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essential tips
Cat with water dispenser

Most cats struggle to drink enough water and tend to be picky about how and when they drink. Cats also naturally have a preference for fresh water because it’s less likely to be contaminated. In addition, if their water is too close to their food or if their bowl has an odor, your cat might avoid drinking from it. But there are also plenty of other reasons why your cat might not drink very much water.

Historically, wild cats got most of their water from food, and domesticated cats are very much the same. If your cat is fed only dry food, it’s extremely easy for them to become dehydrated. Increasing your kitty’s daily water intake is a difficult (but essential) task for any cat owner, especially those whose kitties suffer from urinary tract infections or other issues like kidney stones.

How to get your cat to drink more water

Just like humans, cats need water to live. If you’re worried your cat isn’t getting enough water, here are some ways to help:

Consider wet food

Most cats get the majority of their water from their food, so a dry food diet won’t help much. Canned food, in contrast, has a moisture content of around 75% and is a great source of water. Wet food is also great for finicky eaters since it’s extremely palatable and there are many varieties to choose from. Just remember to read the label on the can to make sure it’s nutritionally balanced.

Place water bowls around the house

Put multiple bowls around your house to give your cat different drinking options. Your cat may prefer a bowl made from a specific material, like stainless steel, plastic, or ceramic. You can also try an elevated bowl to help entice your kitty to drink. This option can be especially helpful for senior cats that struggle to lean down.

Cater to your cat’s preferences

Your cat might prefer to drink a certain way. Some cats like to drink out of cups or even the faucet, so letting them do so on occasion is a great way to increase their water intake. You can also try moving their water bowl away from their food to keep it fresh since some kitties won’t drink when they can smell food nearby.

Ease tensions around the house

If you have more than one cat in your house, there can be conflict and tension around food and water. One cat might claim a certain bowl and not allow the other cats to use it. It’s important to have multiple bowls to make sure your cats all have access to fresh water.

Add water to your cat’s kibble

Adding water to your cat’s dry kibble can help you sneak in some extra water to their diet. One study even found that cats that ate kibble with water were more active than cats that ate only dry food.   

Try a cat water fountain

The majority of cats prefer to drink from moving water sources. If you have a kitty that prefers the sink, you can always try a cat water fountain, which is an eco-friendly option that imitates the faucet. One of our favs is this one from PETLIBRO.

How to know if your cat is dehydrated

One way to determine if your cat is dehydrated is by checking their skin turgor (skin elasticity). To do this, gently pinch and lift the skin on the back of their neck and watch how long it takes to go back to its original position. In hydrated cats, their skin should return to normal almost immediately. In some cases, the skin may remain tented, an indication the cat is more than 10% dehydrated.

In addition, you can also keep an eye on your cat’s bathroom habits. If their urine is a darker color than normal or they’re urinating less frequently than usual, they might be dehydrated.

Signs of dehydration in cats

Some common signs of dehydration to watch out for include the following:

  • Loss of energy
  • Panting
  • Refusal to eat
  • Sunken eyes
  • Tacky and dry gums

Your cat’s gums should be moist. If they feel dry or tacky, that may be a sign of dehydration as well.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne

DVM

👉 If you suspect your pet is dehydrated, take them to a veterinarian straight away. 

Common causes of dehydration in kitties

  • Chronic kidney disease. In the beginning stages of kidney failure, the kidneys excrete waste by producing a large amount of diluted urine. Cats often need to drink more to compensate for water loss related to chronic kidney problems.
  • Diabetes. Cats with diabetes have high levels of glucose in their blood, which can cause sugar to spill into their urine. This makes a cat need to pee more often and can lead to both dehydration and excessive thirst.
  • Hyperthyroidism. Untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to dehydration from excess heat, excess sweating, and diarrhea. It can also lead to decreased appetite and nausea, which might make your cat not want to eat or drink.
  • Certain medications. Some medications for cats act as diuretics, including those that are commonly used to treat heart disease. This means a cat on these medications won’t retain as much water and might be at risk of dehydration.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea. If your cat is vomiting frequently or has diarrhea, they will need to replenish the fluids they’ve lost by drinking more water.

Frequently asked questions

How can I get my cat to drink more water?

Make sure your cat has access to fresh water every day. You can also try moving water bowls away from cat food, buy a water fountain, or use multiple water bowls.

Why does my cat barely drink water?

Your kitty might not like the type of bowl you’re using for their water. They may also prefer running water, like out of the faucet or a cat water fountain. Cats drink less water than dogs, so they might also just not be as thirsty. If you’re worried, don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet.

How can I tell if my cat’s dehydrated?

The best way to check if your cat is dehydrated is by performing a skin tenting test. To do so, gently pinch the skin on the back of your pet’s neck. If their skin stays in a tented position, they are likely dehydrated. If your cat will let you, you can also try feeling their gums, which should be moist to the touch.

Is it possible for cats to drink too much water?

The average cat should drink 3.5-4.5 ounces of water for every 5 pounds they weigh. If your cat drinks more or less than that per day, it’s best to have them seen by your vet.

How much water should my cat drink per day?

Your cat needs about 3.5-4.5 ounces of water for every 5 pounds they weigh. A 10-pound cat, for example, should drink about a cup of water every day.