Q. I’ve read that it’s possible to buy bottled water made for cats that is pH balanced and supposedly healthier, but I’ve never heard a discussion by a veterinarian as to whether or not it makes a difference or is worth the investment. What say you?
Merrimack, New Hampshire
Dear Ms. Reilly,
A. The short answer is that the pH of tap water is fine for your cat. There are some companies that sell slightly acidic tap water, maintaining that it is better for the health of a cat’s urinary tract. The pH of such water ranges from 6.2 to 6.4.
Tap water, on the other hand, is often slightly basic, meaning that its pH is above 7.0. While the range for basic is anything from 7.1 to 14.0, tap water in the U.S. is never higher than 9.5 — and sometimes goes as low as 6.5.
These numbers will not hurt your pet. Neither the American Veterinary Medical Association nor the American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends bottled water for healthy cats on the basis of water’s pH level.
Interestingly, some data were released about 5 years ago that in areas with extremely hard water (water with a lot of minerals), male cats had a much higher incidence of urinary health issues, including the development of urinary crystals that could potentially lead to dangerous urinary blockages. Regions that tend to have extremely hard water include the upper midwest (for instance, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, and Cincinnati as well as the Dakotas), the eastern and southern coasts of Florida (including Miami), and broad swaths of Texas (more toward the western part of the state).
If you live in one of those areas and your male cat has had urinary complications, it may pay to talk with your vet about using a water softener for your cat’s needs, getting a filter that removes minerals, or perhaps buying bottled water.
For the most part, however, veterinary professionals focus not on the source of cats’ drinking water but on making sure they drink enough water if they are prone to forming crystals or are dealing with kidney disease.
Our city water was identified as having lead levels above the Federal safety standards. We do fill our cats’ water bowls now with filtered (not bottled) water, but I was wondering what the impact of high lead levels could have on cats.