Does Your Cat Drink Enough Water? (Cat Dehydration Symptoms) | Lola The Rescued Cat
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Does Your Cat Drink Enough Water? (Cat Dehydration Symptoms)

July is National Pet Hydration Awareness Month, which was started by the folks over at Pet Safe to get the word out to pet owners everywhere to be aware of their pet’s water in-take. I'm sharing some important information for cat owners to understand why keeping your cats properly hydrated is so important. 

pet hydration month

If you’re a Harry Potter fan you’ve probably heard of the Elixir of Life (a potion made from the Philosopher’s Stone that extends the life of the drinker.)  In our universe we don’t have a Philosopher’s Stone, but we do have our own, easily accessible elixir – water. 

Water is essential for all beings because it assists in lubricating joints, transporting nutrients through the bloodstream, regulating body temperature through respiration, flushing waste materials out of the body by way of urine, and cushioning the brain and spinal cord, and the list goes on. For all of these reasons and more, it’s important we make sure our cats (and all pets!) have access to plenty of fresh, clean water. 

catit fountain|pet hydration

What is dehydration?
Dehydration means that a cat has either used or lost more fluids than her body needs, without replacing them through drinking.  It is not just water that is lost, but also electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride, which are important for normal body function. This decrease in fluids and electrolytes negatively affects circulation, digestion, and toxin removal from the body. If it is severe enough, it can result in organ failure and death.

Why do cats get dehydrated? 
Causes of dehydration include (but are not limited to):

  • Vomiting/Diarrhea
  • Diabetes – diabetes often causes increased urination, which may lead to dehydration
  • Feeling nauseous or lethargic to move around because of illnesses  
  • Heatstroke
  • Shock
  • Blood loss
  • Fever
  • Lack of access to fresh water 

Since cats do not have much of an urge to drink water, it is very easy for them to become dehydrated quickly, especially if they are fed dry food. Many cats may simply not like their water source. In this case, make sure their bowl is clean and the water is refreshed daily, or try a fountain. 

catit fountain| pet hydration

How do I know my cat is dehydrated?
Some of the symptoms of dehydration include: 

  • Lethargy – your cat has less energy than usual and is not as active
  • Loss of appetite – not eating the usual amount of food or refusing meals
  • Sunken, dry eyes – eyes are sunken into the sockets and are dull, not shiny
  • Dry, tacky gums – gums appear dry and feel sticky
  • Poor skin elasticity – “skin tenting” may occur
  • Slow capillary refill time – low blood flow to tissue

There are two simple tests you can do to test for the last two symptoms on the list.  The first is the skin tent test - if you take a pinch of skin over the cat's shoulders and pull up gently, the skin should snap back into place when released. As the cat gets more dehydrated, the skin goes back in place more and more slowly. If the pinch of skin stays up (the "tent"), it is a sign of severe dehydration.

The second is simply touching your cat’s gums. In a normal cat the gums should be slick, wet and glistening. You can test for capillary refill time by pressing lightly on the gums with your finger. The pressed are will turn whitish but should return to pink in a few seconds on a well-hydrated cat. 

fountain| pet hydration

What should I do if I think my cat is dehydrated? 
If you suspect that your cat is dehydrated you should seek veterinary care. Severe dehydration can be life threatening, and it can also be a sign of an underlying medical issue. Typically cats will need fluid replenishment subcutaneously or through an IV. 

How can I prevent dehydration in my cat? 
Did you know that 80% of your cat’s body is water?  In order to maintain this ratio they need one ounce of water per one pound of body weight.  Lola weighs nine pounds, so she needs nine ounces per day. At 13 pounds, Lexy requires 13 ounces.  They love their Catit Flower Fountain, and I make sure there is at least one extra bowl of water in the kitchen that I clean and refill daily.   

pet hydration month

Here are some steps you can take to prevent dehydration: 

  • Some cats are picky about how they obtain their water. Some cats only like glass bowls, some like running water rather than standing water, some like tap water, and others prefer bottled. Know your cat’s preference. 
  • Make sure that you clean your cat's water bowl every day to discourage bacteria from growing on its surface.
  • Does your cat have whisker stress? A shallow bowl will help their whiskers from  being disturbed while they're drinking, such as this one
  • For cats that love running water, you may consider a drinking fountain. This can minimize the need for you to run a faucet constantly and have your cat sitting in your sink all the time. (Lexy loved drinking form the faucet.  Ever since we got our fountain she has foregone the faucet.)
  • Feed your cat canned foods as much as possible. They contain up to 80% moisture and can help to compensate for moisture intake.
  • If your cat goes outside, make sure she has access to a cool place in hot weather and shelter in cold weather, with plenty of clean, fresh water at all times.
  • Taking your cat to the veterinarian routinely for exams and any recommended testing such as blood work can help you catch and begin treating any underlying problems such as diabetes or kidney disease early, before they result in dehydration.

These tips, along with a watchful eye, can help avoid your cat becoming dehydrated. 

Do your cats prefer to drink from a fountain or a bowl? 

Pet MD
Vet Street

Photo Credits: 
Flickr: Pippy & Timmy, April Killingsworth
Deposit Photos: nndemidchick

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Would you like to comment?

  1. I don't think my human will be doing the gum test on Binga anytime soon! Fortunately she drinks enough water from our fountain, and her skin snaps back nicely. We are all pretty good about hydrating, in fact.

  2. We have a fountain, purchased for Pierre when we went through his kidney diagnosis scare, but he won't drink from it. Only Newton does. Ashton and Pierre are old-fashioned and prefer bowls.

  3. l & l.... uz boys R reel lee good at drinkin R waterz... dai$y...
    troo lee...NO ONE haz EVER seen her drink...EVERe .....N we drink
    outta raized bowls....tuna canna haz a fountin at hiz houz coz him eatz cordz ~~~


  4. We're mixed here...Wally likes the fountain and me and Zoey like to drink from a bowl. Sometimes Zoey will use the fountain too. ~Ernie

  5. Such important information! Mudpie is such a kibble fanatic so I'm happy she's a good drinker. She loves it when I add a bit of warm water to her bowl from the tea kettle in the winter...we have tea together!

  6. We have several fountains here and they are always a popular place to have a sip or two!

  7. Excellent post. We have a fountain and several bowls. We also have a cup on the bathroom sink and Phoebe likes me to turn the faucet on for her while I am in the bathroom.

  8. I've been lucky in that Bear's always gotten enough water on his own. I'd still like to get him a fountain though too!

  9. Excellent advice as cats are always in and out constantly on the go, it is so important that their water bowls or other water sources are topped up with fresh water especially in the warm summer months.

  10. Great piece! Hydration is key for all pets.

  11. I have a drinking fountain for big dogs and I love it! But I'm a bit torn between PetSafe and Dogit! PetSafe is easier to clean, but I found that my Dogit fountain had a stronger current, so the water was cleaner! Anyway, I would never go back again to a regular bowl!!

  12. I have two cats and they both drink differently. One will drink out of any dish in the house, the other is much more fussier. She prefers a running tap or even the left over shower water YUCK!

  13. I only have Layla but I make sure she drinks a lot, plus shh I cheat and as I make her food I add some of the broth also to her dinner so there is extra hydration BOL - great post

  14. I haven't tried a fountain with Mr. N so I don't know how he would like it. He's not picky about water at home though.

  15. Great tips and post! Definitely something to be worried about in the hot summer heat.

  16. Ours all like different things. I just wish we had a better range of cat fountsin here in NZ we have boring and super boring.

    Our vet always does the pinch test, especially with the seniors.

    Marjorie and Miranda

  17. We have three fountains in our house to make sure we can get water whenever we want it.

  18. We gave a fountain to our friend who has 4 cats and they LOVE it!

  19. After reading this post, I checked my elderly cat for dehydration. Thankfully he isn't dehydrated.

  20. Nala had problems in her last year as she had kidney disease so gave wet food and chicken stock flavoured water. Kilo the Pug drinks from his bowl which is refreshed and cleaned at least daily, plus I add water to his kibble to make him feel fuller.

  21. This is very good advice. My little dog Phoebe doesn't always drink enough water either, I'm always trying to entice her to drink, I add a bit of water to her kibble as well as a few tbsp. of wet food. A fountain is always a good way to entice drinking.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  22. Great post! We have a fountain for Gracie and Zoe. They both love drinking from it. Zoe is also a big fan of drinking from the faucet. :)

  23. We know how important hydration is after losing Tommie to kidney disease. We have a fountain but our cats don't drink much water. I'm not worried though, because Mickey Mouser and Rufus the Red get very little dry food.
    Thanks for sharing this important information.

  24. Great posty. Me luvs me's fountain, but Raena doesn't know what to do with it yet. MOL

    Luv ya'

    Dezi and Raena

  25. Wow. Thanks for sharing. I always leave plenty of fresh water around, and just like some of your photos our cats always prefer drinking water out of human glasses that sit on the bedside table... not sure why, they even prefer it when it is 'stale water' in the bedside glass rather than their fresh water bowls.

  26. Izzy drinks from the tub left on to dribble a small stream. We don't turn it on all the time and have to remember to turn it off. When it's not on, he will drink from the dogs water bowl or if he's outside, the birdbath which is filled daily. He loves water and gets dry and wet food both so I don't have to worry about him! Lately he has been hanging out on the bathroom counter so he can make sure I turn it on when I wake up in the middle of the night.


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