Dr Frances Ng explains some of the history and reasons, why our feline friends often have a fussy to quirky relationship with water. What can we do to keep their hydration levels satisfactory, and therefore reduce their vulnerability to disease such as kidney failure?
As they have never forgotten that they were once worshiped as gods in ancient Egypt, cats also remember that they have evolved to live in the desert. As such, they do not have a strong thirst drive and often exist in a permanently marginally dehydrated state. A lot has changed with their life style since then, and the cat of the 21st century is faced with a unique set of challenges of modern living.
The normal feline kidneys work very hard to conserve water. Because of this, they are always under stress and become vulnerable to disease. Kidney failure is one of the most common problems of the elderly cat. At the other end of the spectrum, urinary tract disease known as feline idiopathic cystitis can be seen in younger cats. In boys, this can quickly become a life threatening condition. These are just two of the many reasons why increasing your cat’s water intake is so important.
The cat eating whole prey and even soft commercial food will get most of its daily water requirements through its diet. This is because these items are about two thirds water. In contrast, kibbles has a moisture content of around 5 to 10 percent. Asking a cat to consume more liquid to compensate for this can be no mean feat.
The following tips may help you in achieving this.
1. Adding water to biscuits- Rehydrating dry food by soaking it with equal parts water and choosing to feed wet or cooked food. It is important that this food is not left out for your cat to graze all day, especially in the warmer weather, as it will spoil. Most cats do prefer smaller meals and feeding routines should be adjusted to reflect this if possible.
2. Refreshing the water bowl everyday – Cats can become fussy about drinking stale and sitting water. Otherwise, leaving a dish under a dripping tap and having a drinking fountain also works well.
3. Provide dishes of different material, diameter and depth – Different textures work better for different cats. Try ceramic, plastic, glass and stainless steel. Some cats do not like their whiskers to touch the sides of the bowl when they drink. Others enjoy the confined space. They probably all like the variety. Have multiple stations so that your cat, especially the elderly ones do not have to travel too far if they need a drink. Have a bowl close to the spaces that they spend time in. Remember to refresh them frequently.
4. Experiment with water temperature by chilling and adding ice cubes. Try different taste, i.e. try filtered, bottled and mineral water to tempt the fussy cat. A block of ice can be fun on hot days.
5. Flavouring water – this can be achieved by adding plain tuna water. Meat broths can be made by boiling up meaty bones. It is important plain water is also offered at the same time and that these are discarded after a few hours. The broth can be frozen and stored. Take care with offering soup stocks and baby food as these are often flavoured with onion and this is poisonous to cats and dogs.
6. Be mindful of where you place the water bowl. Cats do not like to drink where they eat and where they toilet.
Do you have a trick that works for your cat? We would love to hear about it.