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My Cat Won't Drink Water: What should I do?

There are many reasons why your cat may not be drinking enough. Unfortunately, this can lead to serious complications like dehydration. Here, our veterinarians in Sacramento talk about why your cat won't drink water (or eat) and what to do if you suspect that your feline friend is dehydrated.

Why won't my cat drink water?

To maintain good health, all animals need to stay hydrated. Animals typically drink water when thirsty, and the amount of water required for each animal varies. Therefore, even if your cat isn't drinking much water, they may still be getting enough. 

Dogs tend to drink large amounts of water at once, whereas cats usually drink small quantities at a time. Additionally, dogs need more water per kilogram compared to cats, which means that your cat may not need to consume as much water as you might expect. 

If your feline friend eats dry food, they will require more water than a cat that consumes fresh or canned food. As a general rule, cats typically drink one ounce of water for every ounce of dry food. Conversely, cats that eat wet food usually drink less water since they receive much hydration from their food. 

So when pet parents find themselves asking 'Why won't my cat eat their food or drink water?' They may be not staying hydrated and are at risk of dehydration. Some reasons for your cat's lack of water intake include the location of the water bowl, underlying health issues, or the fact that they only eat dry food.

What are the signs of dehydration in cats?

Dehydration can seriously impact your cat's health. Insufficient water intake may quickly lead to dehydration. There are several ways to check whether 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 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: To check if your cat is dehydrated, examine its gums. Healthy gums should be pink and moist. Press your finger gently against the gums and observe whether the pressed spot turns white. If the gums take longer than one to two seconds to return to their normal color after removing your finger, it may indicate dehydration in your cat.
  • Sunken Eyes: Check your cat's eyes for signs of dehydration, such as lack of focus or sunken appearance.
  • Constipation: Do a litter box check. When cats are dehydrated, they often become constipated. If your cat hasn't been passing as much stool as they usually do, dehydration may be to blame.
  • Panting: Unlike dogs, cats rarely pant, so if your cat is panting, it may be a sign of dehydration.

How to Hydrate a Cat That Won't Drink Water

If your cat is not displaying any of the symptoms mentioned above but you are worried about their water intake, there are a few things you can do to encourage your cat to drink more water.

  • 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.

Why is dehydration dangerous for cats?

Dehydration can be a sign of a severe underlying condition such as kidney disease, heatstroke, or diabetes. In matters of your cat's health, it's always better to be cautious than sorry.

If your cat is showing signs of dehydration, contact our vets during regular office hours or your nearest emergency animal hospital. 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.

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.

Is your cat showing signs of dehydration? Contact our Sacramento vets right away for an examination.

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