You may have heard that cats and dogs should be encouraged to drink more water…
Then you may have wondered why?
The simple answer could be that many pets will not drink enough in a day, while rarely will you see one that drinks too much (unless it has some sort of health problem that increases thirst!).
So the first thing to know is how much your cat or dog normally drinks. Although there is no specific amount, there is a general suggestion: 30 to 50 ml per kg of weight. For example, a 5 kg (11 lb) cat could drink 150 to 250 ml (= 5 to 8.5 ounces) of water over 24 hours. Or a 40 kg (88 lb) dog might drink 1200 to 2000 ml (40 to 68 ounces) of water over the same 24 hours. You understand that these figures can vary depending on several factors, including the temperature outside, humidity and your pet’s activities.
When in doubt, nothing could be simpler: you measure the quantity of water given with a measuring cup and you will be able to tell the quantity consumed. Then for more precision, do the test 2 or 3 days in a row and you will have a certain average which will be more realistic than one day.
In short, to come back to the subject, there are also different reasons to keep in mind to motivate our pets to drink more:
- to prevent certain urinary problems (because these are very frequent in pets);
- to correct dehydration (not necessarily visible when it is slight);
- to prevent heat stroke during summer, etc.
Please note that the following tips may (or may not) apply to your pet (cat or dog). You will need to experiment over a few days before you know what will work. Second point to note: these suggestions can also be considered for rodents/small mammals and birds. As for reptiles, it is more varied depending on the species.
1- The simplest thing is obviously to keep the water clean! Do not hesitate to change it at least 1-2 times a day or even more if you feel like it.
2- There are different models of water fountains, and they are interesting for some animals (especially cats) who like the movement of water.
3- Water consumption increases significantly with increased meal frequency. Generally speaking, most cats and dogs will eat twice a day; whereas in this ideal situation, you could give a smaller meals 3-4 times a day.
4- Many cats prefer a large bowl. The bowl is preferably full at all times. The reason for this is related to cats’ whiskers. Indeed, they are rather sensitive and it is preferable that they do not touch the side of the bowl.
5- Experiment with different types of water (tap water, bottled water, filtered water, etc.). Each animal is unique and you may be surprised.
6- Try water that has been refrigerated. Here again, you have to discover the particular tastes of each animal.
7- Another idea: flavour the water with ice cubes to which you have added fish or seafood juice. Some companies will even offer different flavors that can be added to the water.
8- Then, you have to check the environment: a very important point! Indeed, the environment where the water bowl is located will impact what will be consumed. If it is too close to a litter box or a garbage can, this can lead him to wait before visiting this area of the house. Since animals have a sense of smell that is often more developed than ours, it is sometimes necessary to play detective. The other part to consider is the noise: if it is located near an area that is regularly noisy, it is probably not what your pet will prefer.
9- Try different places in the house, if for example there are several floors. This can be an obstacle for an older pet, for example, who has to go up and down stairs to get there. A rule of thumb is at least 1 bowl per floor.
10- Consider that some pets also have bowl preferences: stainless steel, ceramic, glass, or different colors/textures/depths. All this may seem hard to imagine, but when you think about it, we have our own preferences for our liquid consumption. Would you dare to drink coffee from a wine glass!
11- Increasing the amount of canned food increases the daily water intake because it has a higher initial content than dry food. It is suggested to start offering different types of food at a young age as tastes develop.
12- Keep the bowls clean! Again, would you be happy to have a good orange juice in the same glass for 3 days? No way! Change the bowls every day…
13- Possibly the least ecological tip, so use it wisely: let the tap water run for a few moments. Some animals love the sound and will come running when you do this.
In short, as you can see, there are many possible strategies. Be creative and you might be surprised!
Tell me, I’m curious: is there another trick you’ve used that has helped your pet drink more?
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Francis Lagacé has been a member of the Ordre des médecins vétérinaires du Québec since 2004. He practiced for 16 years in several veterinary clinics across Canada. He treated animals of all types, mainly cats, dogs and exotic animals (rabbits, rodents, ferrets, birds, reptiles). Since 2020 he has been working in the field of veterinary pharmacovigilance. You can find him on LinkedIn.