We often think about the interesting relationship between cats and water. They seem to be blissed out when lapping it up out of their water bowl, but usually, but not always hate getting wet. Then there are the cats who sneak into the shower after we’ve used it to sit in the water remaining on the tile or who practically want to join us! We thought we’d ask Newton, our feline editor at large to cat-chat about cats and water.
Newton’s Purrspective – Cats and Water
Cats have a reputation for hating water. I’ve always wondered if this is deserved or just urban legend. True, domestic felines did evolve from desert dwelling ancestors conditioned to an arid environment. Early cats probably didn’t encounter much water, and the fact that they do not need to drink a lot is no surprise. Cats today drink what they need to maintain health if the water is clean and free of distasteful chemicals or minerals (hard water).
However, when it comes to other encounters with water… we have a real game changer!
Imagine yourself in a restaurant anticipating your favorite refreshing beverage. The waiter approaches, but instead of handing you the glass he dumps the contents on your head! Or worse, he picks you up and submerges you in a large container of your now former favorite drink. I’m sure you get the idea. If humans would not tolerate this situation what would you expect of creatures who were once worshipped as gods? Cats prefer (some say demand) everything on our own terms. I’m sure that few cats even pretend to enjoy squirt bottles and baths, but more on that later.
Instinctively we seek out the freshest, cleanest water possible. This explains why many of us balk at having food and water dishes side by side. Uneaten food transferred to the water increases bacterial growth and just tastes bad. Food and water bowls should be separated by at least 10 feet to prevent cross contamination. Running water is the cleanest in Nature, so in the absence of a ceramic cat water fountain we may insist on drinking from the kitchen or bathroom faucet.
In the wild felines get a substantial part of the water they need from their prey. However, when they share a home with a human what they eat is very different. Dry food has become popular because it is convenient and can safely be left out while Kitty is home alone during the day. However, dry food has a very low moisture content (10%), much less than canned (70 – 80 %). Cats who are fed only dry food must drink more water to compensate. Veterinarians often feel that excess thirst and unnatural water drinking from salty kibble might lead to kidney disease.
Blood has to be processed through the kidneys to remove toxins and waste products of metabolism. The more water a cat drinks the harder the kidneys must work. Extra stress on these vital organs can lead to serious problems, including kidney failure. For that reason, foods with high salt content should be avoided. One way you can tell is if you feed a cat one type of food and the water bowl is drained – that means way too much salt.
If possible, establish a baseline for what is normal for Kitty. While water is necessary, excessive thirst can be a symptom of disease. On the other hand (paw) it could be something easily fixed by changing to a food with a different combination of mineral additives. Please consult your veterinarian if you notice an increase or decrease in water consumption.
But now let’s get back to squirt bottles and baths. Many people try to (ha ha) train cats (ha ha) using water. The idea is that Kitty will dislike being squirted so much she will (ha ha) stay off the kitchen counters. I’m sorry. I just can’t stop thinking about my brother Purricane Felix (aka Purr). He LOVES getting squirted! In fact, he purposely jumps back on the table JUST so someone will squirt him again!
I don’t know how he would feel about a bath. I can’t see him floating in a tub of bubbles surrounded by scented candles. But he definitely loves to take a shower. Yes – he jumps right into the shower with Mom and demands to be petted until he is soaking wet. (He skips the soap, of course.) He’s been doing this since he was a kitten 11 years ago and never loses his enthusiasm.
When he can’t shower the best substitute is our ceramic cat water fountain. I think he would swim if the pool wasn’t so tiny. I’m not sure what swim stroke he is practicing, but we go through a lot of towels with all that splashing around.
I have to admit I sort of fit the cat stereotype since I am not a big fan of water in general. I do love the fresh fountain water though. Even though I live safely indoors, I am still in touch with my wild side. I stalk, pounce, and capture my Cat Faeries toys as if my life depended on it! Then I walk around yowling until I find Mom. I think cats do this to call their kittens to dinner. Mom isn’t much of a hunter so I know I have to provide for her. When I proudly drop the feast at her feet she pets me, says thank you, and tells me what a good boy I am. I trained her well to be appreciative of my efforts.
If she isn’t around I put the “prey” in a safe place – usually in my food dish or the cat fountain. Cats have no need to wash (or drown) our prey. I guess that’s a good thing since Mom had to put the screen on the fountain pool so Purr couldn’t splash all the water out onto the floor. We just want to keep our prize in an area where it is not likely to be found. Of course, in multiple cat households this is no easy task. I have 3 feline siblings so sometimes I have no choice but to share.
Many of our Dear Readers have asked if they can put Cat Faeries flower essences for cats and Convivial House Cat drops right in the water fountain, they wonder if the filter will diminish their effectiveness – good news – the filter will not compromise the power of these two fabulous products!
We recommend that even a ceramic water fountain be washed with soapy hot water daily to prevent any bacteria harboring sticky and slimy biofilms from forming.
“The worst canned cat food is far better than the best dry kibble.”
Debra Scheenstra, DVM