The Deep Meaning of Your Cat’s “Meow” for Water

A Cats Body Language Speaks Volumes

Cats are often stereotyped as being very reserved, but this is far from the truth. While their behaviors may be subtle, cats have a robust and complex body language that allows them to communicate their needs. In fact, cats use a combination of body postures, vocalizations, ear and tail positions, and even pheromones to convey over 100 different messages to those around them! By understanding “feline speak”, cat owners can better interpret when their pet is happy, anxious, hungry, or just wants some playtime.

Signs of Thirst

Cats can show some clear signs when they are feeling thirsty and dehydrated. According to experts at Gallant, some of the key signs to look out for include:

  • Crying or meowing more – Especially crying when around sources of water like taps or the cat’s water bowl.
  • Seeking out water sources – Your cat may hang around taps, the toilet, or anywhere they know water can be found.
  • Increased lapping – Cats will lap up any water they can find more vigorously when thirsty.
  • Panting – Heavy breathing or panting even when they are not hot can indicate your cat needs more fluids (Gallant, 2019).

Pay attention if your cat is showing any of these behaviors, as it likely means they need more water intake. Cats naturally get much of their water from their food, so a change in diet or eating less may also lead to signs of thirst.

Reasons for Thirst

There are several common reasons why cats may experience increased thirst or signs of dehydration:

Dehydration – If a cat is not getting enough water over an extended period of time, either due to lack of access to water, illness, or not drinking enough on their own, they can become dehydrated. Dehydration leads to increased thirst as the body tries to replace lost fluids.

Exercising – Cats that get a lot of exercise, such as outdoor cats and young kittens, may drink more to replace fluids lost while active. Their bodies require more water to function during physical activity. [1]

Hot Weather – Cats tend to drink more water when it’s hot outside to cool themselves and replace moisture lost through panting and sweating. Increased thirst helps bring their body temperature down and prevent overheating.

Medical Conditions – Various medical conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and more can increase thirst as the body tries to flush out excess glucose, urea, or hormones through urination. It’s important to rule out underlying illness. [2]

Providing Water

It’s important to always provide fresh, clean water for your cat. Cats should have access to water at all times. The water should be changed daily to ensure freshness. Place water bowls throughout your home so your cat always has access to water, including high-traffic areas where your cat spends a lot of time. Cats tend to drink more water when bowls are easily accessible. Make sure to wash water bowls thoroughly with soap and hot water on a regular basis to keep them clean and prevent bacteria buildup. Providing fresh, clean water consistently is key to keeping your cat hydrated.

According to PetMD, water bowls should be washed daily with hot, soapy water to help remove bacteria and ensure clean drinking water.

Increased Water Intake

Cats may start drinking more water for various reasons. One of the most common is disease. Here are some diseases which can contribute to increased thirst in cats:


Diabetes causes glucose (sugar) to build up in the bloodstream rather than be absorbed by cells. This leads to excess glucose being expelled through the urine, taking water with it. To avoid dehydration, diabetic cats drink more to compensate for their increased urination. If your cat suddenly becomes very thirsty and starts urinating larger volumes, get them tested for diabetes by your vet.

Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is common in older cats. Damaged kidneys cannot concentrate urine effectively, so more water winds up being excreted. This leads to increased thirst as the body tries to rehydrate itself. Kidney disease also disrupts the body’s ability to regulate hydration hormones. Again, increased drinking is a hallmark sign of kidney problems.


An overactive thyroid gland pushes the metabolism into overdrive. This results in increased thirst as the body tries to compensate for metabolic changes and deal with excess body heat from a faster metabolism. If your cat is drinking more but not urinating more, hyperthyroidism could be the culprit.

Lack of Thirst

If your cat is not drinking enough water, it could be a sign of an underlying illness. Some potential causes for a lack of thirst in cats include:

  • Kidney disease – Kidney disorders like chronic kidney disease can cause cats to drink less water. Damaged kidneys have a hard time concentrating urine, so cats feel less thirsty. According to PetMD, kidney disease is one of the most common reasons senior cats stop drinking.
  • Diabetes – High blood sugar levels caused by diabetes mellitus can also suppress thirst. The excess sugar spills into the urine, taking water with it. This makes cats urinate more and drink less.
  • Dental disease – Bad teeth or sore gums might make drinking painful. Cats may avoid the pain by not drinking.
  • Nausea – Conditions like gastritis, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis and others can cause nausea. The nausea suppresses appetite and thirst.
  • Cancer – Some forms of cancer, especially kidney, thyroid and mouth cancer, are known to decrease thirst.
  • Infection – Systemic viral, bacterial or fungal infections can affect hydration and thirst.

If your cat is drinking noticeably less water and showing signs of illness like lethargy, vomiting, or appetite changes, take it to the vet. Bloodwork and urinalysis can check for medical conditions causing the lack of thirst.

Encouraging Drinking

There are some tips and tricks you can try to encourage your cat to drink more water:

Flavored water – Adding a bit of low-sodium broth or tuna juice to the water can make it more enticing for picky cats. Just be sure not to make it too strong. According to Dr. Heather Berst on the Zoetis Petcare blog, the water should smell like whatever you added, but a human shouldn’t be able to taste it.

Fountain water bowls – Many cats prefer moving water, as it appeals to their natural hunting instincts. Fountain bowls like the Drinkwell Pagoda provide a continuous circulating stream of fresh water.

Location – Placing multiple water bowls around the house, away from their food, can encourage drinking. Cats don’t like their water source too close to food, so separate food and water bowls.

Try different bowls – Some cats may not like the shape, size, depth or material of their bowl. Experiment with stainless steel, ceramic and plastic options to see if a different bowl gets your cat drinking more.

When to See the Vet

If a cat shows signs of excessive or increasing thirst over an extended period of time, it’s important to take the cat to the vet for an examination. Persistent excessive thirst can indicate underlying medical issues like diabetes, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or other conditions.

According to veterinary experts, increased drinking and urination that lasts more than 24 hours warrants a veterinary visit to determine the cause. Significant increases in thirst over a matter of days or weeks is especially concerning and should be evaluated promptly.

Catching the cause of excessive thirst early allows for quicker treatment and better health outcomes. The vet will likely run blood work, urine tests and other diagnostics to check for illness. With the right treatment, many conditions causing increased thirst can be managed. It’s best not to wait if a cat’s thirst continues growing.

Preventing Dehydration

There are several ways cat owners can help prevent dehydration in their feline friends:

Feeding wet food can increase fluid intake. Canned cat foods contain up to 75% water, while dry kibble only has around 10% moisture. Feeding wet food, or a combination of wet and dry, helps cats consume more fluids.1

Routine vet checkups allow vets to monitor cats’ overall health and detect early signs of kidney disease or diabetes, which can increase risk of dehydration.2

Pet owners should monitor water intake and note any changes. Increased thirst may indicate an underlying issue. Providing fresh, clean water at multiple stations throughout the home can encourage drinking.3

With proper preventative care and monitoring, cat owners can help keep their pets hydrated and avoid the dangers of dehydration.


A cat’s thirst is a signal that they need access to clean, fresh water. Signs that a cat may be thirsty include meowing, visiting water sources frequently, seeking out sinks or showers, lapping up water eagerly, and changes in litter box habits. Ensuring your cat always has full, clean water bowls and making water easily accessible can prevent dehydration. Pay attention to changes in your cat’s thirst, as this could indicate an underlying health issue. With proper hydration, cats can stay healthy and happy.

While a thirsty cat generally just needs more water, their thirst can sometimes signal underlying health problems. Monitor your cat’s drinking habits and watch for signs of dehydration. Providing easy access to water, checking water bowls frequently, and giving cats wet food can all help keep them hydrated. If you have concerns about increased or decreased thirst in your cat, consult your veterinarian.

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