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Tips on Supplying Nutrition’s Overlooked Component For Pets

Water, an essential nutrient, is often an overlooked or badly managed component of pet care. Most of us focus on which type and brand of food to provide for our pets, ignoring this very important aspect.

All pets need a supply of fresh, clean well oxygenated water.

Water is the largest component of all animals. It is very important to keep hydration levels up. In this article I will focus mainly on cats but a continuous supply of clean fresh water is crucial for all companion animals.

Good hydration can mean the difference of feeling great and barely feeling. A few benefits of water are:

  1. Aids digestion by  transporting nutrients to cells.
  2. Flushes harmful toxins.
  3. Helps organs such as kidneys function properly.
  4. Helps manage intestinal motility and absorption {important for helping to prevent constipation}.

Pets need their water bowels and dispensers washed and refreshed daily.

As water sits in a bowel a film settles on the bottom and has less oxygen so it becomes stale. Most cats won’t drink stale water. Water vessels should be washed in mild soap and rinsed well as soap residue nay be harmful or at least add an unpleasant taste.

Dr. Deb Greco points out, “instinctively, cats might know to be suspicious of still water as stagnant water isn’t always safe. Their wild DNA tells them still water may be contaminated”.  They generally prefer fresh, well oxygenated water, preferably running.

Cats by nature and environment don’t consume enough water so we must coax them to drink.They are originally desert animals {low thirst drive} who would obtain enough water from their prey so additional water was not as important to them. Their prey is mostly water also. The canned and especially the dry food we feed them doesn’t supply enough water for our domestic cats. When they don’t drink enough water their urine is concentrated increasing the risk of urinary tract problems.

Making sure our cats drink enough water can be a challenge. Here are a few tips:

  1.  A water fountain. These provide fresh, clean oxygenated water cats are attracted to, providing the fountain is kept clean and the water is frequently changed {I change it every couple of days}. Some cats like to play in fountains, consuming some water by licking their wet paws after. The movement of water is an attraction to many cats. Probably why some cats paw at the water in bowls. This is one of several reasons why all water vessels should be kept clean. Remember, cats dig around their litter box. The problem with fountains is motor noise. If your cat is sensitive to noise this water source may not be a good idea.  Avoid plastic models like the one pictured, as they may emit harsh chemicals over time.
  2. Bowels of water placed throughout the home. Every level of your home should have at least one bowel. Cats in the wild prefer their water away from their food to avoid contamination {food debris sitting in the water}. This preference is passed down to domestic cats so make sure their water is away from the food. As previously mentioned, water bowels should be washed and changed daily. If using tap water make sure you let it run for a while and filter it at least with a Britta system.

The type of bowels needed depends on your cat.

Experiment, what do they prefer {large, small, deep, shallow etc.}? Set out several different sizes, shapes and materials to find their preferences. I like wide bowels because they cause less pressure on sensitive whiskers. Again, avoid plastic vessels. Stainless steel, glass and ceramic are good choices but throw out any chipped or cracked ceramic and glass containers as the damaged area attracts bacteria. According to Dr. Greco, cats can’t see still water. Keep the bowls filled at the same level for consistency {a must for cats} and for easy monitoring of water consumption. If your pets water consumption changes for more than a couple of days, consult your vet.

3. Add extra water to their wet food. Heating it up in a saucepan makes the food more palatable.

4. Some cats like to drink directly out of the tap. Turn it on slowly and keep it on low flow.

5. Pam Johnson-Bennett recommends putting an ice cube made out of low sodium chicken broth in a bowel of water to coax finicky cats to drink. Place a bowel of pure water next to it to give them an option. Pam has some great insight on cats. Check out her website at

6.Many cats like to drink out of a glass or cup on your bedside night stand. Cats like to be up high to survey the land. Many enjoy drinking from the perceived safety of elevated surfaces.

Some guardians supply gravity water bowls. These are the ones that resemble water coolers. The water gets stale as they are often forgatten. If it is not clean and fresh, most cats will drink very little from it or ignore this source completely.

A popular water source, and one that should be avoided is the toilet. Three good reasons:

  1. Risk of bacterial infection.
  2. Risk of poisoning from cleaning products.
  3. Risk of small animals getting trapped.

Please see my post “Is It Safe For My Pet To Drink Out Of The Toilet?” for more information.

These are only a few options for your pets’ water supply. Let your creativity take hold. so long as it’s safe and the water is clean. If unsure, consult your veterinarian.

Choosing the best source of water is complicated.

Spring water from a tested and trusted source is the best. This is not the case for all bottled water. Some bottled water isn’t as clean as it should be while others comes from a tap. No, the government isn’t providing enough protective regulations and enforcement. Know where the water comes from and how safe it is.

If using tap water, be sure to use a filtering system. Some community tap water is better than others. I use filtered Toronto tap water.




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