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Cat drinking water out of a bowl

The essentials

  • Cats don’t drink as much water as dogs — This is partly due to their evolution, having descended from desert-dwelling ancestors.
  • The average 10-pound cat should drink about one cup of water per day — Recommendations may vary, as water intake is affected by the type and amount of food your cat eats.
  • Dehydration in cats can lead to organ failure, neurologic conditions, and other serious issues — It’s often also a symptom of an underlying disease or illness.

How much water should my cat drink?

If you’re concerned your cat isn’t drinking as much as your dog, don’t fret. Being descendants of desert-dwelling felines, cats have evolved to not require as much water as their canine counterparts. But, like all animals, cats need proper hydration to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle.

While feeding guidelines can help cat owners determine their pet’s proper daily food intake, determining how much water your cat should drink can be a bit tricky. In general, though, vets recommend that cats drink about four ounces of water for every five pounds they weigh per day. This means the average 10-pound cat should drink a cup of water daily.

That said, the amount of water your cat should drink can vary based on their diet. For instance, some wet cat food contains up to 80% water. As a result, cats on wet food diets often drink less water since they get most of what they need from their daily meals.

Causes of feline dehydration

There are a number of reasons your cat might not be drinking enough water. Most commonly, dehydration in cats occurs as a result of a disease that causes water loss. Specific examples of these illnesses in cats include diabetes, chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and others. Unfortunately, dehydration can also be caused by medication, such as the diuretics commonly used to treat feline heart disease. If you suspect any of these conditions in your cat, it’s important to visit a veterinarian as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis.

Beyond underlying illnesses, there are a few other reasons cats drink less water. As with dogs, dental issues lead some cats to alter their food and water intake. Decreased appetite can be caused by a number of things, so make sure to monitor such situations closely. Lastly, some outdoor cats might simply not have access to the water they need. It’s important for owners of indoor and outdoor cats alike to always provide more than enough fresh water.

Symptoms of dehydration in cats

Dehydration can be difficult to pinpoint in cats, but there are a few telltale signs. Head to the vet if your cat exhibits any of the symptoms listed below:

  • Dry or tacky mucous membranes. A vet can determine if this is an issue by looking at your cat’s gums.
  • Decreased skin elasticity. You can check for this by gently lifting the skin over your cat’s shoulders. If their skin doesn’t snap back right away, your cat is likely dehydrated.
  • Lack of energy. Water provides essential energy for all living creatures. If your cat is acting lethargic all of a sudden, a lack of water could be to blame.
  • Sunken eyes. Decreased fluid in the eyes can cause a condition called enophthalmos, or sunken eyes. This is often a severe symptom and should prompt a vet visit immediately.
  • Decreased appetite. Changes in your pet’s dietary behavior should always be noted. A sudden lack of desire or refusal to eat is a common sign that something’s amiss, and dehydration could be a factor.
Cat being examined by a vet

Pictured here, a vet performs a skin tenting test.

How to treat your cat’s dehydration

When you visit a veterinarian to address your cat’s dehydration, you may be given several options. First, the doctor will attempt to address the root cause of the dehydration. In some cases, simple changes that encourage your cat to drink more water can help. However, some cats with dehydration require a treatment known as fluid therapy.

Fluid therapy is employed in a number of ways. The ultimate goal is to restore normal fluid levels, so treatment will depend on your pet’s needs. Fluids can be administered orally, under the skin, or through an IV catheter. Intravenous or subcutaneous fluids are often the safest and most efficient methods of delivery.

Increased thirst in cats

When cats suddenly start drinking more or urinating more frequently, they might be experiencing an underlying medical condition. For instance, hyperthyroidism involves the overproduction of hormones that increase a cat’s metabolic rate. The result is often an increased appetite, accompanied by increased drinking and urination.

Another common cause for increased thirst in cats is chronic kidney disease (CKD). Cats with CKD may lose the ability to concentrate urine properly in the body. In response, they often urinate more frequently and drink more water to compensate.

Tips to prevent dehydration

As with so many pet medical conditions, prevention is often best. One simple step to ensure your cat is getting enough water is to consider switching to wet food. Some wet cat food contains up to 80% moisture, so this can be an easy way to increase your cat’s daily fluid intake. If your feline friend simply refuses to eat anything but dry cat food, try adding a splash of water or low sodium chicken broth to their kibble at mealtime.

Your cat should always have access to fresh water throughout the day. If a normal water bowl doesn’t cut it for your kitty, consider a dedicated cat water fountain. Some, like this option from Felaqua, even include additional features to provide statistics and insights into how much your cat is drinking each day.

Frequently asked questions

How much water should cats drink each day?

Water consumption depends on a variety of factors, including size and diet. In general, though, a good rule to follow is four ounces of water per every five pounds of body weight.

What are common signs of dehydration in cats?

Symptoms of a dehydrated cat include dry mucous membranes, decreased skin elasticity, lethargy, and in severe cases, sunken eyes.

What’s the best way to motivate a cat to drink water?

Canned food with a high moisture content is an easy way to up your cat’s daily water intake. You can also try a cat water fountain to help entice them to drink more.

How often should I refill my cat’s water dish?

Cats should have access to plenty of clean water at all times. But, if you find yourself having to refill their bowl multiple times a day, you might want to head to the vet to make sure nothing’s wrong.

How much water is too much for my cat to drink?

If your cat is drinking more than normal, do not remove their water supply. Instead, visit a vet to determine the reason for their increased thirst, and keep in mind that increased thirst can be a sign of an underlying health issue.