Cats cannot survive long without drinking water.
While most mammals survive without food for prolonged periods of time they almost always need a generous daily dose of water.
Like humans, cats only survive for 3 days without water. Please don’t test this at home. My cats barely drink water as is (or, at least they don’t drink when I’m looking).
So… always make sure your cat has access to plenty of water! Especially if you’re leaving home for any significant amount of time.
How much water do cats need?
The rule of thumb is cats need water whenever they’re thirsty. Obvious, right? (The same applies to you by the way.)
There are some guidelines to follow to determine how much water your cat in particular should be cautiously lapping up.
- The bigger the cat, the more water they’ll need.
- If you feed your cats dry food then your cats will need more water. Dry food dries them out—sorry for the pun, it was too easy.
- Wet food contains a far larger percentage of water so they may need to drink less if you primarily feed them wet.
- If your kitty is sleeping all the time and barely moves they may not be getting enough water. Make sure their bowl is filled to the brim, or at least close!
- If your cat is urinating regularly that’s a healthy sign that they’re hydrated.
You’ll know your cat is well hydrated if they’re bouncing around, rubbing against all the things, and their fur is free of dandruff.
How can I tell if my cat is dehydrated?
Let’s say your cat doesn’t have access to enough water. Maybe they spilled over the water bowl while scurrying around the apartment while you’re not home.
Well, then you need to know what signs to look out for in case your cat is dehydrated.
The main sign of cat-dehydration is skin tenting. Pinch the skin just above your cats shoulder. Release and the skin should snap right back into place like a rubber-band.
Whereas, if your cat is dehydrated the skill will slowly move back into place. The more dehydrated, the slower the skin will move. And if your cat’s skin forms a tent then that means they’re very dehydrated (hence, the name).
Other signs include…
- Your cat isn’t eating their food.
- Your cat is lethargic, tired, listless.
- Your cat’s gums are dry.
Something to note: most cases of cat dehydration are not due to your forgetfulness but another underlying issue. If your cat is dehydrated and they have an adequate supply of water contact your veterinarian immediately.
What do I do if my cat is dehydrated?
If your cat is severely dehydrated a veterinarian will give your cat fluids under the skin. It’s similar to an IV.
So, if you have any suspicions about dehydration (especially in the midst of summer) stop reading this and contact your vet.
What happens if my cat doesn’t get enough water?
This isn’t exactly a pleasant question to answer. But here we are. Maybe knowledge is the best safeguard against forgetfulness.
After a few days of being dehydrated your cat will likely experience hepatic failure. Which is another way of saying liver failure. It’s not pretty.
Next, your cat’s muscle mass will break down in a process called catabolization. Which is purportedly painful, and leads to a slow, awful death. Terrible. (Give your cats enough water!)
Why isn’t my cat drinking water?
Your cat may be extremely picky about drinking water. And unhappy with the water in their water bowl. That’s a sign it’s time for a fountain, Or, at the very least clean their water bowl—or give them a new bowl.
Wild cats typically only drink water from a moving stream. (And this is a safer bet for people too—if you ever find yourself stranded.) This is what makes fountain bowls so popular.
Cats with extra long whiskers may require a wide shallow bowl. They don’t want to wet their whiskers while hydrating. Would you?
How do cats drink water?
Now let’s snap on our science goggles and answer a fun question: how cats drink water.
Cats shoot the tip of their tongue towards a water surface, and then pull it back towards them, closing their mouths before the water can fall back towards the bowl. Their tongue is a spear, and the water bowl a flat fish. No wonder cats stick their tongue out all the time.
According to LiveScience cats drink about 5 teaspoons, or 24 ml, of water a minute.
But drinking water like a master physicist is not innate. Kittens have to learn. And they learn to drink by dipping their entire faces into the water bowl, before shooting back at the shock of cold, wet, water. They spend the other half of their time pawing the water—spreading it all around the bowl and sometimes over the edge.
Eventually, they learn, and pretty quickly too. Another related thing they can learn? Cats can learn to swim.
Wrapping Up Kitty Hydration
Whenever you have to leave your cat alone ensure there’s plenty of water. Even better, get a water fountain with plenty of water storage so you’re not worrying about periodically filling a bowl.
Before we had a fountain bowl we would scatter three or four bowls around the apartment filled to the brim with water. At least one was tipped by the time we got back (we quickly learned to use towels as placemats).
Are your cats picky about drinking water? Or, maybe they’re one of those rare extra-hydrated kitties? Let us know in the comments below!