Water and the cat's health.
Water, our life-giving water
Cats are animals adapted to living in environments poor in water, those living on other continents even to semi-arid conditions. Our purrs do not live in such extreme conditions, of course, but they have similar adaptations - high ability to concentrate urine, "resistance" to dehydration; I am writing it, of course, in quotation marks, what I mean is that sometimes a dehydration of up to 8% may not show any clinical symptoms in a cat. Unfortunately, these are also the sources of our, or rather our cats' problems with the urinary system, which when excessively overloaded the first to be affected regardless of the cat's age. In nature, cats consume most of the water they need with food, in our homes, mostly fed with dry food, they are deprived of this a source of water.
A cat should consume about 55 ml of water per kg of body weight, for a 5 kg cat this means a daily consumption of about 250-275 ml of water, of course it does not have to be in the form of water as such, but also in the food the cat consumes. How does this relate to the diet? Dry food has a very low moisture content, approximately 8%, which means that 100 grams of dry food contains 8 grams of water, i.e. 8 ml of our 250 ml daily intake. This means the cat has to cover the rest of its demand by drinking water directly from the dishes. Wet food, by contrast, has 82% moisture, i.e. 82 grams equalling to 82 ml. A cat eats significantly more wet food per day than just 100 grams, which means that when fed only with wet food, it covers almost all of its daily water requirements in meals. This does not mean, however, that our cat does not have to drink water when fed only with good quality wet food. The point is not to drink enough to survive, but to drink the amount that will provide a really good hydration to the body, and the urinary bladder is filled and emptied relatively regularly and not too rarely. However, our cats do not always agree to the eating style that would be best for them. The effect is that our cats usually drink too little. What can we do to make our cat drink as much as possible?
The cat is a lover of rituals, he loves his daily, multiple rounds - vessels with water should be placed "on the paths" so that the cat will stop and drink while everyday exploring. There must be a lot of them, and not only on the floor; the cat organises its world in 3D, and the most attractive levels are usually above the floor. In addition, we should take care of the widest possible range of dishes - from wide, flat bowls to tall, narrow glasses, placed in various places, on the floor, on the windowsills, on some furniture liked by the cat. Many cats like to drink without bowing their heads and they most willingly drink from such tall, narrow and wide vessels, the preferences are very different here. Cats love "moving" water so buying a fountain can be very helpful in encouraging them to drink, but you should take a closer look at the fountains before you buy one because some of them please our eye, but they turn out to be completely useless from the cat's point of view. The fountain must be easy to dismantle and clean, so it is really good to ask experienced people which purchases turned out to be accepted and liked by both cats and their owners.
You also need to remember about the careful arrangement of the dishes with water, those standing on the floor should not be pushed against the walls (the same applies to food bowls). Cats love to be able to go around the bowl and they like to drink after doing so (it's also a ritual!). If you want to make sure the cat will use the particular bowl, place it in the center of the room first. If the cat uses it, the bowl or the fountain is good. After such a test we can move the bowl other places to find a kind of compromise with our cat, i.e. a place where it still drinks, and we no longer stumble against it.
I would like to devote the last paragraph to older cats, or those suffering from any diseases that cause pain. Setting high water bowls is then an absolute necessity - for an old or sick cat, bending down may be very difficult, causing pain, and such a cat will only drink when thirst is stronger than pain, which will quickly lead to a state of severe dehydration. We should remember that the less wet food our cats eat, the more we have to fight for the greatest possible consumption of water.
Cat Behaviour Counsellor and Therapist
Post-Diploma Graduate in Animal Psychology (Polish Academy of Sciences)
Member of The International Society of Animal Professionals