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Why to Consider Your Cat's Hydration

And How to do so with Food

As humans, we know that staying hydrated is important for our health and overall wellbeing. But did you know that proper hydration is just as essential for our feline friends?

Why we care about cat hydration

Many pet parents assume their cats are getting enough water when they actually aren't—particularly if the mainstay of their pet’s diet is dry food. Although cats have a relatively low thirst drive compared to humans and their canine counterparts, they still need to drink up.

Water aids cats’ digestion and nutrient absorption while also helping them maintain an optimal body temperature and keep their organs functioning smoothly. It also promotes good circulation and helps balance electrolytes. Without proper hydration, cats may be at increased risk of developing bladder stones, kidney malfunction and other serious health issues,

Pet parents sometimes don't discover that their cats aren't drinking enough until their veterinarian tells them so during a routine exam or while treating them for another condition. Keep in mind that your cat may be experiencing  dehydration, even if you observe them using their water bowls regularly.

Luckily, there are a number of ways you can make sure your cat's hydration needs are being met.

Knowing the signs of cat dehydration

Signs that your cat's hydration needs aren't being met include lethargy, dry gums, decreased appetite, an elevated heart rate and loss of elasticity in the skin. If you suspect your cat isn't getting enough water, try the pinch test.

Gently pinch a small portion of skin just over your cat's shoulders, then release.  If they’re adequately hydrated, the skin will quickly snap back into place. If the skin is slow to respond, your cat may be dehydrated.

Keeping your cat hydrated

Hydration needs vary among individual cats depending on their weight, their activity level and whether their diet primarily consists of wet or dry food. As you already know, cats are unique individuals, so there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to ensuring that yours is drinking enough.

Many cats prefer drinking from a running water source instead of a still one, so consider a cat drinking fountain that provides a continuous fresh water supply. Placing several water sources throughout your home may also entice cats to drink.

But no matter what water source you use, some cats simply aren't that interested in lapping up water. This is where food comes in. The right food or combination of foods can provide your kitty with the extra dose of hydration they need.

Considering food sources for hydration

The type of food your cat consumes, from dry to semi-moist or wet, impacts their hydration. It's important to keep in mind that if your cat only eats dry food they'll need more moisture from other sources, whereas with semi-moist or canned wet food your cat will be getting more of their daily moisture through their meals.

Conveniently available in a variety of formulas to meet different dietary needs and easy to store, dry cat food is appealing to many pet parents. The moisture content of kibble is approximately 10 percent.

Semi-moist cat food usually comes in pouches and contains approximately 35 percent water. Some cats may find it more appetizing than dry cat food.

The water content of canned cat food is at least 75 percent, roughly the same as the natural food sources that felines evolved with.

This doesn't mean that you should immediately replace your cat's kibble with wet cat food, but it does mean that those who feed their cats a dry diet should consider adding wet food to the menu to help aid hydration. Wet food pairs wonderfully with all kinds of kibble, complementing its texture and adding an extra layer of delicious and nutritious goodness and hydration to meals. Just like with dry and semi-moist food, wet food is available in a wide range of flavors to please choosy feline palates.

No matter what type of food you choose, however, it's important to follow the daily recommended feeding amounts listed on the packaging to help prevent your cat from the negative effects associated with overindulgences such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

Petco's picks for hydrating nutrition

Thinking about the bowl

When it comes to ensuring your cat is consuming enough water throughout the day, it's not just about what you give them. It's also about how you provide it,  which is where bowl placement comes into play.

Cats prefer calm, quiet spaces for eating and drinking, so avoid placing their bowls in high-traffic, noisy parts of your home. Spare rooms and barely used hallways are good options. But whatever location you choose, make sure it’s far away from their litter box. Also keep in mind that water that is in close proximity to food can easily get contaminated and make it less appealing to your fastidious feline. While keeping food and water bowls right next to each other is convenient, many cats appreciate having access to a secondary water source in another location.

Cat bowls come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and naturally, your kitty's personal preference should be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing one. Most cats seem to prefer wide, shallow bowls, and there's a good reason for that—whisker stress. Designed to serve as a navigating tool, whiskers are a highly sensitive part of the feline anatomy, and when cats avoid their bowls, whisker stress may be why. No matter what shape the bowl is, make sure it's wide enough to accommodate the whiskers.

As a cat parent, understanding how to keep your pet hydrated and the role their food plays in this is key to ensuring your feline friend's health and wellness. Check out our other blog posts for more information on caring for your cat, from wet food choices to food and water bowls and water bowl alternatives such as drinking fountains.