When owning a cat, it’s only natural to think about what you can offer them to drink. Besides, we humans consume a number of different beverages beyond just plain old water. Can cats do the same? I spent some time researching what is possible and preferable for the health, wellness, and wellbeing of our precious felines.
So, what can cats drink besides water? Cats can drink cat milk, bone broth, and a limited amount of apple juice. However, they should only be offered these liquids infrequently – if a cat is refusing to drink water and is showing signs of dehydration. Generally, cats only need to drink water and it should be available to them at all times.
While it may sound relatively boring to you and I; cats do just fine with water the majority of the time.
It is generally, all they need to stay healthy and hydrated.
The only real exception is in the early stages of life; as they consume the milk of their mothers to obtain the nutrients they need.
But once they wean, at around 3-4 weeks of age, it’s over to fresh water and solid food for the most part.
How much water a cat requires however does vary – it depends on their age, size, and how much water they naturally get through their food.
For instance, cats consuming wet food will not need as much as those on dry food.
Nevertheless, there are certain contexts where keeping a cat hydrated becomes more important, and doing so through water alone is not feasible.
Let us now take a closer look at the other options before looking at those you will always want to avoid.
What Liquids Can I Give My Cat?
For the most part, water is the only liquid you should be looking to give your cat. It is all they need to stay healthy.
In fact, the consumption of water is vital to a cat’s health. It plays a key role in digestion and a range of other bodily functions.
If a cat is dehydrated for too long it can even result in urinary problems, including bladder stones.
Although, there may be instances where they stop drinking altogether, or they have a health condition which means remaining hydrated is even more important (such as in kidney disease).
Therefore, let us run through the different options:
Kitten Milk Formula (KMR)
For a young kitten who is weaned from its mother too early, kitten milk formula is the next best thing.
It is formulated to include all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrition that the mother cat could provide naturally. This includes all of the protein, fat, and carbohydrates they need for development.
However, this specific kind of milk should only be provided in two situations:
- A kitten between the ages of a day old to 6 weeks.
- As a supplement for cats post-surgery and during their recovery. .
This is the recommended KMR product to buy from Amazon.
One thing to consider is that you can get 2nd step KMR, which is formulated for kittens between the ages of 4-8 weeks.
For adult cats, cat milk is another option.
Although, this should be considered and fed as a treat, or to help a cat get some additional hydration.
Cat-Sip is one of the most popular options on Amazon; it’s a best seller in its category.
Many owners report how they can increase the palatability of water with this product, or get a cat eating who is not willing.
Even the fussiest of cats seem to enjoy it according to reviews.
It’s also very gentle on a cat’s stomach and ideal for both younger and adults cats.
Bone and Meat Broth
Bone broth is essentially the liquid from boiled meat or bones.
While it is time-consuming to prepare, it is rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein.
It’s a very healthy liquid for both humans and cats alike.
Making bone broth is time-intensive, but relatively simple to do.
Meat broth is much faster.
All you need to do is boil some plain chicken breast or white fish for 30 minutes to 1 hour, and give your cat the liquid afterward.
Ensure it has cooled down of course!
Equally, you will need to make sure that you have not added any flavorings, salt, or oil to the pan.
For Bone broth, you follow the same process, but it typically takes up to 24 hours for the bones to boil and break down.
The benefits here are you get gelatin, which is rich in amino acids that can help a cats digestion, help with inflammation and support the immune system.
If you wanted to save some time, you can purchase it pre-boiled in advance, as a powder that you just need to mix with a bit of water.
Just ensure it is unflavored, such as this brand from Amazon.
Some cat owners have reported how cats can drink a small amount of apple juice without issues.
It’s known for being somewhat easier for a cat to digest than other citrus juice, such as orange.
However, as apple juice is high in sugar – you’re only going to want to offer a limited amount and infrequently.
Diluting it with water further is a good idea.
If you suspect your cat is unwell or suffering from dehydration; then it is best to get to the vets.
They will likely be able to offer you oral rehydration fluids to give to your cat.
These are usually meaty flavored so are more likely to be drunk by your cat.
What Should Cats Not Drink
Along with some of the potential replacements for water, given the right context, it’s also important to be aware of all the liquids a cat should never be offered altogether.
Besides, some liquids could be outright dangerous. Even if they seem relatively safe to us humans.
Vomiting, diarrhea, and even unconsciousness can develop if the wrong thing is provided, and consumed in the wrong quantity.
Let us now take a look at some of those liquids:
Cows Milk And Dairy
All cats are lactose intolerant; meaning that they do not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down the protein found in cow milk and other dairy.
Cows milk is particularly challenging to cats, even if they would drink it if provided.
Nevertheless, the consumption of dairy products will lead to diarrhea and vomiting.
It kind of goes without saying, but you should never offer a drink consuming alcohol to your cat under any circumstances.
Alcohol is very difficult to digest and very dehydrating; both of which can cause serious issues in your cat.
Caffeine is a very dangerous substance for a cat to have in its body. They are unable to process it.
Even in small doses, it can lead to seizures and death.
Sugar must be limited in your cat’s diet to prevent weight gain and other metabolic issues, such as diabetes.
Providing liquids with high sugar content is not necessary nor should do your cat any good.
How To Get Your Cat To Drink More Water
So by now, you are aware of the importance of water and hydration for your cat.
We’ve looked at some of the most suitable alternatives, and those to avoid at all costs.
But nevertheless, water is always going to be the best option.
Let us now look at some practical strategies to increase their water consumption, naturally and safely:
- Make sure you offer water in a ceramic, metal or glass bowl; plastic can change the taste of the water and put your cat off drinking.
- Use a large, open and shallow bowl; so that you cat can drink more easily.
- Keep water bowl somewhere only your cat can access; away from other cats, dogs etc.
- Provide several bowls throughout the house; for easier access throughout the day,
- Consider the lighting; to ensure your cats shadow does not prevent them from seeing the surface of the water.
- Consider filtering your water; as some cats do not do well with the chlorine, and other chemicals in regular tap water,
If all else fails, you could consider getting your cat a water fountain. These are typically easier for a cat to drink from and many owners find that a simple change to this style of drinking generally does the trick.
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Cats need to remain hydrated. There is no denying that.
However, getting them to drink enough water is easier said than done.
Equally, there may be certain situations and contexts where providing something a little different is more beneficial.
In those instances, specific cat milk, bone broth, and apple juice are your main options.
Just be sure that if you do opt for cat milk, you ensure that it is fed as a treat and in moderation. You still need to ensure that they eat a balanced and healthy diet.
Perhaps one of the best things you can do is to look into and investigate why they may not be drinking, and to encourage them to drink more water.
Other than this, providing wet food is another option as opposed to dry food. This way, they will at least be getting some added hydration from the food that they eat.
Besides, this is how wild cats get their water for the most part, through their food, after all.
Can You Give Cats Gatorade?
Gatorade should not be given to cats. Gatorade and other sports/electrolyte drinks do not help a cat overcome dehydration any better than water. This is because cats do not sweat, and do not need to replace sodium or potassium which this drink primarily contains. In fact, Gatorade and similar drinks can even cause harm and make your cat sick.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.