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Home > Cats > Do Cats Like Cold Water? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

Do Cats Like Cold Water? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

cat drinking from water fountain

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Usually, we think of cats as hating water rather than liking it, but water is a necessary component of most living creatures’ diets. Animals on our planet need water to survive, and most humans find that drinking cold water is more refreshing (though there are some warm water drinkers out there too!). But with all our own personal opinions differing, it begs the question of whether cats have a preference. After all, they drink water to survive; it only makes sense that they’d have an opinion on its taste. Unfortunately, there’s no solid answer on what cats think because it’s a personal preference.

Until we can transform cats’ thoughts into human language, we’ll never know whether our cats prefer warm or cold water. But it will be hard to figure out what kind of water your cat likes since they don’t get that much water in their diet as a result of drinking it.


Where Do Cats Get Their Water?

The cats we know today as our friends and family are thought to have originated from Northern Africa. Our domestic feline companions evolved from Felis silvestris libyca or the African Wild Cat. These wild cats that roamed the deserts of what we now know as Egypt would be attracted to the rodents which lived in the food stores of the Ancient Egyptian villages, and the rest is history!

How does this relate to cats getting water? As desert animals, drinking water wasn’t as plentiful and readily available. So, their bodies evolved to need less water than animals which evolved in less arid climates.

The bulk of a cat’s liquid content comes from their foods rather than drinking water. Of course, cats aren’t above drinking water when they’re thirsty, but a cat’s primary source of liquids—and thus what they’ll most likely gravitate towards when choosing—is their food. Cats do not have a strong thirst drive because they have evolved not to need a lot of water to allow them to thrive and be comfortable in desert climates.

In today’s world, domestic cats survive and thrive in various climates. They’re present on every continent except Antarctica, so that should tell you how survivable house cats are. They can survive in all four hemispheres, regardless of the differences in climate and topography!

bowl of wet food on the floor near cat looking up
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Why Do Cats Get Water from Food Instead of Drinking?

In the desert, water is scarcer than in most other biomes. With water being so scarce, animals that live in desert biomes develop methods to store and process water content. For example, consider the camel capable of drinking up to 30 gallons of water in one sitting. They are evolutionarily designed to be aggressively economical with their water usage by storing it, allowing them to go more than a week without drinking anything.

Much like the camel will settle down and drink 30 gallons of water in one sitting, your cat has adapted to get their water content needs filled by processing the water in their food; this is where wild cats and feral cats get most of their water content for their diet.

Do Cats Ever Drink Water?

Of course, cats drink water when they’re thirsty, but you’ve likely noticed that your cat spends a lot less time at their water bowl than your dog. The cat’s body has a decreased thirst drive. It makes sense for an animal that evolved to live in the desert; if water is scarce and many animals go without a safe water source, having a high thirst drive is just an invitation to suffering.

Still, when your cat has a hankering for some refreshing water, you’ll see them lap up water from their bowl or fountain with their tongues. Cats may also dip their paws into their water and lick the water off their paws.

african wildcat
Image Credit: Erwin Niemand, Shutterstock


How Can I Encourage My Cat to Drink More Water?

If your vet has indicated that your cat needs to drink more water, you can do a few things to improve your cat’s experience with water and make them more likely to drink it when they get thirsty.

It’s important to note that you should let your cat and your vet lead your charge. Your cat knows when they need water better than you do, and your vet can confirm whether your cat’s water levels are low enough to warrant suspicion. Likewise, if your vet hasn’t indicated that your cat needs to drink more water and your cat isn’t sick, there’s no reason to suspect that they’re not drinking enough. Providing high-moisture food is a great way of improving your cat’s hydration level.

Start By Changing the Bowl

Cats are susceptible to minor differences like the shape or material of the bowl. They can also be susceptible to “whisker sensitivity.” For example, if their whiskers are pressing against the sides of the bowl, this can be highly uncomfortable. So, changing the bowl to a shallow bowl doesn’t require them to put their whole snout inside.

Cats may also be sensitive to stainless steel bowls; these bowls reflect light and strain your cat’s light-sensitive eyes. Offer your cat a variety of bowls at different depths, sizes, shapes, and materials for discerning what your cat is looking for in a water bowl.

Cat drinking from ceramic bowl
Image Credit: Pattysan, Shutterstock

Change the Water’s Flavor

There’s always a healthy debate surrounding water and whether it has no flavor or is “water-flavored,” but there’s one thing we can all agree on, and that’s that different water tastes, well, different. There’s a reason the tap water from your neighbor’s sink tastes different than the one from yours: the water is chemically different.

As water travels through the pipe system, it picks up everything that changes the flavor. People can tell when the water they drink contains chemicals that might poison them. So, try filtering your water to see if it makes it more palatable to your cat.


Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, we can’t tell you whether your cats prefer their water at room temperature or over ice, but we can always learn about our cats’ preferences by observing them ourselves. That’s the best way to find out what your cat likes, so try to change some stuff up and see if your cat likes it more than their old setup!

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Featured Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

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