Cat drinking water from saucer.

Good question! As is often the case when trying to figure out what’s going on inside our pets’ heads, the truth is more complex than we might hope. Here’s the interesting reality: Most cats, ancestral desert dwellers that they are, are typically stealthy about their water intake.

According to one increasingly prominent nutritional theory, cats are evolutionarily predisposed to get their fluids along with their solids. In the wild, cats are frequent-feeding carnivores, taking in several small meals of prey throughout the day. Proponents of this theory argue that the fluids contained in the average small bird or rodent are enough to quench a cat’s natural thirst.

That likely explains why so many cats actually don’t seem to drink very much at all. Yet many cat owners insist: “My cat loves water!” How can that be?

There are several possible answers to the question:

  • Cats that are fed crunchy foods sometimes overcompensate for the lack of water their meals provide. In other words, dry foods make them thirsty. So they drink—lots.
  • Some cats are social drinkers, preferring to imbibe in the presence of their beloved people.
  • In many cases, these social drinkers are also avid clean water consumers; they like to have the tap turned on for them so they can take in the freshest water available.
  • Water can be fun for felines. Some cats simply enjoy lapping it up.
  • Sometimes, sickness fuels the drive for more fluids than the body would normally need. Diabetes and kidney disease are among the medical conditions that can cause increased drinking in cats.
But under normal circumstances, cats should be allowed to comfortably drink to their heart’s content. Indeed, veterinarians generally prefer to see a healthy appetite for hydration in their feline patients. Of course, you should always bring up any concerns with your vet.

This article was written by a Veterinarian.