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Why Is My Cat Not Drinking Water? Vet-Approved Reasons & Solutions

Written by: Kathryn Copeland

Last Updated on May 17, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

bengal-cat-playing-waterin-the-bowl

Why Is My Cat Not Drinking Water? Vet-Approved Reasons & Solutions

VET APPROVED

Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Keeping our cats hydrated can be a bit tricky. Cats are notorious for not drinking enough, so we need to find ways to ensure that they are ingesting enough water to stay healthy.

But what if your cat doesn’t seem to be drinking any water at all? This can lead to a dehydrated cat and other severe repercussions.

Here, we cover the reasons that your cat might not be drinking water, along with solutions for encouraging them to drink more.

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The 5 Reasons That Your Cat Might Not Be Drinking Water

Domestic cats are descended from North African and Southwest Asian wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica) 1. It has been suggested that living in a desert environment led these cats to adapt to the lack of water by being able to go without it for periods of time.

Part of what helps cats maintain hydration is that their urine is concentrated (which is also why it smells so bad). But sometimes cats still don’t drink enough water, and to fix the problem, you need to understand why.

1. They Might Be Hydrated Enough

Your cat may actually be drinking enough, and you simply don’t see whenever they take a drink. Cats don’t tend to drink as much water as you might expect (especially compared to dogs) and if they are on a wet diet they will be getting a lot of water from the food itself. So, your cat may already be hydrated enough.

tabby-cat-sitting-next-to-a-bowl-of-water
Photo Credit: Impact-Photography, Shutterstock

2. Their Water Bowl Might Be in an Inappropriate Location

Cats are particularly finicky about things, so if their water bowl is in an unsatisfactory location, they won’t want to spend much time there. The bowl being in a noisy or high-traffic area, such as around washing machines and dishwashers, might put your cat off drinking. Cats also prefer to have their water source away from where they eat and their toileting area.

Another issue might be placing the water bowl where other pets have access, particularly if they are more dominant. This scenario can lead to a cat not drinking enough.


3 .The Water Bowl Needs Cleaning

If you know anything about cats, you know how fastidious they are. This also applies to their water. The water bowl must be cleaned and filled with fresh water daily, if not several times a day.

Some cats are pickier than others, so if your cat only drinks when you put down a fresh bowl, you should clean it frequently.


4. They Might Be Unwell

If your cat is suffering from health conditions such as gastrointestinal (GI) issues, they won’t be feeling well and may lose their appetite and any desire to drink water.

The lack of drinking will usually go along with not eating and other clinical signs, such as vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. You should bring your cat to the veterinarian if your cat is showing any signs of being unwell.


5. They May Have Dental Problems

If your cat has any dental issues, the pain could prevent them from drinking. If you also notice a lack of appetite, drooling, pawing at the mouth, facial swelling, and/or food falling out of their mouth when they’re eating, they need to visit a veterinarian.

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Is Your Cat Dehydrated?

Most cats that are dehydrated will be feeling generally unwell and so will usually show other signs such as a reduced appetite and lethargy. There are a few methods that can also help you determine if your cat is dehydrated:

Gums:
Your cat’s gums should be moist and a healthy shade of pink. If they are dry and tacky, this is a sign that they are dehydrated.
Skin tent test:
Try gently pinching your cat’s skin between the shoulder blades and pulling it up. When you let go, it should spring back down immediately, but if it goes down slowly, this is a sign of dehydration.
Constipation:
Since there’s less water in the body, the cat’s feces will be dry. If your cat is having fewer bowel movements and is straining when they do go, you should see your vet. This isn’t a guaranteed sign of dehydration, but something is definitely wrong.
Sunken eyes:
If your cat’s eyes seem glazed over or sunken in, this can be due to dehydration.

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The 7 Solutions for Getting Your Cat to Drink More Water

If your cat is healthy, behaving normally, and not dehydrated, but you’re concerned about their water intake, the following solutions might help.

1. Invest in a Water Fountain

A cat water fountain can be a great way to get your cat to stay hydrated. Cats are drawn to running water because in the wild, they try to avoid stagnant water, so a fountain can be quite appealing to domestic cats.


2. Regularly Clean the Bowl

You must clean your cat’s water bowl daily and fill it with fresh, clean, and cool water.


3. Feed Wet Food to Your Cat

Wet food is about 70% water, so it’s a great way to keep your cat hydrated. If your cat is not a fan, you should try different brands and flavors (some cats might prefer fish over chicken, for example).

You can also try adding water or broth to your cat’s dry food. Just ensure that the broth is meant for cats and contains no added salt or other ingredients, as these can prove dangerous.

cat eating wet tuna food
Image Credit: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock

4. Put More Water Bowls in More Locations

Placing several water bowls in different locations in your home gives your cat multiple options. Just remember that all these bowls need to be cleaned and filled with fresh water every day.


5. Rethink the Water Bowl Location

If you’re sticking with one water bowl, ensure that it is in a good spot. There should be nothing noisy nearby, and it should be away from the litter box.


6. Change the Water Bowl Material

Consider changing your cat’s water bowl. If the current bowl is plastic, try stainless steel, glass, or ceramic. Plastic can add an unpleasant flavor to the water. Other materials are also more sanitary and easier to clean.

siamese kitten eating from a stainless bowl
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

7. Add Flavor

You can add a small amount of something tasty to your cat’s water, like tuna juice (from tuna packed in water) or broth. Just be sure to use broth or tuna juice without any added ingredients (like salt or oil).

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Conclusion

Your cat may be regularly drinking water, but since they don’t drink as much or as often as dogs, it might seem like they aren’t drinking enough. However, if your cat is showing any signs of being unwell or dehydrated, they will need medical intervention. Your veterinarian may need to run tests to determine the underlying cause, and will likely need to rehydrate your cat with subcutaneous (under the skin) fluids or intravenous fluid therapy

If you take a critical look at the water situation in your home, you might be able to come up with a solution that will encourage your cat to drink more water. Your cat will thank you for it!


Featured Image Credit: kalyanby, Shutterstock

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