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Cat Hydration: How to Keep Your Cat Hydrated

Cat hydration

As a proud cat parent, you probably do your fair share of research into which foods offer the right balance of nutrition as well as which games will keep them mentally stimulated and physically fit. You might even invest in numerous bags of kitty litter so you can figure out which your cat likes best. However, one thing cat parents are often unaware of is how important it is to monitor their cat’s water intake. 

Because they were originally desert animals, cats used to get most of their hydration from the food they caught in the wild. This adaptation to their environment set up a low thirst drive that domestic cats still carry with them to this day. But water is an essential part of any living creature’s diet, and your cat’s inborn practice of avoiding drinking can lead to problems with dehydration. 

Dehydration in cats is severe and can lead to issues including elevated heart rate, lethargy, urinary issues and more. As a cat parent, it’s important for you to follow a few key steps to ensure this doesn’t happen to your own feline friend. 

How much water should a cat consume?

Understanding how much water your cat should be drinking on average can help prevent dehydration. While your cat’s exact water needs will depend on several factors, including their size, activity level and health, a good rule is to aim for 3.5–4.5 ounces of water per day for every 5 pounds of weight.

The chart below is a good gauge of how much water your cat should be getting daily based on their weight.

Cat water guide

Tips for promoting hydration

To stay healthy, your cat should be drinking multiple times per day—and if you are concerned they are not, it’s time for a trip to your vet. The longer you wait, the higher risk there is of long-term damage to their internal organs.

Once you know how much your cat should be drinking and your vet gives your cat a clean bill of health, it’s time to look for creative ways to help promote hydration. Try using the techniques below to keep your cat’s water intake on track. 

  • Change their water bowl location. Sometimes something as simple as moving a water bowl to another spot can make a big difference, especially if it’s in a high-traffic or noisy area or next to their food bowl (where it’s easier to get contaminated). Consider moving it to a more secluded location. You may also want to try getting a new type of bowl as some cats prefer different bowl materials and shapes.
  • Increase the number of water bowls around your home, especially if your household has multiple pets.  
  • Try a water fountain. Most cats love moving water. Rather than leaving your sink running all day to encourage drinking, consider a water fountain.
  • Offer them hydration through another source. You can support your cat’s daily hydration goal by adding wet food to their diet. Some formulas have a water content as high as 75%. However, if your cat is partial to their dry food, you don’t have to make a total switch over to wet. Instead, consider adding a wet food topper to their dry food to increase their water intake while still providing them the dry food they enjoy. 
  • Put a little broth or fish oil in your cat’s water; the added flavor can encourage them to drink more. Consult with your vet to make sure the additive is compatible with your cat’s dietary needs; change out the water frequently to prevent spoiling. Ensure you also have a bowl of plain water without any additives so your cat can choose.

Cat hydration solutions

Watch for signs of dehydration in your cat

Beyond just finding ways to help your cat stay hydrated, you’ll also need to look out for signs of dehydration. Our cats don’t always like to show us when they aren’t feeling well, and it can be hard for pet parents to know if a cat is dehydrated. Pay attention to any potential signs of dehydration, some of which can be subtle. These might include:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Dry mouth
  • Depression or a general change in mood
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Skin that stays peaked when lifted 
  • Panting
  • Not urinating

Pay extra attention to your cat’s hydration during warmer weather. With the rise in temperature, your cat will require more water to stay hydrated.

If you notice a drastic change in your cat’s drinking habits and simple environmental adjustments don’t make a difference, contact your veterinarian right away to rule out underlying issues. 

What if my cat drinks too much water?

Similar to drinking too little, drinking too much water can also be a sign of an underlying health issue. A cat who drinks too much is probably also urinating a lot, a condition called polyuria. You might notice urination outside the litter box or that you’ve been scooping a lot more litter than usual. Increased thirst can be a symptom of several underlying conditions, starting with anxiety or stress and including more serious conditions such as diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism and chronic kidney disease.

If you notice your cat is taking in more than the recommended amount of water based on their weight, it's a good idea to schedule a visit with your vet. They can help you look for signs of what your cat's excessive thirst might be linked to.

Raising a cat can be a true pleasure. From their playful antics to special time spent hanging out together watching a movie, cats are an important part of our families. To help show them your love, take the time to monitor their water intake, providing them with the best chance for a healthy body.

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Reviewed by Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM

As Petco’s Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Miller is the lead veterinary subject matter expert, overseeing the company’s standards of excellence in animal care and welfare, growth in pet services and much more. Dr. Miller leads Petco’s medical team, supporting over 200 full-service hospitals and mobile vaccination clinics operating in over 1,000 Petco Pet Care Centers nationwide.