My Cat is Dehydrated. Why is She Refusing Water But Eating Wet Food?


Water is essential for a cat’s health and wellbeing. Though cats are sometimes perceived as not needing much water, especially if they eat wet food, adequate hydration is crucial. This article will explore why cats require water, examine whether wet food provides sufficient hydration, discuss ways to monitor water intake, and offer tips to encourage drinking. We’ll also look at transitioning picky cats to wet food, when to consult a vet about hydration issues, and how to prevent dehydration in our feline companions. Proper hydration is key for your cat’s health, so read on to learn how to ensure your furry friend stays well-hydrated.

Cats Need Water

Water is essential for cats as it supports all bodily functions. Dehydration can be dangerous for cats and lead to serious health issues. According to Quora, an adult cat needs about 30-50ml of water per pound per day. For a 10 pound cat, that equates to 300-500ml or 10-17 ounces. The amount of water needed can vary based on activity level, diet, age and health conditions. Kittens and elderly cats may need more water, while an indoor cat may need less. It’s important cats have access to fresh, clean water daily to avoid dehydration.

Wet Food Provides Water

Cats that eat canned or wet food take in more moisture than cats eating only dry food. Canned cat foods typically contain 75-85% moisture, whereas dry foods contain only around 10% moisture.

The high moisture content of wet food can help cats meet their daily water requirements. According to The Cat Care Guide, cats need around 1 oz of water per pound of body weight per day. For a 10 lb cat, that’s nearly a cup of water per day.

Since canned food is high in water, it can provide a significant portion of a cat’s hydration needs. However, some cats may still need additional water, especially if eating mainly dry food.

While wet food is an excellent source of moisture, owners should still monitor their cat’s overall water intake and provide fresh water daily.

Monitor Water Intake

To determine if your cat is getting enough fluids, you need to closely monitor their water intake. This involves observing your cat’s bathroom habits, checking their skin elasticity, and noting any changes in behavior.

Look for signs that your cat is urinating normal amounts and their urine is light yellow and not dark or concentrated. Signs of abnormal urination like straining, crying, or frequent trips to the litter box may indicate dehydration [1]. You should also note if their stool is hard and dry.

Gently pinch the skin on the back of your cat’s neck and release. If it snaps back quickly, hydration is normal. If the skin is slow to flatten out, it indicates dehydration. You can also check for tacky or dry gums [2].

Watch for lethargy, weakness, sunken eyes, dry nose and gums, and loss of appetite, as these are signs your cat may be dehydrated. Note if your cat is drinking more water or crying at their water bowl.

Encourage Drinking

There are several tips you can follow to encourage your cat to drink more water:

Provide fresh, clean water daily. Cats prefer their water bowls to be clean, so wash them with soap and hot water regularly. Replace the water at least once a day. [1]

Use a cat water fountain. The moving water attracts feline curiosity. The fountain filters and recirculates water to keep it cooler and fresher. [2]

Flavor the water. Add a teaspoon of low-sodium chicken or tuna broth to the water. You can also use products made just for flavoring cat water. [3]

Position multiple water bowls around your home. Cats like having access to water in several locations. Place bowls in quiet, low-traffic areas. [1]

Transition to Wet Food

If your cat is not drinking enough water, one of the best solutions is to transition them from dry food to wet food. Wet food has much higher water content than dry food, with most canned cat foods containing around 75-85% moisture, whereas dry kibbles only have around 10% moisture (source). This increased water content from wet food can help with hydration and reduce the risk of UTIs and bladder crystals in cats (source).

When transitioning your cat to wet food, it’s important to do it gradually so as not to upset their digestive system. Start by mixing a small amount of canned food into their regular dry food at meal times. Over the course of several weeks, slowly increase the ratio of wet to dry, until you are feeding only wet food. Cats generally prefer to eat several small meals throughout the day, so feed set portions of wet food 2-3 times a day rather than free feeding.

Be patient during the transition process, as it may take some time for your cat to adjust to the new texture and taste. Make sure to monitor their food and water intake. Wet food provides the hydration they need, and you should see them drinking less water as they get used to the wet food diet.

Consult a Vet

If your cat is not drinking enough water, it’s important to rule out any potential health issues by scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian. Dehydration can be caused by diseases like kidney disease, diabetes or hyperthyroidism ( Your vet will do a physical exam and may run lab tests like a chemistry panel or urinalysis to check your cat’s overall health and organ function.

Be prepared to provide your vet with details about your cat’s water intake, such as how much they usually drink versus how much lately. Any changes in energy, appetite, litterbox habits, or other concerning symptoms are also useful to share. Your vet can provide personalized advice based on your cat’s health history and habits.

Work with your vet to determine if an underlying medical issue is causing your cat’s reduced water intake. They may prescribe medications or suggest diet changes to help manage any conditions. Getting a prompt diagnosis and treatment plan from your vet is crucial for restoring your cat’s hydration.

Prevent Dehydration

Dehydration can be dangerous for cats, so it’s important to recognize the early signs and take action. According to The Kaspack, warning signs of dehydration include lethargy, dry gums, sunken eyes, poor skin elasticity, and constipation. If you notice any of these symptoms, supplement your cat’s fluid intake right away.

You can provide supplemental fluids by adding water to wet food to make it soupy, feeding broths, or using an electrolyte solution. According to Bringing Home Kitten, Pedialyte and coconut water can help replenish electrolytes and hydration. Give supplements frequently in small amounts.

Adjust your cat’s diet to increase moisture intake. Transition to wet food or add water to dry food. Canned tuna or broths can also provide hydration. Work with your vet to determine the best diet for your cat to stay optimally hydrated.

Provide Adequate Hydration

Water is essential for supporting overall health in cats. According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, cats need around 4 ounces of water per 5 pounds of body weight per day [1]. For a 10 pound cat, this equals around 1 cup of water daily.

Feeding wet food is an excellent way to help meet a cat’s hydration needs. Wet food contains around 75% water, providing much needed hydration with each meal [2]. Transitioning to wet food or adding it to a cat’s diet can increase total water intake.

It’s important to monitor water intake daily to ensure adequate hydration. Look for signs of increased thirst, lethargy, dry skin, or changes in litter box habits, which may indicate dehydration [3]. Providing fresh, clean water daily and wet food options supports healthy hydration for cats.


Cats need to stay properly hydrated to maintain good health. While some cats don’t drink much water on their own, eating wet food can provide a significant amount of their hydration needs. It’s important to monitor your cat’s overall water intake and take steps to encourage drinking if needed. Transitioning to wet food, providing multiple water sources, or using cat fountains can help increase hydration. If your cat still isn’t getting enough water, consult your veterinarian. With adequate hydration from wet food, water, or other sources, you can help prevent dehydration and keep your cat healthy and happy.

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