My Cat Won’t Drink! Helping a Cat With a Drinking Problem

It’s only natural that we worry about our furry friends, even more than we worry about ourselves sometimes! If a friend or relative decided they weren’t going to drink any more—and we mean water, not alcohol—you’d worry about them, right? The same goes for our pets, and while not drinking from their cat bowls is generally bad for their health too, it isn’t always something you should worry about. Here’s why.

How Much Water Do Cats Need?

Cats should only weigh around 8-10lbs (unless they’re underweight, or overweight). Assuming you’re a human reading this, you could weigh anywhere between 100lbs and 600lbs. Naturally, then, we need a lot more water than they do. You might simply be overestimating how much water a cat needs to drink. If you think your cat is dehydrated, there’s a simple test you can do:

The Cat Dehydration Test

  1. The next time you’re petting your cat, gently pinch the back of their neck.
  2. Pinch the skin and pull it out. If you’ve never done this before, don’t worry, your cat will love it; it’s what their moms do when they’re kittens!
  3. Let go of the pinch.
  4. Check if the skin springs back. If it does, they’re hydrated.
  5. If the skin doesn’t spring back, your cat needs more water.
cat bowls, cat water fountain

Dry pet food only contains about 10% water. Image courtesy of Publicdomainpictures.net.

Do They Eat Wet Cat Food or Dry Cat Food?

If your cat eats wet food, then they might not have any need to drink from cat bowls too. According to Blue Buffalo- and they really should know- wet food contains around 75% water, compared to just 10% in dry food. By contrast, most fruits and vegetables contain around 80% water. Watermelon has even more, at 92%, and lettuce is practically 99% water.

Now, we’re not saying feed your cat watermelon. But in the same way that you can stay hydrated on a hot day by eating a slice of the good stuff, cats can stay hydrated by eating wet food. A cat that eats natural, good-quality wet food only needs to drink a teaspoon’s worth of water per day. That’s hardly anything, but you wouldn’t need to drink much either if all you ate was soup!

If their food isn’t wet enough, you have a few options. First, you could dilute it with a little bit of tap water. If your cat doesn’t like water from the faucet, you could try either spring water or the water from a tuna can. Make sure that the tuna is in spring water, though, not brine or oil.

If you feed your cat dry food, they should be drinking much more to make up for it. In fact, this is a common problem; cats that eat dry food often have kidney problems, because their food is naturally less moist. If your cat will only eat dry food, pick one that has a higher water content than most.

Are They An Outdoor Cat?

If your cat is an outdoor cat, bear in mind that they might be getting water from elsewhere. They might be drinking from streams, ponds, leaky fire hydrants or even other houses. Now, this isn’t ideal; the water in your area might be contaminated. Unfortunately, it’s also a great way for them to catch a parasitic infection. All cats prefer to drink outdoors, because by nature, animals seek out moving water sources. Think of stagnant ponds or marshes: dirty water doesn’t appeal to us, and it doesn’t appeal to most animals either.

As such, it can be difficult to encourage an outdoor cat to drink indoors with traditional cat bowls. The water sits still all day, which isn’t necessarily appealing to a cat. If your outdoor cat won’t drink indoors, though, you do have a few options:

  • A pet water fountain could encourage them to drink at home. A cat water fountain is exactly what it sounds like: it provides fresh, filtered moving water for cats whenever they want it. A pet fountain is more expensive than traditional cat bowls, but is worth every cent if it stops your cat’s kidney trouble.
  • If your cat shares a bowl with another cat, they might prefer having their own. They might also not like the size or shape of the one they have to drink from. Buying new cat bowls needn’t be expensive, either, if you can find a good deal.
cat water fountain

Cats appreciate moving water. Cat water fountain image courtesy of Pixabay.

What To Do If Your Cat Won’t Drink: The Q&A

Some cats just like to be fussy. Maybe they like the attention, or maybe they like to make you work- who knows? But if your cat won’t drink, here are some useful tips to win them over!

  1. My cat won’t drink tap water! Depending on where you live, the water from your faucet might be contaminated with who-knows-what. If you’re the kind of person who prefers bottled water to tap water, you’ll understand! Just like you, your cat might think that tap water has a strange taste, or they might have read about water fluoridation in the news. If so, try them on bottled water or filtered water and see if they prefer that.
  2. My cat only drinks milk! In the ‘wild’, cats would be weaned when they’re kittens, and then never drink milk again. But if you keep feeding them milk and didn’t care to wean them, that might be all they ever want to drink. This can literally cause big problems, as it makes your cat pile on weight. Try encouraging your cat to drink water with a cat drinking fountain.
  3. My cat won’t drink water or eat! If your cat won’t drink water or eat, you’ve got an entirely different problem. Your cat might have an abscess or a toothache, or a more serious problem like kidney failure. If your cat won’t drink water or eat for an extended time- more than a day or two- you might need a vet.

 

Hi! My name is Jamie Fallon. I run Catmart.net, an online cat health and cat behavior resource. If I’m not sat in front of my PC—and I usually am—then I’m either spending time with my cats or my other half… Whoever jumps on me or asks me for food first!