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My cat won't drink water, what should I do?

As a cat owner, it's natural to be concerned if your furry friend isn't drinking enough water. Proper hydration is essential for your cat's health, and noticing that your cat won't drink water can be alarming. In this blog post, we'll discuss how much water a cat should drink, why it is reluctant to drink, what steps it can take to encourage hydration, and when it's time to consult the vet.

How much water should a cat drink?

Cats typically need about 3.5 to 4.5 ounces of water per 5 pounds of body weight daily. This can vary based on diet, activity level, and overall health. Cats that eat wet food receive more moisture from their diet, while those on dry food require more water intake from drinking.

Why won't my cat drink water?

To remain healthy, all animals need to stay hydrated. Animals typically drink when thirsty, and different animals require varying amounts of water to stay hydrated. Therefore, even if your cat isn't drinking much, they might still get enough water.

While dogs tend to drink large quantities of water at once, cats are more likely to drink small amounts at a time. Dogs also need more water per kilogram than cats, so your cat may not need to drink as much water as expected.

If your cat is on a dry food diet, they will need more water than a cat that eats fresh or canned foods. Usually, cats consuming dry food will drink about one ounce of water for each ounce of dry food. On the other hand, cats that eat wet foods will drink less water since they get a lot of hydration from their food.

However, it's important to consider that your cat might not drink enough water. The location of the water bowl, an underlying health condition, or the cleanliness of the water could be potential reasons for your cat's decreased water intake.

Signs That Your Cat May Be Dehydrated

Dehydration can seriously threaten your cat's health. Cats that don't drink enough water may quickly become dehydrated. There are a few ways to check whether your cat may be 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, wait for your kitty's skin to return to normal in less than a second. If this doesn't occur, your kitty may be dehydrated. 
  • Dry Mouth - Look at your cat's gums - are they pink and moist? Press your finger against your cat's gums and check whether the pressed spot turns white. If they don't return to a healthy pink color within one to two seconds of removing your finger, your cat may be dehydrated. 
  • Sunken Eyes -Look into your cat's eyes. Do they seem to lack focus or appear dull or sunken? This may point to dehydration. 
  • Constipation - Do a litter box check. Dehydrated cats often become constipated. If your cat hasn't passed as much stool as it usually does, dehydration may be to blame.
  • Panting - Unlike dogs, cats don't often pant. If your feline friend is panting, they may be dehydrated.

If your cat shows signs of dehydration, contact your vet immediately. 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.

How to Hydrate a Cat That Won't Drink Water

If you are concerned that your cat isn't drinking enough water but is not showing any of the symptoms above, you can try a few things to increase its water consumption.

  • Ensure that your cat's water bowl is not near their litter box. Move it to a better spot or a different room altogether if it is.
  • 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.

When to Visit the Vet

If your cat has not eaten or drank for more than 24 hours, seeking veterinary attention is crucial. Dehydration can lead to severe health issues, and persistent refusal to drink water may indicate underlying medical conditions. Signs of dehydration include lethargy, sunken eyes, dry gums, and decreased skin elasticity.

Ensuring your cat stays hydrated is vital for their overall health. Understanding how much water your cat needs, recognizing their reluctance to drink, and trying various methods to encourage hydration can help keep your feline friend healthy and happy. If your efforts don’t succeed and your cat continues to avoid drinking water, don't hesitate to consult your vet to rule out any serious health issues.

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.

Are you concerned that your cat isn't drinking enough water? Contact our New York vets immediately to schedule an examination.

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