BetterWithCats.net may earn a small commission when you use one of the links on this page to purchase.
Have you ever wondered if cats get bored with drinking water?
While cats are well known for generally having a blast doing just about anything when you think about eating and drinking the same food every day it might seem like the food and water aspects of being a cat could get a little…boring.
Which is why some cat parents might want to spice things up and give their cat something interesting to drink, either for fun or as a nice treat.
But it’s important to be careful with what you feed your cat as they have a very different biological system compared to us humans.
So what can cats drink besides water? For the most part, cats should stick with water but if you want to give your feline friend a tasty, healthy treat consider giving them bone broth. You can either offer it plain or mix it into your cat’s water for some variety.
We’re going to dig a little deeper into what cats can and can’t drink but first let’s make sure we understand a little more about our cats and what they might like.
Your Cat Is A Carnivore
The first thing to understand about your cat is that they’re an obligate carnivore. That means they need meat to survive and there’s really no such thing as a vegan cat.
Why does this matter when it comes to figuring out what your cat can drink?
Understand that our cats are carnivores gives us a better idea of what might be healthy for cats to drink. Generally, liquids that are in line with a cat’s carnivorous nature are better options which is why bone broth makes such a great alternative to water for our cats.
That also means that any liquids that are rich in carbohydrates, sweets, fruits, or vegetables aren’t something your cat would normally consume and can sometimes be unhealthy for your cat.
Your Cat Can’t Taste Sweet
Here’s another fun feline fact you may not have been aware of: cats can’t actually taste sweet in the way that we can. Scientists found that they simply lack the required receptor for sweetness so not only do they not need carbohydrates in the form of sugar, they can’t even taste them!
So while you might think the glass of apple juice could be a nice treat for your cat, not only is it best to avoid sugar but your cat just isn’t going to taste that sweetness that makes apple juice so appealing to us.
So What Can Cats Drink (Besides Water)?
Now that we understand the basics of what our cats might like, let’s dive into what cats can drink!
Milk From Their Mother (And Only As A Kitten)
Kittens can drink milk from their mother but as they get older they become more and more lactose intolerant and should no longer drink milk of any kind. While drinking milk might seem pretty normal to us, humans are actually the only mammals that drink milk as adults.
Part of the reason for this is that as mammals (including cats) get older they produce less lactase which decreases the ability to digest the lactose in milk. That means that milk turns from a tasty treat to a GI nightmare and your cat is no different!
So why do cats like milk at all then?
Remember that your cat is a carnivore and they especially like animals fats. Milk is very rich in fats which makes it very desirable for cats- even if it upsets their stomach.
Kitten Formula (Only for Kittens)
Kittens under 4 weeks old need to have access to their mother’s milk. But sadly, kittens are often separated from their mother! In those cases, kittens can drink specially made kitten milk replacement.
My cat Debbie was one of those motherless kittens and you can actually see a picture of her covered in milk replacement during one of her feedings here. The gold standard for kitten milk replacement is the appropriately named KMR (Kitten Milk Replacement) which you can see here. That’s the same product I’ve used for hundreds of kittens and while it definitely works it shouldn’t be used for adult cats.
It’s very rich and is likely to cause an upset stomach if fed to adult cats!
If you want to give your cat a milk treat without filling their belly with lactose you can consider goat milk.
Why goat’s milk?
Because the fat molecules in goat’s milk are smaller compared to cow’s milk which means that goat’s milk is actually easily digested even for people (or cats) with lactose intolerance.
I’d specifically recommend the Honest Kitchen’s Probiotic Goat Milk that’s specifically designed for cats and dogs. You can click here to check it out on Amazon and read some of the 500+ five star reviews.
There are other milk products on the market and Whiskas actually has a product that they call Catmilk which has most of the lactose removed. While I love the idea, the product includes carrageenan and so I can’t give it my full recommendation.
If you want to learn more about carrageenan (and how it makes its way into cat food) you can check out this article.
Bone broth is made by slowly simmering the bones and connective tissues of animals. You can make bone broth from just about any animal-based protein source and not only does it include bones but also nutrient-rich connective tissues. It’s more or less the same thing as stock and it’s commonly found in soups and sauces.
While it might seem like it’s only recently that health-conscious folks have decided to drink bone broth as a stand-alone drink, it was actually used more than 2,500 by the Chinese to support kidney and digestive health.
Bone broth has a ton of health benefits for cats including improved digestion, joint, and liver health. Bone broth can also promote healthier skin and coat (which can actually reduce shedding).
But do cats really like bone broth?
Yes! Remember, your cat is a highly-specialized carnivore and bone broth is right up their alley! Hearty flavors rich in animal proteins and fats are exactly what your cat wants.
Another great thing about bone broth is that it can be made using ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away in many cases. It can include inedible parts like bones, feet, gristle, and just about anything else that you wouldn’t normally eat at your Thanksgiving dinner.
Here’s a great video that shows you how to make your own bone broth for your cat. Her use of ice cube bags at the end (like these on Amazon) is amazing and something I never thought of!
As you can see, the only downside to giving your cat bone broth is that it takes a really long time to make it. We’re talking 20+ hours and while most of the work is really being done by the crockpot it can still be pretty darn time-consuming. You also need to have the raw materials in the form of animal bones and connective tissues.
If that seems like a lot of work you can always do what I do and simply buy the ready to go bone broth. I always recommend getting products that are specifically made for pets which is why I suggest the pet-specific bone broth from Primalvore on Amazon. This ready-to-go bone broth means you get all the benefits without 20 hours in the crockpot and handling a bunch of bones and connective tissues.
The reason pet-specific products are better is that the manufacturer is sure to leave out anything that would harmful to cats while broths made for human consumption can have all kinds of extra products that are harmful to cats like onions, garlic, and more.
When it comes to serving bone broth, you can give bone broth as a stand-alone drink for your cat or mix it in with a little water to add some flavor. You can also use it to mix up dry food and it’s a great way to increase the overall hydration for your cat. If you want to learn more about bone broth (including a complete recipe and reviews of my favorite brands) you can read more here.
If you ever want to test your cat’s super-hearing (and super smell) open a can of tuna from the other side of the house and watch your cat come running! Some cats are absolutely can crazy and get excited at even the potential of some turn every time they hear a can open.
Like bone broth, the juice from tuna is quite the treat for our carnivorous cats but there are still some important things to consider, and not all tuna is equal.
First, you’ll want to avoid tuna that’s based in oil. Instead, go for tuna in water since too much oil can really upset a cat’s stomach. The other thing to watch out for is salt content. Remember your cat is a fraction of the size of us and while a can might have 5% of our daily recommended sodium it’s a lot more than 5% for our tiny feline friends!
Always check the list of ingredients but when I want to give my cat a tuna treat I usually go for Wild Planet’s tuna because it’s low sodium and mercury tested. You can see the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
Again similar to bone broth, you can offer your cat plain tuna water to drink or mix it in with their water to spice things up. Just make sure not to overdo it with the tuna water as concerns around mercury poisoning are very real.
What Kind Of Drinks Should Cats Avoid?
While we’ve only got a shortlist of what cats can drink outside of standard water, there’s a much longer list of what cats can’t drink. But don’t take this for a comprehensive list since there are a lot of things that cats should avoid. We’re just going to list some of the bigger and more common items to look for.
While it might seem pretty unlikely that a cat would try to drink strongly smelling alcohol it happens more than you might think! While cats probably won’t try to drink your Jack and Coke if you’re enjoying a drink that includes milk or cream there’s a good chance your cat might decide to give it a try. Remember, cats are carnivores and the fatty flavors and smell of a creamy drink might be more than they can resist.
If your cat laps up a few drops of a mixed drink there isn’t much to worry about. But if your cat consumes a significant amount of alcohol they could suffer alcohol poisoning just like humans do.
We’ve already talked a good deal about milk but it bears repeating: cats, for the most part, are lactose intolerant which means they can’t easily digest milk. Because of that reason, cats shouldn’t be allowed to drink milk or any other kind of dairy for that matter.
Instead, go for safer options like the cat-friendly goat milk we’ve already discussed.
Sugary Drinks and Juices
Despite some online sources saying that your cat can drink things like apple juice, these types of sugary drinks are not good for cats. Cats don’t need carbohydrates and aren’t great at processing them which means they often turn to fat. That means that sugary drinks like popular juices can quickly lead to obesity at best and in more extreme cases may even contribute to diabetes.
Before you feel sad about your cat missing out on a fresh glass of juice, remember that cats can’t even taste sweet so they really aren’t missing out on anything!
It should be no surprise that caffeine just isn’t good for our little cats! VCA Hospitals explains that “Dogs and cats are more sensitive to caffeine than we are. While taking a sip of hot coffee or iced tea probably won’t adversely affect most pets, ingestion of one or two diet pills can be fatal for small dogs and cats.”
While it’s unlikely that cats will drink enough caffeine the equate to a diet pill it’s still something to avoid. While most cats are unlikely to be interested in sweet-tasting energy drinks, coffee with lots of cream could certainly interest the curious cat and should be kept out of reach.
For the most part, cats should just drink water. But adding something like a little tuna juice or bone broth to their regular water routine can add a lot of variety to mealtime and act as a nice treat! If you want to get extra adventurous you can try something like goat milk.
Adding variety to your cat’s fluids can also help keep them hydrated which can sometimes be a struggle with cats.
But as is the case with everything, make sure you don’t go too crazy with special drinks for your cat and always practice moderation!