Cats need to drink water regularly throughout the day to stay hydrated. But how much and how often should cats be drinking? Here are some quick answers before we dive into the details:
- On average, a healthy cat should drink around 1 oz of water per pound of body weight per day.
- Kittens need more frequent access to fresh water since they are growing and more active.
- Adult cats should have constant access to clean, fresh water bowls throughout the day.
- Cats who eat wet food may drink less than cats on an all dry food diet.
- Factors like age, health, diet, and activity level impact how much water a cat needs.
- Watch for signs of dehydration like lethargy, dry gums, sunken eyes or skin.
- Water intake may increase in hot weather, for nursing mothers, or with illness.
- Water bowls should be washed and refilled at least once per day.
- Fountains, flavored waters and multiple water stations can encourage drinking.
Ensuring cats are drinking adequate amounts of water is important for their health. Dehydration can quickly become dangerous for cats, so monitoring their water intake and providing plenty of fresh, clean water sources is essential.
How much should a cat drink?
The average cat needs to drink around 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. So a 10 pound cat would need approximately 10 ounces (about 1 1/4 cups) of water daily. Kittens, nursing cats, and those eating only dry food may need even more.
However, water needs can vary based on factors like:
- Age: Kittens need more water than adult cats since they are growing and more active.
- Diet: Cats eating only dry food require more water than cats eating wet food. Dry food is around 10% water, while canned food can be around 78% water.
- Activity level: More active cats and those spending time outdoors need increased hydration.
- Health: Ill cats, or those with diabetes, kidney disease or other conditions may drink and urinate more.
- Weather: Cats drink more water in hot weather to stay cool.
- Nursing: Nursing mother cats need extra fluids to produce milk.
The best way to ensure your cat is drinking enough is to monitor their water intake and health. Watch for signs of dehydration like lethargy, dry gums, sunken eyes or stretched skin. Increased thirst may also indicate an underlying health issue needing veterinary attention.
How often should I provide water?
Adult cats should have constant access to fresh, clean drinking water throughout the day. The water dish should be refilled at least once daily, or whenever the water level gets low. For some cats, twice daily refills may be necessary.
Kittens under 6 months may need water more frequently than adult cats. Check the water level often and refill when it gets low. Nursing mother cats also require frequent water access. Place multiple bowls around your home so water is always available.
Do not restrict water from healthy cats. Allow them to drink freely throughout the day. Limiting water intake can lead to dehydration, urinary tract problems and kidney issues.
Tips for encouraging cats to drink
To promote water intake for your cat:
- Provide fresh, filtered water in clean bowls. Change water daily.
- Place bowls in multiple locations around your home for easy access.
- Use water fountains to provide flowing water. Cats often prefer moving water.
- Add extra bowls near food, in the bathroom or near other drinking humans.
- Flavored waters or cat “broths” can encourage drinking, but should not fully replace plain water.
- Use wide, shallow bowls rather than narrow, deep bowls.
- Keep water away from food bowls to prevent food debris contamination.
- Tap water from different sources if cat refuses to drink from one tap.
- Consider dental or health issues making it difficult to drink.
Try different styles of bowls and locations to see where your cat prefers to drink. Supply plenty of fresh water sources to ensure your cat stays well hydrated.
Signs of dehydration in cats
Watch for these signs that may indicate dehydration in your cat:
- Lethargy, dizziness or disorientation
- Dry or sticky gums
- Sunken eyes
- Skin tenting – when skin is pulled up, it stays there
- Fast heartbeat
- Weakness or muscle tremors
- Increased thirst or changes in drinking habits
- Decreased urine output
- Dry nose and mouth
- Weak appetite or loss of appetite
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Dehydration can happen fast in cats and lead to kidney failure or death if left untreated. Seek veterinary help immediately if you suspect your cat is dehydrated.
Is it bad if my cat doesn’t drink much water?
It can be. Some cats get sufficient fluids from wet food and may not drink much additional water. But decreased water intake coupled with signs like dry gums or lethargy indicates potentially dangerous dehydration requiring veterinary attention.
How do I get my cat to drink more water?
Using water fountains, adding extra bowls around your home, or providing flavored waters can encourage cats to drink more. Also be sure to feed wet food. Canned food has a high moisture content, so cats eat less of it than dry food and have a lower overall water requirement.
When should I take my cat to the vet for not drinking water?
Contact your vet if your normally hydrated cat stops drinking or shows signs of dehydration like lethargy or dry gums. Sudden changes in water intake could signal an underlying medical issue in need of treatment.
Can cats drink too much water?
Increased thirst, called polydipsia, can signify diabetes, kidney disease or hyperthyroidism in cats. Excessive drinking beyond the normal range needed for hydration warrants a veterinary visit to check for underlying issues.
Do cats need to drink water if eating wet food?
Yes, even cats on an all wet food diet need fresh water available at all times. Canned cat food contains moisture, but not enough to sufficiently meet all of a cat’s hydration needs. Water should complement wet food diets.
The importance of water for cats
Water might seem like a basic necessity, but it plays a vital role in feline health. Here’s why adequate hydration matters for cats:
- Prevents dehydration – Dehydration happens fast in cats and can be fatal. Drinking enough water prevents dangerous electrolyte imbalances.
- Supports kidney function – Well-hydrated cats have reduced risk of kidney disease and issues.
- Aids digestion – Water helps move food through the digestive tract and prevents constipation.
- Maintains normal blood pressure – Dehydration increases the risk of hypertension in cats.
- Regulates body temperature – Water helps cats maintain a healthy temperature and prevents overheating.
- Keeps mucous membranes moist – Adequate water keeps a cat’s gums, nose and eyes hydrated.
- Flushes waste from the body – Water supports the urinary system and removes toxins through urine.
By ensuring your cat has constant access to fresh drinking water, you can support every aspect of their health from digestion to kidney function. Water is just as much a nutrient as vitamins, minerals and protein when it comes to your cat’s needs.
Transitioning kittens to drinking water
Kittens begin drinking their mother’s milk shortly after birth, receiving hydration and nutrients. But when do kittens start drinking water? Here’s what to know:
- Kittens can lap up small amounts of water around 3-4 weeks old while nursing.
- Weaning kittens should have access to shallow bowls of water, but may not drink much initially.
- By 6-7 weeks old, kittens will readily drink water to complement solid foods.
- Keep fresh water easily accessible so kittens learn to drink regularly.
- Monitor water intake for orphaned kittens without a nursing mother cat.
Kittens receive the hydration they need from nursing, so their water needs gradually increase with weaning. Let kittens explore shallow water bowls and they will discover drinking on their own as solid foods replace milk.
Keeping your cat hydrated outdoors
Outdoor cats need access to clean, fresh water just like indoor cats. Here are some tips for keeping your outdoor cat hydrated:
- Provide multiple outdoor water stations, dumped and refreshed daily.
- Place bowls in shaded areas to prevent overheating of water.
- Monitor community water bowls for contamination from other animals.
- Use bowls that attach to fences or stakes to prevent spilling.
- In very hot climates, consider an outdoor cat fountain for added freshness.
- Supply clean, cool water after returning from time away like camping.
- Bring cats indoors during extreme weather to access water safely.
Monitor your outdoor cat’s hydration by checking their gums, eyes and energy levels. Support their water intake by providing fresh, clean water sources in shaded, protected areas they can access any time.
Water intake for older cats
Senior cats have some unique hydration considerations:
- Kidney function may decline with age, increasing water needs.
- Constipation is more common in older cats, making adequate hydration important.
- Older cats may drink less due to dental pain or difficulty swallowing.
- Energy levels decrease, so they may not seek water as readily.
- Water intake should be monitored closely and increased if needed.
- Easy access to water bowls and cat fountains can encourage drinking.
Watch senior cats closely for signs of dehydration like lethargy or dry gums, and contact your vet if noted. Support kidney health by ensuring adequate water intake for aging cats.
Common water related health issues for cats
Water intake and hydration levels impact cat health. Here are some common feline health conditions related to water balance:
When a cat loses more fluid than they take in. Dehydration happens rapidly in cats. It requires immediate veterinary treatment to restore fluid levels.
Urinary tract infections
Bacterial infections of the urinary tract or bladder. Increased drinking and urination are common symptoms. Treated with antibiotics and increased hydration.
Damage to the kidneys impacting their ability to concentrate urine and regulate hydration. Increased drinking and urination occur in attempt to compensate.
Excess glucose in the blood leads to increased thirst and urination. Additional water intake is needed to prevent dehydration.
Overactive thyroid gland leads to increased metabolism. Cats drink more water due to increased thirst and to help cool the body.
Any sudden changes in water intake or bathroom habits in your cat warrant a discussion with your veterinarian to check for underlying issues requiring treatment.
Monitoring water intake and providing cats with constant access to fresh drinking water is a key part of caring for your cat’s health. While needs vary, most adult cats should drink around an ounce per pound of body weight daily. Various factors like age, diet, activity and health impact hydration needs.
Watch for signs of dehydration in your cat like lethargy or dry gums. Provide multiple water bowls kept filled with cool, fresh water. Water fountains, added bowls and flavored waters can entice picky cats to drink up. Adequate hydration supports all aspects of feline health.