Proper Hydration for Cats

Do Your Cats Have a Drinking Problem?

They wouldn’t be unusual if they did.

Cats evolved in a desert-like environment, where they adapted to the conditions by conserving water and obtained most of their water from the food they consumed. Even today cats eating a canned or wet food will consume up to twice as much water as cats eating only dry foods.

The decreased water consumption by cats fed dry foods puts them at higher risk for developing urinary crystals which can lead to a syndrome called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), which in the extreme cases can lead to blockage of the urinary tract.

To help prevent the formation of the most common type of urinary crystals, dry cat foods are formulated with low magnesium levels, and also to create urine which is slightly acidic. You can further help your cats avoid urinary crystals by ensuring they consume as much water as possible, diluting their urine. Maintaining a higher water consumption level helps reduce the changes of FLUTD. The more water that is consumed, the less concentrated are the minerals in the urine and therefore crystals are less likely to form.

There are many ways you can encourage your cats to drink more:

  • Provide fresh, clean water every day (as I am sure you already do).
  • Try moving the water dish away from the food dish. Place it across the room, or in a completely different room.
  • Provide multiple water dishes, especially if your cat lives on more than one floor of your home. Have a water dish on two different floors. In multi-cat households, the general rule is one dish for each cat, plus one. (The same rule applies for litter boxes).
  • Offer moving water. Most cats are attracted to moving water. This may be another adapted trait, because standing water in an arid environment is more likely to be contaminated. There are cat fountains and other cat drinking systems that use the cat’s attraction to running water to encourage higher consumption.
  • Add water to food. If you’re feeding some wet or canned food, try adding additional water. Or, try adding a bit of wet food to your cat’s current kibble. How much water should you add? The answer is as much as your cat will allow. Some cats will let you add none, but most will let you add a little.
  • Buy new dishes. Some cats do not like plastic dishes and some do not like crockery like ceramic or stoneware. There is no rhyme-or-reason as to why, but if your cat doesn’t drink much from their current dish, try a different type. In addition, ensure that their water dish is big enough so their whiskers don’t touch the edges of the bowls.
  • Bait the water. Adding some of the gravy from a stew canned cat food, some milk replacer or water from a can of tuna can help encourage your cat to consume more water. Although this method is used more in extreme cases for cats who won’t drink at all.
  • Not all cats have the same drinking habits. Try to become familiar with your cats’ drinking habits, as well as their eating habits. That way you’ll be better equipped to identify if their water consumption suddenly decreases or increases – either of which could be a cause for concern.

Symptoms of FLUTD:

  • Strain and/or pain during urination which may also cause crying
  • Urination outside the litter box
  • More frequent urination
  • Dribbles of urine may be around the house
  • Signs of blood in the urine

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