The Importance of Water Intake and Hydration for Cats

The Importance of Water Intake and Hydration for Cats

Just like we need water to live and feel good, our cats do too. Even though we might think they're okay, they might not be drinking enough.

This article is all about why our cats need hydration so much and why we should make sure they always stay hydrated. It's like a guide to helping our cats be happier and healthier.

What if I told you that the solution is not getting your cat to drink more water?

Why Is Water Intake Crucial for Cats?

Hydration is the essence of life, a fact that holds for every living creature on Earth, including our feline companions.

On average, water makes up about 60-70% of a cat's total body weight. This proportion is significantly higher than that of humans, emphasizing the significance of hydration in a cat's life.

Cat hydration is crucial to keep the body running smoothly. Some of the main reasons why hydration is important are:

  1. Getting Rid of Waste: Cats need water to help their kidneys filter out waste and toxins. If they don’t drink enough, it can be tough on their kidneys and can lead to kidney diseases.

  2. Digestion: Water aids in the digestion process. When a cat eats dry food, they need even more water to help digest it properly.

  3. Maintaining Skin and Coat Health: Good hydration helps to keep a cat's skin and fur in top condition. If they're dehydrated, their skin might become dry and their coat may lose its shine.

In short, making sure our cats are hydrated is just as crucial as feeding them. It keeps them healthy, and happy and can prevent some serious health issues down the line.

Signs of Dehydration in Cats

Cats are masters of disguise when it comes to revealing their discomfort or distress. This is because cats are both predators and prey. By showing distress or weakness, they become easy targets for animals that prey upon them.

Recognizing the subtle signs of dehydration in your feline companion can be challenging but is crucial for their well-being.

Dehydration can occur for various reasons, from illness to environmental factors, so staying vigilant is essential.

Here are the telltale signs to watch for:

Sunken Eyes:

One of the earliest signs of dehydration in cats is the appearance of sunken eyes.

When a cat becomes dehydrated, the tissues around their eyes lose moisture, causing the eyeballs to sink into their sockets. Healthy cats typically have bright, clear eyes.

Pale, Dry, or Sticky Gums:

Moist, pink gums are a sign of good hydration.

Dehydrated cats often have pale, dry, or sticky gums.

To check, gently lift your cat's lip and press your finger against their gums. If they feel dry or sticky instead of moist and pink, it could indicate dehydration. Be careful when manipulating your cat's mouth, not all cats appreciate it and it could lead to a swat or even biting.

Loss of Skin Elasticity:

To assess your cat's skin elasticity, lightly pinch the skin at the scruff of their neck.

In a well-hydrated cat, the skin will quickly snap back into place. Dehydrated cats will have slower skin recoil, and the pinched area may stay tented for a few moments.

You can test this one right now on your cat. Get a gentle pinch of skin and gently pull up. When you let go, the skin should almost immediately fall into place, if it doesn't your cat is probably dehydrated. 

Reduced Urination:

Keep an eye on your cat's litter box habits. A noticeable decrease in urine output may indicate dehydration.

How often a cat pees can vary based on factors like their diet, water intake, age, activity level, and overall health. However, on average they will urinate between 1-3 times a day. If they're drinking more water, it might be more frequent.

Recognizing these signs of dehydration in your cat is the first step in ensuring their health and well-being. If you observe any of these symptoms, especially if they persist or worsen, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Dehydration can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, and early intervention is crucial to your cat's recovery. If you believe your cat might be dehydrated, consider going to the vet to get an expert to check on them.

Factors Affecting a Cat's Water Intake

A cat's water intake can be influenced by various factors. The main one, it's their nature. Let's dive a little deeper into the idea that a cat's instincts and evolutionary history play a significant role in determining their water intake:

Desert Ancestors

The domestic cat's ancestors were desert-dwelling creatures. In such environments, water is scarce.

Cats have evolved to extract most of the moisture they need directly from their prey, which means they didn't have a natural urge to drink water as frequently as some other animals might.

Prey-Based Moisture

In the wild, a cat's diet primarily consists of high-moisture animals like rodents, birds, and insects.

This dietary habit provides them with a significant amount of water, reducing their need to drink separately.

This is why raw food is such a good diet for cats because it's how they have evolved to get all their nutrients and hydration. I switched my cat diet to raw and I'm very happy with the results.

Domestic cats that are fed a diet of wet or raw food may still retain this tendency to get a large portion of their hydration from food. Cats that eat raw diets will naturally drink less water than cats who eat dry food or kibble.

Low Thirst Drive

Due to their desert origins, cats have a less developed sense of thirst compared to animals like dogs.

This low thirst drive can sometimes be problematic, especially when domestic cats are fed primarily dry foods without supplemental water sources. These cats need more water intake to stay hydrated but they don't drink.

Later in this article, I'll share a few ways to get your cat to drink.

Conservation Instinct

Another reason that makes cats drink less water than dogs, for example, is that a cat's body is fine-tuned to conserve water.

Cats produce more concentrated urine compared to many other animals to reduce water loss. Their grooming habits, like licking their fur, are also methods to cool down without sweating, a process that would result in further water loss.

The key to understanding, if your cat has a hydration problem, is to check changes in their behavior. If you notice a change in your cat's drinking habits, understanding why is key to ensuring your feline friend receives the proper hydration they need.

Change in Drinking Patterns

Cats have unique preferences and behaviors when it comes to drinking, and these factors play a significant role in their overall water consumption. Here are some important considerations:


The type of diet your cat consumes can affect their water intake.

Cats on a dry kibble diet tend to drink more water than those on a wet food diet because kibble contains only about 10% moisture, whereas canned or wet cat food typically contains 70-80% moisture.

Cats eating dry food need to drink more to compensate for the lack of water in their diet. If you are feeding your cat a dry diet and can afford it, consider switching to raw or wet.

Temperature and Weather

Cats may drink more in hot weather to regulate their body temperature and stay cool. Conversely, they may reduce water intake in colder climates. Ensure your cat has access to fresh water at all times, regardless of the weather.

Bowl Type and Location

The type and location of your cat's water bowl can impact their drinking habits. Some cats prefer shallow, wide bowls, while others like deeper ones. Experiment with different bowl types to see which your cat prefers.

Additionally, keep the water bowl away from their litter box and food dishes, as cats often prefer these areas to be separate. This is directly related to the next point, water quality.

Water Quality

Cats are sensitive to the taste and odor of water. This is because cats, deeply rooted in their wild instincts, naturally seek out clean water sources. In the wild, a clean water source would be free from potential contaminants, including rotten food and waste.

If your tap water has a strong smell or taste of chlorine or minerals, your cat may be reluctant to drink it. Consider using a water filter or providing bottled water to make the water more appealing.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can lead to changes in a cat's behavior, including decreased water intake. If your cat is under stress due to changes in the environment or routine, monitor their water consumption and try to reduce stressors where possible.

Understanding these factors that affect a cat's water intake allows you to take proactive steps to ensure they remain properly hydrated. It's essential to observe your cat's drinking habits regularly and make adjustments as needed to support their health and well-being. 

Health Consequences of Dehydration

Dehydration is not a mere inconvenience for cats; it poses serious health risks that can compromise their well-being and longevity. 

One of the most significant health risks associated with chronic dehydration in cats is kidney dysfunction. The kidneys play a pivotal role in filtering waste products from the blood and regulating electrolytes. When a cat is dehydrated, the kidneys struggle to perform these functions efficiently. Over time, this can lead to kidney damage or even the development of kidney disease, a severe and often irreversible condition.

Despite troubles in kidney function is the most frequent health issue associated with reduced water intake in cats. Chronic dehydration can lead to other health issues like gastrointestinal problems (constipation and digestive discomfort), low circulatory strain, cognitive decline, and a weakened immune system.

How Much Water Should Cats Drink?

Generally, the daily water requirement of cats, expressed in ml/day, can be calculated as follows:

Water Daily Requirements (ml/d) = 1.2 * Resting Energy Requirements


Resting Energy Requirements is = 70*(Body Weight)^0.75

So, if you have a kitty which weights 4 kg, then:

  1. Calculate his Resting Energy Requirement by 70*(4)^0.75, which is 198.
  2. Obtain his water daily requirement by 1.2*198, which is 238 ml/day.

As a general rule, the amount of water consumed by mature, healthy, nonreproducing cats at a comfortable environmental temperature is about 2.5 times the amount of dry matter consumed as food.

Creative Ways to Increase Cat Hydration

Encouraging your cat to drink more water can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, especially if they are particular about their water source or are accustomed to a dry food diet.

Here are some creative and effective ways to increase your cat's hydration levels:

Invest in a Cat Water Fountain

Cats are naturally drawn to running water. A cat water fountain can pique their interest and encourage them to drink more.

These devices mimic the flow of a fresh stream, making the water more appealing. Some even include filters to ensure the water stays clean.

Wet Cat Food

If your cat primarily eats dry kibble, consider incorporating wet cat food into their diet.

Canned cat food has a significantly higher moisture content, helping your cat meet their hydration needs through food. Just be mindful of proper portion sizes to maintain a balanced diet.

I no longer feed wet canned food to my cat. Nowadays I feed raw food to Mia, here's why.

Flavored Water:

Some cats will be more tempted to drink if their source of hydration is other than water.

Some cats will appreciate bone broth and some will like goat’s milk. Let me know in the comments if your cat is one of the lucky ones that like broth or milk!

Multiple Water Stations:

Place multiple water bowls or fountains throughout your home. This ensures that your cat always has access to water, no matter where they are. Cats can be particular about their water source, so offering options can be beneficial.

Change Your Cat's Water Daily:

Cats prefer clean, fresh water. Be sure to change the water in their bowls daily to prevent any buildup of contaminants or unpleasant tastes.

Tips for Monitoring Your Cat's Hydration

Daily water intake in cats can be measured easily with common household tools. The following steps should allow pet owners to obtain a reasonable estimate of daily water intake. 

  1. Determine daily water intake requirements as explained before.
  2. Using a fluid cup measure (1 cup = 227 ml), measure the amount of water to offer the animal throughout the day in a single container. 
  3. Fill the water bowl with an appropriate amount of water from the single container throughout the day, ensuring fresh water is available at all times. 
  4. Eliminate the animal’s access to other water sources (e.g., toilet bowls, sinks, etc.).
  5. If more water is needed beyond the calculated amount, carefully measure more water into the container and account for the additional amount when making intake calculations. 
  6. Measure the water remaining at the end of the day (the sum of that remaining in the water bowl and container) and determine the amount of water consumed by subtracting the remaining water from the total amount measured during the day.


    As we conclude our exploration into the vital topic of water intake and hydration for cats, we are reminded of the profound role that water plays in the lives of our feline companions. Just as we cherish their company, ensuring they have access to clean, fresh water is a cornerstone of responsible pet ownership.

    From understanding why hydration is crucial to recognizing the subtle signs of dehydration and considering the various factors that affect a cat's water intake, we've delved into the depths of feline hydration. We've uncovered the health consequences of overlooking this fundamental need and discovered creative ways to encourage our cats to drink more water.

    In closing, let us reiterate the essence of what we've learned: proper hydration is not a luxury for cats; it is a life-sustaining necessity.

    By remaining attentive to their hydration needs, we can help our feline companions thrive and enjoy long, healthy, and joyful lives by our side. So, let the ripple of a freshwater bowl become a symbol of your unwavering commitment to the well-being of your beloved cat. With every sip, you're nurturing their health, happiness, and the enduring bond you share.

    Stay wild, stay hydrated and we'll see you outdoors!

    Albert & Mia

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