Dehydration in Cats – Signs & Symptoms

Dehydration in Cats

Contributor: Dr. Emily Broome, Veterinarian

I Think My Cat Might be Dehydrated!

If you’re the pet parent of a cat you’ll already know the joy they bring to your household. As with any pet though, there are also some challenges. From fur balls to urinary tract infections, your cat’s health can provide obstacles you may have never considered. PETstock VET’s Emily Broome explains that a common issue for cat owners is cat dehydration. Thankfully, there are easy steps you can implement at home to ensure your feline family member is drinking enough water each day.

How Much Water Should Your Cat Drink?

If your cat is of average health and weight, they should be drinking around 60ml of water per kilo, per day. So, if your cat weighs four kilos, their daily water intake should be 240ml.

This amount can vary depending on your cat’s diet. If your buddy enjoys a mixture of dry and wet food, they are actually gaining a portion of their water intake from their wet food, so they may drink less throughout the day. Similarly, cats who eat a dry only diet will need to drink more in order to stay hydrated.

Signs of Dehydration in Cats

As long as your cat is healthy and always has access to fresh, clean drinking water, the chances they will suffer from dehydration will be slim.

Two major causes of dehydration in cats is continual vomiting or diarrhoea. If you cat is experiencing these signs, they’ll be losing valuable fluids and you’ll need to consult with your Vet immediately to determine potential causes and treatment.

Less common causes of dehydration include:

  • Trauma
  • Heatstroke
  • Diabetes: increased urination
  • Kidney failure: increased urination
  • If your cat is very young or very old and has existing illnesses

Testing If Your Cat is Dehydrated

You might be wondering; how do I know if my cat is dehydrated? It’s actually quite simple to test. Pinch your cat’s skin around his shoulders. Pull it up gently and let go, while paying close attention:

  • Skin immediately falls back into place = cat is adequately hydrated
  • Skin takes a while longer to fall back into place = cat is dehydrated

A dehydrated cat will also have dry and tacky gums as well as sunken eyes. Your buddy may become listless, depressed and refuse to eat anything.

What To Do If You Believe Your Cat is Dehydrated

If you believe your cat may be dehydrated, seek veterinary care immediately. Once your cat is showing signs of dehydration, drinking water will not be enough for your feline family member to fully recover. Most likely, your Vet will:

  • Give your cat a full check over
  • Recommend running a blood test to identify the cause of dehydration
  • Admit your cat to hospital, maybe overnight
  • Administer intravenous fluids to quickly and effectively rehydrate your cat
  • Administer treatment for the underlying cause of dehydration

Preventing Dehydration in Cats

Pet parents can take simple steps to help prevent their cat from becoming dehydrated:

  1. Make sure your cat has access to plenty of fresh, clean drinking water at all times
  2. If your cat enjoys spending time outdoors, ensure their water bowl is kept out of direct sunlight, to avoid it heating up or evaporating
  3. If you have more than one cat in your household, provide them each with their own water bowl in different areas of the house

Adding wet food to your cat’s dry diet may also help prevent dehydration. Wet cat food has a much higher water content than dry food, and will account for some of your cat’s daily intake. Just keep in mind that a wet-food only diet can have detrimental effects on your cat’s dental health and so it’s best fed with a mixture of dry food.

Reasons Why Cats May Not Drink Enough Water

  • Many cats will not drink out of a water bowl if it is placed next to their food bowl
    This is because of their natural, wild instincts. Cats in the wild never drink the water near freshly killed prey as it could be contaminated. Even though your cat is very much domesticated, their natural instincts may still influence their decision-making. Try moving your buddy’s water bowl away from their food to entice drinking.

  • Cats in the wild tend to drink only from running water
    You might have noticed your cat likes to drink from the shower or kitchen tap. If your cat prefers running water over drinking from a bowl, it’s worth considering investing in a water fountain, available from your local PETstock store.

  • Your cat may dislike their water bowl
    Some cats prefer different textures over others; some like to drink from plastic bowls, while others prefer ceramic or metal. Additionally, some cats dislike the feeling of their whiskers touching water, so you might need to provide a wide and shallow bowl to combat this (check out the Torus bowl, which has been specifically designed as a low / wide bowl!). If you’re concerned your cat is not drinking enough, try changing their bowl to see if this makes a difference.

  • Their water needs to be kept cool
    Ensure your cat’s water is cool and enticing to drink. Placing their water bowl in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight and heat, will encourage them to drink. Adding a few ice cubes to their bowl on hot days may also help.

Remember: Most cats will refuse to drink dirty water, so it’s important their water bowl is freshened up daily.

Determining if your cat is drinking enough water every day can be difficult. However by following the above steps and seeking veterinary advice when necessary, pet parents can be comfortable knowing their cat will have the best chances of staying hydrated and happy.

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