Young kittens need milk, either from their mother or if orphaned/rejected, a milk supplement (if a foster mother can’t be found).
Water makes up 70% of your cat’s body (just like humans) and is vital for survival. Without water, a cat will quickly dehydrate and die. It is essential for proper kidney function and a healthy urinary tract. Cats from 6-8 weeks of age can drink water although many kittens are still nursing from their mother at this stage, some young kittens have a drink of water too. It should be clean, fresh and changed daily.
Encouraging your cat to drink water:
Cats in the wild receive most of their water intake via their food (a wild rodent or bird). Many people today are feeding their cats dry food, which is easy and convenient. However, it only contains 10% water. Therefore cats need to make up this shortfall by drinking more water.
On hot days, I will sometimes put a couple of ice cubes into the water bowl to cool it down further. Or you can rinse out a balloon, half fill it with water and tie a knot in the top. Freeze overnight and then place on a baking tray for your cat to enjoy during the day. Don’t forget, if your cat has access to an outdoor cat enclosure, it is a good idea to provide a second water bowl out there for him to take a drink when he is playing, exploring etc. If you have multiple cats, it is a good idea to have several water dishes.
A sturdy, pottery water dish is the best type of bowl for cats as it is difficult to knock over. These type of dishes keep the water cooler for longer, which is important in the warmer months. The water bowl should be wide enough so that the cat can comfortably drink without the sides touching his whiskers.
Some cats don’t like water that is sitting in a bowl. If you have a cat who seems to like drinking from a running tap, a solution that works for many is a cat water fountain. These are electronic devices in which the water re-circulates, oxygenating it and reducing standing time, which leads to stagnation. Some water fountains will also filter the water at the same time. There are a number of popular brands of water fountain on the market.
Move the water bowl. Some cats don’t like their water bowl too close to the food bowl, so try moving it a little further away. Also, make sure it isn’t too close to the litter tray. Cats do not like to eat and drink near where they go to the toilet. They also don’t like their water bowl extremely close to their food bowl.
What shouldn’t cats drink:
Most cats have an intolerance to the lactose in cow’s milk and it can cause digestive problems. If you do want to give your cat milk, you can buy specially formulated cat milk from most supermarkets or pet shops. This should be a treat only, and not a part of your cat’s daily fluid intake.
It goes without saying that cats should not be given anything to drink other than water or the appropriate type of milk. Fizzy drinks, alcohol, juice, tea, coffee etc., should never be given to your cat.
If you have a fish tank, cover it up. The chemicals in the water are not good for your cat.
Don’t let your cat drink from the toilet bowl. Not only is it at risk of falling in and drowning, but the chemicals and bacteria will make your cat sick.
Fresh, clean water is the only drink a cat over 8 weeks of age requires. If you choose to give your cat milk, it is still important to provide him with fresh water in addition to the milk and only give milk as an occasional treat. Discard any remaining milk after 30-60 minutes. Leave water out at all times.