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.
It is widely accepted that distilled water has an inappropriate pH value for feline consumption and it has had beneficial electrolytes and minerals removed, thus it’s not a good choice for cats. 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.
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.
Although some people claim that distilled water is beneficial because the water has no impurities to impart upon a person’s body, others say that the water removes minerals from the person’s body.
For people, the truth lies somewhere between these two schools of thought.
For cats, owners are discouraged from giving distilled water because it can have serious, negative connotations for felines.
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, as we’ve mentioned, this is not an optimal solution.
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Electrolytes In Water
Electrolytes are removed during the distillation process. These are trace minerals, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium, that are essential to the cat’s body. They conduct an electrical charge when mixed with water, and while cats get a lot of the nutrition and minerals they require from their diet, they also get a lot from the water they drink. Water is more than a source of rehydration for cats, and removing the electrolytes during the distillation process means that a cat will ultimately get fewer of the trace minerals that they require and they may become deficient in one of these essential components.
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. A cat’s body operates in an alkaline state and giving them acidic water like distilled water increases the risk of urinary infections and related conditions.
What’s more, because the water does not contain minerals like potassium, the water will essentially leach these minerals from the cat to achieve a state of parity. This can lead to sodium and potassium deficiency in cats that consume distilled water.
What Water Is Safe for Cats?
So, cats must drink water, but distilled water is not a good choice and could cause your cat more harm than good.
If your cat has no access to water whatsoever and all you have is distilled, then a small amount of distilled water as a one-off may be OK. Furthermore, if your cat drinks some distilled water out of your glass or bottle, this should be fine as long as they are given access to normal water that is packed with electrolytes and required minerals.
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, although it can work out a very expensive way to hydrate your cat.
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 canned food to your cat’s diet. This includes water and hydrates your cat as it eats. Even if you feed wet food, exclusively, you should always ensure that your cat does have access to fresh water that is filled up regularly.
Cats And Distilled Water
Cats can be picky over their water source. That is, they will drink from puddles and half-filled sinks with a dripping faucet, but not from the water bowl you’ve provided for them. Don’t consider distilled water as an alternative to tap or spring water, even if you believe it will help your cat hydrate better. Distilled water is acidic when a cat requires alkaline, and it has been stripped of electrolytes and trace minerals that your cat needs.
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