Why Animals Love Running Water

There are a few things in life which are essential for our survival. We feel very uncomfortable if we have insufficient air, sleep, food and water but most of us take these commodities for granted. Currently an inadequate supply of water is not a problem for anyone living in the UK! The ancestor of the domestic cat is the African Wildcat and their natural environment is certainly drier than that in the UK currently. 

So our pet cats have an ancestor that still live in an arid environment and who have to manage their water resources carefully. In their natural environment an African Wildcat’s sorties for water are separate to their hunting sorties. They will seek out a source of cool, clean, running water and lap from the bank of the river or stream up to twice daily. Cats have an amazing sense of smell and unlike humans can actually smell water. This is essential for finding water in a dry environment. Impressive when you think they have such small noses. For the African Wildcat hunting usually happens at night and involves numerous small mammal ambushes. 

This is why our pet cats like to have their food and water separated by at least half a room and their litter trays in a different room completely. As humans we can see the logic in keeping the toilet separate from the place where we eat and drink. However separating food and water seems a little strange to us. For cats, however, it’s natural and if their water is next to their food then it could put them off drinking. If the water is warm or has a chemical taint they will also be less inclined to drink. 

Cats prefer to drink running water because its ‘natural’ for them, and so they are less likely to drink standing water from a bowl. There may be other reasons for this too.

Cat’s whiskers collide with the edges of the bowl when they lower their head to drink and they can find this disconcerting.
When cats drink from stainless steel bowls they can be alarmed by the face looking back at them from the mirrored surface.
Cats have poor close vision and the surface of standing water can be difficult for them to see. Cats are noble animals and are humbled if they plunge their nose into water because a still surface is not obvious.
So free falling water or a rippling surface in a wide bowl encourages cats to drink. This was the inspiration behind the Drinkwell® Pet Fountain. Include a filter system that keeps the water pure and you have created a crystal clear babbling brook for your cat within your home. Pet fountains really do encourage cats to drink and this can be critical for older individuals which are prone to dehydration because of failing kidneys.

Food can be another source of water. Most bodies are about 80% water so when an African Wildcat eats a small mammal 80% of its weight is water for the cat! Tinned cat foods are similar and are about 75% water; this can be further increased by forking additional water into the food to increase hydration. Dry cat foods or kibble contain about 10% water so they are not as good at maintaining hydration.

An average cat needs a water intake of about 300ml daily. If fed tinned food cats would normally eat about 250g of meat and if fed dry food it would eat about 70g of kibble daily.

Food formulation Daily food consumption Water content of food Daily drinking water requirement to make up difference
Tinned food 250g 187ml 112ml (300-187)
Kibble 70g 7ml

293ml (300 – 7 )

So you can see that a cat on kibble needs to drink more that two and a half times more water than a cat fed tinned food to get its daily intake of 300ml of water! Cats fed kibble diets have to drink a lot of water to maintain their hydration. Therefore carers whose cats eat kibble need to provide ideal opportunities for drinking and this is best achieved with a Drinkwell® Pet Fountain.