Why Do Old Cats Lick Water off Plants?

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I’m fascinated by the change in my old cat’s drinking habits and her desire to lick water off plants in the garden. She hasn’t always done this.

This behavior isn’t exclusive to my pet, many cat owners report their older felines showing a preference for plant surfaces or leaves as sources of hydration.

Depending on the weather, I may do some hand watering in the garden and the leaves of plants get covered with water droplets. I do think that the cat is now expecting me to do this for her, to provide her water source.

I may add the cat has a clean water supply inside the house, away from her food.

This prompts the question: Why do old cats lick water from plants?

cat licking water from a plant

It’s interesting to read about the possible reasons your old cat now likes licking water off plants.

If you are concerned about your cat licking water droplets off plants, there is no need to be BUT make sure the plant is not poisonous to cats.

Do Innate Predatory Instincts Include Finding Water?

Foraging for water would have been essential for survival in the wild.

Elderly cats, despite being domesticated, still exhibit these instinctual behaviors, which include seeking out water from unconventional sources like plants.

Does Licking water From Plants provide Sensory Stimulation?

The act of licking water off plants provides multiple forms of sensory feedback for cats.

Taste and touch are particularly engaged as the cat interacts with plant surfaces and water droplets.

Specifically, the moisture on plants might carry distinct flavors or scents that are appealing to a cat’s sophisticated sensory palate, thus stimulating older cats to engage in this behavior.

Old Cats and Hydration Needs In General

Older cats tend to exhibit changes in their drinking habits, which may sometimes lead them to seek water from unusual places, such as licking dew off plants.

Age Related Changes in Thirst

As cats age, their sense of thirst may diminish. This change can lead to decreased water intake, which may not meet their hydration needs.

To compensate for this, older cats might resort to licking water from plants or other surfaces.

  • Decreased Thirst Sensation – Possible deterioration of the thirst mechanism.
  • Supplementary Hydration – Licking plants to maintain hydration levels.

Health Issues In Older Cats Influencing Thirst

Certain health issues common in senior cats, such as chronic kidney disease or diabetes, can influence their hydration needs.

These conditions typically cause an increase in thirst.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Diabetes

  • Symptoms: Heightened thirst and increased urination.
  • Consequence: Need for additional water intake to compensate for fluid loss.

Safety Concerns – Be Careful Which Plants The Cat Is Licking

lilies with water droplets- poisonous to cats
Lilies are poisonous to cats
  • Lilies: Highly toxic if ingested.
  • Pothos: Can cause irritation and vomiting.

I must stress the importance of safety when it comes to cats interacting with plants.

Several common plants can be hazardous. Be very careful about this and make sure that you know that the plants the cat is licking water from is not toxic.

For instance, lilies represent a significant threat and can cause kidney failure if ingested by cats.

Pothos, while less deadly, can still lead to discomfort and physical symptoms such as oral irritation and vomiting.

It’s really important to ensure that any household plants are non-toxic and safe for feline companionship.

Cats tend to gravitate towards plant species that can hold water on their leaves or stems.

pothos plant poisonous to cats
This is a Pothos Plant. Don’t let the cat lick water from this plant.

Vitamin and Mineral Intake from Licking water off Plants

Cats may instinctively lick water from plants to obtain trace minerals and vitamins. Although the primary diet of a cat is meat based, cats may still benefit from the micronutrients found in plant water.

The water on plant leaves can contain small amounts of minerals like calcium or magnesium, which are essential for a cat’s bone health and metabolic functions.

Dental Health Considerations from Licking water off Plants

The act of licking water off plants can play a role in a cat’s oral hygiene.

The motion of the tongue against the rough surfaces of leaves might help reduce plaque build up.

This mimics the natural behavior of cats in the wild, using natural textures to clean their teeth.

Licking also induces the production of saliva, which has enzymes that help protect the teeth and gums from bacteria. Okay, that lets you off going to the dentist kitty.

Pinterest image - why do old cats lick water off plants

What Plant Types Does A Cat Prefer To Lick For Water?


Cats do seem to display preferences for certain plant types when licking water.

Some are drawn to broad leaved plants due to the larger surface area that holds water.

Succulents can also be appealing because of their water-retentive leaves.

I think that cats select plants with leaves that can pool water, as this mimics natural drinking sources they might find in the wild.

vector - two cats reading
I am quite partial to a bit of a plant lick when no one is looking!

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