Are You Making Sure Your Cat Drinks Enough Water and Does Your Cat Seem Dehydrated?

Are You Making Sure Your Cat Drinks Enough Water and Does Your Cat Seem Dehydrated?

How do you know if your cat is drinking enough water, and how can you tell if she is dehydrated? Read on to find out.

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Water is a crucial part of any living organism’s diet. From humans to cats, dogs and birds – everyone needs water to survive.

Similar to humans, cats’ body weight is about 70% water, so it would make sense to say that cats drink water just as often as humans do. But that’s where you’d be wrong!

Cats are historically desert animals. Desert animals tend to store water in their bodies for long periods of time, because of the shortage of water available in desert areas, and while cats have evolved to live in non-desert areas as well, some of their ancestors’ habits seem to stick.

Cats don’t drink as much water per kilogram of their body weight as dogs do, which would make sense given their origins, but often, this tends to mislead pet owners into thinking their cat needs less water than she actually does. While it is true that cats will generally drink less water, sometimes cats will be drinking less than what she actually needs.

Cats usually drink about an ounce of water with half an ounce of dry food, with wet food giving them most of the hydration they need alongside their meals. But sometimes, cats will simply forego the water even if they are not eating dry food. This is when you should start being concerned.

Cats are generally very self-sufficient, and take care of their needs on their own, but sometimes you have to intervene and make sure they really are taking care of themselves.

Is My Cat Drinking Water?

The way we humans drink water and how cats do so is obviously very different. Your cat isn’t going to gulp down large amounts of water the way you do. In fact, even other animals have more obvious ways of drinking water than cats do. For example, dogs will slurp water up from his bowl, and it becomes very clear to anyone watching that he is drinking enough water.

Cats are different. Cats have complex drinking patterns. Unlike dogs, that scoop water in their tongue like a ladle, cats’ tongues will barely touch the surface of the water before she pulls it back into her mouth. This happens very fast, so that gravity doesn’t get enough time to make the water she’s gathered on her tongue fall back into the bowl. In fact, she can complete four dips per second, all while keeping her chin dry – it happens so fast!

So if you look at your cat and feel like she isn’t drinking enough water when she’s at her bowl, don’t worry about it. Your cat has her own way of doing things. Sometimes, cats will also dip their paws into the bowl and lick the water off.

As long as your cat is drinking a few sips every day, you don’t have to worry too much about her staying hydrated.

The problem comes up when you realize she isn’t drinking water.

This can be as simple as noticing that she simply does not go to her bowl, or any other water source often enough. If you’ve had your cat for a while, you’d be familiar with her drinking patterns and be able to notice that she isn’t drinking enough.

On the other hand, if your cat is still a new member of the family and you’re not quite sure if she’s been drinking water or not, you may want to look out for a few signs that she isn’t getting enough. We’ll look at these later.

First let’s go over why cats don’t drink water.

Why is My Cat Not Drinking Water?

Besides just the fact that cats generally drink less water, there could be a number of other factors that lead to your kitty avoiding her water bowl.

Whisker Fatigue

Sometimes if your cat’s whiskers rub against the water bowl, she may be avoiding drinking water – or even eating her food, if the bowls they’re in are similar. When your cat’s whiskers are touched too much, the sensory system may get overstimulated and she may get distressed from the onslaught of sensory messages being sent to her brain. Because of this, she can get stressed out and agitated and avoid anything that might result in contact with her whiskers.

This can result in her avoiding her food and water bowl. If this is the case, she may pace in front of the bowls and meow loudly to let you know that something is wrong. Many food and water trays are now manufactured to be whisker friendly.

But if your cat is still having trouble with her water bowl, you can give her water in a wider tray where her whiskers will not brush against the sides of the bowl. A plate or saucer will also work for such problems.

Unappealing Scents

Sometimes cats avoid their water bowls because it is placed in an area where there are some unappealing scents. Just like we, as humans, don’t like eating or drinking in smelly areas, cats don’t either.

If a cat’s water bowl is placed too close to her litter box or even if the water is too close to her food, she may avoid it and refuse to drink. The solution to this problem is simply to move the water bowl somewhere else where it is away from these scents so you cat can drink.

Cats have sharper noses than we do, so even if you can’t smell anything, your cat may be picking up on scents that you aren’t, so moving her bowl around is worth a try.

Sometimes, the scent may be coming from the water itself. Again, cats have sharper noses, so the water that is normal for you may not be normal for your cat. The scent of chlorine or treated water can deter cats from drinking it. Try changing the water you give her and see if she is willing to drink. Otherwise, the problem may lie somewhere else.

Noisy Areas

Cats don’t like noisy places and many prefer the silence and quiet. If your cat’s water bowl is located in an area where there are too many people, she may be avoiding it. Keeping your cat’s food and water in busy areas like the living room, where there are always a lot of people, can deter her from eating and drinking on time.

Therefore, you should keep your cat’s water in a place where there is peace and quiet so she can feel comfortable taking her time drinking.

Distrust of Still Water

It may be a surprise to some, but cats really dislike still water. Every living creature has some natural instincts that we tend to follow. For cats, one such instinct is the dislike for still water.

As mentioned earlier, cats have ancestors that lived in desert or arid environments, which meant that they had to manage their water supply carefully. This isn’t a problem for our cats now, but in a natural environment where water is scarce, these ancestors developed the ability to smell out running water, from which they would drink up to twice a day. Still water had the potential to be contaminated, which could result in sickness and disease, and in an environment where water was already hard to find, cats had to be very careful about what kind of food and water they were consuming.

If they didn’t manage it properly, they may have ended up drinking dirty water, which could result in stomach problems, and make them even more dehydrated than they would have if they hadn’t drunk that water, to begin with.

Now, your pet cats don’t have this problem. Technically, they should know that their water bowl is clean and they can also smell it out. But the distrust for still water has remained, and cats will prefer to drink from running water than from their bowls.

This is why you may find your cat drinking from the faucet, or water dripping from a higher surface, and sometimes cats will also knock over water containers in the hope of finding running water.

Of course, you can’t always know when your cat is thirsty so you can open the faucet for her to drink from, but there are other ways you can combat this problem. Sometimes, cats will simply adjust to drinking from their bowls because they have no other choice, but if yours is particularly fussy, you can get a pet fountain which has a filter system that keeps the water clean, odor-free and free-falling. This will encourage your cat to drink water and stay hydrated.

This can also be critical for older cats who are at greater risk of health concerns due to their failing organs.

Cats Dislike ‘Old’ Water

On top of being sensitive to smell, cats are also sensitive to taste. If your cat isn’t drinking water, it may be because the water in her bowl has become too ‘old’ for her, and she doesn’t like the taste.

Sometimes, pieces of food and dirty can accumulate within the bowl, which makes the water taste bad, and can keep your cat from drinking it. On top of that, this accumulation may also make the water full of bacteria, so to keep your cat from getting sick, you should make sure to change the water everyday and give your cat fresh water.

Besides just accumulation of dirty, there’s also the fact that cats who play with the water can leave the residue of any dirty stuff they may have on their paws (from walking around or the litter box) which gets transferred to the water. That’s definitely not healthy to drink!

Besides just changing the water, also make sure to clean your cat’s bowl properly to get rid of any dirt that is stuck inside, and to get rid of the smell. You should use soap to get it all out properly, but make sure to use only a little bit. Sometimes, the smell of the soap can also be a deterrent and make your cat avoid her water bowl.

Soap residue can also ruin the taste of the water and even burn your cat’s tongue, so make sure to rinse the bowl out properly.

The Volume is Wrong

If you haven’t figured it out already, cats are very fussy creatures. They are very particular about what they like and dislike, and are not above simply dismissing something for the sake of their own preferences. This is why many cat owners have to cater to their pets’ demands, no matter how ridiculous they are.

One such ridiculous demand is the volume of water in the bowl. If your cat thinks that the water in the bowl is too much or too little, she may simply refuse to drink it. Knowing how much water is the ‘right’ amount is difficult to figure out, but you’ll have to do so by observing when your cat drinks and when she doesn’t.

Sometimes, cats will drink water, and as a result, the volume will naturally go down. This may make her feel like there isn’t enough water in the bowl, and she may refuse to drink any more. Catering to your fussy cat’s drinking habits can very easily become frustrating, but it’s very important that you keep up with them to make sure that she’s drinking enough water. If she doesn’t, she may become dehydrated and face a number of health problems.

How to Make Your Cat Drink Water

If you’re worried about your cat’s water intake, you can try out some things to make her drink more. Your cat doesn’t necessarily have to be showing signs of dehydration before you try these out – in fact, it’s better if she’s not! It’s best to prevent dehydration than to wait for it to affect your cat before you start to worry about her health.

Remember that not all these tricks will work, because each cat is different, and has different personalities. What works for one cat may not work for another, and all you have to do is try it out and be patient to see what does work for your cat.

Add Flavor

Sometimes to make your cat drink water, you can try to lure them into it by flavoring their water a bit. Adding some tuna, salmon or clam juice to the water can make your cat more inclined to drinking it. Be careful, though, sometimes these flavors can get too much and your cat may become even more averse to the water than she was before.

Start off with a very small amount and increase it gradually until you find a mixture that your cat likes. For an average cat bowl, you shouldn’t add more than a teaspoon. This is particularly true if your cat has heart or kidney problems, or if you’re using clam juice. Make sure the fish you use is also from spring water and not brine.

You can also opt for low-sodium broth, but make sure the powder you add is dissolved properly in the water before giving it to your cat. It’s a good idea to warm the water a bit before mixing the flavoring in so that it dissolves better.

If you have a cat fountain, don’t add flavoring to it!

Adjust Their Food

If your cat isn’t drinking water, you can opt for changing her diet. Since cats actually get a fair amount of water from the food they eat, you can increase the amount of water your cat takes in by giving her wet food instead of dry food.

It’s best to consult your vet before you make any significant changes to your cat’s diet, though. This is especially true if your cat has any existing medical conditions, but cats’ stomachs can also get upset easily so if you’re going to switch your cat’s diet, you should do so gradually. Start with replacing a small portion of your cat’s existing diet with the new one, and then increase that portion over a period of a few days. This way, you can avoid any gastrointestinal problems.

Avoid giving your cat milk as much as possible! Cats are actually lactose intolerant, and drinking milk is bad for their stomachs.

Moisten The Food

Sometimes cats don’t like canned food, or are on a special diet where they can consume dry food only. In such cases, you can add some moisture to their food by adding room temperature water or low-sodium broth to their food. Don’t add too much, and as with any diet adjustments, do so gradually. Add a teaspoon or two to their food and slowly increase so that your cat can adjust. Additionally, let the food sit for a few minutes in the water so the water can absorb it.  

Chill The Water

One way to make your cat drink more is to add an ice cube or two to the water bowl. Cats are curious creatures and are fascinated by the sound and look of ice cubes bobbing, and this may encourage them to drink.

You can also move a step up and make ice cubes from flavorings like tuna, clam or salmon juice. Add some of the juice to water and freeze it in a regular ice tray. You can add these to your cat’s water bowl.

Make the Water Move

As mentioned earlier, cats don’t like still water, so the solution to this could be to make the water move. You can opt for a cat water fountain where the water will fall from a small faucet so your cat can feel comfortable drinking it.

The important thing to remember is that you have to keep the fountain clean. Using a small brush helps to clean through the spout and motor. Some parts of cat fountains are also dishwasher safe so you can simply pop those into the washer. You can also adjust the fountain’s settings when your cat is in the area to spike their interest and make them approach the fountain. Seeing the running water up close may encourage them to drink even if they weren’t going to before.

Add More Water

No, this doesn’t mean adding more water to the cat’s bowl. We’ve talked about how fussy cats are and dislike the ‘wrong’ volume of water. But you can encourage them to drink more by adding more containers.

This is particularly true if you have more than one cat. Cats can be very territorial, and many dislike sharing their space with other cats. Since sharing can leave the smell of other cats on their things, sometimes your cat may just not be drinking because she doesn’t like the smell of another cat on her bowl.

The answer is simple: add another water bowl.

Adding more containers to drink from around the house is also a good idea even if you have only one cat. You will have to experiment with different kinds of containers to find the shape and size that works. It’s best to use glass, ceramic or stainless steel since cats prefer these, but plastic is also not recommended for regular use because any scratches or imperfections can leave spaces for bacteria to slip into.

You should choose containers that are flatter and wider, particularly to keep your cat from getting whisker fatigue or if she likes to dip her paw into the water.

Change the Source

If your cat doesn’t like the water you’re giving her, you can simply change the source itself. Usually, cats will simply drink the water you do on a daily basis because if it’s good for you then it’s also good for your cat. If you use distilled water, however, you should give your cat regular bottled or tap water instead, since distilled water can reduce the pH of your cat’s urine. The acidity can result in urinary crystals or stones.


As mentioned earlier, cats don’t like busy places, so keep the water bowl in a quiet place where your cat won’t feel disturbed while she drinks. Avoid keeping the bowl near bowls that are frequently opened or closed since this can be irritating for your cat.

Use Cat Water Fountain – We recommend NPet Cat Water Fountain

The NPET cat water fountain is an excellent product for your cat. It comes with a faucet, as well as spring
surge modes that are designed to suit cats’ drinking habits. You can adjust this faucet to suit your cat’s
needs as well.

NPET Cat Water Fountain

A simple, elegant cat water fountain. We like that it has three options for how the water comes out, making it adaptable to any space. My cats also enjoy drinking from it. As if that weren't enough, it holds plenty of water, so we don't have to refill it in between cleanings. That is convenient for us!

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The fountain is round, so you can be sure your cat will not get hurt while drinking water, and is
transparent so you know when the water needs to be changed, or if the fountain needs cleaning. The
fountain has a capacity of 1.5 liters, which is suitable for cats of all ages. You can also store water for up
to a week.
There is no concern about cleanliness either since there are three layers of filters. The sponge catches
any cat hair or debris, and the ion exchange layer softens the water you put in. The activated carbon
layer can make sure the water is free from any bad smell or taste that your pet may not be fond of.

Using it is the perfect way to encourage your cat to drink and stay hydrated.

How do You Know Your Cat Isn’t Drinking Enough?

Cats are very sneaky about their health. Most times, you won’t even realize something’s wrong until things get bad, so you have to be the one who’s always on alert to make sure your cat stays healthy. This includes their litter box output, their drinking habits and general behavior.

Let’s look at some signs that your cat may be dehydrated.

Not Drinking Water

The most obvious sign that your cat is dehydrated – or at least that she’s not drinking enough, is that you don’t see her drinking water.  Especially if you’ve had your cat long enough for you to understand and be familiar with her drinking habits, you’ll easily notice if she hasn’t been drinking enough.

Pay attention to how often she stops at her water bowl, and how much of the water is gone when it’s time to refresh her bowl. Keeping an eye out can do a lot for figuring out something’s wrong before the problem escalates.

Abnormal Urination Patterns

The water your cat takes in will eventually come out as urine. If your cat hasn’t been urinating enough, this may be a sign that she is not drinking enough water. On the other hand, if your cat is urinating too much, she may be losing more water than she is taking in, and this can also result in her becoming dehydrated. In any case, if your cat’s urination is not fitting with the norm, you should get her checked out by a doctor.

Muscle Weakness

If your cat is dehydrated, she will be lacking in electrolytes like calcium, sodium or potassium. Since muscles need these electrolytes for contraction, if your cat is dehydrated, you may notice muscle weakness. In this case, get your cat to a vet immediately.


Cats don’t have sweat glands, so when the weather is too hot, they regulate their body temperature by panting. Though this is done for the purpose of keeping their bodies from overheating, panting has the risk of losing moisture through the mouth.

On top of that, since the cat’s panting is a sign that she is already hot, this can be a serious problem and you should bring her into cooler temperatures and give her fluids to drink to keep her from getting dehydrated or heat stroke.

Loose Skin

Though imperfect, this is one of the best ways to test for your cat’s hydration levels at home. If you gently pull at your cat’s skin over her shoulders, with a hydrated cat, this would return back to normal immediately. With dehydrated cats, this will happen more slowly.

However, cats’ fat levels and muscle also determine how the skin in the area acts, so this is not a surefire way of being able to recognize if your cat is dehydrated or not.

Sticky Gums

One sign of dehydration in cats is dry and sticky gums. If your cat’s gums are not pink and moist, it’s a sign that your cat is not getting enough hydration.

To check, you can gently press on your cat’s gums to see how fast they turn from white to pink. If this happens in less than two seconds, your cat is fine, but if it takes longer than 2 seconds, you should be concerned.

Lack of Energy

Cats are generally very lazy creatures, but if your cat is being lazier and sleepier than usual, it can be a cause for concern. They may be less playful, and less likely to greet you after a long day. If your cat is not behaving normally, you should get her checked out by a vet.

Loss of Appetite

If your cat isn’t eating, this is an immediate sign that something is wrong, even the concern is not dehydration. If your cat refuses to eat her food for more than 24 hours at a time, it may be time to go to the vet.

Vomiting or Diarrhea

Similar to increased urination, vomiting and diarrhea can cause your cat to get dehydrated and deplete her of the nutrients to stay healthy. In addition to dehydration, vomiting can also be a sign that your cat has other problems like gastrointestinal issues. Vomiting and diarrhea can also result in rapid weight loss.

Sunken Eyes

Dehydrated cats usually have a sullen and drowsy appearance. Her eyes may be sunken and give a dull look.

Elevated Heart Rate

Dehydration in cats can cause your cat’s heart rate to go up. You can ask your vet to teach you how to check your cat’s heart rate so you can see whether it’s higher or lower than normal.

If you believe that your cat is dehydrated, you should try and encourage her to drink more water. With mild dehydration, water taken in orally is probably enough to replenish your cat’s health, but in some severe cases, your cat may need to have fluids injected into her veins or under her skin, depending on her condition.

Most cats, up until they are 5% dehydrated, will not give any noticeable signs of dehydration.

At 10% dehydration, your cat may have some serious issues like increased heart rate, and weak limbs. At 12% dehydration, cats are in shock, and if they don’t get the treatment they need, death is also a possibility.

That’s why, by the time you start noticing any problems, your cat has already lost 5% of her body’s water, and is already in need of immediate attention.

By keeping your eyes open for signs of dehydration in cats and paying attention to your cat’s drinking habits, you can keep any major problems from developing. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, get your cat checked out immediately so she can get the treatment she needs to return to full health.