Dehydration in Cats: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping your Cat Hydrated and Healthy

Dehydration in Cats: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping your Cat Hydrated and Healthy

Similar to people, cats need a certain amount of fluid ounces every day in order to be considered healthy. Dehydration is the process in which excessive water content is being lost in some way and is not being replaced.

Water is essential to your cat’s digestive system, circulation and waste disposal methods. Serious medical conditions can ensue should your pet be dehydrated for too long.

What Causes Dehydration in Cats?

infographic of causes and signs of dehydration in cats

Dehydration is classified as insufficient amount of water intake based on what is required for your pet. When cats are not drinking enough, have less than an abundant supply of water or are suffering from an underlying condition, they are at risk of becoming dehydrated. 

A common question asked is “can cats have seizures from dehydration?” and the simple answer is no. Generalized seizures are characterized by the lack of sufficient oxygen to the brain thus resulting in the body to malfunction. While dehydration is not typically a solid cause there are other factors that could be the reason. Some of these factors include:

  • Diabetes 
  • Heart stroke
  • Kidney Disease
  • Hyperthyroidism 
  • brain tumors

It is important to always ensure clean, fresh water is available at all times for your felines, and to consult a vet if you are concerned your cat may be dehydrated

Signs of Dehydration in Cats

There are a couple of different ways on how to tell if your cat is dehydrated. Loss of appetite and lack of energy/lethargy are two very common symptoms. If you cat shows signs of dehydration you need to be prepared to consult your vet.

Lack of Energy/Lethargy 

Water is an essential resource for your pets for many reasons. For one, it enables all critical processes to occur, many of them having to do with metabolism. If your pet’s are unable to create energy they will appear tired and sleepy, and a lot more than they would normally. Lack of energy is a negative sign that something serious is going on. 

Loss of Appetite 

Cats are skilled at many things, but portion control is typically not one of them. If your cat isn’t eating that should be an indication to you that something isn’t right. If you are unsure, trying coaxing them with canned food, if they are still not interested it may be time to call your vet. 

Loss of skin elasticity  

Skin tenting on a dehydrated cat

This is one of the easiest ways to test your feline for dehydration. It takes less than five minutes and can be crucial in determining your next steps. When enough water content is lost, the skin will lose its elasticity.

This test, also known as "skin tenting", will require you to gently pull on your cat’s scruff and release the skin. In a hydrated cat, the skin will return to its starting position very quickly, it will “snap back” if you will. If your pet is dehydrated this process will take a lot longer. 

Dry, Sticky Gums 

When a cat is dehydrated one of the best places to check is inside their mouth. Specifically their gums. Excessive water loss will cause the gums to become very sticky and dry, which should be a red flag right away that your pet has not drunk enough.

Perform this simple test to see whether or not you should be concerned. Press two fingers lightly to a spot on your cat’s gums and if the colour returns back slowly you should be aware that this is an indication of dehydration. Normally, in a hydrated feline, the gums will go white for a second and return to pink almost immediately. 

As is the case with many things, if you suspect your cat may be suffering from dehydration call your or schedule a time to meet with your vet. Often times, dehydration can be a symptom of a much bigger issue. 

How to Treat Dehydration in Cats: At Home

cat looking at a cat water fountain

If you have noticed the signs and have concluded that your cat is indeed dehydrated you may now be posing the question: “what to do if a cat is dehydrated?”. While consulting your vet should always be your number one priority, there are ways to help your cats at home too. 

  1. Start by coaxing your cat to drink little bits of water. (Remember, that too much at a given time could result in vomiting or adverse affects which could make the dehydration even worse) 
  2. Add flavour to their water bowl. Bone broth/chicken broth is a great way to increase the taste of water and entice your kitty to drink.
  3. Offering ice cubes or switching up the bowl can be beneficial as well. Cats can be finicky and switching things up, such as adding stimulation to their normal routine can be enough to entice them. You may also want to play around with changing their water bowl, such as switching from a bowl to a cup. The addition of a water fountain is a also a good idea.

Again, dehydration in cats is can be a sign of a bigger, underlying condition that will be up to the guidance of a veterinarian to determine and treat. Thus, it is important to seek out the guidance of a licensed physician. 

Preventing Dehydration in Cats

Cats, on average, need 3.5-4.5 ounces of water/ 5lbs of body weight and they will need to consume this on a daily basis in order to maintain healthy levels of hydration. Consume is a key word in this situation because water content is not just obtained through drinking but through food and water. Here are some ways to prevent dehydration in your felines. 

Switch to a Wet Food Diet

cat is sitting next to a bag of Kafkas Organic fresh pet meals and fresh ingredients

Something that is not known to many pet parents is that your furry friends get a large portion of the water content they need from their diet. This means that if the food they are eating does not contain sufficient amounts of moisture, that could be a very likely cause for dehydration. For instance many dry foods contain only 10% water, compared to a 70-80% moisture content in a wet food diet. 

If you are switching diets, always consult your vet and ensure that you are doing it slowly. Start by introducing a new diet such as fresh food mixed in with your cat’s old food and progressively supplement more and more until you have completely replaced their dry food. 

If you are unsure how much fresh pet food to feed we have a simple, easy to use calculator on our website that would be a great resource.

Related Reading: How to Calculate Calories In Cat Food

Add a Flavour Enhancer to Your Cat’s Water Bowl

We touched briefly on the benefits of introducing bone broth to your cat’s diet, the reason for doing so being the flavour burst. Cat’s tend to get bored quickly and easily so enticing them to drink enough water can require creativity at times. 

Besides flavour, bone broth provides an excellent source of electrolytes which are essential for regulating specific processes in your pets body such as: blood acidity, muscle and nerve function and waste disposal. Without these processes happening efficiently, your cat is susceptible to conditions that could potentially be life threatening. 

Make Sure Fresh Water is Always Available 

Clean, switch out and refill your cats water bowls daily. Cats can be very finicky in the sense that minimal changes could set them off; such as having a speck of dirt in their water. It is also beneficial to have multiple water bowls around your space, unless it doesn’t make sense of course. 

Switch It Up!

Cats can get bored quickly, so it can be beneficial to switch up their bowl’s every so often. For example, many cats are huge fountain fanatics and others are scared of them. If your pet has been drinking from a cup for a long time, try changing to a bowl and vice versa. 

Whether you are searching google for dehydrated kitten treatment or simply looking for ways to prevent dehydration, it is always important to consult your pets physician. If the problem does persist be sure to tell your vet so they can run the proper tests to ensure there is no underlying issues going on. 

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