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My Cat Won't Drink Water! What Should I Do?

If your cat suddenly stops drinking water, it can definitely be a bit concerning. In this post, our San Diego vets share why your cat may not be drinking water and what you can do.

Why Won't My Cat Drink Water?

All animals need to stay hydrated to stay healthy. Some cats may only drink when they are thirsty, and different pets require different amounts of water to remain hydrated. So, even if you don't think your cat is drinking enough water, they can still be drinking enough to stay hydrated and healthy. If your cat won't drink water at all, there may be cause for concern, however, there are often some easy solutions.

If you notice your cat just stopped drinking water out of nowhere, there are a couple of common reasons. Cats take cleanliness very seriously, so it is important to keep your cat's water bowl clean and filled with fresh, clean water. If your cat notices even minor things like dust, fur, or dirt in their bowl, it may prevent them from wanting to drink from it.

Another thing that could prevent your cat from drinking their water is the location of their bowls. Placing water bowls in high-anxiety areas, such as near loud washing machines or near a dog or more dominant cat's food and water bowl can also cause them to avoid drinking. Try placing several water bowls around the house in quiet, safe locations to tempt your cat back into drinking water.

Signs of Dehydration in Cats

Dehydration can set in quickly if your cat doesn't get enough water. Your cat's health can be seriously threatened by dehydration. Here are a few ways you can determine if your cat may be dehydrated. 

  • Sunken Eyes - Look into your cat's eyes. If they seem to lack focus or appear dull or sunken, dehydration may be the culprit.
  • Dry Mouth - Check your cat's gums, which should always be moist and pink. Press your finger against the gums and see if the spot you are pressing turns white. If they don't return to a healthy shade of pink within a second or two of removing your finger, your kitty may be dehydrated. 
  • Skin Elasticity - Examine your cat's skin by gently pinching the extra skin between their shoulder blades to form a tent-like shape. Once you let go your kitty's skin should snap right back to normal in less than a second. If your cat's skin doesn't snap right back, your feline friend could be dehydrated.
  • Constipation - Do a little box check. When cats are dehydrated they often become constipated. If your cat hasn't been passing as much stool, as usual, dehydration may be to blame.
  • Panting - Unlike dogs, cats don't often pant. If your feline friend is panting they may be dehydrated.

If your cat is showing signs of dehydration contact your vet right away. Dehydration in cats can be fatal, and once the symptoms above become evident your cat is likely to be severely dehydrated and in need of emergency veterinary care (refusal to drink for 24 hours or more qualifies as a veterinary emergency).

How to Hydrate a Cat That Won't Drink Water

If you don't think your cat is drinking enough water, but they aren't showing any concerning signs, try some of the following tips:

  • Ensure that your cat's water bowl is not near their litter box. If it is, move it to a better spot in the room or a different room altogether.
  • Provide fresh water daily. Many cats will not drink water that has been sitting for an extended period.
  • Try moving the bowl to a different location (even if it's not near the litter box).
  • Try a different bowl or a bowl that provides running water for cats to enjoy.
  • If your cat eats dry food switch to canned.

Health Conditions Linked to Dehydration in Cats

Don't hesitate to consult a veterinarian if your cat won't eat or drink water. Dehydration can be an indication of a serious underlying condition such as kidney disease, heatstroke, or diabetes.

When it comes to your cat's health, it is always best to err on the side of caution and see their vet if any concerns arise.

Has your kitty been avoiding their water bowl? Contact our San Diego vets to make sure your feline friend is happy and healthy.

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Kearny Mesa Veterinary Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Diego companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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