What Can Adult Cats Drink?

Cats need water to stay hydrated and healthy. Dehydration can cause serious health issues in cats, so it’s important they get plenty of fluids. Though water is the ideal source of hydration, there are some other liquids that can be safe for cats to consume in moderation.

This article provides an overview of various drink options for adult cats and guidelines on what they can safely consume. We’ll cover water, milk, juices, tea/coffee, broths, alcoholic beverages, cat milk/formula, and other liquids. We’ll also discuss when you should contact your veterinarian about your cat’s hydration.

Water

Water should be the primary liquid for cats (The body of a young healthy cat up to 70% consists of water – such an animal can survive without drinking for about four to five days. Cats’ body tissues consist of about 67 percent water. Coincidentally, that is approximately the percentage of water in the prey they catch and eat in the wild.) [1] [2]

It is important to provide fresh, clean water for your cat daily. Change the water often and wash water bowls frequently. Cats generally prefer moving water sources like fountains over stagnant water bowls. The constant circulation helps keep the water cooler and fresher tasting. Consider investing in a cat fountain if your cat isn’t drinking enough from a regular bowl.

Milk

You should not give cow’s milk to your adult cat. Most cats are lactose intolerant, meaning they lack the enzyme needed to properly digest the lactose in regular milk. Consuming milk can lead to digestive upset like diarrhea and vomiting in cats.

While some cats are able to tolerate small amounts of milk, it’s best to avoid giving your cat cow’s milk altogether. There are better alternatives like cat milk formulas that are specially designed for feline digestive systems.

Some signs your cat may be lactose intolerant include diarrhea, vomiting, and gas after consuming milk. If your cat experiences these symptoms, stop giving them milk and consult your veterinarian.

While kittens can digest milk from their mother in the early stages of life, their ability to process lactose decreases as they mature. This means you should avoid cow’s milk for adult cats as well.

Juices

Cats should avoid most fruit juices, especially those high in natural sugars like orange, apple, and grape juice [1]. The high sugar content can cause gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, and even toxicity in cats [2]. Even small amounts of sugary fruit juice can negatively impact a cat’s health.

While nutritious for humans, the acids and sugars found in orange juice can cause vomiting and diarrhea in cats. The citric acid may also lead to painful inflammation of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach [3]. Many vets recommend avoiding orange juice entirely, as even a few licks can cause issues for cats.

The high sugar content of most fruit juices makes them inappropriate as treats for cats. Water, meat broths, or small amounts of tuna juice are safer options. If a cat accidentally ingests fruit juice, monitor them closely for signs of digestive upset or toxicity and contact a vet if symptoms develop.

Tea and Coffee

You should avoid giving your cat tea or coffee. Both contain caffeine which is toxic to cats (Caffeine Toxicity in Pets – VCA Animal Hospitals). Caffeine raises blood pressure, causes cardiac arrhythmias, and can lead to tremors, seizures, and even death in cats (Caffeine Are Toxic To Pets). Cats also appear more sensitive to caffeine than humans. Even a small amount like a lick or two of coffee, tea, or soda can be dangerous for cats. The safest choice is to keep all caffeine-containing beverages away from your feline friend.

Alcohol

Alcohol should be avoided at all costs for cats. Alcohol is highly toxic to cats and even small amounts can be deadly. According to Pet Poison Helpline, alcohol poisoning in cats can cause increased thirst, lethargy, disorientation, tremors, paralysis, breathing issues, seizures, and even death.

The toxins in alcohol are quickly absorbed into a cat’s bloodstream and can overwhelm their small size and cause alcohol poisoning rapidly. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, signs of alcohol poisoning include excessive sleepiness, stumbling, disoriented behavior, vomiting, low body temperature, low blood sugar, increased thirst and increased urination. It’s critical to get veterinary help immediately if a cat ingests alcohol.

Alcohol can be found in various beverages, foods, mouthwashes, perfumes, and other household products. Be sure to keep all products containing alcohol far out of a cat’s reach. The best practice is to avoid giving cats access to any products with alcohol at all.

Broth

Small amounts of low-sodium broth can be ok for cats as an occasional treat. According to Preventive Vet, it’s typically fine to give your cat a bit of chicken or beef broth in moderation, but sodium content should be monitored. Sodium can cause dehydration and other health issues if cats consume too much. Look for low-sodium broth options when sharing with your cat.

Cats may be interested in the smell and taste of broths. But as CatTime notes, broth doesn’t offer much nutritional value on its own. It should not make up a significant part of your cat’s diet. Use broth merely as an occasional treat or to encourage hydration if your cat is sick and not drinking enough water.

Cat Milk/Formula

Specialty cat milk formulas like KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) can provide supplemental nutrition for kittens and adult cats, but should not replace a cat’s primary water intake. According to Chewy, KMR is a milk replacer powder made especially for orphaned kittens that mimics a mother cat’s milk. While KMR can help kittens thrive, adult cats do not need milk and too much can cause digestive upset. As noted by The Dodo, the exception is nursing mother cats who benefit from kitten formula to stay hydrated while feeding kittens.

For adult cats, specialty cat milk should be an occasional treat, not a primary fluid source. Cats are lactose intolerant and drinking too much can lead to diarrhea. According to veterinarians, the best fluids for hydrating cats are plain, fresh water and broths for supplemental hydration. Kitten milk replacer can stimulate water intake but should not replace a cat’s main water source.

Other Liquids

While cats may curiously investigate other liquids, it’s best to avoid offering unfamiliar options. Sticking to known safe liquids will help prevent upset stomachs or other problems.

Some questionable liquids cats may show interest in include: soda, coffee, energy drinks, beer, wine, and flavored waters. However, the artificial sweeteners, caffeine, alcohol, citric acids or other ingredients can be problematic for feline digestive systems when consumed.

Even if your cat begs for a taste, avoid sharing your own beverage. The temptation and curiosity stems from observing you enjoy these drinks. But a cat’s physiology differs greatly from humans, so these human drinks present a health risk for cats.

Instead, always keep fresh, clean water freely available. And stick to healthy cat-approved liquids like plain milk, broths, or kitten formula as occasional treats. Skipping the people food and drinks will do wonders for your cat’s long-term health.

When to Contact a Vet

If your cat is showing signs of dehydration, it’s important to contact your vet right away. Dehydration can quickly become dangerous if left untreated. According to PetMD, some symptoms of dehydration in cats include:1

  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry gums
  • Sunken eyes
  • Inelastic skin that doesn’t snap back when pinched
  • Fast heartbeat and breathing
  • Panting
  • Collapsing

You should also contact your vet immediately if your cat refuses to drink water or eats/drinks much less than usual. According to WebMD, chronic dehydration can lead to serious conditions like kidney disease, urinary tract infections, and constipation.2 Don’t try to treat dehydration at home without first speaking to your vet, as improper fluid administration can be dangerous. Your vet will likely administer IV or subcutaneous fluids to get your cat rehydrated as quickly as possible.

Scroll to Top