I read in Jackson Galaxy's Catification that water bowls should not be placed near food bowls, since water sources near food sources in nature are likely to be contaminated. Thus, cats will drink more water from bowls placed away from food sources. Is this true?
In my experience of owning 7 cats, I too have noticed that they PREFER water away from their food as opposed to water by their food bowls. I capitalize prefer because I want to stress that they don't refuse to drink from the water by their food, they simply prefer other means.
When I lived in my apartment, I had 2 water bowls, 1 in the bedroom 1 by their food and they drank from it equally. Now that I am living some where else that has more space and water bowls, they rarely drink from the water source by their food. Their water bowl of choice is actually one that is placed on an unused counter top that allows them to see into the kitchen and living room. Other cats in the house prefer the water bowls upstairs which is also away from their food.
while it is probably subjective to each cat, it is a pattern that is noticed to be mostly true.
We've had cats for more than 20 years and never had a too huge separation between food and water – no issues. But these were all outdoor cats, so they were able to drink outside as well (e.g. from our pond).
Personally I wouldn't worry too much and just experiment with this – it might be a personal preference for your cat after all. Our house cats originate from rather arid regions which makes them need far less water compared to other pets such as dogs (as long as they're getting wet food).
A far better reason to get at least a few centimeters between both bowls would be the fact that it's easier to keep the cat from dropping anything into the water (and thus contaminating it).
An interesting note, but it could be true.
Our cats have water near the food and we found out that any other water (even a tea - no sugar :) ) in the house that is within the cat's reach in most cases is more preferred that the water in the main bowl.
So since a year we have another bowl placed far from the kitchen (where the food bowl is). Normally we wouldn't care so much because I couldn't imagine that a cat would die from thirst having water near its food, but we have a cat with kidneys problems that have to drink a lot, so when we saw that he likes the other water more we were happy to provide him with one.
I think it's true only if the water bowl is placed right beside the food bowl like some pet bowls that have water and food bowls attached to each other. But if the water bowl is atleast 10 inches away from the food bowl there shouldn't be a problem. My cat always drinks water right after her dry food and she's got no problem with it. The bowls are like 10 inches apart.
I can't see how it can be fact when one other answer here already supports my experience as well. Population varies because we also do rescue cats, but at the moment it's 19 cats inside and the water and food are not more than 4 inches apart. Lost count of how many have have passed through here, yet never had one get on the kitchen counter for water. Food scraps always, but never water. Water outside is more like 6 inches from the food bowl. Don't monitor the cats specifically, but I have never seen one drink from other available sources, nor ever hesitate to use the water bowl.
Upon further reflection I have to even doubt the portion of the souce that refers to the reasoning behind it, namely that in the wild water sources near food sources is likely to be contaminated. Cats in nature don't go to bowls, or "food sources" to eat, they hunt and catch their prey. Near a water source is one likely place to have increased success hunting, as seen in many a documentary about wild cats. A contaminated water source would not be a source of prey, as they would avoid it as well. So, logically contaminated water is not near a food source, but farther from it. In addition, from the behaviour of my cats, I'd doubt it anyway. Often, because of pawing at one or another of the bowls, the water and food bowls are in contact, and pieces of the cat food end up in the water. The cats will still drink from that side of the bowl, which is a double-well bowl, meaning they have a second choice without the food in it, yet still drink from the side with the pieces of cat food in the bowl.
The only issue I can see with contamination that might affect a cat's choice to drink elsewhere is contamination we, their human servants, cause. First is that the bowl could be contaminated with something that they object to. Plastics are really bad about absorbing the scent of other things. For example, if washed in very hot soapy water, some plastics will begin to taste "soapy" to humans. Imagine the flavor a cat would get! Second, and more serious, is mold and algae. If your environment is right for it, the water bowl can develop a thin film of either on the inside surface, even on stainless steel. There are pet bowls which are treated to avoid this, but I've never had them last very long either.