Keep Kitty Hydrated

By Rita Colorito

Many cats scowl at the sight of water. “Cats evolved in deserts, so they can conserve water and don’t have high thirst drives like dogs,” explains Christine A. Bellezza, DVM, codirector of Cornell University’s Feline Health Center. Still, cats that don’t drink enough can become dehydrated, which can cause constipation, feline lower urinary–tract disease, or kidney disease. Bellezza offers these tips to get finicky felines to drink up.

Serve low-sodium broth or the juice from canned tuna. But don’t salt food in an attempt to increase thirst, as many vets used to suggest. Too much salt can lead to urinary blockages, bladder stones, and progressive kidney disease.

Cow’s milk can cause diarrhea—and therefore dehydration—so try a lactose-free alternative specially formulated for cats.

Tap-water additives, like chlorine and fluoride, can taste bad to cats, so serve filtered or bottled water, or try a circulating water fountain. 

If your cat has a urinary ailment, moisten dry food with water or switch to canned wet food, which is roughly 78 percent water compared with 7 to 10 percent for dry food.

Some cats are just quirky, so swapping out a different water bowl or placing the bowl somewhere unusual (never near their litter box) may do the trick.