Felinologists admit that one of the most frequently asked questions is: why does my kitten refuse to drink water? Inexperienced owners are concerned about that a lot, if it seems to them that their pet doesn’t consume enough liquid. Is it a disease? Another suspicious sign is excess drinking. It is possible to calculate the daily need in water for a particular cat?
Why do we all need water?
All organisms consist of elementary units called cells and these cells consist of water up to 80%. Cells absorb nutrients and excrete toxins through the cell membrane that works as a so-called “sieve” consisting of tiny units. Without water it is impossible for nutrients to penetrate into the cell or to get excreted, because it should be dissolved first. Lack of liquid in the body slows down the metabolism, adversely affecting all body functions and systems.
Now do you consider important enough consumption of water by your cat? If not, think of the lymph, which helps to deliver salt, protein, moisture and metabolic products from the tissues directly into the blood stream. Lymph plays a crucial role in shaping the immune system that makes life itself possible. In Latin lymph means “live moisture” or “pure water”.
How long can cats do without water?
When consuming no fluids (i.e., consuming no drinks and foods containing liquid) the body slows down all the processes, cells quickly get dehydrated, cell plasma, lymph and blood get thick, and the water-salt balance is disturbed. The time a particular cat can do without water depends on its age and its general condition. The body of a young healthy cat up to 70% consists of water – such an animal can survive without drinking for about four to five days. The older is the cat – the less liquid there is in the body, it means dehydration develops significantly faster as internal liquid reserves are scarce.
Is any water beneficial for health?
Before you decide how much water your cat should drink, you should choose healthy water that brings benefits to your pet’s health.
Boiled water means “dead” water, according to scientists. It brings less benefits that fresh water and after storing it for more than three hours it becomes even harmful. Many veterinarians believe that drinking boiled water may lead to the urinary stone disease. Some owners try to give their cats boiled water and are surprised when their cats refuse drinking it. Boiled water changes its properties acting like a magnet attracting bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms in the environment.
Distilled water is lifeless and useless. It is produced by boiling and gathering steam and then cooling it down. Such water contains no more minerals, but they are vital for many body functions. In addition, distilled water almost doesn’t conduct electricity, and the absence of electromagnetic pulses in the moisture leads to slowing the liquid movement in the body.
Fresh tap water may contain too many salts of heavy metals, chlorine compounds and other elements harmful to the cat's body. Sometimes cats drink little water because of its unpleasant smell or taste their owners are used to.
Bottled water is a good option, if you can find a high quality product. Sometimes manufacturers (absolutely legally) sell purified tap water artificially enriched with minerals (the excess of which may lead to the urinary stone disease). You should choose high quality natural water from groundwater sources (the wells number, chemical composition and place of production must be specified on the label).
So what kind of water is more preferable for cats? There are two options: filtered or tap defecated water. To purify the water put it into the fridge in a tightly sealed glass jar for six to eight hours.
Normal water consumption for cats
It is quite easy to calculate how much water a cat should consume. Veterinarians believe that cats should drink about 20-40 ml (1.7 – 2.3 fl. oz.) of liquid per kilogram of weight – i.e. the weight of the cat must be multiplied by 0.03. It turns out that a mature cat weighing about 6 kilos (12 lbs.) should drink about 180 ml (6 fl. oz.) of water per day.
In most cases the answer to the question “why does my cat refuse to drink water?” is simple. This question is popular among those owners who feed their pets with canned feed or natural products with high moisture content. For example, canned cat feed is 80% water! It is clear that getting moisture from food cats drink less water. But cats that eat dry feed normally drink a lot more than those eating natural products or canned feed.
Why cats don’t drink a lot?
A possible explanation of why a kitten refuses to drink water is hidden in the depth of centuries: zoologists believe that ancient ancestors of modern cats lived in dry areas and in the course of evolution got adapted to reduced fluid intake. Cats, unlike people, almost don’t sweat and can save liquid due to more concentrated urine. The latter is not very good though, if the pet is predisposed to urolithiasis.
Before thinking of how to train your kitten to drink more water, you need to make sure that your pet really doesn’t consume enough liquid: block the access to all sources of moisture, put lots of measuring cups with water around the for a day and calculate, how many liquid is consumed (corrected for evaporation). But only one experiment may show false results, because on the day of your test the kitten might be not thirsty. So it would be great to repeat the test several times. Ideally, such a control test should be made regularly, once every three months. A significant change in the amount of liquid consumed (doesn’t matter, more or less) is a reason to visit the vet.
How to make your cat used to drinking more water?
Taking into account that you’re not likely to succeed forcing your cat drinking more water, you need to use some other tips:
- place bowls with water around the apartment at different levels – it will make it easier to determine cat’s preferences;
- select the bowls of different sizes and shapes to find out what type of water bowl your cat would prefer. The majority of cats prefer large bowls and containers as they resemble clear “lakes”, and not tiny dirty “puddles”;
- it is important to understand what kind of water your cat likes (some cats drink water of room temperature or warmer only, others prefer cold water);
- metal and plastic containers should be replaced with glass or ceramic tableware;
- some cats can drink running water only. In this case you should purchase a fountain-drinker or to leave the tap running more often;
- the water should be changed at least twice a day;
- do not place the water bowl next to the food bowl, as cats usually drink clean water only.
Cats value consistency and have a negative attitude to any changes. Habits for cats make a fundamental factor in their behavior, so it is important to work out right habits from the young age. Cat-mother knows best how to teach its kitten to drink water – the kittens will almost certainly copy the behavior of their mother. If an adult cat drinks little the owner should offer the kitten water themselves: in a wide shallow bowl, cool and clean and after active games.
If the cat refuses to drink water, you need to have it examined at the veterinary clinic. Perhaps the doctor will recommend forced water intake until the normal feeling of thirst appear (due to artificially formed habit of drinking). You can give your cat water with the spoon or from a syringe without a needle. The feed should be moistened with water (dry feed can be soaked, but not stirred, the cat may not like it).
What if the cat is drinking way too much?
When an elderly cat drinks a lot of water it is quite natural. The amount of liquid contained in the body is reduced throughout the aging process, so the cat needs to replenish the water “reserve”. No need to worry if a kitten drinks a lot – young body grows and develops, spending more fluid than the body of a mature cat. However, the increase of the average daily water intake by 50% should alert the owner.
Noting that the cat drinks more water, you need to go to the vet. After the examination, the vet will explain why your cat consumes more water than usual. Possible causes: renal failure, hormonal imbalance, diabetes, protein poisoning, kidney stones and more. If the disease is detected, the vet will appoint the treatment and the diet.
Sometimes the reason for increased water intake is cat’s diet. Perhaps the menu includes sweet or salty foods, or the cat just “steals” some pieces from the table. Some cats drink more in hot weather.
If your cat vomits water more than two or three times, consult your veterinarian. Single watery vomiting sometimes precedes the regurgitation of the ball of wool and isn’t dangerous. If the cat is vomiting a lot of liquid that is evil smelling or accompanied by salivation – perhaps a foreign object stuck in the stomach or esophagus, immediately call the vet.
Sometimes a cat vomits water because of the big congestion of worms in the esophagus or stomach. In such a situation you mustn’t use common deworming medications, they may be dangerous because decomposition of a large number of worms will lead to intoxication. Consult the vet.