It's 6 am. You open the door to your bathroom, and you hear a familiar meow behind you. Your cat knows your routine, and it knows that in t-minus 10 seconds, you're going to turn on the faucet to wash your face. Kitty hops up near your sink with a gleam in its eye because there are few things it likes more than running water. If you're wondering what that's about, you'll lap this up.
Water from a running faucet is fresh and cool because it hasn't been lying around long enough to take on the ambient temperature. Running water is also more oxygenated, making for a slightly tastier beverage. In addition, the water looks clean as it emerges and feels smooth on the tongue, unlike water from a cat bowl which may accrue dust, fur, food particles, or other debris even when you're diligent about putting out a new bowl.
Stagnant water can be dangerous because it's a more accommodating medium for incubating bacteria and parasites. There may also be pathogens in still water due to animal feces. Your cat has a built-in intuition from the many years its ancestors spent in the wild, and it will gravitate towards running water because it senses it's safer to consume.
For your cat, the sound of running water harks back to its primal search for hydration. For example, it's much easier to locate water when it's gushing or trickling than when it's lying motionless in a large puddle. Cats don't get thirsty often, but the sound of running water might activate their age-old instinct to drink for survival.
When your cat dips its head into a bowl of still water, the odds of whisker fatigue are pretty high. Cat whiskers aren't ordinary hairs. They're part of your cat's sensory hardware, and they can become over-stimulated when they brush up against the sides of a deep bowl or hit the water. This action is stress-inducing and can sometimes explain why a cat uses its paws instead or seems edgy around its bowl.
Unless they're a breed with a more water-resistant coat, cats don't like being dunked in water—it makes their fur heavy, wet, and super uncomfy. Cats do, however, love playing, and they have no objections to touching water and using it as a means of entertainment. Water can splash and stream, and your frequently nonchalant cat is into it.
Are your cat's food and water bowls heavy and hard for it to push around? Weighted water bowls prevent movement and spillage, but they have one unintended consequence. If you happen to place one in a corner where your cat can't enjoy a self-protective view of the room, it will feel vulnerable while drinking. It's much easier to just wait for you to start washing dishes or follow you to the WC.
Consider getting a cat-safe water fountain if your cat's presence in your bathroom is making an annoying mess or if it's threatening your food prep while you're slogging away in the kitchen. The gadget needs to be comfortable to drink out of and easy to clean, or it defeats the purpose. Water fountain solutions can work out well as long as you remember that you need to change the water as regularly as you were swapping out water bowls. Bear in mind there's a slight chance your cat might like the cat fountain about as much as it likes its water bowl, so don't spend too much at a store without a return policy.
Introduce your cat to the new device. Keep it dry so kitty can explore and leave the water bowl out during the transition. Now add water, but don't turn on the gadget. Once your cat is accustomed to the new object, you can switch it on and monitor its reaction. It might be nervous before getting over its initial anxiety, or it may continue to look tense because of the sound. Give it a go on another day before deciding whether to use it or lose it.
Cats hail from the bone-dry desert, so they've evolved not to need a lot of H2O and would have gotten hydration from prey like mice, birds, and reptiles like feral cats do today. A household feline like a Maine Coon might like a bath if it's been used to one since it was a kitten, but in general, domestic cats—just like their predecessors—don't enjoy swimming or bathing. Some cats might not like water much, period, and may avoid your faucets. Cats are individuals with unique quirks. As long as you're attentive to their likes and dislikes, they'll be happy.
Cats can meet a lot of their hydration needs by eating wet food containing gravy, for example. But they still need to drink water to supplement this intake and prevent dehydration. How much is necessary depends entirely on your cat's weight. On a dry food diet, it needs about four ounces of water for every five pounds of body weight daily. If your cat is dehydrated, you might see the following symptoms:
Call your primary care vet for advice or to book an appointment for tests and fluids.
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