Why is my cat not drinking water?
Cat Food and Hydration

Cat Not Drinking Water? 10 Simple Ways to Keep Your Cat Hydrated!

Is your cat dehydrated? Cats need 60 ml of water per kilo of bodyweight. Felines rarely drink enough water to meet their daily requirements. Thankfully, there are some really easy ways to get your cat to drink more water that can be introduced almost instantly.

How do I get my cat to drink water? Move your cat’s water bowl to a better position. Most felines are reluctant to drink water if they smell food or their litter box is nearby. Use a water fountain. Many cats consider plain, static water to be dull. If your pet remains water-averse, consider offering several, smaller meals of wet food per day. Also, chunks of textured fruit, such as watermelon, will help to hydrate your cat quickly.

If your cat refuses water, you need to find a way to keep your feline hydrated. Just because your cat ignores their water bowl doesn’t mean that it will always remain that way. There are quick and easy modifications that anyone can make to get a cat to drink water again.

How to Check for Hydration in Cats

Hydration is important to felines. As Petcha explains, their bodies are made up of 80% water. This means that drinking enough water ensures that a cat’s internal organs function appropriately.

If your cat becomes dehydrated, then various mental and physical functions will be impacted. Common symptoms of dehydration in cats include:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Pale and discolored gums
  • Painting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and depression

However, the easiest way to detect feline dehydration is by testing the elasticity of their skin. Pinch the skin between your cat’s shoulders (not so hard that it hurts), and release it.

If your pet is sufficiently hydrated, the skin will spring back into place. If your cat is dehydrated, it will very slowly and gradually slump back.

Dehydration must never be ignored. If it’s left long enough, dehydration can even be fatal to felines. Your cat should be encouraged to drink. In some situations, a vet may need to provide IV fluids.

Why is My Cat Not Drinking Water?

Cats are descended from desert animals. This means that they retain water quite well. However, they don’t retain it well enough not to drink all day. Why, in this case, are cats so reluctant to drink?

There are three primary reasons why a cat may not want to drink. These include:

  1. Their water smells contaminated.
  2. They find plain water boring.
  3. They don’t like their water bowl.

Let’s take a look at each of these in a little more detail.

My Cat Thinks Their Water is Contaminated

Cats are very fussy about water. Felines in the wild are innately distrustful of water sources, lest they end up poisoned. This means that they will avoid drinking from a water source that they consider contaminated.

This suspicion of contamination all stems from your cat’s sense of smell. Take tap water as an example. When we sip on tap water, we generally find it taste and scent neutral. This is a result of the chlorine that has cleaned up the water. Many cats find the scent of this chemical to be overwhelming. As a result, they’ll walk away from their bowl.

It’s not just chlorine that upsets your cat’s sense of smell, either. Most pet owners keep food and water bowls side by side. This makes sense on paper, as after eating, your cat will surely be thirsty?

In reality, cats like to eat in private areas, separate from any other activity. If their water is kept too close to their food, the scents will mingle. This will leave your cat fearing contamination. The same can also be said if your cat’s water is too close to their litter tray.

how to get a cat to drink water when sick

Of course, your cat’s water bowl may not fall into any of these categories. In theory, that’s ideal for your cat. This doesn’t change the fact that they may want to find out for themselves, though. It’s common to find a cat plunging one paw into their water bowl to test it.

In theory, this will satisfy their concerns. In practice, most cats now consider their water contaminated by their paws and lose interest. Nobody ever said that feline behavior made sense.

My Cat Finds Plain Water Boring

Many cats find a bowl of plain water dull. It’s not how they would come across water in the wild, after all. That’s why some cats like to drink from the toilet bowl.

Most cats will tap the side of their water bowl, in an attempt at making the contents move. This can get messy, as an unsecured water bowl will quickly tip over. Your cat’s water bowl may also move if it’s lightweight. This will likely make a scraping sound that upsets your cat.

If your cat walks away from their water bowl without drinking, think about making it more appealing.

My Cat Doesn’t Like Its Water Bowl

The bowl that houses your cat’s water can be a source of much consternation. Think about the material the bowl is made from, it’s size, and how full it is.

Be aware of any allergies that your cat may have. Many cats are allergic to plastic. If your cat’s water bowl is irritating and even hurting your cat, they will not drink from it.

Another way that a water bowl can hurt a cat is through whisker fatigue. As your cat’s whiskers received information all day, they grow a little tired and weary. If they then brush again the sides of their water bowl, it will hurt. Your cat may start to associate water with pain, and steer clear.

You’ll need to ensure that you’re consistent with quantities. Cats notice things like this. If their bowl is usually half-filled, they’ll be suspicious if it’s full to the brim. Equally, if you provide less water than usual, they’ll wonder what’s going on. Consistency is essential.

How to Keep Your Cat Hydrated

We have now established how important hydration is to felines. However, explaining that your cat is rarely enough. Employ the following techniques to ensure your cat remains hydrated.

1) Switch Your Cat to Wet Food

Changing your cat’s diet isn’t always advisable. Felines can be very fussy about their food, after all. If your cat is reluctant to drink water, however, dry food will only aggravate the issue.

Most wet food is typically made up of around 10% water. This means that your pet will gain a great deal of hydration from it. It’s also easy to obtain high quality, protein-rich wet foods.

The down side to this is that you cannot free-feed wet food. It needs to be served at a particular time, at a particular temperature. Routine and consistency are essential.

If your cat is used to grazing, the change may cause them stress at first. Of course, you can still leave small amounts of dry food. Just reduce the wet food allowance sufficiently. Overall, consuming wet food leaves your cat more likely to remain hydrated.

2) Offer Hydrating Treats

If you offer snacks that are mainly water, your pet has no choice but to hydrate.

Watermelon is the ideal solution here. Most cats are indifferent to fruit, as they cannot taste sweetness. However, watermelon is an exception.

It gives off a distinct scent akin to meat, which tempts your cat. Watermelon is also 92% water, as the name suggests. That’s a great way to trick your cat into hydrating.

how to force a cat to drink water

However, there are a handful of caveats that surround this fruit. It is a fruit that contains sugar, and can cause an upset stomach. Feed watermelon to your cat in moderation. Always remove the rind and seeds. These can be lethal to a cat if left intact.

3) Move or Change Your Cat’s Water Bowl

Your cat’s water bowl can be a major part of why they won’t drink. Follow this checklist, and see if it brings any results:

  • Move your cat’s water bowl away from their food.
  • Move your cat’s water bowl away from their litter tray.
  • Provide multiple water bowls throughout the home, each in different rooms.
  • Use solid, immovable water bowls.
  • Ensure that your cat is not experiencing any discomfort from their water bowl.

In many instances, this will encourage at least a short-term spike in interest in drinking.

4) Invest in a Water Fountain

As cats are often bored by static water, many pet owners invest in water fountains. These provide a constant stream of fresh water for your cat to enjoy.

If you invest in a water fountain, you can leave it running all day. This should leave your pet feeling refreshed. Just ensure that you clean the tool regularly.

5) Use Bottled Water

If the aroma of chlorine in tap water deters your cat, there’s a simple solution. Invest in bottled mineral water for cats, and use this to fill their bowl instead.

This may seem expensive, but it’s cheaper than the veterinary bill for treating dehydration in cats.

If you’re worried about the impact all that plastic will have on the environment, consider a water purifier instead. In theory, this will have the same result. Your cat will drink water from a bowl that doesn’t have a concerning scent.

6) Leave Water Laying Around

Another fun fact about cats is that they’ll always want to claim that which isn’t theirs. Water in a bowl, designed especially for them? That’s boring to a mischievous feline.

With this in mind, consider tricking your cat into drinking through alternative water sources. You could achieve this by:

  • Taking a sip from a glass of water, then leaving it unattended. Your cat will look to imitate your behavior.
  • Leaving a tap lightly running, then walking away. Cats enjoy drinking from running water sources. If you tap on the faucet, your cat is likely to come running.
  • Fill a clean sink with water, then pull the plug and walk away. You cat will relish the chance to lap at the swirling whirlpool of water.

All of these techniques will need to undergo safety protocols, so watch from a safe distance. Just keep out of your cat’s line of vision. They may not follow through if they sense human approval.

7) Feed Electrolyte-Heavy Meals

If your cat will not drink, maybe it’s time to consider a liquid meal. Chicken and beef broth are ideal in these scenarios.

These are also great meals if your cat has been unwell. That could be anything from feline flu to a stomach upset. Whenever a cat is sick, or has a stomach upset, they lose fluid. As they don’t have much in reserve to start with, that can be dangerous.

A broth, whether chicken or beef, will relinquish electrolytes. This will leave your cat feeling much healthier. Naturally, it also fills their belly at the same time.

8) Add Flavor to Your Cat’s Water

If your cat will not drink plain water, you could always add flavor. Just be careful. If your cat thinks that their water smells like food, they’ll deem it contaminated.

A little scent can go a long way with a cat. Try a few drops of tuna juice from a can. You may even want to try a hint of meat stock. Base your decision on whatever your cat tends to find irresistible.

You could even try fruit infusions. While cats cannot taste sweetness, they can smell the fruit. Try infusing their water with a hint of strawberry. Just avoid citrus aromas, as these smells will deter a cat.

why wont my cat drink water from her bowl?

9) Make Use of Ice Cubes

Ice cubes can be a means of hydration during the hottest months of the year. If your cat can be encouraged to crunch on them, they’ll hydrate with ease. It’s getting them to engage in the first place that can be tricky.

The easiest way to convince a cat to take an interest in ice is through scent. Fill your ice cube tray with traces of gravy, or another meat smell. Once this is frozen, your cat may still get stuck in.

These gravy ice cubes can also be applied to food in the hottest months of the year. They’ll soon melt, providing a meat-flavored liquid for your cat to enjoy and hydrate with.

However, you should use ice sparingly. Some cats are deterred by cold temperatures, and will walk away from their entire food bowl.

10) Use a Syringe

This is the last resort. As a result, it probably shouldn’t be attempted unless advised by a vet. However, if your cat is unwilling to hydrate, it may be the only option.

Pick up a form syringe from a pharmacy or a vet, and fill it. However, you should not pour an entire syringe of water into your cat’s mouth at once. This will likely freak them out. Also, so much water too quickly can be dangerous.

Instead, cradle your cat and squeeze out a little water at a time. Typically, 4ml per pound of body weight each hour should do it. However, if you’re at the point of using a syringe, your cat likely needs professional help.

How to Encourage a Sick Cat to Drink Water

If your cat is under the weather, drinking water quickly becomes even more critical. Most of the tips listed above will cover a sick pet. A cat with kidney disease will need expert support.

However, pay particular attention to ensuring that water is available everywhere in the home. While your cat is unwell, they may struggle with mobility. Few cats place enough emphasis on the water to go hunting for it while it hurts to do so.

Wet food will also likely be more palatable to a sick cat. It’s easier for your pet to digest, after all. Don’t rush your cat into a sudden change of food, though. This can lead to stomach upsets, which will make them feel even worse.

How Much Water Does a Cat Need Per Day?

According to MedicAnimal, cats should drink 60ml of water for every kg of their body weight. The average domestic housecat weighs around 10lbs, so that’s 4.5kg. Larger cats will need more, and all pets must replenish their water during the summer.

That’s a little less than half a pint of water. Remember that not all of that hydration needs to come from their water bowl. Wet food and hydrating treats can also be used.

Wet food is advisable for a cat that doesn’t drink enough water. Dry foods and kibble are very dehydrating if not balanced with sufficient liquids.

If your cat will not drink, don’t admit defeat on this and accept it. This isn’t a foible that should be accepted, for the sake of your cat. Dig deep, show patience, and find a way to get your cat drinking.

It may take trial and error to find a hydration technique that suits your pet. Once you do so, however, you can relax. If your cat is drinking enough, they’ll remain healthy.