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Can Cats Drink Distilled Water? Vet-Reviewed Facts to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Distilled water is popular for human consumption because it has had all impurities removed following a boiling and condensation process. It is often used as part of a detoxification process for this very reason, but just because it is considered safe and potentially beneficial for people does not mean that it affords the same benefits to our pets.

Since it is free of contaminants, chemicals, or heavy metals, distilled water can be safely consumed by a human or a cat. However, it should not be the only source of hydration. Purified, spring, and tap water are generally preferred, and there are ways to encourage a cat to consume more water, rather than trying different types of water.

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What Is Distilled Water?

Distilled water has been distilled to remove impurities. Following the boiling and condensation of the water, the steam is allowed to return to a liquid state on cooling.

People drink distilled water because it contains very few impurities, all having been boiled off before the water is recondensed. It is said to have a flatter flavor, however, because the distillation process also removes minerals, and it is these minerals that give tap water its flavor.

Tap water usually contains electrolytes sodium, potassium, and chloride; these are not present in distilled water.

Electrolytes in Water

During the distillation process, electrolytes are removed. These trace minerals that include sodium, potassium, and chloride are essential to the cat’s body. They conduct an electrical charge and take part in several important functions in the body. While cats get most of the nutrition and minerals that they require from their diet, they also get some from the water that they drink.

pH Values

The distillation process also changes the chemical makeup of the water. Specifically, it reduces the pH value below 7, which means that distilled water is acidic. Drinking water’s pH can range between 6.5 and 8.5. Right after the distillation process, the distilled water’s pH will be 7, or neutral. However, due to the removal of salts, the buffering capacity of distilled water is lost, and the exposure to air and temperature changes can cause its pH to drop. The range can be somewhere between 6.9 and 5.5, which is acidic, though not more acidic than many common food ingredients nor a cat’s normal gastric secretions.

The truth is that we do not have enough information to know whether this water would have a positive or negative impact on a cat’s health. It most likely depends on each cat’s body, diet, and medical condition.

Chemist testing water in a beaker
Photo Credit: Sakan.p, Shutterstock

The Importance of Good Hydration

Hydration is as important to cats as it is to people. Whereas people understand this and take on water to remain healthy, it can be a lot more challenging to persuade a cat that drinking water is for its own good. In fact, many owners will attest to how difficult it can be to get a cat to drink water at all.

Wet food and canned food are high in moisture, and this can provide the hydration that a cat requires. Cats that eat dry kibble, or a combination of wet and dry food, though, may require additional hydration to supplement what little water they do get. But cats do not usually enjoy drinking water from a water bowl. They may take it from a running faucet or another moving water source, but not from a static bowl of water.

As a result of this, owners have tried several things, including offering different types of water. They believe that a cat may be refusing water because they don’t like its taste, and offering distilled water, for example, could encourage your feline friend to drink more. However, it might affect your cat’s body in different ways, so we recommend that you get it approved by your vet first.

tabby cat sitting next to a bowl of water
Photo Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock

What Water Is Safe for Cats?

So, all cats must drink water, but distilled water as the sole source may not be a good choice for every cat.

If all you currently have is distilled water, it is safe for you to give it to your cat to drink. However, the best overall option is to give normal drinking water to your cat, unless otherwise requested by your vet.

However, the best option is to give your cat a more beneficial source of water. Generally, if tap water or spring water is considered safe for human consumption, it should also be safe for cats. It retains the trace minerals and electrolytes required and should not be toxic. Bottled spring water should also be safe for feline consumption, though it can work out to be a very expensive way to hydrate your cat.

kitten drinking water from a glass bowl
Photo Credit: Carolien van Oijen, Unsplash

Encouraging Your Cat to Consume More Water

If you are considering giving distilled water as a means to encourage greater hydration, look at alternative methods first.

Cats prefer moving water to still water. This is why they are happy to drink from a dripping faucet, or even from a freshly flushed toilet, but you rarely see them drinking from a still bowl of water. You can buy feline fountains that cycle water. The water is constantly moving, encouraging cats to check out the water source and have a drink.

You can also introduce wet food or fresh food to your cat’s diet. This has water and will hydrate your cat as they eat. Even if you feed them wet food exclusively, you should always ensure that your cat has access to fresh water that is filled up regularly.

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Cats and Distilled Water

Cats can be picky over their water source. They may drink from puddles and half-filled sinks with a dripping faucet, but not from the water bowl you’ve provided for them. While distilled water is safe for your cat to drink, we recommend sticking to normal drinking water unless your veterinarian advises otherwise. We do not have enough information to know the full effects of exclusively drinking distilled water on your cat’s health. What we do know is that your cat should be obtaining hydration from moisture-rich foods or an always available supply of fresh drinking water.

If you think that your cat is not drinking enough water, check out these tips to entice them to drink more:

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Featured Photo Credit: chemical industry, Shutterstock

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