Pet Talk: Why Doesn’t My Cat Drink Water?

Q: Our cats never drink water. Never. I put out water upstairs and downstairs, regularly, and I have never seen them drink it. I think it is because they are on wet food. Our cat Alby, who only ate dry food, drank water. I never know if I should worry about this or not, but I just keep putting out the water that they never drink.


A: I presented this question to Marla Lichtenberger DVM, owner of Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals. Her response was, “Canned food is best to feed cats and can provide all their daily water needs.”

Digging deeper it appears our feline friends descend from desert-dwelling wild cats who obtain most of their water from freshly killed prey. This means domestic cats have evolved to obtain their water requirements almost entirely on the moisture content in their food. This also leaves them with a very low thirst drive. That is why canned food does such a good job of keeping your cats well hydrated along with keeping their kidneys and bladder healthy. If you are seeing consistent urine volume that is a good indicator of normal water consumption.

It is still a good idea to leave water out for your cats. There are a few things you can do to encourage water consumption in case your cat needs to drink more, especially if they are on a wet and dry or just a dry food diet.

One thing I have learned while researching this subject is that cats do not like to have their water bowl next to their food bowls. The theory is a wild cat would never drink from a water source if it’s near its freshly killed prey. The cat’s instincts may warn them the water could be contaminated by their dead prey.

Try different kinds of water bowls such as ceramic, glass or stainless steel and you may find your cats have a preference. Or they may not like the tap water so you can try bottled. Some cats like their water cold, so adding ice cubes may entice them to drink more. There are cats who even like to play with the cubes in the bowl. Be sure to leave water in various spots throughout your home.

A pet fountain is another way to encourage more water drinking. Cats seem to love running water. Some felines enjoy drinking from a dripping faucet.

It is also very important to change a cat’s water daily. They are finicky and like fresh water. Just rinsing the bowl and adding fresh water may not entice kitty to drink. It’s a good idea to wash their bowls out with soap and water.

I hope this helps put your mind at ease about your cat’s water consumption.


Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].

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