How to tell if your cat is drinking enough water

Is your cat hydrated enough? Here’s how to keep them cool as temperatures rise.

Cats become sun worshippers in warmer weather. But are they at risk of dehydrating, overheating or sunburn?

Here, we explain what you need to know as a responsible cat owner to keep your cat healthy, happy and cool when temperatures rise.

How do I know how much water my cat is drinking?

Domestic cats are descendants of wild cats who once roamed the deserts of the Middle East and Africa, so they’ll naturally know how to stay cool. But as their ‘human’, it’s your job to give them plenty of options to access water.

Sarah Elliott, a vet from Cats Protection, says: ‘Owners often won’t see their cat drinking as they can seek water from lots of places.

‘Some like rainwater and drink from birdbaths or puddles, so you can collect rainwater for them. Others like running water, so treat them to a fountain. Those on a wet-food diet may drink less because they’re getting water from their food.’

Where should I put water?

Place bowls around the house and garden but away from the litter tray. (You wouldn’t want to drink in the loo, would you?)

Keep food and water bowls separate. Cats don’t like food contaminating their water, or their whiskers getting wet or tickling the side of the bowl, so choose a wide glass or ceramic bowl for their water.

Cats like to see what’s in front and behind them too, so don’t put bowls in corners.

What if my cat is fussy about water?

Cat behaviourist and vet nurse Zoe Blake suggests adding a bit of flavour for a fussy feline: ‘Try adding a fishy ice-cube to their water. Just dribble some of the excess liquid from a tin of tuna into a water-filled ice cube tray, freeze it and then pop one or two cubes in their water. Alternatively, try adding some fresh stock to the ice cubes by boiling chicken, without salt.

‘Some cats like the feeling of trickling water from a cat water fountain, others like filtered water, so it’s worth experimenting.’

Can my cat drink too much?

If your cat is drinking a lot, they might be unwell. It can be a sign of diabetes.

If your cat is starting to produce more urine in their tray, then it’s due to them drinking more – so watch for this.

How do I know if my cat is dehydrated?

Kidney problems can arise from cats not drinking enough, particularly in those aged 11 and over.

However, any cat can get dehydrated. While it’s not always obvious, there are certain signs of dehydration that you can look out for:

  • Cats who are mildly dehydrated will have tacky, almost sticky gums, compared with normal moist ones
  • Loss of appetite
  • More seriously dehydrated cats will display a skin tent, where if you gently lift the skin between their shoulder blades, it takes a few seconds to lie flat again. Test this on the back of your own hand to see how it should fall back into place
  • An increase in a cat’s heart rate is a clear warning sign
  • Watch out too for sunken eyes and hot paws.

Read our guide to checking your cat. If you’re at all worried, visit your vet.

Can I stop my cat getting too hot?

Cats can cope with the heat but may get into trouble if they become accidentally trapped in a hot room, greenhouse, conservatory or car.

A normal, healthy cat would move to a cooler spot if they felt they were getting too warm. Cats will struggle when they can’t control where they go and don’t have the option to cool down.

For paler skinned animals, use a cat-friendly sun cream. This will help to protect the sensitive skin on their ears and nose from getting burned – and from getting skin cancer later on.

Don’t be tempted to use your own sun cream as it could contain chemicals harmful to your pet. And remember to keep it away from their eyes.

What are the signs my cat may be overheating?

  • Panting is an early sign that something is wrong, as cats normally breathe through their nose
  • If it’s heatstroke, cats’ gums are likely to turn a bright red colour or very pale. Overheating cats often become distressed and agitated or may be very lethargic. They might be drooling and have a very fast heartbeat when you check with your hand on their chest
  • Bring your cat inside to a cooler area and see if their breathing returns to normal. Offer them some cool water and soak a cloth and place it on them
  • Never use very cold water or put a cat in a bath as this can cause shock. Cooling a cat too quickly can be just as dangerous as heatstroke. If this happens, call your vet.

Yes, you can have a cool cat this summer!

One final, fun tip from Sarah at Cats Protection: treat your cat to a cooling station.

Wrap a towel around a frozen water bottle for them to cuddle up to. And buy a cooling mat – they work!

It’s good to know the danger signs, but remember, your cool cat knows how to care for themself.

We work in partnership with the UK's animal charities and have seen first-hand the devastating impact Covid-19 is having on their income and the vital funds needed to support the animals in their care. For over 30 years we have been providing 4 weeks free insurance for rehomed pets and giving 10% of rescue pet premiums back to animal charities. In June, to help support animal charities through the Covid-19 crisis we paid over £700,000 in funds that our partners would have received from us in the next 6 months now, in one lump sum, to help them get through the pandemic.

Back to top