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My Cat Doesn’t Drink Water But Eats Wet Food: Vet Reviewed Behaviour Facts & FAQ

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

black cat sitting beside the water fountain

Vet approved

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

Veterinarian, BVM BVS MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Taking care of our cats involves providing them with high-quality complete food, clean water, affection and enrichment. Cats aren’t big water drinkers to begin with, but what if your cat completely avoids their water bowls and only eats wet food? Should you be worried?

Wet food can be very hydrating for your cat, and they might be sneaking in a few sips from the water bowl or an outside puddle. That said, it is a good idea to change things up to encourage your cat to drink more water if possible. In this article, we provide you with the signs that your cat is dehydrated and tips to get them to drink more water.

Why Don’t Some Cats Drink Water?

Domestic cats descended from the North African wildcat, Felis silvestris lybica 1, thatlived in hot desert-like environments, so they were accustomed to not having easy access to water. In fact, that’s why cat urine is so pungent—it’s extremely concentrated; a biological tactic which helped their ancestors retain water.

But cats still need to drink water. Dehydration can become fatal if not addressed. Reasons that a cat might not be drinking water can include the following.

cat in the kitchen touching water in a bowl
Image Credit: Elena Vorman, Shutterstock

They’re Already Hydrated Enough

Some cats don’t drink as much water as others because they are already hydrated enough. Also, you shouldn’t compare your cat to your dog (if you have one) because cats don’t require as much water as they do.

If your cat is eating wet food, the good news is that it is about 80% water, so a cat could fulfill most of their water requirements from it.

A healthy adult cat needs approximately 60 mls of water per kg body weight over a 24 hour period to remain hydrated. This means a 4kg cat needs to take on approximately 240 mls of water over the period of a day. A Whiskas jelly pouch (85g) for an adult cat contains 84.5% moisture i.e. 71 mls of water.  If a 4kg cat has 4 sachets (as per the feeding recommendations for this brand), this will be an intake of 287 mls of water which is just over the cat’s daily fluid requirement.

Water Bowl Needs Cleaning

Cats prefer drinking from a fresh source of water, so their water bowl should be cleaned out at least once a day and refilled with fresh water.

pouring water to a modern white wood pet bowl stand
Image Credit: Nina Lishchuk, Shutterstock

Water Bowl Needs Relocation

If the water bowl is in a high-traffic area or close to places that can cause a cat to be anxious (such as next to the washing machine or near other pets’ bowls), your cat might be avoiding it. You should relocate the water bowl if a cat is stressed by loud noises or dominant pets in the home.  A cat’s water bowl should not be located next to its food station or litter tray.

They Might Be Unwell

If your cat has a condition that is making them feel unwell, they are less likely to drink water. Conditions like cancer, pancreatitis, and gastrointestinal issues can reduce a cat’s water intake.

sick white cat with feline aids
Image Credit: oudy, Shutterstock

They Have Dental Issues

If your cat has any mouth or tooth pain, this can stop them from eating and drinking.

If your cat is suffering from some form of dental disease, you might see one or more of the following:
  • Decreased appetite
  • Smell from the mouth (halitosis)
  • Pawing at the face and mouth
  • Dropping food while eating
  • Facial swelling
  • Drooling

See your vet immediately if you notice your cat exhibiting any of these signs.

How Can You Tell If Your Cat Is Dehydrated?

If you believe that your cat might not be drinking enough water, and they are not taking in all that they need from their wet food, it is best to book an appointment to see your vet. There are signs to look for that will indicate that your cat might be suffering from dehydration, but these are best assessed by your vet.


When a cat doesn’t have enough moisture in their system, they can become constipated. If your cat is straining to poop and hasn’t had many bowel movements, they are possibly constipated and dehydrated.  This requires assessment by your vet urgently because a back-up of feces can become very painful and lead to other, more long term problems.

constipation cat or megacolon cat xray film
Image Credit: Vetlife, Shutterstock

Dry Mouth

A cat’s gums should be a healthy light pink and moist to touch. If your cat’s gums feel more sticky than slimy, there is a problem with hydration.


Domestic cats don’t pant often. When they do, it’s usually a sign of stress, heatstroke, or severe illness.  If you notice your cat panting, you should call your vet and arrange an urgent appointment for a check up.

Orange cat with bandana panting inside the car
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Skin Tenting

Grab a small amount of skin between your cat’s shoulder blades, and gently pull it up. When you let go, the skin should immediately pop back into place. But when a cat is dehydrated, it will take longer for the skin to move back.

Sunken Eyes

The eyes are the window to the soul, but they can also be an indication that your cat is ill. If your cat’s eyes appear sunken or dull and glazed over, this can be a sign of dehydration.

How Do You Get a Cat to Drink More Water?

There are several ways that you can encourage your cat to drink more water.

Water Temperature

Most cats prefer cool water but not all of them do. So, you might want to experiment with the right water temperature for your cat by giving them a choice.

Place a bowl of cool water next to one at room temperature. Whichever bowl your cat chooses most often tells you what temperature you should aim for.

tabby cat drinking water
Image Credit: Pattysan, Shutterstock

Water Bowl Material

It’s possible that your cat doesn’t like their current bowl because of the material it is made out of.  Glass, stainless steel, and ceramic are great options because they are easy to clean. Since they don’t scratch easily, they aren’t as likely to harbor bacteria as plastic bowls.

Multiple Water Bowls

Some cats like to have multiple bowls of water to choose from. In fact, a Royal Canin study found that most cats prefer water when it’s in multiple locations.

Try placing several different bowls of water in different locations around your home. This might influence how much water your cat drinks.

cat drinking from a water dispenser
Image Credit: Vershinin89, Shutterstock

Change of Location

If your cat’s water bowl is in a noisy or stressful location, you should move it to a quieter place. If it’s next to a washing machine or near the front door where people often come and go, your cat might be stressed out and avoid the water bowl.

Daily Cleaning

Cats dislike drinking from stagnant water, so you should clean the bowl using soap and thoroughly rinse it at least once every day. If the water is kept fresh, your cat will be more likely to drink from it.

You can also plop in a few ice cubes to keep it cool for longer. Just use one or two small ice cubes to prevent the water from becoming too cold.

washing pet food bowl
Image Credit: MargaPl, Shutterstock

Cat Water Fountain

A cat water fountain can be particularly effective because it’s a source of running water. Most cats prefer drinking from moving water because it’s less likely to be stagnant, and therefore more likely to be clean.

If your cat already shows a preference for drinking from a running tap, a fountain might be just what you’re looking for. Get one that is quiet and easy to clean.


If your cat is only eating wet food, that can be hydrating, but you should still encourage your cat to drink from a source of fresh water. If your cat only eats dry food, they definitely need to drink more water.

There’s a good chance that you might find your cat more interested in drinking water from a bowl made of different material, a water fountain or a bowl placed in a different location. Speak to your veterinarian, particularly if you’ve tried everything and your cat still avoids drinking water. Immediately take your cat to the vet if you suspect that they are dehydrated. Conversely, cat’s that drink too much water also need to be assessed by a vet as this can be an indication of many different health conditions.

Featured Image Credit: Vershinin89, Shutterstock

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