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Cat's owners often wonder whether their cat drinks enough, especially when he is fed dryfood. Here are a few tips and advice to give them.

Cat's water requirements

Drinking aims at compensating the water loss, that happen in different ways:

  • Salivary (licking) and respiratory loss are not very important. When the temperature is 31 °C, panting induces a water loss of less than 40 ml per day.
  • The quantity of water eliminated through feces depends on the nature of the food and on its digestibility: the more fiber there is in the food, the more important the water loss is.
  • The main water loss is urinary loss. With a dryfood, about half of the water consumed is eliminated through this way, 2/3 with canned food.

The cat have a reputation to be a "small drinker". It is because he is able to concentrate his urine very much (average density: 1045 compared to 1015 in dog and man). But if the concentration of the urine is too high, there is a higher risk of crystals precipitation and urinary stones formation. Then, the cat must be encouraged to drink.

Concerning water consumption, recommendation can be expressed: _ on a bodyweight basis: 55 to 70 ml / kg / day _ on the energy consumption basis: 1 ml / kcal of metabolizable energy. A 4 kg cat that eats 60 g of Fit 32 daily should drink 220 to280 ml / day.

Of course, these requirements increase if the water loss goes up, for physiological or pathological reasons: high temperature, lactation, diarrhea, vomiting…

Origin of water

The cat has got 3 available sources of water: water from the food, drinking water, and the water produced when carbohydrates, proteins and fats are used. This "metabolic water" represents only 10-15 % of the total required water. When a cat is fed wet food, (cans or fresh meat or fish), way more than his water requirement is met with the water content of his diet. In these conditions, he does not drink or very little. On the contrary, when fed dryfood, he has to drink to cover almost 100 % of his water requirement.

Drinking stimulation

Presentation of the water

The cat is a "finicky drinker". He is very sensitive to the cleanliness and to the taste of the water. To encourage him to drink, it is advised to let him have a free access to water, to serve it in a clean bowl in glass, earthenware or stainless steel (avoid plastic materials that fix odors), and to renew it twice a day. The ideal temperature would set between 5 and 18°C.

Some cats have special habbits: they drink only from the tap, or in the toilets, or in the shower cubicle…

When the cat does not drink enough, adding a little milk in the drinking water is generally efficient to stimulate his consumption. One can also add water to the dry food. Every cat does not like it, but some enjoy consuming rehydrated dryfood.

Drinking rythm

It is similar to food consumption rythm. The cat drinks as often as he eats, which means an average of 10 - 15 times per day if the food is served self service, even if the cat drinks only 6 - 12 ml each time. If the cat is encouraged to eat numerous small meals, his water consumption goes up.

Composition of the food

A high protein diet increases urea production, and consequently urine production. Then the cat drinks more to compensate for eliminated water. Adding salt to the food obviously stimulates water drinking, but we must prevent for overuse this system. Too much salt can be dangerous as it accelerates the passage of water from the cells to the blood, to restore the balance of mineral concentration. Then the cat urinates more and cellular dehydration goes on. It is advised not to go over 2 % salt in the food.


A cat usually fed dryfood adapts quite well his spontaneous water consumption to his requirement, even if the total water consumed is inferior than with canned food. However, there are some situations when the owner must pay him careful attention, because there is a risk of temporary unsufficient consumption:

  • during a transition period from canned food towards dryfood,
  • when the cat is submitted to a severe dietary restriction of even total fasting.

It is then useful to measure and eventually to stimulate the water consumption by the cat, in order to prevent from the urinary concentration to increase, and the urinary elimination frequency to dicrease, as they are major risks for calculi formation.

Donated by the Borg Cardona and Co. Ltd. visit Borg Cardona website

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