How to tell if your cat is drinking enough water

With temperatures rising in summer, you may be worried that your cat isn’t drinking enough water. Find out how to make sure your cat stays healthy, happy and cool during warmer weather.

Cats don’t naturally drink as much water as we might expect, but it’s important to make sure your cat has plenty of options to choose from when they are thirsty. If you’re able to recognise the signs of dehydration, you can check your cat is getting enough water even if you don’t see them drinking. 

How do I know if my cat is drinking enough water?

Domestic cats are the descendants of the wild cats that once roamed the deserts of the Middle East and Africa. These cats evolved to survive in an arid environment where water was scarce. That means, even now, our domestic cats still have a low thirst drive and don’t need to drink as often as we might expect.

Often owners won’t see their cat drinking as cats tend to seek water from a lot of places. Some like rainwater and drink from bird baths or puddles. Others like to drink running water from garden fountains. Cats on a wet-food diet may drink less because they’re getting more water from their food.

How do I know if my cat is dehydrated?

It’s a good idea to know how to check if your cat is dehydrated or not. Signs to look out for include:

  • Tacky or sticky gums
  • Tented skin (as explained below)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Panting or drooling
  • Sunken eyes
  • Trembling
  • Changes to urination patterns
  • Collapse (in severe cases)

You can check for tented skin by gently lifting the skin between your cat’s shoulder blades. If your cat is well hydrated, this should bounce back into place as you let go. In a dehydrated cat, the skin will stay in a fold or be much slower to fall back down. Keep an eye on your cat’s health over the summer, as dehydration can lead to kidney problems. While dehydration can affect any cat, senior cats aged 11 and over are more at risk. 

Where should I put my cat’s water?

Make sure your cat always has access to a variety of drinking options. Place bowls around the house and garden, but keep them away from your cat’s litter tray and food bowls. Cats also prefer to see what’s in front and behind them as they drink, so don’t place bowls in corners where your cat may not feel like it’s a safe place for them to stop for a drink. 

Your cat’s whiskers are very sensitive and many cats don’t like the sensation of their whiskers touching the sides of a water bowl. That means wide and shallow dishes are best. Plastic bowls can develop scratches where bacteria can multiply. So, choose ceramic or stainless steel bowls and wash them regularly. 

What if my cat is fussy about drinking water?

If your fussy cat has access to plenty of fresh water but still doesn’t seem to be drinking enough, it might be time to try a few different approaches. Some cats love the trickling effect of a water fountain, while others prefer filtered water. Others like the water from the base of plant pots, or from the kitchen tap. It’s worth experimenting to find out the type and location of water that your cat seems to prefer.

You can also add a little flavour to their water. Pour the water from a tin of tuna into an ice-cube tray, freeze, and then pop one or two cubes into their water. You can also make ice cubes using fresh stock from fish or chicken. Just make sure there’s no salt added.

Can my cat drink too much?

Excessive drinking in cats can be a sign of diabetes or other health conditions. You may notice your cat drinking more, or find you need to refill their water bowl more often. Another clue is that they’re urinating a lot more and you may need to clean out their litter tray more frequently. If you’re worried your cat is drinking too much, speak to your vet for advice.

What can I do to stop my cat getting too hot?

During the summer, you might be worried about your cat overheating. Cats are usually very good at regulating their body temperature and will normally move to a cooler spot if they’re feeling too warm. But if your cat accidentally gets trapped in a hot room, greenhouse, conservatory or car, then they may struggle to cool down.

Summer safety for cats includes things like making sure they’re never shut inside and using a cat-safe sunscreen on cats with paler ears and noses. When it’s very hot, you could create a cooling station. Alternatively, you could wrap a towel around a frozen water bottle for your cat to cuddle up to, or buy them a cooling mat. You can also place a fan in a cool room and make sure you know the signs of heatstroke.

What are the signs of heatstroke in cats?

Heatstroke in cats is rare, but it’s important to know what to look out for. Symptoms of overheating in cats include:

  • Panting
  • Lethargy
  • Sweaty paws
  • Vomiting
  • Bright red gums
  • Drooling
  • Increased heart rate

Heatstroke is an emergency, so always contact your vet as soon as possible if you’re concerned. While you’re waiting, make sure your cat is in a cool place, put them in front of a fan, and stroke their fur with a damp towel. Never put them in a bath or use very cold water as this can cause them to go into shock.

Keep your cat cool this summer

While your cat probably knows exactly how to keep themselves cool over the summer, it’s always good to know the danger signs of dehydration and overheating. Offering lots of different types of water bowls in different locations can also help make sure your cat can drink as often as they want to.

If you’ve got any tips for how to encourage a fussy cat to drink enough water, we’d love to hear them! Use the #PethoodStories tag on social media and join the conversation.

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