BY PAM JOHNSON-BENNETT
Water: it’s essential for life and is vital to the health of your cat companion. In fact, insufficient water consumption can be linked to an increase in bladder infections and crystal formation, among other issues. However, many veterinarians suggest that house cats don’t seem to drink enough water. While offering water to your pet may seem like a no-brainer, how you present and serve water to your kitty can actually have a big influence on whether she drinks or rejects it. Following are six tips for making sure your feline friend finds his water bowl appealing, so you can ensure that your feline friend is well hydrated throughout the hot summer months and all year long!
Refill your cat’s bowl with fresh water at least on a daily basis. Cats are very sensitive to taste and if the water stands too long it will start to taste stale. Food particles can accumulate in the water, which can affect taste and also create opportunities for bacteria to build up. If your cat, like many, likes to dip her paw in the water, she is also contributing to the build-up of bacteria because that paw contains dirt, dust and debris from the litter box.
2. A Clean Bowl
Don’t just refill the water each day without washing the bowl itself. Hair, dirt, saliva and food can stick to the sides, resulting in a slimy coating. Wash the bowl with mild dish soap and thoroughly rinse all traces of soap from the bowl before refilling it with fresh water. Traces of dish soap can burn your cat’s tongue and will also give the water an unpleasant taste.
3. Bowl Size and Shape
The bowl you’ve chosen may actually be working against you. Choose a bowl that is truly cat-friendly. Your cat has long whiskers on each side of her muzzle and those whiskers are very sensitive. She doesn’t want to have to squish them in order to reach the water in the bowl. If you’ve noticed that your cat tends to dunk her paw in the water and then lick it, the reason may be that she doesn’t want to have squished whiskers! Choose a bowl that is wide and shallow rather than one that is narrow and deep in order to give your cat’s whiskers plenty of room for wandering!
Many cat guardians use divided bowls so they can put food on one side and water on the other. Although this may seem as if you’re doing something very convenient for the cat, it’s actually not beneficial. Many cats prefer not to drink water where there is the scent of food. In-between meals, your cat may prefer to be able to drink in a neutral area, away from traces of food. Additionally, with the divided dishes, food particles may fall into the water making it less appealing and allowing for the growth of bacteria. Even if you don’t use a divided bowl, don’t place the water too close to the food bowl. Choose a completely separate location in the room. In our house, we have several water bowls around the house to make it very convenient for our cat.
5. Water Level
Stay consistent with maintaining the water level in your bowls. Don’t let it go down to the last few drops one day and fill it to the brim the next. Stay consistent. Some cats begin paw dipping because they aren’t sure where the top of the water is on any given day. Cats like consistency in their daily routine.
6. Make it Fun
If your cat likes to drink from the faucet or play with the water in his bowl, consider getting a pet water fountain. It’s a great way to encourage your cat to drink more water, it creates some extra playtime and the constant movement of the water keeps is more oxygenated. Even if you don’t get a fountain, you can create a little water fun by periodically dropping an ice cube in the water bowl, especially on very hot summer days.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is a certified cat behavior consultant and star of the television series Psycho Kitty airing in the UK on Animal Planet and in Canada on Nat Geo Wild. Her new column, “The Feline Kind” appears in each issue of Nashville Paw. Pam is the best-selling author of seven books and owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company based in Nashville. For more information, visit her website at catbehaviorassociates.com.