grey and white cat drinking water outside

5 Reasons Your Cat Won't Drink From Their Water Bowl


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One of the biggest struggles for cat owners is finding a bowl that their feline will drink from.

Hydration plays a big role in the health of your cat. If your cat won't drink water, it can lead to urinary crystals, kidney disease, loss of appetite, and issues with electrolytes. Canned food can help, and cats will occasionally drink chicken broth, but a domestic cat needs roughly 4 ounces of water per 5 pounds of body weight.

Unfortunately, your cat's drinking habits came from the desert where most of their drinking needs were met through prey. Add in the dry kibble diets many owners feed their cat, and it can lead to medical issues from too little water. But is there a way to deal with this finicky behavior, or are you stuck coaxing your feline to drink all day? As it turns out, there are a few reasons why your cat might be shunning their water bowl.

Why Your Cat May Be Ignoring Their Water Bowl

gray cat on floor next to bowl of water

1. Running water is better than still.

When it comes to water, running is always better than still. One theory behind this is that cats instinctively may be wary of still water since stagnant water isn't always safe to drink in the wild. Another potential theory is that hunching over a bowl to drink is simply more uncomfortable than drinking from a faucet -- When a cat is hunched over a water dish, it puts them in a more vulnerable position to be pounced on by another animal.

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Cats may also simply find that moving water tastes better! You can try to keep curious cats off countertops, but if your cat loves jumping onto the counter for a fresh drink, this is likely the reason.

2. It's all about location.

When it comes to placement of the water bowl, some cats won't drink out of it if it's too close to their cat food. This is because in the wild, cats go to great measures to keep their food and water sources separate to avoid having the food contaminate the water. Much like cats who have saggy bellies, this is a leftover artifact from the days when they weren't snoozing on your couch all day.

Many cats also don't like their water to smell like their food, which can happen if the water and food bowls are too close together. Try moving your cat's water dish away from his food dish to see if he's more willing to drink water.

3. New is always better than old.

Would you want to drink water from a cup that had been sitting out for hours or even days? Well, neither does your cat. We all love fresh water. The longer your cat's water bowl sits out, the more dirt, dust, and bacteria will accumulate on the surface of the water as well as in it. This is especially true for cats that enjoy playing with the water in their water bowls. Clean your cat's water dish and add plenty of fresh, clean water daily.

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4. There's not enough water (or there's too much).

Cats are truly creatures of habit, and this extends to their water intake preferences as well. When you fill your cat's bowl, try and keep the amount of water consistent from day to day.

If your cat is unsure whether the water is right at the top of the bowl or just barely filling the bottom, they may have to put their paw in to test and see. Once this happens, they may not even want to drink the water as it's been "contaminated" by their own paw.

5. Bowl shape and size matters.

The shape and size of a water bowl can also play a big role in the reason why your cat won't drink from it. One of the biggest reasons why cats don't like particular bowls is that their sensitive whiskers get squished when they try and drink. Due to this, large, shallow bowls seem to be most preferred. After all, cats hunt for many reasons as much today as they did in the past, and that type of food certainly doesn't come in a bowl!

Additional Considerations

black and white cat looking up near water bowl

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There's no shortage of reasons why your cat may not be drinking out of their bowl, but what can you do about it? In addition to fixing the issues mentioned above, you might have to test several water bowls for your cat to see which they like best. If your cat refuses to drink still water out of a traditional bowl, there are a number of fountain water bowls you can try.

We know that finding a solution that will ensure your cat drinks enough is stressful, but if you persevere, we know you'll find it! Unfortunately, your cat's lack of water consumption could be related to health issues. If your cat is picky about their water, be on the lookout for dehydration symptoms such as sunken eyes, dry mouth, and an elevated heart rate. It's one thing for your cat to be picky about dry food versus wet food, but water preference can be a tricky problem to solve.

Hopefully, it's just a water bowl preference, but if your cat is showing signs of dehydration, seek professional help for your fur baby.

The Best Water Bowls and Dispensers for Cats

1. Pet Water Dispenser

This dispenser holds up to a gallon of fresh drinking water and uses gravity to keep a consistent supply of water. Give this plastic bowl a try if your cat is being picky about their old dish.

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2. Cat Water Fountain

Your cat's health is important, so if they need a water fountain, get it! This filtered drinking fountain is also perfect for small dogs. Since the water is filtered, it removes bad tastes and odors.

3. Shallow & Wide Water Bowl

It's shallow and wide, which means it won't bother your feline pal's whiskers. It's also BPA free, and dishwasher safe, making it easy to clean. If ceramic is good enough for your plates, it should be good enough for your fur baby!

Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Pets are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Do you have a cat that's picky with water? What was your water bowl solution? Tell us on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!

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This post was originally published on February 23, 2018.

READ MORE: Cat Water Fountains Can Save Your Feline Friend From Costly Vet Bills

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