How to Hydrate A Cat That Won't Drink Water

icon June 12, 2024

Proper hydration is crucial for the health and well-being of cats, just as it is for humans and other animals. However, many cat owners face the challenge of encouraging their feline friends to drink enough water. This article explores various methods to hydrate a cat that refuses to drink water, signs of dehydration in cats, how long a house cat can go without water, the significance of dehydrated cat gums, the necessity of water for cats, and what it means if a cat doesn't drink water but eats wet food.

How to Hydrate a Cat That Won't Drink Water

Cats can be notoriously picky about their water intake. If your cat refuses to drink water, there are several strategies you can employ to ensure they stay hydrated:

1. Switch to Wet Food:
Wet cat food contains a higher water content compared to dry kibble. Incorporating more wet food into your cat's diet can significantly increase their overall water intake.

2. Water Fountains:
Many cats are attracted to running water. A cat water fountain can be more enticing than a stagnant water bowl, encouraging them to drink more.

3. Flavor the Water:
Adding a small amount of tuna juice or low-sodium chicken broth to the water can make it more appealing. Ensure these additives are safe and used in moderation.

4. Multiple Water Stations:
Place several water bowls around your home to give your cat more opportunities to drink. Some cats prefer drinking from different locations.

5. Use Different Bowls:
Cats can be particular about the type of bowl they drink from. Experiment with bowls made of different materials (ceramic, stainless steel, glass) and shapes to see which your cat prefers.

6. Add Water to Dry Food:
If your cat primarily eats dry kibble, adding a small amount of water can help increase their fluid intake. Start with a small amount and gradually increase it as your cat gets used to the change.

7. Ice Cubes:
Some cats enjoy playing with and licking ice cubes. Adding ice cubes to their water bowl or giving them ice cubes flavored with a bit of broth can encourage them to consume more water.

8. Hydration Supplements:
Products like electrolyte solutions designed for pets can be added to your cat's water to promote hydration.

Do Cats Need Water?

Yes, cats need water to survive. Water is essential for maintaining bodily functions, including digestion, circulation, and temperature regulation. While cats originally evolved in arid environments and have a lower thirst drive compared to other animals, they still require a regular intake of water to prevent dehydration and associated health issues such as urinary tract infections and kidney disease.

Signs of Dehydration in Cats

Recognizing the signs of dehydration in cats is essential for timely intervention. Here are common indicators:

1. Dry Gums:
Healthy cat gums should be moist and pink. Dehydrated gums will appear dry and tacky to the touch.

2. Skin Elasticity:
Gently pinch the skin on the back of your cat's neck. If the skin does not quickly return to its normal position, this is a sign of dehydration.

3. Sunken Eyes:
Dehydrated cats may have eyes that appear sunken or dull.

4. Lethargy:
A dehydrated cat may be unusually lethargic, displaying a lack of energy or enthusiasm for activities they typically enjoy.

5. Loss of Appetite:
Dehydration can cause a reduction in appetite, leading to further health complications.

6. Increased Heart Rate:
An elevated heart rate can be a sign of dehydration, indicating that the heart is working harder to pump blood.

How Long Can a House Cat Go Without Water?

Cats can survive for several days without water, but their health will begin to deteriorate rapidly after the first 24 hours. Generally, a cat should not go more than 48 hours without water. Beyond this period, the risk of severe dehydration and kidney damage increases significantly. Always ensure your cat has access to fresh water and seek veterinary attention if your cat refuses to drink for an extended period.

Dehydrated Cat Gums

Dehydrated gums are a critical indicator of your cat's hydration status. Here’s what you should look for:

1. Texture:
Dehydrated gums feel dry and sticky rather than smooth and moist.

2. Color:
Gums may appear pale or more deeply colored than usual.
Related: Cat Pale Gums

3. Capillary Refill Time:
Press your finger gently against your cat’s gum until it turns white. Release and see how quickly the color returns. In a well-hydrated cat, the color should return almost immediately. Delayed return of color can indicate dehydration.

Cat Doesn't Drink Water but Eats Wet Food

If a cat doesn't drink much water but consumes wet food, they may still be getting enough hydration. Wet food contains about 70-80% moisture, which can help meet their hydration needs. However, it’s still important to monitor their overall water intake and watch for signs of dehydration.

Here are some considerations:

1. Monitor Urine Output:
Ensure your cat is urinating regularly. A decrease in urine output can be a sign of dehydration.

2. Observe Behavior:
Keep an eye on your cat’s behavior for signs of dehydration, such as lethargy or dry gums.

3. Encourage Additional Water Intake:
Even if your cat eats wet food, you can still encourage them to drink more water using the methods mentioned earlier, such as water fountains or flavored water.


Hydrating a cat that won't drink water can be challenging, but with the right strategies, it is possible to ensure your cat remains healthy and hydrated. Recognizing the signs of dehydration, understanding the importance of water for cats, and employing various methods to encourage water intake are all crucial steps in maintaining your cat's well-being. Whether through dietary adjustments, environmental changes, or veterinary interventions, ensuring your cat gets enough water is essential for their overall health. By being attentive to your cat’s needs and behaviors, you can help prevent dehydration and keep your feline friend happy and healthy.

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