Do Cats Really Need Water? The Surprising Truth About Your Feline’s Fluid Intake


Cats are notorious for their pickiness when it comes to food and drink. In particular, many cat owners struggle to get their feline friends to drink enough water. Dehydration is a serious health concern for cats, so making sure your cat is properly hydrated is important.

In this article, we’ll explore the biological need for water in cats, signs of dehydration to look out for, tips for keeping your cat hydrated, and debunk some common myths about cats and drinking water. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of your cat’s hydration needs and how to make sure they are getting enough water every day.

The Biological Need for Water

Water is absolutely essential for a cat’s health and survival. Cats cannot live without an adequate supply of clean, fresh water on a daily basis. Water makes up between 60-70% of an adult cat’s body weight, and it serves several crucial biological functions:

Water aids digestion by helping to break down food and absorb nutrients. It also helps transport nutrients throughout the body and remove waste. Without sufficient water intake, cats can suffer from constipation and other gastrointestinal issues.1

Water regulates body temperature. Cats sweat primarily through their paw pads, so they rely on panting and water consumption to cool down on hot days. Dehydration makes it harder for a cat to maintain a normal temperature.

The body uses water to lubricate joints and tissues, including the eyes, mouth, and nose. Hydration keeps these sensitive areas functioning properly.

Water facilitates metabolic processes that generate energy. It transports nutrients, creates urine to eliminate toxins, and maintains blood volume and pressure. Without water, a cat’s organs can’t perform these basic metabolic functions.

Simply put, water makes possible all of the chemical reactions and bodily processes necessary for a cat to thrive. It is just as vital for cats as air, food, and shelter.

Water Content in Food

Cats get a good amount of their daily water intake from the food they eat. Wet cat food contains approximately 75-80% moisture, while dry kibble only contains about 10% moisture (1). This means cats that eat canned wet food are taking in more pre-formed water than cats eating exclusively dry kibble.

One study estimated that cats eating only canned food ingest approximately 52 ml/kg/day from their food. Cats eating only dry food get approximately 15 ml/kg/day from their food. For a 4 kg cat, that’s 208 ml/day from wet food and 60 ml/day from dry food (2).

Since an average sized cat needs about 60 ml/kg/day, cats eating canned food may get most or all of their needed water just from their regular diet. However, cats eating exclusively dry food do need to drink additional water to make up for the lower moisture content (3).





Factors Influencing Water Intake

There are several factors that influence the amount of water a cat drinks on a daily basis. Some of the main influences include:

  • Climate and temperature – Cats tend to drink more water when they are in hot environments in order to prevent overheating and dehydration. Indoor cats with access to air conditioning may drink less than outdoor cats exposed to heat.

  • Activity level – More active cats who get a lot of exercise will drink more water than sedentary cats. Their increased activity causes them to lose more moisture through panting and sweating.

  • Diet – Cats on wet food diets tend to consume more moisture and require less additional drinking water. Cats eating only dry food need more water to compensate for the lack of moisture in their diet.

  • Age – Kittens and senior cats tend to drink more water than adult cats. Kittens need extra hydration as they grow. Older cats are more prone to kidney issues which causes increased thirst.

  • Health issues – Diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and others can increase thirst and lead to excessive drinking. Medications may also have dehydrating effects.

In general, a properly hydrated cat will drink when they are thirsty, but may consume more or less water based on these influencing factors. Monitoring your cat’s water intake can help identify any changes that may require attention from your veterinarian.

Signs of Dehydration

Dehydration can be a serious health issue for cats if not addressed promptly. Some signs that your cat may be dehydrated include:

  • Dry or sticky gums
  • Sunken eyes
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced skin elasticity or “tenting” when pinched
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

According to WebMD, dehydration occurs when a cat loses more fluids than they take in. Kittens, elderly cats, and cats with chronic illnesses are at higher risk. Dehydration can lead to potentially serious complications if untreated, including kidney failure, constipation, electrolyte imbalances, and low blood pressure. It’s important to frequently check your cat’s hydration status and contact your vet if you notice any of the above symptoms.

Tips for Hydration

There are several things cat owners can do to help keep their cats hydrated. One of the most important is to make sure fresh, clean water is always available. According to Portland Pet Food Company, it’s best to place multiple water bowls in various locations around the house so water is always within reach.

The type of water bowl can also make a difference. Bowls made of stainless steel, glass or ceramic tend to be more appealing to cats than plastic. Fountain-style water bowls provide circulating water, which many cats prefer over stagnant. Purified or filtered water may also be more palatable. Some owners find adding a small amount of low-sodium broth or tuna juice to the water makes it more enticing.

Wet food is an excellent way to boost hydration, as it has high moisture content. Adding extra water to wet food or raw food increases the fluid intake. Feeding wet food occasionally or as part of a rotation with dry food is a good idea. Ice cubes made with purified water or broth can also supplement water intake.

Monitoring urine volume and color is important to ensure proper hydration. Dilute yellow urine indicates adequate hydration, while dark yellow, amber or brown usually signals dehydration. Consulting a vet helps determine if supplements or fluids are needed.

Water Preferences

Cats often prefer drinking running water from taps or fountains compared to still water in a bowl. There are several theories as to why this is:

One reason is that cats have an instinctive attraction to moving water sources. In the wild, streams and flowing bodies of water tend to be cleaner and fresher than still, stagnant water. Cats likely evolved a preference for moving water as it posed less of a disease risk. [1]

Additionally, some experts believe cats are drawn to running water because of the sound and movement. Their prey drive may get triggered by the motion of dripping or flowing water. Drinking from taps and fountains is more stimulating for cats than boring still water. [2]

The temperature of the water may also be a factor. Cats seem to prefer colder drinking water, which is often the case with fresh running water. Still water that has been sitting out tends to reach room temperature, which is less palatable to cats. [3]

Whatever the evolutionary reasons, providing running water from a cat fountain or filtered tap can encourage hydration in cats who ignore still bowl water. Cats that drink more tend to have better urinary tract health.

Myths and Misconceptions

There is a common myth that cats do not need to drink much water or that they even dislike water. However, this is simply not true. Cats have a biological need for water just like any other animal. Here are some facts that debunk myths around cats and water:

Cats that are fed only dry food require more water than cats that eat canned food, which has a higher water content. Even though dry food contains some moisture, it does not provide nearly enough water to meet a cat’s daily needs. According to, cats fed an all-dry diet require about 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day.

While some cats may dislike getting wet from baths, this does not mean they dislike water overall. Many cats enjoy playing with water, pawing at dripping taps, or drinking from running water. As explained by Petfinder, cats are often attracted to moving water and find it more appealing than standing water in a bowl.

Kittens that have positive early experiences with water are more likely to enjoy it later in life. Providing access to water play and dripping taps can help prevent aversions. Breeds like Turkish Vans, Maine Coons and Bengals are also known for enjoying water more than other cats.

So while cats may show some water avoidance behaviors, they absolutely need it for survival. Ensuring cats have fresh, appealing water sources is key to keeping them healthy and hydrated.

Signs Your Cat Is Drinking Enough

There are a few signs that indicate your cat is properly hydrated and getting enough water intake:

  • Moist, pink gums – According to Nulo Pet Food, if your cat is well hydrated, their gums should be moist and pink. Dry or pale gums can signal dehydration.
  • Elastic skin – Gently pinch the skin on the back of your cat’s neck. The skin should snap back into place quickly when hydrated.
  • Normal eyes – Bright, clear eyes without excess discharge or crusting indicate proper hydration.
  • Regular urination – Urine should be pale yellow. Dark yellow or brownish urine suggests concentration from lack of fluids.
  • Good appetite – Dehydration frequently suppresses appetite, so normal food intake is a positive sign.
  • High energy – Lethargy and fatigue can result from dehydration.

Monitoring these factors will help determine if your cat is drinking enough water and staying properly hydrated.


In summary, cats do need to drink water regularly to avoid dehydration and stay healthy. While cats get a good amount of moisture from their food, especially wet food, they still require additional water intake. On average, a healthy cat should drink around 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. Monitor your cat’s water intake to ensure they are drinking adequate amounts. Provide fresh, clean water daily and try different bowls or running water if your cat seems disinterested in water. Limiting dry food and providing more wet food can also increase hydration. With proper access to water sources, most cats will consume an appropriate amount of water on their own through drinking as well as through their food.

The key points are that cats do need to regularly drink water, though the amount varies based on factors like their diet. Dehydration is a risk if cats don’t drink enough, so providing fresh water daily is important. There are many tips to encourage water intake if your cat isn’t drinking enough. Overall, water is essential for cats, so they do need to drink it, even if a lot also comes from their high-moisture food.

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