Why won't my cat drink water?

It can be quite concerning for cat owners when they notice their pet has stopped drinking water. Today, our Simi Valley vets discuss what you can do for your cat if they won't drink water.

Why Your Cat Won't Drink Water

All animals need to stay hydrated to stay healthy, including both cats and people. Animals will usually drink when they are thirsty, and different animals require different amounts of water to remain hydrated. So, your cat may be getting enough water, even if they don't appear to be drinking a lot of it. 

While dogs often lap large quantities of water at once, cats are more likely to drink very small amounts in one sitting. Dogs also need much more water per kilogram of weight than cats do, meaning your cat may not require as much water as you think. 

If your cat eats dry food, it will need to consume more water than cats who consume fresh or canned food. On average, cats consume 1 ounce of water per ounce of dry food. Compare this to cats that consume wet foods and drink significantly less water because they obtain a substantial amount of hydration from their diet. 

That said, you might be right; maybe your cat isn't drinking enough water. If your cat won't eat or drink, an underlying health condition, the cleanliness of the water, or the location of the bowl could be to blame. 

Signs That Your Cat May be Dehydrated

Cats that do not drink enough water can become dehydrated very quickly. Dehydration can pose a grave risk to your cat's health. Here are some ways to determine whether your cat is dehydrated.

  • Sunken Eyes - Look into your cat's eyes. If they seem to lack focus or appear dull or sunken, dehydration may be the culprit.
  • Dry Mouth - Check your cat's gums, which should always be moist and pink. Press your finger against the gums and see if the spot you are pressing turns white. If they don't return to a healthy shade of pink within a second or two of removing your finger, your kitty may be dehydrated. 
  • Skin Elasticity - Examine your cat's skin by gently pinching the extra skin between their shoulder blades to form a tent-like shape. Once you let go your kitty's skin should snap right back to normal in less than a second. If your cat's skin doesn't snap right back, your feline friend could be dehydrated.
  • Constipation - Do a little box check. When cats are dehydrated they often become constipated. If your cat hasn't been passing as much stool, as usual, 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 is showing signs of dehydration contact your vet right away. 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 (refusal to drink for 24 hours or more qualifies as a veterinary emergency).

How to Hydrate a Cat That Won't Drink Water

If you are concerned that your cat is not drinking enough water but they do not exhibit any of the above symptoms, there are a few things you can do to increase their water intake.

  • Ensure that your cat's water bowl is not near their litter box. If it is, move it to a better spot in the room or a different room altogether.
  • 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 food.

Serious Health Conditions Linked To Dehydration in Cats

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your cat is not drinking enough water. Dehydration may indicate a serious underlying condition, such as diabetes, kidney disease, or heatstroke. Regarding the health of your cat, it is always prudent to err on the side of caution.

Are you concerned that your cat isn't drinking enough water? Contact our Simi Valley vets to make sure your kitty stays happy and healthy.