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What should I do if my cat won't drink water?

You may be concerned if you notice your cat has stopped drinking water. Here, our Tucson vets explain what you can do for your cat if they won't drink water. 

Why won't my cat drink water?

All mammals require regular hydration to stay healthy. This applies to both cats and humans. When your pet is thirsty, they will drink, and different animals require different amounts of water to stay hydrated. So, even if it doesn't appear that your cat is drinking a lot, they may be getting enough water.

Dogs will often lap lots of water at once, while cats are more likely to drink small amounts in one sitting. Dogs also need significantly more water per kilogram of weight than cats do, which means your cat may not need as much water as you think. 

If your cat eats a dry food diet, they'll need to drink more water than those who eat fresh or canned foods. For every ounce of dry food a cat eats, they usually drink about one ounce of water. Compare this with cats that eat wet foods and drink significantly less because their food offers more hydration. 

That said, you may be right; perhaps your cat isn't drinking enough water. If your cat won't eat or drink, the water may be unclean, the location of the bowl may not be optimal, or your pet could be suffering from an underlying health condition. 

Signs That Your Cat May Be Dehydrated 

If your cat does not drink enough water, he or she may become dehydrated, which can be dangerous to your cat's health. Here are a few methods for determining whether your cat is dehydrated.

  • Dry Mouth - Are your cat's gums moist and pink? Press your finger against the gums to see if the spot you are pressing turns white. If they don't return to a healthy shade of pink within a second or two of removing your finger, your four-legged friend may be dehydrated. 
  • Sunken Eyes - Look into your cat's eyes. If they appear dull or sunken, or appear to lack focus, dehydration may be to blame. 
  • Skin Elasticity - Examine your cat's skin by gently pinching the extra skin between their shoulder blades to form a tent-like shape. Once you let go your kitty's skin should snap right back to normal in less than a second. If your cat's skin doesn't snap right back, your feline friend could be dehydrated.
  • Constipation - Do a little box check. When cats are dehydrated they often become constipated. If your cat hasn't been passing as much stool, as usual, dehydration may be to blame.
  • Panting - Unlike dogs, cats don't often pant. If your feline friend is panting they may be dehydrated.

If your cat is showing signs of dehydration contact your vet right away. Dehydration in cats can be fatal, and once the symptoms above become evident your cat is likely to be severely dehydrated and in need of emergency veterinary care (refusal to drink for 24 hours or more qualifies as a veterinary emergency).

How to Hydrate a Cat That Won't Drink Water

If you are worried that your cat isn't drinking enough water but they aren't exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, there are a few things you can try to increase your cat's water consumption.

  • Ensure that your cat's water bowl is not near their litter box. If it is, move it to a better spot in the room or a different room altogether.
  • Provide fresh water daily. Many cats will not drink water that has been sitting for an extended period.
  • Try moving the bowl to a different location (even if it's not near the litter box).
  • Try a different bowl or a bowl that provides running water for cats to enjoy.
  • If your cat eats dry food switch to canned.

Serious Health Conditions Linked To Dehydration in Cats

If you believe your cat isn't drinking enough water, contact your veterinarian right away. Dehydration can be a sign of a serious underlying condition like kidney disease, heatstroke, or diabetes. When it comes to your cat's health, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you worried that your cat isn't drinking enough water? Contact our Tucson vets to book an appointment today and help your kitty stay happy and healthy.

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