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How Do Cats Drink Water?
Cats BehaviorCats CareCat GuidesCat NeedsCat Fun FactsCat Wellness

How Do Cats Drink Water?

The way cats drink water is a marvel of efficiency and elegance. A cat extends its tongue and curls it backward, forming a spoon-like shape. As the tongue barely touches the surface, it creates a column of liquid that the cat quickly snaps up into its mouth before gravity pulls it back down. This happens in a fraction of a second, making it a swift and neat process.

The high-speed nature of this drinking style is remarkable and distinguishes cats from dogs, which use their tongues like ladles, scooping up water in a much messier fashion.

How Do Cats Drink Water?

This seemingly simple question is a doorway into a world of complex biology. Cats employ a highly specialized and intricate mechanism to facilitate water intake. Utilizing a combination of papillae, tiny structures on the tongue's dorsal surface, and a swift, downward curling motion, cats create a column of water through adhesion and gravity. As the liquid ascends into the oral cavity, the cat quickly closes its jaws, effectively trapping the ascending liquid. Subsequently, through a perfected balance of gravity and tongue action, the cat extracts water by swiftly retracting its tongue, resulting in a controlled and efficient ingestion process. This sophisticated adaptation underscores the evolutionary precision with which cats have evolved to optimize their hydration strategies in diverse environments.

How Much Water Do Cats Drink Per Day?

This basic info is crucial for cat owners, as it helps in identifying their pet's health and well-being. On average, a cat must drink approximately 3.5 to 4.5 ounces of water per 5 pounds of body weight daily. However, this amount can fluctuate based on age, diet, and environmental conditions.

Cats that are on a dry food diet may require more water as compared to those on a wet food diet. Wet food contains about 70-80% water, which contributes significantly to their daily water intake.

It is vital to monitor how much water cats drink as sudden changes can be indicative of health issues such as diabetes or kidney problems.

Cat Not Drinking Water? Possible reasons

A cat not drinking water can be a concern for pet owners. There can be several reasons for this behavior change. 

Medical Conditions

Kidney Disease: Cats with kidney disease may drink too much or too little water. Both can be concerning.

Diabetes: Similar to kidney disease, diabetic cats may exhibit changes in water consumption.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Painful urination can lead a cat to associate the discomfort with the water bowl, leading them to avoid it.

Dental Issues: Dental pain or gum disease can make it uncomfortable for cats to drink water.

Behavioral and Environmental Factors

Stress: Changes in a cat's environment, such as a move, new animals, or even a new routine, can lead to stress and a subsequent change in drinking habits.

Preference for Running Water: Some cats prefer running water and may avoid still water in a bowl.

Bowl Location: Cats can be particular about where their water is placed. Some cats prefer their water to be located away from their food.

Bowl Type and Cleanliness: Some cats may have preferences for certain types of bowls (ceramic, stainless steel, etc.) and may avoid drinking from a bowl that is not clean.


High Moisture Content in Food: Cats on a wet food diet may consume less water directly as they get most of their hydration from their food.

Aging and Mobility Issues

Arthritis: Older cats may find it painful to bend down to their water bowl, leading to decreased water consumption.

Cognitive Dysfunction: Senior cats may experience cognitive issues, leading to changes in their normal behavior, including drinking water.


Counterintuitively, sometimes when cats are mildly dehydrated, they may not feel the urge to drink water.

Sensory Changes

Taste and Smell: Just like humans, cats may be turned off by the taste or smell of additives in tap water.

Understanding your cat's behavior and consulting a veterinarian if you notice significant changes in water consumption are essential steps in ensuring your cat's health and well-being.

a black cat drinking water from a bowl
a black cat drinking water from a bowl

How to Get Your Cat to Drink More Water? 

Encouraging your pet to stay hydrated can sometimes be a challenge. Here are a few tips on how to get a cat to drink water:

  1. Fresh and Clean Water: Ensure your cat always has access to fresh water. Regularly cleaning the water bowl can make it more appealing.

  2. Multiple Water Stations: Placing multiple water bowls around the house ensures that your cat always has easy access to water.

  3. Flavorful Additions: Adding a splash of tuna juice or chicken broth to the water can entice your cat to drink more.

  4. Water Fountains: Some cats prefer moving water, and investing in a cat water fountain can stimulate their interest in drinking water.

  5. Wet Food: Including wet food in your cat's diet can also increase their water intake.

  6. Ice Cubes: Adding ice cubes to the water can make it interesting for some cats, and they may play with or lick the cubes.


Ensuring that cats stay hydrated is vital for their health and well-being. As observing changes in their drinking habits and taking steps to encourage hydration can contribute to a long and healthy life for your feline companion.

From the elegant mechanics of how they lap up water to understanding their daily water needs, every aspect is crucial. So, next time you see your cat approach their water bowl, take a moment to appreciate the delicate ballet of nature at play.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do cats lick water?

Cats lap up water by extending their tongue, curling it backwards to form a spoon-like shape, and swiftly pulling up a column of liquid into their mouths before gravity can pull it back down.

Are cats supposed to drink tap water?

Yes, cats can generally drink tap water, but it's important to ensure the water is fresh and free of harmful substances or strong additives that may deter some cats.

How do cats prefer to drink water?

Cats may have individual preferences, with some favoring running water from fountains or faucets, while others are content with still water in a clean, well-placed bowl.

Do cats and dogs drink water differently?

Yes, cats and dogs have distinct drinking mechanisms; cats elegantly lap up water with minimal mess, while dogs tend to scoop water into their mouths using their tongues, often resulting in a more messy process.