Cat Dehydration: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Cat dehydration happens when there is excessive fluid loss from your cat’s body. When this occurs, it’s not just a loss of water. It is also a loss of essential minerals in their body like sodium, potassium, and chloride. 

Water is essential to your cat’s health. It helps it maintain good health and replace the fluids that they lose through their urine and feces. Water is also necessary for your cat’s circulation, digestion, and waste removal. If dehydration is left untreated in your cat, it can lead to other severe medical concerns. 

What Causes Dehydration in Cats?

Dehydration in cats is typically caused by your cat not drinking enough water or from excessive water loss. Cats can also lose moisture by sweating small amounts through their paws, but this does not usually cause a drastic water loss. Dehydration could be brought about by many different factors like:

To help your cat maintain healthy hydration, ensure that it can access fresh water and a clean bowl all day, every day.

How Much Water Does My Cat Need?

Your cat needs about 3.5 to 4.5 ounces of water per 5 pounds of body weight every day. For instance, if you have a 10-pound cat, it should be drinking about half a bottle of water every day (between 7-9 ounces).

If your cat eats wet food often, you may notice that it doesn’t drink as much water. That’s because the cat is consuming water when they eat. Wet food for cats is made up of 80% water. 

On the other hand, cats who primarily eat dry food won’t consume as much water from their food. It is vital for them to get hydrated by drinking from their water dish. 

What Are the General Symptoms of Dehydration in Cats?

It’s essential to keep an eye on your cat and make sure that they are getting enough fresh water as a part of their daily diet. If your cat is not getting enough water, they may be at risk of becoming dehydrated. 


Signs of dehydration in cats include:

  • Dry, tacky gums
  • Loss of energy
  • Refusal to eat
  • Sunken eyes
  • Panting

A good test to help you determine if your cat is dehydrated is called ‘skin tenting.’ To do this, gently take a small portion of skin around the cat’s shoulders and pull it up and let go. 

If your cat is hydrated, the skin will snap back into place. If the skin falls back down slowly, this probably means that your cat is dehydrated. If your cat’s skin remains up in a tent position and does not fall back down, it can be a sign of severe dehydration. You should seek medical care for your cat right away.

What Should I Do if My Cat Is Dehydrated?

Dehydration in cats is often a sign of a serious underlying medical condition. If you suspect that your cat is dehydrated, contact your veterinarian for help right away.

In the mean time you can try some of these home remedies to try to rehydrate your cat: 

  • Add a small amount of tuna juice or chicken broth to their water.
  • Try giving them wet food instead of dry food.
  • Place a few ice cubes in their water bowl.

It’s important that you get to know your cat’s preferences and that you go with what they prefer. 

For instance, some cats like drinking water from a cat fountain instead of a water dish. You want to try to encourage them to drink. However, you should never force them. 

Are Certain Cats Prone to Dehydration?

Generally, older cats or cats that have been diagnosed with another illness are more prone to dehydration. 

For instance, if your cat is experiencing kidney disorder, cancer, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes, it is helpful to talk with your veterinarian about how to maintain healthy hydration levels for your cat.

How Is Dehydration Treated?

Your veterinarian may perform a quick procedure where they give your cat fluids under the skin. In severe cases, your veterinarian may hospitalize your cat and give them fluids through a needle that goes directly into the cat’s vein. This method can usually rehydrate your cat within a few hours or days.

Your veterinarian will diagnose the underlying reason for your cat’s dehydration and help nurse them back to health. 


How Can I Prevent Dehydration In My Cat?

There are a few different ways that you can help prevent dehydration in your cat. A few options include:

  • Use a cat water fountain with fresh water to encourage them to drink.
  • Try giving your cat meat-flavored water or an electrolyte supplement from a trusted pet food store.
  • Provide multiple clean water sources around your home for the cat to drink from.
  • Clean out and provide fresh water in your cat’s water bowls daily.

If your cat seems hesitant to drink or appears to be dehydrated, it's important to get them to the vet right away. Dehydration in cats can lead to other serious medical concerns that should be addressed as soon as possible. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on February 09, 2021



Feline Living: “How Much Water Does a Cat Need? How to Get Her To Drink More?”

PetMD: “Dehydration in Cats.” 

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