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My cat won't drink water! What should I do?

While your cat likely drinks more often than you realize, there can be situations that lead to them avoiding water, resulting in dehydration. Here, our vets in Westfield discuss the signs of dehydration in cats and what to do if your cat won't drink water.

Why won't my cat drink water?

Water intake and staying hydrated is a vital part of staying healthy. This goes for any animal. The amount of water required for each animal varies. Therefore, even if it seems as though your cat isn't drinking much water, they may still get enough. 

Dogs drink large amounts of water at once, whereas cats drink small quantities at a time. Additionally, dogs need more water per kilogram than cats, which means your cat may not need to consume as much water as you might expect. 

If your feline friend eats dry food, they will require more water than a cat that consumes fresh or canned food. Generally, cats typically drink one ounce of water for every ounce of dry food. Conversely, cats that eat wet food usually drink less water since they receive much hydration from their food. 

So when pet parents ask, 'My cat won't eat their food or drink water?' They may not be staying hydrated and are at risk of dehydration. Some reasons for your cat's lack of water intake include the location of the water bowl, underlying health issues, or the fact that they only eat dry food.

Signs of Dehydration in Cats

Insufficient water intake may quickly lead to dehydration.  Dehydration can seriously impact your cat's health. There are several ways to check whether your cat is dehydrated, including:

  • 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, watch whether your kitty's skin snaps back to normal in less than a second. If this doesn't occur, your kitty may be dehydrated. 
  • Dry Mouth: To check if your cat is dehydrated, examine its gums. Healthy gums should be pink and moist. Press your finger gently against the gums and observe whether the pressed spot turns white. If the gums take longer than one to two seconds to return to their normal color after removing your finger, it may indicate dehydration in your cat.
  • Sunken Eyes: Check your cat's eyes for signs of dehydration, such as lack of focus or sunken appearance.
  • Constipation: Check the litter box. Dehydrated cats often become constipated. If your cat hasn't passed as much stool as usual, dehydration may be blamed.
  • Panting: Unlike dogs, cats rarely pant, so if your cat is panting, it may be a sign of dehydration.

How to Hydrate a Cat That Won't Drink Water

If your cat doesn't have any concerning symptoms but you are still unsure they are drinking, you can do a few things to encourage them:

  • 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.

What are the dangers of dehydration?

Dehydration can be a sign of a severe underlying condition such as kidney disease, heatstroke, or diabetes. When keeping your cat safe and healthy, it is always best to err on the side of caution.

If your cat shows signs of dehydration, contact our vets during regular office hours or your nearest emergency animal hospital. 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.

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 hasn't been drinking, or are they showing signs of dehydration? Contact our Westfield vets right away for an examination.

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