Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: June 28, 2023 by Crystal Uys


Water is critical to keeping your cat healthy. Cats as a species don’t have a high thirst drive, and this can lead to chronic low-level dehydration if a cat is fed mostly dry food, which in turn, can lead to urinary tract and kidney problems. Proper hydration can help prevent urinary tract disease and promote healthy kidney function by flushing toxins.

The importance of proper hydration

A properly hydrated body will have an optimal balance of electrolytes, minerals and fluids. Water affects everything from transport and absorption of nutrients and digestion to circulation to maintenance of body temperature.

Signs of dehydration

When a cat is dehydrated, she doesn’t just lose water, but also electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride, all of which are important for normal body function.

An easy way to check for dehydration is “skin tenting.” Gently pinch the skin over your cat’s shoulder blades and pull up. The skin should spring back into place when released. When a cat is dehydrated, the skin goes back in place increasingly slowly. If the “tent” stays in place, it is a sign of severe dehydration, which is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention.

Other signs of dehydration are

  • Dry, tacky gums
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Panting
  • Loss of appetite
Cat not eating food
Image Credit: Kitirinya, Shutterstock

How to increase water intake

Even though cats get moisture from a raw or canned diet, they should still have plenty of fresh water available at all times. Try one or all of the following suggestions:

  • Choose the right bowl. Cats prefer wide, shallow bowls to deep, narrow bowls. Your cat’s whiskers are super sensitive, and it may be uncomfortable for her if they touch the side of the bowl (something that is also knows as whisker stress.)
  • Location, location, location. Place water bowls in easily accessible locations and in areas where your cat tends to spend a lot of time. Place multiple bowls throughout the house.
  • Keep water fresh. Wash bowls daily and change water once or twice a day. You wouldn’t want to drink stale water that’s been sitting out for hours, and neither will your cats.
  • Get a fountain. Fountains are a great way to encourage cats to drink more water.

Featured Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

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