Picking the Right Water Bowl for Your Cat
Cats can be picky. You buy a month’s supply of their favorite food and they no longer like that flavor. You find them a fun new toy online and they only want to play in the box. You know they need to drink more water, but how do you get them to?
Cats’ whiskers are very sensitive and they generally don’t like them to touch the sides of their bowls. Whiskers act like antennae for cats, sending messages to their brain when the whiskers come into contact with objects or when they detect movements. Because of this constant sensory stimulation, cats can develop “whisker fatigue.” It’s best to choose shallow, wide bowls so your cat doesn’t have to stick their head in very far.
Ceramic or stainless steel bowls are best. If your cat likes to knock over the water bowl, a heavy ceramic bowl is likely your best bet. Stainless steel bowls are best for keeping clean and sterile. Plastic bowls are not recommended for pets and can even irritate cats’ faces and cause chin acne.
Cats like cool water best, not too warm, not too cold. It’s best to change their water at least twice a day. And to completely change out the water, not just top off an almost full bowl. Cats will be more likely to drink when the water is fresh and the bowl is full.
The bowls should be cleaned daily. Even though it’s just water, germs and food residue can congregate. And nobody likes a dirty bowl.
You should have several water bowls throughout the home. Your cat should always have easy access to clean water. If you have multiple cats, you should have at least that many water bowls available in the home.
Try not to place the water bowls in busy areas of the home or too close to the food bowls or the litter boxes. Cats are very clean animals and instinctively prefer not to bring their prey to their water source in order to avoid possible contamination so if the water bowl is too close to their food bowl they may be less inclined to drink. Similarly, if the bowl is too close to the litter box, drinking from that bowl will be less enticing. A quiet corner of the home will likely feel safe for your cat to have a little drink.
Try offering water in different locations in different types of containers. This will serve as enrichment for your cat as well as an experiment of sorts for you to figure out where they like to drink. Do they like ceramic bowls that will keep their water cooler longer or stainless steel bowls they can tip over? Do they still prefer to drink from your glass on the coffee table? Do they drink more in the busy kitchen or the quiet dining room?
Some cats prefer running water from kitchen faucets or pet fountains. This is likely another wildcat instinct they have retained - running water is likely safer to drink than stagnant water. If your cat keeps you company while you brush your teeth in the morning and laps at the water flowing from the faucet, they may enjoy their own water fountain. Pet fountains are great because they can provide mental stimulation for your cat, making drinking enough water a kind of game for them.
Another way to make hydration more fun for your cat is to give them ice cubes. You can add a few ice cubes to their bowl or fountain for them to lick and bat. The bobbing of the ice cubes will intrigue your cat and bring out their predator instincts. You can even make ice cubes from bone broth or tuna juice to give them some flavor.
Once you figure out what your cat likes best, it will be much easier to ensure they are getting the hydration their cute little bodies need to function their best!