My Cat Won't Drink Water! What Should I Do?

If you haven't seen your cat drinking water in a while and their water dish stays full, it could mean that your cat is experiencing a health issue. Today, our Columbia vets share some of the reasons why your cat won't drink water and what you can do to help.

Why Your Cat Won't Drink Water

In order to keep their body running well, your cat will need to stay hydrated. There is no magic amount of water that will keep your cat hydrated, you should trust that their instincts will lead them to drink as much as they need. So, your cat may be getting enough water, even if they don't appear to be drinking a lot of it. 

Unlike dogs, cats typically prefer to take smaller sips of water at regular intervals. Dogs also need a lot more water than cats do which makes it more noticeable that a dog is drinking compared to a cat.

Cats on a dry food (kibble) diet, typically drink more than those that eat a diet consisting of wet food. Cats typically drink about one ounce of water for every ounce of dry food. Compare this with cats that eat wet foods and drink significantly less because they receive much of their hydration from their food. 

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 of Dehydration in Cats

If a cat does not drink enough water, they can suffer from dehydration. Dehydration can lead to a number of serious health concerns if not managed quickly. Here are some of the common signs that you may see if your cat is dehydrated:

  • Sunken Eyes: You will likely be able to see the signs of dehydration in 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: Cats do not commonly pant, unlike their canine counterparts. If your feline friend is panting they may be dehydrated.

If you see any of the signs listed above, you should reach out to your primary vet or nearest emergency 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 Get Your Cat to Drink Water

If you do not see the symptoms listed above but still don't think that your cat drinks enough water each day there are a few things you can try:

  • 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.

Preventing Health Concerns

If your cat isn't eating or drinking you should contact your vet right away. Dehydration can be an indication of a serious underlying condition such as kidney disease, heatstroke, or diabetes. When it comes to your cat's health it is always best to err on the side of caution.

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.

Is your cat avoiding the water dish? Contact our Columbia vets to schedule an exam to make sure that all is well with your furry friend.