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Learn : Cat Nutrition & Training

Why Is My Cat Avoiding Drinking Water?

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cat drinking water

Doctors often emphasize the importance of drinking enough water, so you may have guessed that your cat has crucial hydration needs, too. Cats generally need a minimum of 4 ounces of water a day per 5 pounds of body weight, though there are plenty of explanations for why your cat might be falling short of that.

Why won’t my cat drink?

They’re getting enough water from their food

Cats don’t usually drink very much to begin with, as they get much of their need for moisture in their diet. Unlike kibble, fresh food promotes hydration by incorporating it into your cat’s food, so if you just made the switch to fresh food, their H2O intake may increase.

Behavioral quirks

Cats have particular eating and hydration habits. Many cats have evolved to avoid still water sources, as they’re more likely to contain bacteria in the wild. 

They may also be drinking elsewhere, especially if they find a moving water source. Your cat may be drinking from a dripping faucet or licking the bathtub. If they have access to the great outdoors, they may have found a water source away from home.

Cats also prefer routine and a change in their daily life may lead to a sort of hunger or thirst strike (think: house guests, a move or frequent travel). Even a new type of food can lead to refusing water. Try slowing down transitions and maintaining a daily routine to help. 

Your cat may also drink less with another feline friend in the home. Providing several dishes around the house may help alleviate avoidance due to conflict near the food and water bowls.

Health problems

Cats with dental infections, inflammation in the mouth or gastrointestinal disease may avoid drinking water due to the discomfort it causes them. Cats with underlying health issues may be more likely to become dehydrated, especially those with kidney issues, hyperthyroidism, some cancers and diabetes. Hot weather, high activity, vomiting and diarrhea can deplete a cat’s water stores quickly, so it’s important to understand what dehydration means for your pet and what it looks like.

How can I tell if my cat is dehydrated?

A dehydrated cat may display symptoms such as sunken eyes, lethargy, panting, loss of appetite, dry mouth, elevated heart rate or increased skin elasticity.

Checking your cat’s skin elasticity is a reliable method for gauging whether or not your cat is hydrated. Simply lift the skin near or between their shoulder blades. If it falls back quickly, your cat is well-hydrated. If it takes a few seconds to return to normal, you may want to explore factors that could be contributing to your cat’s low water stores.

What can I do?

Implement a fresh diet

Fresh food has more water in it so your cat will get more moisture naturally than with dry kibble.

Inspect their bowl

Make sure your cat’s bowl is regularly cleaned with fresh water. Some cats prefer their water and food dishes in separate areas.

If your cat still turns her nose up at the bowl, you may want to try a bowl that uses a different material, as this can change the taste of the water. A pet drinking fountain is another great way to encourage your cat to drink, as cats are drawn to running water sources.

Check their water temperature

Your cat may prefer cooler or room temperature water; you can try putting an ice cube in her bowl or fountain.

If you notice signs of dehydration or your cat does not eat or drink for more than 48 hours, a visit to your veterinarian may be recommended.

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