Hydration is vital to cats’ health, but our feline friends often don’t drink as much water as they should. Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Richmond team takes a look at why your cat might not be drinking enough water, and how you can encourage them to drink more. 

How much water does my cat need?

To stay hydrated, most cats need about 3.5 to 4.5 ounces of water per 5 pounds of their body weight every day. Staying hydrated is vital to your cat’s health, including:

  • Flushing toxins from their kidneys
  • Decreasing kidney and bladder stone risks
  • Aiding digestion
  • Helping maintain body temperature
  • Helping circulation
  • Aiding nutrient transport and absorption 
  • Keeping body organs functioning properly

What Is dehydration in cats?

Dehydration occurs when your cat does not drink as much fluid as they lose. A dehydrated cat loses electrolytes, such as sodium, calcium, and potassium, which are important for organs’ and tissues’ proper functioning. Because water is necessary for carrying out all body processes, dehydration can cause organ systems to shut down, and in severe cases, can be deadly. Some cats are more sensitive to dehydration, including kittens, senior cats, and cats with health conditions such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or inflammatory bowel disease. 

What causes dehydration in cats?

All the basic body processes require fluids, and any imbalance can lead to dehydration. Factors that impact dehydration include:

  • Diabetes
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Heatstroke
  • Trauma
  • Vomiting

The good news is: Cats’ dehydration is fairly easy to identify and can be treated with fluids. However, helping prevent your cat from becoming dehydrated is always preferable.

What are dehydration signs in cats?

Dehydration signs range from mild to severe. Most cats don’t feel well when they are dehydrated, and you may notice your feline friend drinking and eating less than usual. Other signs may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Panting
  • Refusal to eat
  • Sunken eyes
  • Tacky and dry gums

A quick way to assess your cat for dehydration is to check their gums. A hydrated cat’s gums are wet and smooth. If your cat’s gums are dry to the touch and slightly tacky, your feline friend is likely dehydrated.  Another hydration assessment method is to check your cat’s skin elasticity by gently pulling the skin between their shoulder blades. Once you let go, your cat’s skin should return immediately to its regular form. If your cat’s skin doesn’t snap right back, they could be dehydrated. 

How can I encourage my cat to drink more water?

You have many options available to help your cat rehydrate. If you are concerned your cat is dehydrated, observe their daily eating and drinking habits, and, if necessary, follow these tips to encourage your feline friend to drink more water: 

  • Provide multiple water sources  — The location of your cat’s water bowls is important. To maximize your feline friend’s comfort, keep fresh water bowls in multiple spots around your house. 
  • Introduce wet food — Providing your cat with wet food is another good way to encourage additional liquid intake. Remember to discuss any diet changes with your veterinarian before introducing new options to your cat. 
  • Flavor your cat’s water — Entice your cat to drink more water by adding a small amount of chicken broth or tuna juice ice cubes to their water. The ice will keep the water cold longer while adding a tasty flavor. If your cat doesn’t like ice cubes in their water bowl, try giving them ice cubes to bat around, and potentially ingest additional fluid.
  • Use a cat water fountain — If your cat isn’t drinking enough water from their bowl, consider providing them a water fountain. Some cats are attracted to bubbling water’s sight and sound, which may encourage them to drink.
  • Try different bowls — Cats can be finicky, and they may prefer a specific bowl type. To determine which bowl type your cat prefers, experiment with different sizes and materials. 
  • Turn on the faucet — Many cats enjoy less conventional methods to get their water, such as drinking from a dripping faucet. If your cat needs to rehydrate and enjoys this source, let them have a few drips before turning off the faucet.

Sometimes a little creativity is all you need to ensure your cat stays hydrated, but if you try these methods, and your cat still isn’t drinking enough water, schedule an appointment with our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Richmond team so we can determine the underlying cause.