When Do Kittens Start Drinking Water? The Answer May Surprise You


Kittens rely entirely on their mother’s milk for the first few weeks of life. However, around 4 weeks of age, kittens will start the process of weaning and begin exploring solid food and drinking water on their own. Monitoring your kitten’s water intake during this transitional period is crucial to ensure they are getting adequate hydration as they switch from nursing to lapping water from a bowl or fountain.

Kittens that do not drink enough water are at risk of becoming dangerously dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to serious health issues in kittens, so it’s vital that cat owners watch for signs their kitten is drinking adequate amounts of water. This article will cover everything you need to know about when kittens start drinking water and how to support their developing hydration needs.

Transition from Nursing to Lap Drinking

Kittens rely entirely on their mother’s milk for the first few weeks of their lives. According to the ASPCA, around 4 weeks of age, the queen (mother cat) will begin the weaning process as she gradually introduces solid food. During this time, kittens will start to show interest in their mother’s water bowl.

Initially, kittens will lap or play with the water more than drinking it. According to VetHelpDirect, it’s common for kittens as young as 3-4 weeks to start lapping small amounts of water, even though nursing remains their primary fluid source. By 6-8 weeks of age, as the weaning process continues, kittens will begin drinking more water as they transition from nursing to solid food.

The queen cat typically begins weaning around 4 weeks by offering solid food, like kitten kibble moistened with water or kitten formula. As kittens eat more solids, the queen produces less milk, encouraging kittens to start drinking more water from the bowl. By 8 weeks of age, kittens should be getting most of their hydration from water rather than milk.

Milk to Water Ratio

When kittens are first born, they get all of their hydration from their mother’s milk. As they grow, they will start lapping up small amounts of water from shallow dishes or puddles. Around 3-4 weeks of age, kittens will begin transitioning from nursing to drinking water.

At first, kittens will get most of their hydration from milk and only supplement with small amounts of water. By 6-8 weeks of age, they should be getting approximately 50% of their hydration from nursing and 50% from drinking water. By 10-12 weeks old, kittens should be weaned from nursing and getting the majority of their hydration from water.

This gradual transition is important because water supports kidney function and hydration better than milk as kittens grow. Kittens that continue nursing too long without adequate water intake are at higher risk of dehydration. Providing fresh, clean water daily supports healthy development.

Monitor the milk to water ratio as your kittens grow and ensure they are making a steady transition to primarily drinking water by 12 weeks old. If you notice decreased interest in water or signs of dehydration, contact your veterinarian.

Signs Your Kitten is Drinking Enough

Ensuring your kitten is properly hydrated is crucial to their health and development. There are a few key signs that indicate your kitten is drinking enough water:

Urinating Regularly – Kittens should urinate frequently and have pale yellow urine. If your kitten is straining or producing dark yellow urine, it could be a sign of dehydration.

Pink, Moist Gums – A kitten’s gums should be glossy pink and moist to the touch. Pale, dry or sticky gums often indicate dehydration.

Active, Not Lethargic – Well-hydrated kittens will be energetic and playful. Lethargy, weakness or excessive sleeping can signal dehydration.

Other signs include elastic skin that snaps back when pinched and a cold, wet nose. Monitoring these factors will ensure your kitten stays properly hydrated as they transition from nursing to lap drinking. If you notice symptoms of dehydration, contact your veterinarian right away.

Encouraging Water Intake

There are a few tricks you can try to encourage your cat to drink more water:

Provide multiple water stations around your home. Cats prefer having access to water in several locations rather than having to return to one bowl. Place bowls in quiet, low-traffic areas and away from their food bowls.[1]

Consider getting a cat fountain. The sound and movement of flowing water attracts cats more than stagnant water in a bowl. Fountains keep the water fresher too. Make sure to wash and refill it regularly.[2]

Add tasty mix-ins like broth or tuna juice to the water. Only use tuna packed in water, not oil. Chicken broth also works. The flavors make the water more enticing. Check with your vet before adding anything new.[2]

Dangers of Dehydration

Dehydration can be very dangerous for cats if left untreated. Some of the most concerning dangers of dehydration in cats include:

Constipation and urinary tract infections – Dehydration causes the urine to become more concentrated. This concentrated urine can irritate the bladder and lead to infections. Dehydration can also cause constipation as the stool becomes drier and harder to pass.

Cite: https://www.webmd.com/pets/cats/dehydration-cats

Kidney disease – The kidneys require adequate fluid intake to function properly. Dehydration places strain on the kidneys and can worsen existing kidney disease. Severe, prolonged dehydration can even lead to kidney failure.

Cite: https://www.bostonveterinary.com/web-tails/cat-dehydration/

Lethargy and weakness – Dehydration causes electrolyte imbalances, which can make cats feel weak and lethargic. Severely dehydrated cats may have trouble standing or walking normally.

Dehydration can quickly become life-threatening if left untreated. It is important to monitor cats for signs of dehydration and contact a veterinarian if they appear ill from dehydration.

When to Call the Vet

If your kitten is not drinking water by 6-8 weeks of age, it is crucial to contact your veterinarian. According to Untamed Cat Food, kittens should begin lapping water from a bowl starting at 4-5 weeks old. By 6-8 weeks, they should be consistently drinking water on their own.

There are several signs of dehydration to watch out for in kittens who are not drinking enough water. These include lethargy, sunken eyes, dry gums, weakness, and urinating less frequently. According to Meow Passion, kittens who go longer than 8-12 hours without urinating likely need veterinary attention.

Contact your veterinarian right away if your kitten is displaying any signs of dehydration or not urinating regularly. Dehydration can quickly become life-threatening for kittens if left untreated. Your vet can provide subcutaneous fluids and determine if there is an underlying health issue causing your kitten’s lack of drinking.

Water Requirements

The daily water intake recommendations for kittens and cats depend on their age and weight. According to the Cats Protection charity, the daily water intake guidelines are:1

  • Kitten up to 3 months (1.4 kg) – 70 ml
  • 6 month old kitten (2.7 kg) – 135 ml
  • Medium cat (4 kg) – 200 ml

So a general rule of thumb is that kittens need approximately 50 ml of water per kg of body weight per day. Adult cats tend to drink less than kittens proportionally.

Several factors can influence a kitten or cat’s daily water needs:2

  • Diet – Cats eating wet food will get more moisture from their diet and require less drinking water.
  • Environment – Hot or dry environments lead to increased water needs.
  • Activity Level – More active kittens and cats need more water to stay hydrated.

It’s important to monitor water intake and adjust amounts accordingly based on influencing factors.

Transitioning to Adult Cat Water Needs

As kittens grow into adult cats, their water needs change. According to Vetwest, the average water requirement for adult cats is approximately 60 mL per kg of body weight per day. So an adult cat weighing 5 kg would need around 300 mL of water daily.

There are a few reasons an adult cat’s water needs differ from a kitten’s:

  • Adult cats consume less milk and more dry food, which requires more water for digestion.
  • Kittens have higher metabolic rates and are growing rapidly, requiring more fluid.
  • Once spayed/neutered, cats’ water needs may decrease slightly.

To keep adult cats well-hydrated, it’s important to:

  • Provide fresh, clean water at all times.
  • Offer wet or canned food to increase moisture intake.
  • Use cat fountains to encourage drinking.
  • Monitor water intake and consult a vet if it changes suddenly.

With the right diet and access to water, most adult cats can meet their daily fluid requirements. Monitoring hydration levels is key to ensuring your cat’s needs are met as they age.


In summary, kittens will start drinking water around 4 weeks of age when they begin weaning off their mother’s milk. It’s important to monitor their water intake closely during this transition period to ensure they stay properly hydrated. Kittens should be drinking adequate amounts of water by 8 weeks old.

Promoting proper hydration in kittens is crucial for their short-term health and long-term wellbeing. Dehydration can quickly lead to serious illness at this young age. Make sure fresh water is always available and watch for signs of dehydration like lethargy or dry gums.

Establishing strong drinking habits early on will benefit your cat throughout its lifetime. Cats that stay well-hydrated experience fewer urinary and kidney problems as they age. By meeting your kitten’s water needs now, you are investing in their lifelong health and happiness.

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