Ask a Vet: What Can Cats Drink (Besides Water)?

A tan-brownish cat with some off white patches is lying down with a straw in its mouth. The straw is sticking out of a halved coconut, which also has a drink umbrella in it

All mammals need water, including your cat, but you may find yourself wondering if there are other liquids out there that your cat can drink as well. While water is an essential nutrient and the best way to hydrate your cat, let’s look at other things that are okay for your cat to drink.

What Can Cats Drink Besides Water?

Some products are safe and effective if you’re looking for other ways besides water to keep your cat hydrated.

  • Milk: We’re talking about cat’s milk, and this goes for kittens only. Kittens feed almost entirely on their mother’s milk or a milk replacer for the first month of life. It provides all of the necessary nutrition for them to grow and thrive. After the first month, most kittens can start to transition to solid food. As kittens get older and weaned from their mother, most of them become lactose intolerant, so giving them milk can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. If you want to give your adult cat milk, stick with plant-based milk but only in small amounts.
  • Bone Broth: People drink bone broth for several reasons. First of all, it is made from bone and connective tissues, so it helps improve digestion and joint health, removes toxins from the liver, and makes for a healthier haircoat and skin. Plus, cats love the taste. After all, cats are carnivores and love animal-based proteins. This makes bone broth a great choice to liven up any cat’s meal or entice them to eat or drink if they’re feeling picky.
  • Pedialyte: Electrolytes are essential to maintain fluid balance, aid in muscle contraction and nerve conduction, and maintain pH levels. Electrolytes play an important part in hydration. If your kitty isn’t feeling well or isn’t drinking enough water, electrolyte solutions, like Pedialyte, can help. Pedialyte is preferred over other electrolyte solutions because it is lower in sugar, which your cat doesn’t need.
  • Tuna Juice: If your kitty needs a little pick-me-up or just an added incentive to eat or drink, tuna juice may do the trick. Besides having a taste that cats go crazy for, tuna juice can also provide them with omega fatty acids to improve their skin and haircoat and help battle inflammation. Just make sure to only use tuna in water instead of tuna in oil, since oil is high in fat and can cause digestive upset and even pancreatitis in high amounts. Drizzle tuna juice over their food or mix it in with their water.
  • Canned Food Slurry: If your kitty is having trouble getting their daily fluids or doesn’t want to eat, a canned food slurry might be what they’re looking for. Mix canned food with water until it reaches a tomato soup consistency (or thicker or thinner depending on your needs), and let your cat lap it up.

What Should Cats NOT Drink?

Close-up of a gray, tan cat with black patches and stripes drinking milk from a white plate on the ground.

Your cat can enjoy a few other beverages besides water, but that doesn’t mean that all liquids are fair game. Your feline friend should avoid the following:

  • Cows Milk: Here’s where that lactose intolerance comes in. Drinking too much cow’s milk can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
  • Alcohol: Beer and wine have the same effects on cats as humans, times 10. Consuming alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning before you know it.
  • Caffeine: A cat’s body is more sensitive to caffeine than humans, making heart and blood pressure issues a big problem.
  • Sugary Drinks: Soda and juices aren’t for cats either. They add calories that can make them gain weight and lead to diabetes. Also, cats can’t taste sweet, so what’s the point?

The Importance of Water for Cats

Before we get into other liquids that are safe for cats to drink, let’s focus on why and how a cat should stay hydrated. In the wild, cats don’t drink a lot of water. Instead, they get their fluid requirements mainly from the prey that they eat. This can add up to quite a bit considering most prey animals are 60-70% water. However, our domestic cats don’t have that opportunity, so their water needs are met by drinking water.

A cat’s body needs water for nearly every function. It is required to help digest foods, transport nutrients, and remove wastes. Water also helps regulate body temperature, cushion the brain and spinal cord, and lubricate joints. If cats don’t drink enough water, they get dehydrated, leading to organ and muscle dysfunction and damage, and electrolyte imbalances.

How much water do cats need per day? That will depend on the size of your kitty and the type of food they eat: the more dry kibble they eat, the more water they need. Also, the bigger your cat, the more water they will need.

Generally speaking, a 10-pound cat eating dry kibble should drink about one cup of water per day.

You can encourage your cat to drink more water by ensuring their water source is always fresh and clean. Use multiple water bowls in different locations so your kitty doesn’t have to go looking for it. Some cats prefer running water from a fountain or a dripping faucet. If your kitty still needs a little encouragement, feed them some canned food since it has a higher moisture content.

Final Thoughts

All kitties need water; normal bodily functions depend on it. However, getting your cat to drink the required amount can sometimes be tricky. Even though water is always best, this list of other safe beverages can help your cat get their fluids to prevent dehydration.

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