How to Get a Cat to Drink More Water (Because They Probably Need It)

By: Wendy Rose GouldPublished:

How to Get a Cat to Drink More Water (Because They Probably Need It)
Chewy Studios

How to Get a Cat to Drink More Water (Because They Probably Need It)

Just like us, cats need water for their bodies to be healthy. And just like us, our cats sometimes don’t drink as much as they need. So, how do you get a cat to drink water? We asked the experts—Dr. Dana Varble, DVC, CAE, chief veterinary officer with the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC), a nationwide veterinarians’ organization; and Dr. Sehaj Grewal, DVM, owner of The Melrose Vet in Los Angeles, CA—about how much H2O your pet needs, and tips and tricks for inspiring them to make hydration a priority.

How to Get a Cat to Drink Water: Step by Step


1 Clean Their Water Bowl Regularly

Fresh water is key. Water dishes are prone to developing mineral deposits and yucky slime. (Even if the water looks fine, it might not be fresh—and your cat will know the difference!) Dishes with standing water should be cleaned daily with sudsy hot water. Water fountains tend to stay cleaner for longer, but should still be cleaned once weekly. (More on those in the next tip.)
Pro Tip: Some plastic water containers can also hold onto odors and bacteria, making them less desirable compared to ceramic, glass or stainless steel.
Signature Housewares Non-Skid Ceramic Cat Bowl

Temporarily out of stock

Frisco Cat Face Non-skid Ceramic Cat Dish
Frisco Marble Design Non-skid Ceramic Cat Dish

2 Try a Drinking Fountain

Cats love moving water because it tastes fresher—and because they’re naturally drawn to moving water sources, just like their ancestors. A bowl with a fountain or stream feature constantly rotates the water, making it a more desirable option compared to standing water.

Two Chewy cat parent favorites are the Drinkwell 360 Stainless Steel Pet Fountain and Catit Flower Plastic Cat Fountain. It can take a couple days for your cat to get used to a drinking fountain, but they’ll likely end up loving it. Leave a bowl of standing water out for them while they adjust to the new fountain.

Pro Tip: Large, wide, and shallow bowls are preferred by kitties. This allows them to lap up water without their whiskers rubbing against the bowl, which can feel uncomfortable.
Frisco Whimsical Leaf Round Cat Fountain
Pioneer Pet Swan Cat Drinking Fountain
Frisco Round Cat Fountain

Temporarily out of stock


3 Make Sure You Have Enough Water Bowls

If you have multiple cats, you should have multiple drinking bowls—at least one for each cat. Some cats can be territorial, and will prevent other cats in the home from drinking out of “their” bowl.

4 Consider the Location

Keep your cat’s water bowl in an ideal space. Cats will object if their dishes are placed next to the litter box or in places where they don’t feel safe. Aim for a non-cramped space that’s quiet and out of the way of household traffic.
Pro Tip: If you have multiple floors or your house is large, try placing water dishes in different locations throughout your home to make drinking more convenient for your kitty.

5 Try Wet Food

Incorporating wet food or snacks into your cat’s diet can help them get more fluids. Some dry foods also have higher water content than others. You can compare water content by looking for the moisture percentage in the list of nutritional information on the package. Most dry foods have a moisture content between 5-15%; canned foods typically have a moisture between 70-85%.

As always, speak with your veterinarian about the ideal diet for your cat, as certain wet foods can worsen medical issues such as dental disease.


6 Consult Your Vet

Cats may stop consuming as much water as they usually do if they aren’t feeling well physically or emotionally. If you notice a sudden decline in their drinking habits, consult your veterinarian right away.

No matter how dehydrated you think your cat is, never force them to drink water. Even if you get a little in their mouth, it likely won’t be enough water to help them feel better, and it can create an aversion to drinking water. In dire cases, your vet can administer fluids intravenously (IV).

How Much Water Does My Cat Need?

As a general rule, cats need about 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight every day. So, if your cat weighs about 10 pounds then they should drink about 10 ounces of water, or about 1.25 cups per day. Smaller cats require less, and larger cats require more.

Additional factors may increase this daily requirement, including:

  • High temperatures
  • Dry climates
  • Physical activity
  • Medical conditions, especially kidney or urinary bladder disease, diabetes, diarrhea and constipation
  • Certain medications

Proper water intake supports stomach, intestine and kidney and urinary tract health. Poor hydration, on the other hand, can contribute to kidney disease, bladder stones and urinary problems, among other concerns. So, if you suspect your cat’s not getting enough fluids, it’s important to take action.

How to Track Your Cat’s Water Intake

It may be impossible to tell exactly how much water your cat is drinking. (If only there were a measured hydro flask for felines!) The good news is that most pet parents don’t need to know the exact amount—it’s more important that you monitor their general drinking habits so you can notice changes that may indicate health issues. There are a couple different methods you can try:

  • Keep track of how often your cat goes to their water dish—and note whether their frequency increases or decreases. If your cat’s going to their dish more often, it stands to reason that they’re drinking more!
  • Monitor the water level in your cat’s bowl. You can eyeball the level before your daily refills, or measure the amount of water left in the bowl before you clean it each day. Just keep in mind that water will evaporate and/or even splash out during the day, which will affect that measurement.
  • Use a smart water dish. These devices connect to your cell phone and can help quantify water consumption. For example, the Instachew Puresmart Water Fountain delivers push notifications to your phone about the water level. It also cleans the water with a UV light.

Why Isn’t My Cat Drinking Water?

In the same way cats are very picky about their litter boxes (and rightfully so!), they tend to get finicky when it comes to their water situation. Common reasons why your cat isn’t drinking water include:

  • Dirty or old water bowl
  • Your cat prefers running water over still water
  • Their water bowl is in an undesirable location
  • Uncomfortable bowl shape
  • Not enough bowls
    Inconvenient to get to their water
  • Illness

If you’ve worked through the steps above and your cat still won’t drink, contact your vet.

Is My Cat Dehydrated?

Be on the lookout for these signs of dehydration:

  • Reduced energy levels
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Hard, dry poop
  • Reduced urination
  • Dry or sticky gums
  • Sunken eyes
  • Decreased appetite
  • Loss of elasticity in the skin

If you suspect your cat is dehydrated, contact your vet. They can run tests such as bloodwork and urinalysis to determine if that is the case, and if so, can administer fluids via IV or offer tailored solutions to ensure your cat is drinking enough water.

Getting your cat to drink water is sometimes as simple as swapping out the water dish, switching up the location of the bowl, or increasing how often you clean their current dish. If the above doesn’t seem to do the trick, or you suspect an issue with your cat’s health, consult your veterinarian so you can get to the bottom of the issue.
Expert input provided by Dr. Dana Varble, DVC, CAE, chief veterinary officer with the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC), a nationwide veterinarians’ organization; and Dr. Sehaj Grewal, DVM, owner of The Melrose Vet in Los Angeles, CA.


By: Wendy Rose GouldPublished: