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How Much Water Do Cats Need? Dehydration Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

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By Nicole Cosgrove


Cats in the wild will get most of their water from the moisture content in their food. However, a cat’s captive diet typically has a low moisture content, especially if they are fed dry cat food. Ensuring that your cat receives their recommended daily water intake is important for their health and vitality. Dehydration is quite common in cats, especially if their water is not provided to them in a way that they like. Each cat will have a personal preference when it comes to drinking water, and it is essential to accommodate this. Dehydration can be fatal for your cat, and you must understand how to determine if your cat is dehydrated and how it can be caused.

How Much Water Do Cats Need?

An adult cat requires a daily amount of 3.5 to 4.5 ounces of water per 5 pounds of their body weight. In this case, a 10-pound cat should have a minimum intake of 7 ounces of water in a day to stay healthy. During the summer months when it is warmer, your cat should drink more water to keep up with their daily intake amount since they will lose water faster. Cats that eat wet food will not drink as much water in comparison to cats fed a dry food diet. This is because wet cat foods have a water content between 70% to 80%. Whereas cats who primarily eat dry foods must keep hydrated by drinking from their water dish.

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cat drinking water
Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

How Long Can Cats Go Without Drinking Water?

Cats can survive a total of 3 days before they succumb to the symptoms of dehydration. Cats lose water through their urine and feces and paw pads. Your cat should always have access to fresh, cool water that is constantly running. Water is essential for your cat’s health, and it helps them to replace any fluids they may have lost throughout the day. If your cat drinks too much or too little water, it can indicate that there is something wrong. Cats who drink an abnormally large amount of water may have a condition such as diabetes which causes them to urinate more frequently due to excessive amounts of water they are consuming. A sick cat may be too weak or confused to find a water source and become dehydrated as a result. If your cat is sick, you should move the water dish close to where they lay or leaving multiple water dishes around the house to prevent them from becoming dehydrated. A cat should be drinking water multiple times a day to prevent water loss and dehydration. If you think that your cat may be dehydrated, it is essential to take them to a veterinarian for treatment.

Why Won’t My Cat Drink Water?

It is common for cat owners to leave a still bowl of water available for their cats to drink from. Not many cat owners know that cats prefer to drink from running water, which is why some cats will drink from the tap when they are using it.

  • A still water dish becomes nasty quickly, it will also become warmer during the summertime and even gooey if it has not been cleaned in a few days.
  • Running water is more natural for cats, and it is more likely that they will drink from a cat dish with a fountain, than one without. Free-falling water or water that has ripples across the surface is more appealing for cats because it is typically ‘fresher’.
  • There should be no additives in the water and the dish should be cleaned and refilled daily. Do not use soap when cleaning your cats’ water because it can leave a soapy residue. The water dish should be placed in an area that the cat frequently visits, such as the kitchen or patio. Avoid placing your cat’s water dish in a busy area, or an area where other pets like dogs frequent.
Don’t be alarmed if you do not see your cat drink water every time, as they may be drinking when you are not looking. Take the evaporation rate into account when checking your cat’s water dish level.
tabby cat sitting next to a bowl of water
Image Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock

Causes of Dehydration in Cats

Cats who do not drink enough water are at risk of becoming dehydrated. When cats become hot, they start to sweat through their paws, not in large amounts and it will not greatly affect their hydration level. However, it can increase their thirst and fluid loss.

These are the main causes of dehydration in cats:
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Heatstroke
  • Stress
  • Fever
  • Diabetes
  • Dry diet
  • Salty human foods
Symptoms of a Dehydrated Cat:
  • Sunken eyes
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Dry, tacky gums
  • Decreased appetite
  • Excess saliva production
  • Panting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Constipation
  • Little to no urination
  • Dark urine

Treating A Dehydrated Cat

Prompt treatment is essential for a dehydrated cat’s recovery. A veterinarian will put your cat on a drip to balance their vitals and replace fluid loss. This is necessary for severe stages of dehydration, and minor dehydration can typically be treated at home.

  • Add a cup of water to dry kibble, or even wet cat food to increase their moisture intake.
  • Replace a still water dish with a cat drinking fountain and leave water in multiple areas around the house and outside to encourage your cat to drink.
  • Add a small amount of tuna juice from a tin, or chicken broth into your cat’s water. The smell and taste will get them to drink the water.
  • Place ice cubes into the water if the ambient room temperature is warm to keep the water cool.
  • Replace still water dishes with a drinking fountain.
  • Regularly check that the water dish is full and clean.

Final Thoughts

Dehydration is a serious condition that is often overlooked in cats. Always monitor cats’ water intake to determine how much water they are drinking each day. Ensure that you refill the water dish or fountain when needs and wash away any gunk and build-up from the sides under warm water. We hope that this article has informed you of everything you need to know when it comes to dehydration in cats.

Featured Image Credit: Daria Kulkova, Shutterstock

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