How to get your cat to drink more water: top 10 tactics

Does your cat have a condition like kidney failure or diabetes which means they need to drink more water?  Are you just worried because your cat is fed a dry kibble and you don't see them drink much?  It can be really difficult to know how to get your cat to drink more water.  In this article I'll give you my top 10 tips on how to encourage cats to drink and really increase their water consumption.


Now cats are really desert animals and as a result are really good at conserving water.  They are really great at extracting moisture from their food and so don't actually need to drink much at all in order to survive.  This evolution also means that they tend to have a low thirst drive which is why you often won't actually see your cat drink.  This is also why getting your cat to drink more water can be challenging.

The problem with this is that if your cat becomes unwell for any reason, or if they have a disease that compromises their ability to conserve water then they can quickly become dehydration.  Examples of this are diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease.  Dehydration can be very dangerous, compromising overall health and potentially making their condition worse.

So what can we do to change this?

Top 10 tips for how to get your cat to drink more water

  • Switch to wet food

  • Refresh water bowls regularly

  • Change water type

  • Add flavor

  • Change bowl type

  • Try running water

  • Add water to food

  • Change bowl location

  • Increase number of meals

  • Give fluids under the skin

1. Switch to wet food

Did you realize that 80% of wet food is water.  If you are currently feeding your cat a dry food which typically contains about 10% water, then you can see how a simple diet change can make a huge difference in the amount of water your cat takes on board.  Now clearly a diet change is not always as simple as just putting it in a bowl.  Cats are notoriously fussy so if you do struggle with this make sure you check out my article that will help you change your cats diet.

If your vet has advised that a special diet is fed to your cat then there is nearly always a wet version that you could choose instead of a biscuit.  There will also always be alternatives should your pet really not like what you choose at first.

2. Refresh Water Bowls Regularly

If water is left sitting around for a long time in your cats bowl it becomes less and less likely that they will actually want to drink it.  The flavor will change, it might become full or bugs or dirt, other pets may have drunk from the bowl.  None of these are acceptable situations for your cat!

This means that you should refresh your cats water and also clean their water bowl every day.  It is important though that when you clean their bowl there is no residue from any dish soap used.  This would really change the taste of the water which your cat is unlikely to like.

Dehydration can be very dangerous, compromising overall health and potentially making a cats condition worse

Keeping the water in the fridge may also help as many cats will prefer cold water and by refreshing their bowls regularly then they will have nice cold water more often.

3. Change the water type

To you and I water is generally water.  Most of it tastes more or less the same and very often we add a flavor to it anyway.  Well cats can be very particular about the type of water they like and are able to pick up and object to the subtle differences in flavors depending on where the water has come from.  

The tap water in your area might have too many chemicals or be too hard. Using filtered water (amazon link) or trying different bottled waters may mean that they start to drink more.  Collecting rain water is another option that is pretty easy (and free) depending on where you live.

4. Add Flavor

As I've already mentioned, we often add flavor to our water in the form of juice, coffee or tea.  I'm not suggesting that you give these to your cat.  Instead you could try adding some tuna juice or boil up some chicken and add the water from this to your cats water bowl.  You could try something else that your cat might like, just be sure to avoid anything salty or that has had salt added to it such as stock cubes.

This liquid can be given undiluted but you will probably find that adding just a small amount to your cats water will be enough for them to enjoy the flavor and encourage them to drink.

The left over liquid doesn't need to be thrown away.  Instead pour it into ice-cube trays and freeze them.  This has several benefits.  The first is that you only need to make up a batch maybe once a month, making it an easy task that does not become too onerous.  The second benefit is that the frozen flavor cubes will keep your cats water cool for longer which may be more appealing as we've already discussed.

If you find your cat is happy with plain water but just likes it cool then adding plain ice cubes is a simple solution!

5. Use Different Bowls

By now you'll have noticed that cats tastes are super sensitive and even very minor differences in flavor can make a huge difference.  One big flavor determining factor is bowl type.  Glass, ceramic, plastic and metal bowls will give the water a slight taste, especially in hot weather and left un-refreshed for some time.  Glass and china affect flavor much much less (which is why we prefer drinking from them!).

To find out which bowl type your cat prefers you can simply put water in a bowl of each type and see which one your cat chooses.  If their bowl is plastic but they always drink from the glass of water by your bed then you can already guess what they prefer to drink from.

As well as bowl type, bowl shape can also play a role.  Some cats really hate it when their whiskers tough the side of the bowl when eating or drinking.  Some people think that this causes pain when it takes place over a long period of time.  Regardless, using a wide shallow bowl that is completely full will avoid this problem and may make all the difference in getting your cat to drink more.

6. Running Water

A change of bowl may not be enough for some cats.  Have you noticed that your cat likes drinking from the tap?  Well they are not alone with many cats preferring to drink from a running water source.  Unless you live by a stream or choose to leave the tap running all the time this can be difficult to provide and make sure it is always available to your cat.

Running water can make all the difference in getting your cat to drink. Consider a pet drinking fountain for your cat

The solution in this case is a pet drinking water fountain.  These are discrete indoor fountains designed specifically for your cat to drink from.  Once your cat gets used to having one you might be surprised at how often you find them at their water bowl.  A cat water fountain can really make a huge difference.

7. Add Water to Your Pets Food

Whether your pet is fed kibble or a wet food, adding extra water is a great way to get them to take more in without relying on them actually drinking.  Much like changing their diet, adding water may put your cat off eating.  The best chance of success is by taking things slowly.

Start off by adding just a few drops of water and over the period of a couple of weeks slowly increase this amount.  Before long you will have significantly increased their water intake.  Remember though that wet food spoils sooner than a kibble and so should not be left down for extended periods of time.

8. Water Location

Competition for resources is a big cause of stress for cats living in a multi-cat household.  If there are not enough bowls and they don't get on as well as you think with their house-mates then they may be too nervous to drink as often as they like.  As a general rule there should be 1 more water bowl than there are cats in the house.  So for example if you have 3 cats you should have 4 water bowls.

Where you put them also has an effect.  They should not be right by the litter tray.  Instead they should by in quiit locations that ideally have a good view of their surroundings so that your cat can't be crept up on by another.  If you have more than 1 cat then check out these other ways to reduce your cats stress levels.

9. Increase the Number of Meals

Often every time a cat eats something they will have a small drink.  Having food down all the time and feeding your cat ad-lib, where they simply help themselves, may then increase their water intake.  It will though generally make them fat which in itself can be very dangerous.

Instead, if you are home, try giving them regular small meals.  This is a bit more labor intensive but can help if it fits into your families lifestyle.

10. Subcutaneous Fluids

For some cats with certain conditions, no matter how much they drink, they are just not able to keep up with the amount they are losing in their urine.  An example of this would be more advanced kidney disease.  In these situations your vet may suggest that they are given fluids under their skin.

This is not as scary as it sounds and is very well tolerated by many cats.  It can make all the difference in giving your cat an excellent quality of life for a little longer before their disease becomes too bad.  Before going down this path though you really must ask yourself if you are doing it for your cat or for yourself.  If the answer is yourself then it may be kinder to let your cat go.  your vet can help guide you through this decision making process.

There is an excellent article and video by International Cat Care that can give you all the details about how to give subcutaneous fluids.  Your vet of course will discuss this option if it is suitable for your cat as well as demonstrate how to do it at home.Implementing just a few of these tips should make all the difference in getting your cat to drink more water.

If your pet has a condition that is prone to making them become dehydrated then increasing their water intake might make all the difference in ensuring they have an excellent quality of life as well as potentially extending their life.

Have you made any changes that have meant your cat has started drinking more?  I'd love to hear them in the comments!

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