Can You Give Cats Tap Water?

As cat owners, one of our main responsibilities is ensuring our feline friends stay properly hydrated. Cats are prone to kidney problems and urinary tract infections, so their water intake is crucial to supporting their health and preventing disease. But when it comes to the source of their drinking water, many cat parents wonder – can I give my cat tap water?

The answer is not quite as simple as a straight yes or no. There are potential risks with providing cats untreated tap water, but also ways to mitigate those risks. In this article, we’ll explore the safety considerations around tap water for cats, look at ideal water sources, and discuss precautions to take if giving your cat tap water. By understanding the issues and how to address them, you can make an informed decision about the best drinking water for your feline companion.

Safety Concerns with Tap Water

Tap water can potentially contain contaminants, chemicals, and heavy metals that may pose health risks to cats over time. According to this source, tap water often contains traces of chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, pesticides, lead, and arsenic. Cats are more sensitive than humans to these contaminants due to their smaller size. Over time, exposure to heavy metals like lead may lead to gastrointestinal, liver, kidney, and nervous system damage in cats.

Chlorine is commonly added to tap water as a disinfectant. While chlorine kills harmful bacteria, it may irritate a cat’s sensitive digestive system according to this source. The smell and taste of chlorine may also deter cats from drinking enough water, leading to dehydration. Fluoride in tap water has also been linked to dental issues and thyroid problems in cats.

Overall, while occasional tap water may not harm cats, regular long-term consumption carries potential risks. It’s generally recommended to use filtered or bottled water for cats whenever possible.

Best Water Sources for Cats

According to experts and vets, the optimal water for a cat’s health comes from filtered water or water that has been run through a reverse osmosis system ( This water is free from contaminants and impurities that could irritate a cat’s sensitive digestive system or kidneys. Vets recommend staying away from bottled waters for cats, as they often contain minerals and fluoride added for human consumption. Some good options for providing purified water to cats include:

Filtered Water Fountains – These constantly cycling fountains include built-in filters to provide fresh, filtered water on demand. The flowing water encourages cats to drink more.

Filtered Pitchers – Filtered pitchers designed for human use can provide good purified water for cats when refilled frequently.

Reverse Osmosis Systems – Under-sink or faucet-mounted reverse osmosis systems filter out impurities at the source, providing purified water for the whole household.

Cats often reject stagnant water that has been sitting for hours in a bowl. Providing a recirculating fountain or frequently changing out filtered water can encourage good hydration.

Tap Water Precautions

While tap water is generally safe for cats, there are some precautions cat owners can take to reduce potential risks (source). Letting tap water sit out in a bowl for 24 hours before serving allows time for chlorine and other chemicals to dissipate. Water filters designed for pets can also help remove contaminants. Activated carbon filters are a good option as they are effective at removing chemicals, heavy metals, and microbes (source). When using a water filter, be sure to change it regularly per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Checking with your local water municipality can provide information on your tap water quality. Opting for bottled water or filtered water is recommended if there are any concerns about potential contaminants. Taking precautions allows cat owners to safely provide tap water to their feline companions.

Water Quality Standards

Tap water in the United States is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The EPA sets legal limits on over 90 contaminants in drinking water to protect public health. These legally enforceable standards are known as the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) [1].

Under the SDWA, the EPA requires frequent testing and monitoring of public drinking water systems. Water suppliers are required to regularly sample and test water for bacteria, minerals, metals and other contaminants. Test results are reported to state agencies and the EPA. If a standard is exceeded, the water supplier must take corrective action and notify the public [2].

While tap water is regulated, there can be variations in water quality depending on the water source and purification methods used in your local area. However, tap water that meets EPA standards is generally considered safe for people to drink.

Signs of Dehydration

There are several telltale signs that indicate a cat may be dehydrated. Two of the most common visible symptoms are a dry nose and sunken eyes. A healthy, well-hydrated cat will have a nose that feels moist to the touch. However, dehydration causes the mucus membranes to dry out, leading to a parched nose. Additionally, dehydration causes the eyeballs to recede into the skull, creating a sunken eye appearance. According to PetMD, other signs of dehydration in cats include: lethargy, loss of appetite, rapid breathing, fast heart rate, lack of elasticity in the skin, dry gums, weakness, and constipation [1]. Being aware of these symptoms can help cat owners identify dehydration early and take steps to increase fluid intake.

Encouraging Water Intake

There are some simple techniques you can use to encourage your cat to drink more water:

Location of water bowls – Cats prefer their water bowls to be away from their food bowls. Place multiple water bowls around your home, especially in areas where your cat spends a lot of time. Make sure the bowls are easy for your cat to access.

Cat fountains – Investing in a cat fountain can encourage water intake. Cats prefer running water and fountains keep the water fresh. Ensure you clean and change the filter regularly according to instructions.1

Flavored water – Adding a teaspoon of low-sodium broth or tuna juice can make water more enticing. Just make sure not to overdo the flavoring.2, 3

Ice cubes – Some cats enjoy playing with ice cubes in their water bowl. Use plastic trays and avoid toxic flavors.1

Try different bowl shapes, depths and materials to find one your cat prefers. Clean bowls regularly to keep water fresh and appealing.

Specific Health Conditions

Certain health conditions may require cats to avoid drinking tap water. This is especially true for kidney disease and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Kidney disease is common in cats, especially as they age. The kidneys filter toxins from the blood, so impaired kidneys allow buildup of waste products. This causes symptoms like increased thirst and urination. Providing clean, fresh water is essential for kidney health. Tap water may contain contaminants that further stress the kidneys. According to one source, studies show purified or bottled water results in improved kidney values compared to tap water.

UTIs occur when bacteria colonize the urinary tract. Certain contaminants in tap water may enable the growth of bacteria. Chlorine and fluoride are commonly implicated, but UTI risk depends on the overall water quality. One recommendation is to provide bottled spring or purified water, which has fewer irritating or infectious contaminants. This helps reduce recurrence of infections in susceptible cats.

For cats with kidney disease or recurrent UTIs, consult a veterinarian about the safety of tap water. They can recommend optimal water sources and any necessary treatment based on your cat’s condition and needs.

Kitten Considerations

Kittens need frequent access to clean, fresh water to stay properly hydrated. According to, kittens have a greater need for fluids than adult cats because they are growing rapidly. Their metabolic rate is higher and their organs like the kidneys are still developing. Kittens also have a delicate immune system, so drinking contaminated water could make them sick. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention recommends providing kittens unlimited access to fresh water. Choose bottled spring or purified water for kittens under 6 months old. Avoid straight from the tap until their immune system strengthens.


There are a few key takeaways when it comes to giving cats tap water. Most importantly, tap water is generally safe for cats as long as it meets EPA standards and does not contain high levels of contaminants. However, filtered or bottled spring water is still the best option. Tap water precautions like using a water filtration system or letting water sit out before giving it to a cat can help remove chlorine and heavy metals.

Additionally, some specific health conditions may require giving a cat bottled or filtered water. Kittens under 6 months old should not drink tap water. Finally, keep an eye out for signs of dehydration in cats and take steps to encourage adequate water intake daily. With a few precautions, tap water can be a safe option for hydrating cats in most households.

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