinkwell pet fountain -- the cat showed some interest in it, but then must have figured out that it really isn't connected to the plumbing and decided that it was hoax.

This can be pain, when you need that the cat will be home for a while by itself and you can't leave water running...
posted by zeikka at 5:38 AM on June 28, 2004

Cats have poor static vision and often have difficulty determining where the surface of the water actually is. For some, this means they prefer an open dish or puddle; others do better with a narrow container that they can "feel" with their whiskers.

It's also worth testing out a variety of materials, since preferences vary widely.

Some cats, like mine, seem to be so fond of plants that they prefer water that has a plant growing in it and a little helping of algae. All the clean dishes of water around sit and evaporate (so much for the standard "clean fresh water changed daily" bit) while the pitchers with rooting plants (cat-safe) are the ones she drinks from. The only fresh water she drinks is from a small dish set in the midst of her little planter of oatgrass.

The standard for switching a cat who will only eat/drink A to instead consuming B is to mix increasing proportions of B into A until the percentage of A disappears. This takes weeks--it needs to be virtually imperceptible. Use whatever container A is presently consumed in while making the transition. And if you simply want to increase fluid consumption, not press plain water, just routinely dilute that syrup and continue using it as a fluid-consumption bribe. Some cats just plain don't wanna drink, even to their detriment.
posted by salt at 12:05 PM on June 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

Christ, cats are stupid. No wonder I love them.
posted by Grod at 12:47 PM on June 28, 2004

i recommend a distilled water enema.
posted by quonsar at 10:05 PM on July 2, 2004

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