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

Ensuring that your cat is well-hydrated is crucial. However, what should you do if your feline friend refuses to drink water? Our veterinarians in San Mateo explain some possible reasons why your cat may not be drinking and what you can do about it.

Why won't my cat drink water?

All animals need to stay hydrated to stay healthy. When animals are thirsty, they drink water, but the amount of water they need varies from one animal to another. Therefore, if your cat does not appear to drink much water, it may still be getting enough. 

Dogs drink large quantities of water at once, while cats drink small amounts at a time. Additionally, dogs require more water per kilogram of body weight than cats, so your cat may not need to drink as much water as you think. 

If your cat eats dry food, it will need to drink more water than a cat that eats fresh or canned food. Typically, cats drink about one ounce of water for every ounce of dry food they eat. On the other hand, if your cat eats wet food, it will drink less water since it gets most of its hydration from it. 

However, if you suspect that your cat is not drinking enough water, it might be because of the location of their water bowl, an underlying health condition, or the cleanliness of the water.

Signs That Your Cat May Be Dehydrated

Dehydration can be a serious health risk for cats that do not consume enough water. There are a few methods for determining if your cat is 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 yes - 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 passed 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 your cat shows signs of dehydration, contact your vet immediately. 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.

How to Hydrate a Cat That Won't Drink Water

If your cat isn't showing any of the symptoms above but you're concerned about their water intake, there are several things you can try to increase their 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

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your cat is not drinking enough water. Dehydration may be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition, such as kidney disease, diabetes, or heatstroke. When it comes to your cat's health, it is always better to err on the side of caution.

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 San Mateo vets right away to schedule an examination.

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At South Hillsdale Animal Hospital, our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Mateo companion animals. Get in touch today to learn more about our services and becoming a new client with us.

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