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My cat won't drink water, what should I do?

It's essential for our pets to stay hydrated, so what should you do if your cat won't drink water? Our vets in Cleveland list reasons your cat may not be drinking and what you need to do next. 

Why won't my cat drink water?

All animals need to stay hydrated to stay healthy. Animals generally drink when they are thirsty, and different animals need different amounts of water to remain hydrated. So, while your cat may not appear to be drinking much, it may be getting enough water. 

While dogs will often drink large quantities of water at once, cats are more likely to drink very small amounts at one time. 

How much water should a cat drink?

Dogs also need much more water per kilogram than cats, meaning your cat may not need to drink as much water as you might predict. 

If your cat eats dry food, it will need more water than a kitty that eats fresh or canned foods. For each ounce of dry food, cats typically drink about one ounce of water. Contrast this with cats that eat wet foods—they'll drink considerably less since they get much of their hydration from their food. 

That said, you might be right - perhaps your cat isn't drinking enough water. If your cat won't drink water, the location of the bowl, an underlying health condition, or the cleanliness of the water may be potential reasons why your cat isn't drinking enough. 

What to do if a cat is not drinking water?

If you think that your cat is not drinking enough water, it is important to contact your vet immediately. Dehydration can be a sign of a serious underlying condition, such as kidney disease, heatstroke, or diabetes. When it comes to your cat's health, it is always best to err on the side of caution.

Signs That Your Cat May Be Dehydrated

Dehydration poses a serious risk to your cat's health. Cats who do not drink enough water may quickly become dehydrated. There are several ways to determine whether your cat may be dehydrated.

  • Skin Elasticity - Gently pinch the extra skin between your cat's shoulder blades to form a tent-like shape to check its elasticity. Once you let go, watch to see whether your kitty's skin snaps back to normal in less than a second. If this doesn't occur, your kitty may be dehydrated. 
  • Dry Mouth - Look at your cat's gums - are they pink and moist? Press your finger against your cat's gums and check whether the pressed spot turns white. If they don't return to a healthy pink color within one to two seconds of removing your finger, your cat may be dehydrated. 
  • Sunken Eyes - Look into your cat's eyes. Do they seem to lack focus or appear dull or sunken? This may point to dehydration. 
  • Constipation - Do a litter box check. Dehydrated cats often become constipated. If your cat hasn't been passing as much stool as it usually does, dehydration may be to blame.
  • Panting - Unlike dogs, cats don't often pant. If your feline friend is panting they may be dehydrated.

If you notice that your cat is displaying signs of dehydration, it's important to contact your vet immediately. Dehydration in cats can be a serious condition and can even lead to fatality. Once you notice the symptoms mentioned above, it's likely that your cat is already severely dehydrated and will require emergency veterinary care.

How to hydrate a cat that won't drink water?

If you are concerned that your cat isn't drinking enough water but is not showing any of the symptoms above, you can try a few things to increase its 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.

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 concerned that your cat isn't drinking enough water? Contact our Cleveland vets right away to schedule an examination.

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