Dear Dr. Schelling,

I have three related questions:

  1. How much water should my cat be drinking?
  2. Is there anything I can do to help her get the required amount of water?
  3. How much do I have to worry about cleanliness or healthfulness of the water she drinks?
– Thirsty for knowledge about cats

Dear Thirsty,

I'm glad to see you're so conscientious about your cat's water requirements. Water is vital to your cat's health and well-being. The amount of water your cat should drink is dependent on a number of factors, including her weight, her health, and the amount of canned ("wet") food in her diet. You want to make sure that your cat has access to clean, fresh water at all times. Some sources of water, such softened water or the tap water in many municipal systems, are not recommended for your cat. But it is relatively easy to ensure that the water your cat drinks is clean and safe. I go into all of this and more in my article, WATER — YOUR CAT'S MOST ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT.

Click here to read full article


My cat and I enjoy interactive play with wand toys, catnip mice, and so forth, but – to stay within my budget – are there any cat toys I can make with household objects that kitty will like?

– Frugal Feline Fan

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Dear Frugal,

It's amazing what my fellow cats and I will use as playthings. Let me tell you about one of my favorites – your cat may go wild over it, too. You know those semi-rigid plastic wrappers that are around the lids of jars of salad dressing, salsa, mayonnaise, and other products, to show that the product is tightly sealed and has not been opened? Don't automatically throw those away! They make wonderful cat toys.

Crunch the plastic into a small ball. Then get your cat's attention by moving the makeshift toy in an alluring way. Once kitty's eyes are locked on the target, throw the scrunched-up plastic along the ground or in the air, so that kitty has to chase it. Now here's the best part: Once the plastic lands, it slowly unfurls and makes crinkly sounds. It's like it's alive! Most cats can't resist this. Expect spirited play, fast-paced chases, determined pounces – and lots of fun.

After kitty thoroughly overpowers the "prey" and is feeling victorious, be sure to issue the standard (and expected) praise, perhaps followed by an actual treat.

Tip: For possibly even more excitement, leave a little bit plastic of the plastic un-scrunched, so it's like a tail.

Most people who live with cats know about the feline fascination with paper bags. But here's an even better idea: two paper bags! There are lots of possibilities with this combo. You can cut out the bottoms of the bags and stuff one partly inside other to make a tunnel. You can arrange the two bags so they're facing each other and kitty can run from one to the other, or between the two. You can cut holes in the sides of each of the bags and put them next to each other, so that kitty has a portal leading from one bag to the next.

To get the most use out of paper bags, use them as props for play. For example, slowly glide a toy along the outside of a bag when kitty's inside. When you least expect it, a lightning-fast paw will try to grab the toy, or will send it flying with a swift jab. Another option is to roll a toy just outside the opening of the bag while kitty's hiding in it. What fun!

Always chaperone your cat during play sessions with homemade toys. When kitty's done playing, put the toy away, in a cat-proof place – just to be safe. And remember to snip the handles of bags, so kitty can't get caught up in them.


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Do you – or rather your cats – have any favorite homemade toys, or household objects that function as toys? Email me at and we'll publish the most unusual, useful, and interesting suggestions in an upcoming feature.

KITTYBAGS CATNIP FISH: When the Kittybags Catnip Fish shows up, it's mayhem! I'm speeding down the hall, bouncing off walls, and having a great ol' time chasing the slippery critter. My humans say I create tornadoes in the room when I play with the Catnip Fish! What is it about this toy that brings out my inner Krazy Kat? Its sublime simplicity? Its burst of catnip? No time to think about that now; I have to go catch my favorite fish!

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CATIT DRINKING FOUNTAIN: I used to drink from the faucet, humans' drinking glasses, things that spilled on the floor . . . and other places.
My humans didn't always appreciate my diverse drinking habits. They weren't too thrilled when I took a sip from their glasses (hello, whatever happened to "sharing"?) and they discouraged me from drinking from the faucet, because, as they put it, if the water's too dirty for them it ought to be too dirty for me.

Then they bought me my own water fountain. It's like an oasis for kitties! There's something about the steadily flowing water – I can't quite put my paws around it – that fascinates me. My humans say this is their favorite feature because it helps ensure that I get enough water each day. The cool stream always tastes good, and it's fun to sometimes dip my paws in it.

My humans are happy that the fountain cleans the water, and they're grateful that I'm no longer in the sink and that they no longer have fur
in their water glasses. Not as much, anyway.

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A group of kittens is called a kindle while a group
of grown cats is called a clowder.
kittybags catnip fish catit drinking fountain