Unlike dogs, it’s rare to observe cats enthusiastically lapping up water. Cats’ more conservative approach to hydration can leave pet parents concerned about their intake, especially when water bowls seem untouched for lengthy periods.
If your cat is a picky drinker, several simple strategies can encourage better water intake and ward off the dangerous effects of chronic dehydration.
Water goals aren’t just for humans. In general, cats should be expected to drink about 4 ounces of water each day per 5 pounds of body weight. This is only a guideline, however, and factors like your cat’s activity level and the outside temperature can impact their daily needs by a few ounces.
It’s important to get an idea of your cat’s normal water intake so it’s more apparent if they start drinking significantly less or more than they typically do. While dehydration can lead to several serious health problems, sudden increased thirst is a classic early symptom of feline diabetes.
If you suspect that your cat isn’t getting enough to drink, their body will tell the story. Here are a few indicators that your feline friend is in distress.
Well-hydrated cats have good skin elasticity. If you’re concerned about water intake, perform the skin tenting test: while petting your cat, gently lift the scruff between their neck and shoulder blades between your thumb and index finger.
Ideally, the skin will snap back into place almost immediately. If the fold you created takes a while to sink, your cat is likely dehydrated.
A healthy cat’s gums are pink and moist. Over time, dehydration will cause gums to become pale and almost tacky to the touch. Sticky-feeling gums and thick, ropey saliva are a warning that your cat’s water intake is lacking.
Water is essential for good digestion, so many of the symptoms of dehydration play out in the litter box. Watch out for small, hard stools; infrequent or low-volume urination; and abnormally concentrated urine.
Though their body size makes their daily water requirements pretty small compared to dogs and humans, cats still require sufficient hydration to maintain healthy skin and organ systems.
Chronic dehydration can lead to serious issues, including:
Because most cats have a naturally lower thirst drive, better hydration habits are best accomplished on their terms. Here are a few ways to coax your feline friend into upping their daily water intake.
Sometimes a refusal to drink is due to a cat’s dislike of their water bowl. Some cats prefer to drink from a fountain-style dish, while others are wary of moving water. Many cats have a strong preference for metal or glass dishes over plastic ones, and some refuse to drink from a container with edges that bump their whiskers.
Offer your cat some options and take note of what they like and what they avoid.
Cats are notoriously clean creatures. If their water bowl is filmy, full of food debris, or positioned too close to their litter box, they are likely to avoid it altogether.
Clean your cat’s bowl daily and experiment with placement until you find an arrangement that works for both of you.
Not all hydration has to come from water! Adding wet food and broth to your cat’s diet is a tasty way to supplement their intake. Even the fussiest drinkers are usually beside themselves with excitement when the cans or pouches come out.