My Cat Drinks Pool Water (Reasons, Health Concerns & How To Stop It)

cat drinking pool water

Your cat may be drawn to pool water for various reasons; it could be an echo of her wild ancestral instincts, a playful experiment, or just plain curiosity, after all, cats are indeed curious animals. Also, it could be that her water bowl is empty and contaminated with food particles, or perhaps, an obsessive-compulsive disorder at play. The good news is that most swimming pools have a very low chlorine or salt level that is unlikely to harm your cat. However, drinking pool water should be utterly discouraged.

Tackling these issues as diverse as the reasons themselves. They may include providing clean, easily accessible water sources, engaging your cat with stimulating toys, covering the pool, or seeking professional veterinary care for more serious concerns.

By understanding and addressing the root causes and implementing the right solutions, you can create a home environment that satisfies your cat’s needs without resorting to pool water. However, it is always wise to consult a veterinarian if this behavior persists, to rule out underlying health issues.

Why Does My Cat Drink Water Out Of Pool

1. Wild Ancestral Instincts

Cats have descended from wild ancestors that lived in various environments, where the ability to find and utilize larger bodies of water was essential. The attraction to larger water sources such as a swimming pool might be an innate behavior connecting back to survival instincts. In the wild, these water sources were typically fresher and less contaminated.

Your domestic cat’s interest in the swimming pool may be an echo of this ancient drive, a lingering inclination to seek out what its instincts tell it might be a preferable water source.

2. A Thing Of Play

Cats are often intrigued by the movement and reflection of water. The ripples, splashes, and even the reflection of light on the water’s surface can captivate a cat’s attention. This fascination can turn into a form of play. Cats might paw at the water, attempt to “catch” the ripples, or even taste it out of sheer curiosity.

This playful interaction with water is not limited to the swimming pool and can be observed with other water sources like faucets or bowls. The pool, however, with its larger surface area and outdoor location, may provide a more stimulating playground.

3. They Lack Access To Clean Water

Cats are known to be particular about their water. They often prefer it to be fresh and clean, and some may even have preferences for the container’s material and location. If a cat’s water bowl is empty, has been contaminated with food or debris, or is placed too close to its food, he may avoid it. In seeking an alternative, a swimming pool may become an attractive option.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, the large, open nature of a pool might seem to a cat like a more appealing, fresher source of water compared to a neglected water bowl.

4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Though rare, some cats may develop obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and drinking from a swimming pool could be a manifestation of this disorder. Obsessive-compulsive disorder in cats can lead to repetitive and sometimes inexplicable behaviors.

If a cat is repeatedly drawn to the swimming pool to drink, despite other available water sources, it might be more than mere preference or curiosity. Your cat may indeed be addicted to the water in the pool. This repetitive behavior may indicate a more profound underlying mental health issue than what you already know.

Potential Health Concerns of Pool Water for Cats

The alluring shimmer of pool water might attract a curious feline, but the hidden dangers lurking within can lead to unexpected and potentially serious health concerns. Understanding these risks is key to keeping your feline friend safe and healthy.

1. Dangers Of Chlorine in Pool Water

The major risk that your feline friend is posed with when she drinks from a pool is chlorine poisoning. But don’t panic because the chance of any serious health issue resulting from a few swigs of pool water is very slim. While chlorine can be toxic to both cats and humans, the chlorine present in swimming pools is highly diluted and it is capable of only causing minor gastrointestinal issues. Make sure to keep the container of undiluted chlorine out of your cat’s reach. The same applies to household items that contain chlorine such as bleach, disinfectant, and laundry detergent.

If your cat consumes a substantial amount of chlorinated water or if the pool has an unusually high level of chlorine (especially if it was recently shocked), your cat can experience symptoms like heavy drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea, as chlorine irritates the delicate lining of a cat’s stomach and intestines. Take your cat to your local veterinarian immediately or call the pet poison control helpline if you suspect your cat has ingested too much chlorine.

Also, the risk isn’t limited to ingestion; even external contact with chlorinated water can lead to skin irritation or eye problems in cats. This might manifest as dry, itchy skin or red, irritated eyes. You will probably observe your cat pawing excessively at his mouth.

2. Sodium Chloride (NaCl) in Salty Pools

Sodium chloride (salt) is the primary component used in saltwater pool systems. When dissolved in water, a salt chlorine generator uses electrolysis to break down the sodium chloride, producing chlorine to sanitize the pool. While the resulting chlorine can pose risks, let’s focus on the sodium chloride itself.

The concentration of salt in a saltwater pool is much less than that in ocean water but can still be problematic in large amounts. If a cat occasionally laps up some saltwater pool water, it’s usually not a concern. But significant consumption can lead to salt poisoning or hypernatremia. Symptoms of salt poisoning in cats can include vomiting, diarrhea, incoordination, lethargy, excessive thirst or urination, seizures, and in severe cases, it can be fatal.

If a cat gets wet from the saltwater pool, the salt could potentially dry out its skin or fur. If the saltwater isn’t rinsed off, it could, over time, lead to skin irritation or discomfort. Walking on wet surfaces around a saltwater pool might expose a cat’s paws to the salt, which can potentially irritate.

While saltwater pools generally have a salt concentration ranging from 2,500 to 4,000 ppm, which is less than the salt concentration in ocean water (about 35,000 ppm), it’s still a good idea to be cautious.

3. Bacteria and Toxic Algae

Abandoned or neglected swimming pools present a unique set of dangers due to the proliferation of bacteria and toxic algae. Stagnant water serves as a breeding ground for various pathogens that can cause infections in cats, ranging from mild irritations to severe gastrointestinal illnesses.

Certain types of toxic algae produce neurotoxins, which can have devastating effects on a cat’s nervous system. Ingesting water contaminated with these toxins may lead to symptoms like seizures, tremors, or paralysis, and in extreme cases, it can be fatal. The stagnant water also becomes a suitable habitat for disease-carrying organisms like mosquitoes.

The risk of abandoned pools is often underestimated, as they can appear harmless or even inviting to cats. The myriad of potential toxins and contaminants lurking in these waters, however, can lead to a complex array of health issues that affect multiple body systems, from the digestive tract to the nervous system.

4. The Risk Of Drowning Or Falling In

The dangers a swimming pool poses to cats extend beyond mere curiosity or a taste for pool water. An unexpected fall can cause panic and shock, turning a simple mishap into a life-threatening situation. The steep, slippery sides of pools render a cat’s claws useless, and struggling to escape can lead to exhaustion and drowning.

Aspiration, or inhaling water into the lungs, adds to the peril. This can occur as a cat frantically gasps while in the water, leading to further complications and immediate distress.

Even shallow water can be hazardous, especially for young, elderly, or mobility-impaired felines. The disorientation of being trapped in water can rapidly escalate from discomfort to a genuine emergency. These latent dangers underline the importance of vigilance and proper safety measures when your cats are near swimming pools.

What If Your Cat Drank From A Pool That Was Just Shocked? (What Happens & What To Do)

“Shocking” a pool is the process of adding a large amount of chlorine or other sanitizing chemicals to eliminate lingering algae and bacteria. It’s a necessary step in maintaining pool hygiene but comes with its own set of precautions. It’s typically advised that humans as well as cats should avoid using a shocked swimming pool for at least 24 hours to allow the chemical concentrations to return to safe levels.

If your cat drinks from a pool that has been recently shocked, it’s ingesting water with high concentrations of chemicals like chlorine. This can lead to mouth irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea in the short term. Repeated exposure or significant ingestion can escalate to more grave health concerns, including gastritis or even organ damage. In essence, it can be fatal for your cat.

Also, contact with a freshly shocked pool within the 24-hour window may lead to skin irritation and respiratory distress in your cats. Therefore, adherence to safety guidelines and ensuring proper pool maintenance is not only essential for protecting your curious feline who might be tempted by the shimmering water.

What To Do:

1. Remove from the Area: Immediately move your cat away from the pool to prevent further ingestion.

2. Rinse the Mouth: Gently rinse your cat’s mouth with fresh water if irritation is observed. Watch for signs of distress in your cat to be reported to your vet.

3. Visit a Veterinarian: Ingesting what from a recently shocked pool is a medical emergency and would require prompt veterinarian intervention. In this case, it is recommended to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible or call the poison control helpline.

4. Test Pool Water: Regularly test the water after shocking the pool to ensure that chemical levels return to safe, normal levels. Typically, the chlorine level should be between 1.0 and 3.0 parts per million (ppm) for safe swimming. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and consult with pool maintenance professionals if necessary.

5. Implement Safety Measures: Create barriers to keep your cat away from the pool area and educate family members about the risks.

6. Provide Alternative Water Sources: Ensure freshwater is accessible to your cat to prevent it from seeking water from the pool.

How to Stop Cats Drinking Pool Water

Whether it’s driven by ancestral instincts, a playful nature, curiosity, a lack of clean water, or even an obsessive-compulsive disorder, there are certain steps to take to stop this behavior in your cats.

1. Provide Clean And Accessible Water

If the cat is drinking pool water due to a lack of access to clean water, the solution might be as simple as ensuring fresh water is always available. Cats can be quite particular about the water they drink, preferring it to be fresh and clean.

Consider placing multiple water dishes around the home, or investing in a cat water fountain that keeps the water circulating and fresh. The novelty and constant movement of the water in a fountain might also satisfy a cat’s curiosity or playful nature, diverting attention from the pool.

2. Engaging With Play And Curiosity

Cats are naturally curious and playful creatures. If the swimming pool becomes a source of entertainment, providing alternative play opportunities can be an effective solution.

Toys that engage your cat’s hunting instincts, puzzle feeders that stimulate their intellect, or even a simple laser pointer can provide hours of entertainment. By satisfying these natural urges, you may find that the allure of the pool diminishes.

3. Consulting A Veterinarian Or Behaviorist

In some cases, the attraction to pool water may signal a deeper issue, such as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. These behaviors can be complex and might require professional intervention.

A veterinarian or a CAAB can conduct a thorough examination and provide tailored strategies to address the issue. They will have the expertise to differentiate between a harmless quirk and a behavior that might require more specialized care.

4. Covering the Pool

Sometimes, the most direct way to prevent a cat from drinking pool water is to simply restrict access to the pool. Covering the pool with a safety cover or placing barricades around the pool can be an effective measure, especially if the cat’s attraction to the pool water is intense and persistent.

This is a practical solution that can be used in conjunction with the other strategies mentioned.

Safer Alternatives To Chlorine In Swimming Pools

Choosing a safer alternative to chlorine in swimming pools depends on various factors such as budget, maintenance preferences, and specific health or environmental concerns. Here are some alternatives to consider

1. Bromine

Although chemically similar to chlorine, bromine can be less irritating to the eyes and skin. It works in a broader range of pH levels, making it a versatile option. However, bromine is generally more expensive and breaks down more quickly in sunlight.

2. Ozone Generators

Ozone is a powerful oxidizer that can purify pool water without leaving harmful by-products. It’s often used in conjunction with lower chlorine levels, allowing the chlorine to be more effective. Ozone generators can be more energy-intensive and may require professional installation.

3. Ultraviolet (UV) Systems

UV light can effectively neutralize bacteria, viruses, and other harmful organisms in the water. When used in a swimming pool, UV systems reduce the reliance on chlorine or other chemicals. Though effective, UV systems are best used as a supplement to other sanitizing methods.

4. Mineral Systems

Utilizing minerals like silver and copper, mineral systems can significantly reduce the need for chlorine in the pool. These systems have a reputation for producing clear and soft water but must often be used alongside a reduced amount of traditional sanitizers to meet health and safety standards.

5. Hydrogen Peroxide (H₂O₂)

As a non-toxic alternative, hydrogen peroxide can be used to oxidize contaminants in the water. It’s often used in conjunction with other sanitizing methods and is praised for not leaving harmful residues or irritating the eyes and skin.

6. Ionization Systems

Ionization systems release copper and silver ions into the pool water to control algae and bacteria. These ions remain in the water for an extended period, providing long-lasting sanitizing effects.

Although ionization reduces the need for chlorine, it may still require a minimal amount of traditional chemicals to be fully effective. Care must be taken to avoid imbalances that can lead to staining on pool surfaces.

8. Polymeric Biguanide

Polymeric biguanide is a non-halogen sanitizer, which means it doesn’t contain chlorine or bromine. It operates by attaching itself to harmful bacteria and breaking them down.

While gentle on the skin and eyes, it can be more expensive than traditional methods and requires careful water balancing to prevent cloudiness or other water quality issues.

I Accidentally Drank My Dog’s Water. Should I Be Worried?

Is Tap Water Safe For Cats?

Tap water’s safety for cats depends largely on its quality, which can vary by location and local water treatment processes. While many areas offer tap water that is suitable for both human and pet consumption, others might contain substances such as chlorine, heavy metals, or other contaminants that could be harmful to them.

Additionally, old or poorly maintained plumbing can introduce harmful elements like lead into the water supply. Even trace amounts of such substances can accumulate over time in a cat’s system, leading to health issues. If your local water supply has known problems or if you live in an area with older plumbing, tap water might not be the best choice for your cat.

If there are doubts about the safety of tap water, providing filtered or bottled water is the best course of action. Filters can remove many potential contaminants, and bottled water offers a consistent quality although quite expensive. Balancing these factors will help you choose the best and most responsible water source for your cat’s needs.

Can Cats Drink Sea Water?

Cats can indeed drink seawater, but just because they can doesn’t mean they should. The salty taste might appeal to some cats, and their bodies can process a small amount of salt. However, the concentration of salt in seawater is much higher than what’s considered safe for a cat’s consumption, which can lead to serious health issues.

When ingested, the high salt content in seawater can disrupt a cat’s internal balance. It can cause dehydration by pulling water out of their cells, leading to a vicious cycle where the cat may continue to drink the salty water in an attempt to quench its thirst. Continued consumption can even lead to salt poisoning, resulting in symptoms like confusion, diarrhea, seizures, and in severe cases, life-threatening conditions.

While a small lick or taste of seawater is unlikely to harm a cat, habitual or large consumption is a serious concern. As a responsible pet owner, it’s best to provide fresh, clean water for your cat and monitor its behavior when near the sea or other salty water sources. If accidental consumption in large quantities occurs, immediate veterinary care should be sought.

Final Thoughts

Drinking from the swimming pool may be your cat’s unusual preference, but the reasons behind it are clear. From curiosity to playfulness or a simple lack of clean water, the solutions are within reach and manageable.

By addressing these behaviors with the right strategies, you create a home environment where both you and your cat can enjoy the outdoor space without concern. The swimming pool doesn’t have to be a risky temptation for your feline friend.

In the end, keeping the swimming pool off your cat’s drink menu is more than feasible; it’s a responsible choice that prioritizes your pet’s well-being. With awareness and simple adjustments, you can easily divert this behavior, leaving the pool for swimming and the water bowl for drinking.

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