Does your cat drink enough water? You probably don’t know because you rarely see them drink from their water bowl. Like many of the quirks of cats, their drinking habits (or lack of them) date back to their early days as desert hunters. These cats would get most of their water from their prey, such as mice and other rodents.

Today’s cats get much less moisture from their food, considering that many are dry-fed, which contains only 6-10% moisture.

Combine a cat’s ability to hide signs of health problems with its skinny drinking habits, and you can find yourself with a dehydrated cat pretty quickly.

Dehydration in cats can be caused from overheating, lack of access to clean drinking water, or even another underlying health problem, such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Diabetes
  • Heatstroke
  • Nephropathy
  • Hyperthyroidism

But how much water should cats drink?

Typically, a cat will need 60 to 80 ml of fresh water in addition to its food per day. A good can of wet food contains between 70 and 80% water. Therefore, if your cat is eating wet food, which is highly recommended, she can get an extra percentage of water that will help her stay sufficiently hydrated.

Wet food can be very beneficial for many reasons, one of which is that you know that a cat that eats wet food at least gets some of its necessary daily water.

If your cat is home all day, you may not see her drinking, but there are ways to tell if she is not drinking enough water.

How to control your cat’s water intake

You cannot judge a cat’s water intake based solely on how much water you see it drinking. If your cat is on a wet diet, she probably won’t have much of a need for extra water. And when they drink, it could easily happen when you are away from home or even when you are sleeping.

Instead of trying to catch your cat in the act, focus on monitoring the water levels in her bowl at the end of the day (or the beginning of the next). When you clean and refill their water bowls each day, make a note of how much is left. Make sure to fill the container to the same level every day so it’s easy to tell when there is a significant change.

Signs of dehydration in a cat

It can be difficult to tell if your cat is really dehydrated simply from drinking water. To be safe, you can look for other signs:

  • Loose skin: if your cat is dehydrated, you will notice that her fur hangs a little more than normal, and when you stretch it, it does not return to its place.
  • Dry gums: Dry gums can be a sign of dehydration. If a cat’s gums are not wet, they are more likely dehydrated.
  • Depression or lethargy: Check to see if your cat seems especially sleepy or lazy. Isn’t she greeting you when you get home? Is it less playful than usual? Pay attention to these behavior changes.
  • Loss of appetite : When a cat is not eating, it is often an immediate sign that something is wrong, even if it is not dehydration. If your cat refuses to eat for more than 24 hours, it’s time to go to the vet.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea: Even if they are not signs of dehydration per se, a cat that is vomiting or has diarrhea will quickly become dehydrated.
  • Sunken Eyes: A dehydrated cat may appear grumpy or sleepy, with sunken or “dull” eyes.
  • Elevated heart rate: At your next vet visit, ask your vet to show you how to check and measure your cat’s heart rate or pulse to see if it is higher or lower than normal.
  • Panting – Cats don’t typically pant, but they can when overheated, which can accompany a case of dehydration.
  • Less Urination: Here’s yet another reason why you should clean your cat’s litter boxes every day, so you can check for changes in urination (and defecation). Also remember that a cat that is not urinating may not be able to urinate, which can be a sign of a fatal urethral obstruction.