Dehydration can be Deadly for Cats

How Much Water Does A Cat Need to Drink?

There is no set answer to this question. Like all living creatures water is essential to maintain vital bodily functions in cats. Cats can suffer from dehydration resulting in kidney problems if they do not drink enough water. An adequate intake of water is necessary to flush out toxins from the kidneys. Cats can also suffer from health problems if they drink too much water, and may develop a condition called polydipsia. In general cats usually consume about a cup of water a day. This will increase if they live on a diet of dried food. If your cat significantly increases the amount of water it drinks you should consult a vet for further investigations especially if the cat has also lost weight recently.

Cats originated as desert animals obtaining most of their water supply from their prey – small rodents and the like. While modern versions of cat food do offer some degree of hydration, the comparison is far from fair.

Since cats received so much water from their prey in the past, they never took to drinking enough water by itself. This leaves the modern house cat open to a serious risk of dehydration and other health issues, caused by the lack of water necessary for their systems to function as they should.

The Importance of Hydration

Feline dehydration can be caused by many different factors from lack of available drinking water to illness. It’s extremely important to ensure a cat doesn’t become dehydrated, especially for those felines afflicted by diabetes or renal failure, as those two illnesses in particular cause increased urination which in turn causes increased risk for dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration are constipation, lethargy, dry mouth, sunken eyes, increased heart rate, poor skin elasticity, and poor capillary refill time. There are two tests an owner can perform to check for skin elasticity and capillary refill.

To check skin elasticity, grasp some skin at the base of the neck and then release. If the skin does not spring back immediately, the feline is in a state of dehydration.

To check capillary refill time, press a finger against the cats gum. Once the finger is removed, a white spot will be present. Time how long it takes for the white spot to turn pink again. It should only take one to two seconds. If it takes longer than that, the cat is dehydrated.

Enough cannot be said about ensuring a feline remains hydrated. A cat stuck inside a home or apartment 24/7 without water to drink that they enjoy, can easily lead to a state of dehydration.

It’s extremely important to monitor a cat’s rate of water consumption and, if low, take measures to improve that rate. Dehydration can greatly shorten a feline’s life, but it’s normally a very preventable problem that only takes a little observation and trial and error to correct.

Water consumption is linked to diet. In the wild the cat would eat prey containing 70% water content. Dried cat food contains only 10% water whilst tinned or pouched food contains around 80% water. It is therefore obvious that a cat fed on a diet of dried food will need to consume more water than one fed on tinned food. To check the levels of hydration pinch a small amount of skin on the back of your cat’s neck. If it springs back easily your cat is adequately hydrated. This is similar to testing your own hydration level by squeezing the skin on the back of your hand.

It is commonly thought that cats hate water but this is not true. They do not like to be immersed in water but most are fascinated by running water and they would prefer to drink running water rather than drink from a bowl. Many cats like to play with water, splashing it with their paws. It is thought they prefer running water as this most closely simulates how they would drink in the wild from running streams, which they would perceive as being safer than stagnant water.

Cats have very sensitive paw pads which they use to test the temperature of running water. Provide your cat with fresh water several times a day if you can. Also try to locate the water away from the food source as research shows that cats prefer to drink water away from their food source.

Are you worried that your cat may not be drinking enough?  To entice a cat to drink more water takes a little trial and error, but once the magical combination is found, a cat owner should have no problem with their cat remaining hydrated.

7 tips to encourage your furry friend to drink up!

1. Water Type
Many people think water is water, but this is not entirely true. There are various types of water from tap water to distilled to mineral. Each cat will have their own preference. Try putting out several bowls of different types of water and see which one they prefer, but make sure all the bowls are identical, as this can be a factor as well in whether or not a cat will drink. Frequently changing their water is crucial to keeping your cat hydrated, since they prefer newer, fresh water over stagnant old water.

2. Bowls
The type of bowl makes a huge difference. Stainless steel or ceramic will have the highest rate of success. Plastic is a porous material and tends to soak up odor. While a human may not be able to smell it, a cat will and may not want to drink it thinking the water is tainted. One must remember that cats are generally very picky about cleanliness.

Tip: A bowl for each. Like people, cats don’t all enjoy drinking out of the same cup. Always provide a separate water bowl for every pet in your household. If you have a home with two or more levels, consider putting a bowl on each so your cats remember to drink more often.

The drinking bowl or container should be wide enough to fit their whole face (including whiskers) to accommodate for their interesting need to see their surroundings while drinking.

3. Cleanliness
Water bowls should be cleaned with hot soapy water on a daily basis. Nobody likes to drink out of a dirty glass. It’s logical to believe a cat does not enjoy it either.

4. Placement
Cats also have a preference of where they want their water placed. Try placing several bowls throughout the house and see which ones show signs of having been used.

5. Multiple Cats
Having multiple cats in the home means having multiple food bowls, but it also means having multiple water bowls as well. Smelling another cat around their water bowl can deter the desire to drink water. Nobody likes drinking after another human being and cats do not like drinking after another cat either.

6. Food Additive
Until a cat owner is able to find the best way to encourage their cat to drink water, it may be necessary to use it as a food additive to ensure the cat stays hydrated. Water can be added to either dry or wet food. A bowl of water may also be “flavored” by adding chicken broth or some tuna juice. Normally a cat that will not drink water will go after a bowl of watered down broth.

7. Drinking Fountain – Running Water

The benefits of a cat drinking fountain are numerous. Not only do they store a massive amount of water, but this water is continually circulated through a filter and purifier and aerated to keep its fresh, bubbly texture and sound.

Like most pet items, cat water fountains come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from single cat use to having multiple cats drink in tandem from the fountain. The water always taste’s fresh, since the filter system removes any impurities and the stagnant taste via a charcoal filter.

Some models rotate the water in a circular fashion like a river, while others provide free-falling waterfall effects to amuse and enrich. Some models go so far as to provide areas for food or plant growth. Most every cat water fountain is extremely faint to the ear, so noise shouldn’t ever be an issue. Pet fountains are available in a variety of sizes and can hold up to 5 litres of constantly running water which is typically kept clean and fresh by a charcoal filter.

As noted above, cats hate to share a water bowl with another animal but any number of cats are happy to share one drinking fountain. 

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* Product Pick

We recently had the opportunity to try out 2 different drinking fountains from Thirsty Cat Fountains.  We were so impressed that we included them as one of our top picks in our recent post on best Valentine’s Day gifts for cat lovers.


We found them to be of exceptionally high quality and unlike many commercial brands, these fountains are stylish and unique art pieces that match the decor of your home. Our cats love them and they are easy to clean and perform flawlessly.

The Thirsty Cat Fountains team are based out of Cambridge, NY and they carefully make each fountain by hand from start to finish, one at a time, one of a kind. They ensure the highest standards of quality and it shows – evident in the careful packaging when our units arrived.

The Thirsty Cat Fountains team put together a very informative article called CAT WATER FOUNTAIN WATER SOUNDS

If you’re thinking about getting a cat water fountain (we recommend this option as the best quality water source for cats) – please check out Thirsty Cat Fountains. Their selection is impressive.

Here’s a good summary on Cat Water Fountain Reviews


The infographic below (from PetCo) has some additional and very interesting Cat Hydration Facts.

Have you ever had an issue with dehydration in your cat(s)? Please drop us a comment in the “Leave a Reply” box below.



  1. Aleut February 27, 2017
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  3. Linda June 7, 2017
    • danni April 7, 2018

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