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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. However, this can vary based on activity level, temperature, and other environmental factors. They can obtain this through drinking and through their diet. Getting enough water ensures that your cat is able to perform routine bodily functions like circulation, digestion, and waste production. Proper water consumption also may help your cat avoid adverse issues like hairballs and bladder infections.

A cat that is not getting enough water may become dehydrated, the result of an imbalance of electrolytes and water. If staying hydrated is important for your cat’s health and happiness, then why is she avoiding the water bowl?

Is There a Reason My Cat Will Not Drink?

Your cat has specific nutritional needs, one of the most crucial being hydration. Cats do not generally drink very much to begin with, as they are accustomed to fulfilling much of their need for moisture through their diet. Cats eating a diet higher in moisture may drink less than a cat eating dry food. They also have a lower drive to remain hydrated than people do and may not drink until they have lost up to 8% of their water stores.

Unlike kibble, fresh food promotes hydration by incorporating it into your cat’s food. A fresh diet  can have a variety of positive impacts on your cat. Even if you feed your cat a fresh diet, it may feel as though your cat is not getting quite enough water. There are several reasons your cat may not be frequenting the water bowl as often as you would like.

Behavioral Quirks

Cats have particular eating and hydration habits. Your cat’s aversion to drinking may be logical, resolvable, and rooted in evolved behavior. Many cats avoid still water sources, as they are more likely to contain bacteria in the wild. A bowl of water is not a moving source and may not cater to your cat’s instinctual behavior.

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. Guests, a move, or frequent travel may disrupt your cat’s schedule and lead to a cease in drinking. Even feeding a new food can lead to refusing water. Slowing down transitions and maintaining a daily routine may keep your cat going back to the water dish.

Although having a companion can be enriching for many cats, it can also lead to one cat drinking less than the other. Your cat may prefer to avoid conflict that breeds around food and water bowls. Providing several dishes around the house may help alleviate this.

Health Problems

A significant increase in your cat’s daily water intake is a relatively well-known sign of potential illness. However, a decrease in water consumption may indicate an underlying health issue as well. Cats with dental infections, inflammation in the mouth, or gastrointestinal disease may avoid drinking water due to the discomfort it causes them.

Dehydration may pose a risk to your cat, even if they seem to be drinking normally. 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 is 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 is often not themselves. They may display more obvious symptoms, such as sunken eyes, lethargy, and panting. However, certain signs of serious water loss are not as visible or well-known. Dehydrated cats may seem depressed or experience loss of appetite, dry mouth, elevated heart rate, and 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. However, 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 to Encourage Drinking and Hydration?

A fresh diet promotes hydration by adding much needed moisture through your cat’s food or by feeding a high moisture diet (canned, fresh, etc.). There are a couple of strategies you can try to ensure your cat is seeking water from alternative sources as well.

Some cats may have a problem with their bowl or fountain. Making sure the bowl is washed daily and is always full of fresh water may entice your cat to drink. Some cats also 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.

Temperature also plays a role in your cat’s water preferences. She may prefer cooler or room temperature water; you can try putting an ice cube in her bowl or fountain.

Ultimately, the most important thing is that your cat is getting the hydration she needs to live a healthy and happy life. A fresh diet can be an excellent step in promoting hydration and overall health. 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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