Cat Dehydration Symptoms

icon May 24, 2024

Cats, like all animals, require adequate hydration for their overall health and well-being. Dehydration in cats can lead to severe health issues if not promptly recognized and addressed. This article delves into the symptoms of cat dehydration, discusses scenarios where a cat might not drink water but eats wet food, explores whether you can or should force a cat to drink water, and provides practical tips on how to encourage water consumption. Additionally, we will cover the daily water intake requirements for cats and home treatment options for a dehydrated feline.

Cat Dehydration Symptoms

Dehydration occurs when a cat loses more fluids than it consumes. This imbalance affects the body's ability to perform essential functions. Recognizing the signs of dehydration in cats is crucial for timely intervention. Common symptoms include:

1. Dry Mouth and Gums:
One of the early signs of dehydration is dry and sticky gums. Normally, a cat's gums should be moist and slippery.

2. Skin Elasticity:
A quick test for dehydration is the skin turgor test. Gently pinch the skin between the cat's shoulders and then release it. In a well-hydrated cat, the skin will quickly snap back to its original position. If the skin takes time to return or remains tented, it indicates dehydration.

3. Sunken Eyes:
Dehydration can cause a cat's eyes to appear sunken and lack the usual brightness.

4. Lethargy and Weakness:
A dehydrated cat will often exhibit reduced energy levels, appearing unusually lethargic or weak.

5. Loss of Appetite:
Dehydration can lead to a diminished interest in food.

6. Increased Heart Rate and Panting:
These can be signs of severe dehydration and require immediate veterinary attention.

7. Constipation:
Dehydration often results in dry, hard stools due to insufficient moisture in the digestive system.

8. Thick Saliva:
If a cat's saliva appears thick and ropey, it may be a sign of dehydration.

Cat Doesn’t Drink Water but Eats Wet Food

It's not uncommon for some cats to exhibit a preference for wet food while seemingly ignoring their water bowl. Wet food contains a high percentage of moisture—typically around 70-80%—which significantly contributes to a cat's daily fluid intake. In contrast, dry kibble contains only about 10% moisture. Therefore, a cat consuming wet food may meet a large portion of its hydration needs from its diet.

However, it's essential to monitor the overall water intake to ensure it meets the cat's physiological needs. Even if your cat eats wet food, you should still encourage them to drink water to prevent any potential dehydration, especially in warmer climates or if the cat is very active.
Related: Do Cats Need Wet Food

Can I Force My Cat to Drink Water?

Forcing a cat to drink water is generally not recommended. Cats are naturally resistant to coercion, and trying to force them to drink can lead to stress and further aversion to water. Instead, creating an environment that encourages voluntary drinking is more effective and less stressful for both the cat and the owner.

How to Encourage a Cat to Drink Water?

Encouraging a cat to drink more water can be achieved through several strategies that make water more appealing and accessible:

1. Multiple Water Stations:
Place several water bowls around the house. Cats are more likely to drink if water is readily accessible.

2. Fresh Water:
Ensure that water bowls are cleaned daily and filled with fresh water. Some cats are very particular about the cleanliness of their water.

3. Water Fountains:
Many cats prefer running water to still water. Investing in a cat water fountain can stimulate their interest in drinking.

4. Flavored Water:
Adding a bit of flavor, such as tuna juice or low-sodium chicken broth, can make water more enticing.

5. Ice Cubes:
Adding ice cubes to the water bowl can attract a cat’s curiosity and encourage them to drink as they play with the cubes.

6. Wide, Shallow Bowls:
Some cats prefer drinking from wide, shallow bowls that don't touch their whiskers.

7. Wet Food:
Continue providing wet food as part of their diet to ensure they receive adequate moisture from their meals.

How Much Water Should a Cat Drink Per Day?

The amount of water a cat should drink daily varies based on factors such as age, size, diet, and health. On average, a cat should consume about 3.5 to 4.5 ounces (about 100-130 milliliters) of water per 5 pounds (2.27 kg) of body weight each day. This includes both the water they drink and the moisture content of their food.

For example, if your cat weighs 10 pounds, it should drink approximately 7 to 9 ounces (210-270 milliliters) of water per day. If the cat eats wet food, which provides a significant amount of water, it might drink less from the water bowl but still meet its hydration needs.
Also Read: How Long Can A Cat Go Without Water


Will A Dehydrated Cat Urinate? 

A dehydrated cat will urinate less frequently and produce smaller amounts of urine. Severe dehydration can lead to little to no urination as the body conserves water. Monitoring urination habits is crucial for assessing hydration status.

Can Cats Recover from Dehydration on Their Own?

Mildly dehydrated cats might recover on their own with increased water intake. However, severe dehydration requires veterinary intervention for fluids and treatment. Always monitor and encourage hydration, and consult a vet if dehydration signs persist.


Hydration is critical for a cat's health, impacting everything from kidney function to skin elasticity. Recognizing the symptoms of dehydration and understanding the ways to encourage adequate water intake are essential for any cat owner. While cats on wet food diets may get a significant portion of their fluids from their food, ensuring they drink water remains crucial. By providing fresh water, using water fountains, and incorporating wet food, owners can help maintain their cats' hydration levels. In cases of severe dehydration, immediate veterinary intervention is necessary to restore proper hydration and health.

Leave A Comment
All comments are moderated before being published.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Join The Puainta

Become one of pet parents and get professional tips, immediate product info, updated promotions and discounts, and more surprises from us!