What Type of Water Bowl is Best for Cats?



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Some owners spend a lot of time thinking about how much water their cats are drinking, and for good reason. A number of feline health conditions are associated or treated with increased water consumption.

  • Chronic kidney disease decreases the body’s ability to concentrate urine, meaning a cat needs to drink more to avoid dehydration.
  • Diluting the urine through increased water intake can reduce the severity and frequency of feline idiopathic cystitis flare-ups.
  • Increased water consumption appears to help fat cats lose weight.

The first step in getting cats to “drink” more water is to switch them to a diet of canned food only. Kibble consists of around 10% water while canned food is generally between 68 and 78% water. Cats generally get only about 5% of the water they need from a kibble-only diet but can satisfy around 70% of their needs with a diet of canned food.

Water not supplied by a cat’s food needs to come from another source, which makes me wonder if cats have a preference for certain types of water bowls. A study presented at the 2015 American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition meeting attempted to answer this question.

A veterinary student at the University of Tennessee rotated 14 cats through three week sessions, during which they drank water either from a bowl holding still water, a bowl that circulated water, or a bowl with free-falling water. The first seven days of each session were used to acclimate the cats to the new type of bowl, and then over the next 14 days the amount of water they drank was measured and their urine was collected and analyzed. The cats also underwent laboratory testing (complete blood cell count, blood chemistry panel, thyroid testing, urinalysis, and urine culture) before and after each three week session. All the cats were fed dry food to maximize the amount they had to drink, I assume.

The research revealed that the type of water bowl did not affect the average amount the cats in this study drank, BUT 3 of the 14 did seem to have a definite preference for one type of bowl. They drank significantly more water from their favorite bowl in comparison to the others. Wouldn’t you know that of those three cats, one picked the still water bowl, one the circulating water bowl, and one the bowl with free-falling water.

Cats just can’t make things easy for us, can they? While no general recommendation can be made as to what type of bowl is best for all (or even most) cats, there does seem to be a sub-population out there who has definite opinions on the matter. If you are ever in the position of having to maximize your cat’s water consumption, make sure you are offering canned food only and try a few different types of bowls in several locations around your house to see which your cat likes best.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

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