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How Long Can a Cat Go Without Water?

Cat drinking water from water faucet

How long can a cat go without water? This is an extremely important question to ask yourself if you own a cat that you either don’t see often or you’re a new cat parent.

We want your cat to be healthy throughout their lives, so we’re going to outline how long they can go, how much water they should have, symptoms of not getting enough water, and more below.

How Long Can Your Cat Go Without Water?

This question depends on whether your cat is an indoor cat, outdoor cat, both, and what they eat. If your cat eats canned food, roughly 75% to 80% of that is water, and this means they can survive much longer without actually drinking water.

If your cat eats mostly dry food, they’re not getting nearly enough water to survive on. They can go around three days without any water before their body starts to shut down and they go into organ failure. This is the same time humans can go without any water.

However, most cats don’t drink a lot, or they don’t drink a lot at one time. This means that you want to make it a priority for them to have access to fresh, cold, and clean water on a constant basis so they can drink when they feel like it. Your cat needs between two and four ounces of water a day for every five pounds of body weight.

Factors That Decide How Much Water Your Cat Needs a Day

We mentioned that there were several factors that determined how much water your cat needs. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • Age – Younger kittens will drink more water than older cats because they’re typically more active. However, you want to make sure all age demographics have access to fresh water.
  • Food – Wet food has a much higher water content than dry food, so cats that eat wet food will need less water a day. If you feed both wet and dry, this will reduce the amount of water your cat drinks.
  • Size – Larger cats have a higher body weight, so they’ll need more water per day than a slender or petite cat. This includes as your cat grows too, and younger cats will usually drink more than older cats.
  • Weather – Hot and humid climates can make your cat get dehydrated much quicker than dry and arid climates. They’ll need more water when it’s hot and humid out.

How Your Cat Drinks Water

When cats drink water, they shoot their tongue out toward the water’s surface, pull their tongue back toward their mouth, and shut their mouth before the water can fall back out. Your cat can easily drink five teaspoons of water in just under 60 seconds this way.

Small kittens have to learn how to drink, they to do this by sticking their face into the water before pulling it back very quickly in shock. They spend a lot of time playing in the water and splashing around, but it’s an effective way for them to learn to drink properly.

Signs That Your Cat Isn’t Drinking Enough Water

If your cat isn’t getting enough water, there are several huge clues in their behavior and body that will let you know. Signs that your cat isn’t getting enough water include:

Skin Tenting
One of the easiest ways to check for dehydration is called skin tenting, and this is where you pinch your cat’s skin by their shoulder and gently pull it out. A well-hydrated cat’s skin will snap back into place almost instantly, but a dehydrated cat’s skin will stay out and look like a tent.

Sunken Eyes
In healthy cats, their eyes are bright, sensitive, and set into their face. A dehydrated cat’s eyes change, and you may notice them looking like they’re sinking into your cat’s head, lacking their normal focus, or just dull in general.

Sticky or Dry Gums
Your cat’s gums should always been pink, moisturized, and healthy-looking. If your cat has dry, sticky, or discolored gums, it’s one of the first signs that they’re not getting enough water.

Lethargy
Healthy cats are usually full of life, happy, and very playful. Once cats get dehydrated or don’t feel well in general, their activity levels can start to drop. They get much more lethargic and generally uninterested in doing anything as the dehydration progresses.

Less Waste Production
Cats tend to get constipated when they’re dehydrated because they don’t have enough moisture in their bodies to help push the waste product along the intestines. They also urinate less, so checking their litter box is one way to see if your cat is having issues.

Not Eating
Since most cats don’t have a set schedule when they eat like dogs do, it can be difficult to judge whether or not they’re eating the same amount they usually do. Monitor their food bowl and see if your cat is eating. If they’re not, they could be on the way to dehydration.

How to Avoid Dehydration in Cats

If you notice that your cat isn’t drinking or not drinking enough, there are a few quick things you can do to help prevent dehydration.

The first thing you can do is introduce water-based treats into your cat’s diet, and give them a few of these at a time. The water content in the treats can stimulate your cat’s system and make them find their water bowl.

You don’t like to drink stale and warm water, and neither does your cat. Make sure you change out your cat’s water at least once a day. You can add ice cubes to the water for points of interest, or you can consider getting a fountain-style water bowl that cycles the water through.

Finally, you can give your cat food or even canned tuna with water mixed in. They usually like the taste, and they’ll drink the water as they eat the tuna to help bring their water intake levels up.

What to Do for Dehydration in Cats

What you do for your dehydrated cats depends on how severe the dehydration is. If they’re really far gone, they may not be able to drink on their own without throwing it back up. But, things you can do include:

  • Pedialyte – If your cat is only mildly dehydrated and interesting in drinking water, give them a small amount of Pedialyte over 10 minutes. Not only will this hydrate them, but it also contains much-needed electrolytes to help balance their systems.
  • Mix Water Into Food – If your cat can tolerate liquids, mix a little warm water into your cat’s food to create a mush. Feed them small amounts to slowly rehydrate them.
  • Ice Chips – For cats that can’t tolerate liquids, give them ice chips to lick. This will let them get water without overloading their systems.
  • Vet – If your cat refuses to drink, a vet trip is in order. Your vet can hydrate your cat by giving them several small injections of saline under the skin.

You can also alternate the wet food and warm water mixture with the Pedialyte if your cat will tolerate it. Getting a cat water fountain is another option because your cat may be more prone to drink and generally be around the water if it interests them.

It’s also important that you have a wide enough water bowl for your cat to get close too without disturbing their whiskers. Their whiskers are very sensitive, and it may put them off drinking if they bump into the sides of the bowl when your cat is trying to get a drink.

Bottom Line

Dehydration can be deadly in cats in just a few days, so making sure they get enough water is essential to keeping them healthy. Now that you know how long can a cat go without water, how to prevent dehydration, and how to treat it, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to keep your feline happy and healthy throughout their lives.