By Dr. Becker
According to the most recent statistics (2015 to 2016), almost 86 million cats are owned in the U.S. (Or, more accurately, 86 million cats own humans!) These kitties are ruling the roost in about 43 million households across the country.1
Since the number of pet cats beats the number of pet dogs by about 8 million, clearly, kitties are incredibly popular companions, despite their strange, secretive and sometimes screwy behaviors that leave so many cat parents shaking their heads in disbelief.
If you’ve got a feline in the family, what does she do that mystifies you? Do either of the following weird behaviors sound familiar?
Why Does My Cat Drink From Everything BUT Her Water Bowl?
Some cats virtually ignore the cool, clean water in their personalized and spotlessly clean bowls, preferring a nice long drink from the toilet instead — especially if they’ve taken note of the swirling water as the toilet flushes.
Others enjoy standing at a kitchen or bathroom sink, drinking their fill from a dripping faucet.
I actually have a friend whose cat discovered the wonders of a dripping faucet in his senior years. The drip was quickly repaired, but the cat was totally hooked. He took to sitting on the bathroom vanity, wailing loudly until someone came along and made the faucet drip for him.
If you’re a feline enthusiast, you know that as obligate (true) carnivores, cats are designed to get most of their water from their diet (which in the wild consists of small prey animals). Today’s kitties descended from desert dwelling felines, after all, and there aren’t many water sources in the desert.
Not only does your cat have a lower thirst drive than many animals, but according to the experts, kitties also don’t see still water in a bowl all that well, and it also has no odor (especially if it’s filtered).
Another problem is that in the wild, cats are prey for other animals, and so they feel vulnerable in many situations, for example, drinking water from a bowl placed in a corner or against a wall. In this position, they have their back to the room and can’t see household “predators” sneaking up on them.
It’s also possible cats avoid still water because in the wild, standing water is often contaminated with toxins, whereas running water is usually fresh and clean. Running or dripping water can also be heard and is easier to see than still water.
Cats are very sensitive to subtle changes in smells, tastes and flavors. We know all plastic water bowls leach BPA and other toxins into the water that may cause kitties to steer clear of it. Poor-quality metal bowls may have the same problem.
Switching to glass water bowls, changing the water daily and using pure, filtered water are some suggestions for assuring your cat isn’t repulsed by his water source.
How to Help Your Cat Stay Well-Hydrated
The best nutrition for healthy cats of any age is their ancestral diet: whole, raw, unprocessed, organic, non-GMO and in its natural form. This diet naturally includes animal meat, which should be the foundation of your kitty's diet throughout her life.
Foods that have not been highly processed are the most assimilable for your cat's body. These foods are biologically appropriate. All the moisture in the food remains in the food, whereas foods that have been extruded (most dry food) can have drastically depleted moisture content and denatured proteins.
If you can't feed fresh food (raw or gently cooked), the second best diet is a dehydrated or freeze-dried balanced diet that has been reconstituted with an abundance of water or broth.
Studies of healthy cats fed wet versus dry food show that cats on diets with high moisture content rarely visit the water bowl, yet they consume double the amount of moisture as cats eating kibble. Most kibble-fed cats don’t demonstrate a high enough thirst drive to make up the water deficit at the water bowl.
If you're concerned about your cat's water intake, consider adding water to her food. You can also try adding flavoring to the water (for example, the liquid from a can of tuna or cat food) to make it more enticing, or add bone broth. Also, some cats will drink moving water from a pet water fountain.
Why Does My Cat Like to Sit in High Places?
As I mentioned earlier, cats in the wild are prey for larger animals both on the ground (e.g., coyotes and other wild dogs) and in the air (e.g., owls, eagles and other raptors).
Even though Fluffy lives safe and secure under your roof, she retains many of the traits of her wild cousins, including a finely tuned survival instinct. This is why you might just find her sitting atop the fridge, or on a high shelf in your closet.
Cats in the wild perch in trees because larger carnivores can’t climb them, and the leaves and branches serve as cloaking devices against flying predators. They can even sleep up there in relative safety.
High perches in your home offer your cat the opportunity to watch for predators that could be just outside the closet or flying from room to room looking for her. In addition, from on high she can also keep an eye out for small prey scampering around on your floor.
Another perk of being able to climb to high perches is your cat can put some distance between herself and other pets and/or people in the household when she feels the need. Nursing mother cats also sometimes do this when they’re weaning their kittens.
How to Help Your Cat Sit Up High
One of the best things you can do for your kitty is provide him with at least one very solid (not wobbly) cat tree or tower with a high perch.
Not only will he love you forever for giving him an accessible, comfy high place to rest, but he’ll also get some good clawing and stretching in, along with some exercise as he climbs up and down the tree.
If you’re looking for additional ways to help your cat live more comfortably in “captivity,” Jackson Galaxy has written several books on creating feline environmental enrichment around the house that I highly recommend.
Some creative cat guardians have even turned their entire homes into a kitty-friendly paradise …