Cats are notoriously finicky about water. Which is a big problem because they’re also well known for having poor hydration levels.
But one of the best (and easiest) things you can do to help cats stay hydrated is to make sure they always have fresh drinking water.
So how often should you change your cat’s water?
We strongly suggest that you make it a daily habit- or as close as you can get.
Why Change Your Cat’s Water Bowl?
When it comes to water, your cat makes the rules.
Keeping your cat hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your cat’s long-term health and because cats are often chronically underhydrated you need to adapt to their habits and preferences.
But why are cats so bad at staying hydrated?
Cats in the wild get a huge portion of their water intake from live prey like mice, rats, and other small mammals. In fact, one study found that “Mice and weanling rats had total body water of 74.0 and 74.7%.” When another study looked at the habits of feral cats, they found that feral cats will eat as many as nine mice per day! When everything you eat is almost 75% water, staying hydrated is suddenly much easier!
But unfortunately, your house cat hasn’t adapted well to this change in diet and if your cat is eating dry food exclusively they have to rely on actually drinking water to get their hydration.
That’s why anything we can do to encourage your cat to drink more, including changing our cat’s water regularly, is well worth it.
Let’s look at a few other reasons why you should regularly change your cat’s water.
Your Cats Wild Ancestors
If you’re leaving water out for days at a time, your cat might have good reason to seem a little picky! While cats have been domesticated for almost 10,000 years, it’s still useful to think about their wild roots.
In order to stay safe in the wild, cats needed to be particular about what water sources they drank from- and which ones they avoided. Standing, stagnant or stale water would be avoided in favor of fresh, clean, or running water.
This is also why some cats may prefer to drink from the water facet even with a perfectly good bowl right in front of them.
Cats Care About Taste
While it varies from feline to feline, many cats are downright picky about how their water tastes. That means they just won’t drink if the water hasn’t been refreshed recently enough.
While water doesn’t “go bad” it can get a bit stale and if you’ve ever drunk water that’s sat out for a few days you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Your cat doesn’t like this taste, but really who does?
But things get even worse for your cat because their water bowl is low to the ground where dust, debris, and other yuckiness can easily settle.
So while your cat might seem like a total diva for passing on “stale” water, for your cat’s wild ancestors passing on bad tasting water could have been a life or death decision.
Bacteria Can Build
But the taste isn’t the only problem.
That open water bowl is like a hotel for bacteria. Not only can bacteria enter from the environment but microbes from your cat’s salvia can enter the water bowl and start a little bacteria party.
Cat behavior expert Pamela Johnson-Bennet points out another source of bacteria in the bowl, “If your kitty plays in his water, there’s also the icky stuff from his paws (think litter box) that is transferred into his water”
If you’re changing your water bowl every day (or even every other day) you shouldn’t have any bacteria problems. But if you’ve got a cat that loves a good splish-splash in the water bowl it may be even more important to implement daily water bowl changes for your cat!
Bacteria is also another reason why we suggest stainless steel water bowls for your cat. Stainless steel is much less likely to harbor bacteria!
How Often Should You Wash Your Cat’s Bowl?
We suggest that you wash the bowl as part of your daily routine. Use a hot soapy water solution but make sure to completely rinse the soap out because I can promise that your cat will not be excited to drink soapy water!
The easiest way to do this is to mix it into your daily dishes routine. If you’re regularly using your dishwasher this becomes every easier- just make sure to pick up a dishwasher safe cat bowl.
It’s also a lot easier if you have a couple of cat bowls per water location. That way you can give your cat a fresh bowl with fresh water without having to do any dishes.
What About Water Fountains?
If your cat uses a water fountain then you may not need to change your cat’s water every day. Many of these cat fountains include a water filter that keeps your cat’s water clean and fresh.
Our favorite fountain (and the one I use) is the Catit Flower Water Fountain which uses a triple action filter to keep the water clean. It also keeps water flowing so there’s not actually anywhere for the water to sit and get “stale.” If you’re interested in learning more you can click here to check the latest price on Amazon.
You should still get a regular schedule for changing your cat’s water (and cleaning the bowl) if you’re using a fountain but you can also get away with a little less maintenance. Don’t forget, you’ll also need to set a schedule for changing the filters!
Water Bowl Location
To make things easier on yourself (and your cat), make sure to place your cat’s bowl or water fountain somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of dust or debris in the air.
I know that a lot of cat owners keep bowls in the laundry room but that last thing you want is everything from the lint trap to float down into your cat’s water bowl! Even changing the water every day won’t be able to keep up with that.
You can also keep water cleaner by placing it in an elevated location that other pets can’t reach. If your cat has to share the water bowl with multiple pets (like dogs) you may need to be changing the bowl even more than daily!
Finally, if you’ve got a cat that likes to splash around in their water you’ll want to choose a location that can’t get ruined or damaged by water. You could also check out my latest guide to finding a spill proof water bowl to prevent this from happening altogether!
So how often should you change the water in your cat’s bowl?
We think we’ve made a pretty strong case for every day! Cats deserve to have access to clean water and your cat’s water bowl can get dirty quickly. Between your cat’s litter box paws splashing around and just the normal dust and debris in any home, your cat’s water bowl can become a haven for bacteria in a matter of days!
Just remember that your cat might not be as picky as they seem. Because what’s picky now was simply practical in the wild! Avoiding bad-tasting standing water in favor of clean, clear, and fresh water is how your cat’s ancestors survived!