Cats are notorious for not drinking enough water, to the point that there is an entire industry of pet fountains to entice cats to drink more.
Even if you’re one of the lucky cat owners whose cat does drink enough water, it’s possible that at some point your cat didn’t have access to water. Maybe the dog finished off the whole water bowl, or your kitty slipped past you and ended up accidentally closed in a bedroom or closet all day.
These situations may have made you wonder just how long your cat could have safely gone without water.
How Long Can Cats Go Without Water?
Generally speaking, cats can survive for around 3-4 days without water.
What this doesn’t mean is that you should not be concerned with your cat not drinking until it has been 3-4 days.
What this does mean is that at around 3-4 days without water, a cat will start to experience potentially irreversible organ failure.
How Much Water Do Cats Need?
Cats need somewhere around 3-4.5 ounces of water for every 5 pounds of body weight per day. This means that a 10-pound cat needs approximately 1 cup of water daily.
Don’t panic if you put down 1 cup of water for your cat every day and they aren’t finishing it, though. Cats do get moisture from their food, especially wet food. Wet food is generally around 80% or more water while dry food is usually less than 10% water.
Outdoor and feral cats will often get moisture from things they catch and eat, like birds and lizards, while indoor cats may sneak water from places like sinks, toilets, and glasses.
What Are the Risks If My Cat Isn’t Drinking Water?
Without enough water, cats can begin to go into organ failure, like kidney failure. Severe dehydration can also lead to disorientation, lethargy, and changes in heart rate and breathing.
Cats who have access to water but choose not to drink enough are at an increased risk for kidney and urinary problems, especially urinary tract infections and urinary blockages. Male cats are especially at risk for urinary blockages. These blockages are a medical emergency and are extremely painful for cats.
What Do I Do If My Cat Isn’t Drinking Water?
The first thing to do if you notice your cat isn’t drinking water is to figure out if your cat really isn’t drinking water or if your cat is drinking water from sources other than its water bowl.
Next, evaluate your cat’s behavior. Is your kitty acting lethargic or withdrawn? Are they hiding or showing abnormal aggression? Are they urinating outside the litter box or not urinating at all? Are their stools normal or are they having diarrhea? If you notice abnormal behaviors or changes in eating, drinking, or potty habits, get in touch with your veterinarian.
Experiment with Ways to Increase Your Cat’s Fluid Intake
Once you’ve ruled these things out and you’ve discovered that your cat just doesn’t like drinking water, start experimenting with ways to get your cat to drink more water.
You can try different types of water fountains with different shapes and flow settings to see if your cat will drink from them. Some cats prefer to drink out of dripping water in a sink or a tub. Cats have very sensitive whiskers, and many cats don’t like drinking or eating out of bowls that allow their whiskers to brush against the sides, so trying out a wider or more open drinking bowl for your cat may help encourage more water intake.
If your cat enjoys wet food, you can slowly increase the amount of wet food in its diet under the guidance of your vet.
Cats are tough creatures, but domestic cats rely on us to provide them with adequate care in a safe environment. Ensuring your kitty has enough water at all times is an essential part of pet ownership, but the good news is that you have options, even for the most stubborn non-water drinking cat!
Monitor your cat’s water intake and if you notice any changes in drinking habits or behavior, talk to your veterinarian. Sometimes you’re dealing with a cat who would rather play or nap than drink water, but sometimes there may be a more insidious cause.
Experiment with water fountains, wet foods, and even water bowl shapes to find what works best for your kitty.
Featured image credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock