Signs of Dehydration in Cats

Do you drink enough water every day? Yes, you! Are you getting your recommended 8 glasses per day? Do you track your intake throughout the day? Are you often trying to fit more water into your life, knowing how healthy it can make you? We humans put a lot of thought and energy into our hydration levels and frequently worry that we might not be drinking enough.

Tabby cat drinking water
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And with our pets, we should be similarly conscientious, particularly in the warmer months when the sun is out, temperatures rise, and often, activity levels go up. The felines in our lives need to maintain good hydration to keep them the happy, healthy, and purr-fect queens of our lives that they are. If your cat's hydration level dips too low, it can be very serious and potentially life-threatening. So here are some of the clearest signs to watch out for to know if your cat is dehydrated.

Cats can be susceptible to dehydration, because they don't like drinking water.

If you're a cat owner, you know that sometimes it seems like your cat never drinks water. Unlike humans or even dogs, cats originated in the desert climates, so they evolved to get most of their hydration from food, rather than drinking water. And, unsurprisingly, because cats are so particular, they also tend to be particular about the water they drink. If their water isn't fresh, then they might not be inclined to drink it.

The best way to avoid dehydration is to make it easy for your cat to drink water.

Drink
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As with many conditions that can potentially threaten our pets, preventative steps can go a long way to making sure that your cat stays healthy. If you're concerned about your cat's hydration, consider adding moisture to its food – either by mixing in a wet food or simply adding a little water to its food. Also, make sure to keep your kitty's water fresh. Make sure to clean out your cat's bowl, and try not to place your cat's water bowl near its food – cats prefer that their food and their water don't cross-contaminate. Cats also tend to like moving water, because it's not stale at all, which is why they often enjoy drinking from the faucet.

However, even with careful, preventative hydration steps, cats can still become dehydrated due to a number of factors.

What causes dehydration?

Ill cat lying with high temperature
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In general, dehydration is caused by your cat not ingesting enough water, however, various factors can contribute to the condition:

  • Hot weather
  • Change in activity level
  • Illness
  • Diarrhea and Vomiting
  • Diabetes
  • Aging

What are the main signs of dehydration in cats?

Veterinarian is looking for dehydration
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Dehydration can become very serious quickly, so if your cat is behaving unusually or one of the factors above is applicable, these are the signs you need to look for to find out if your feline is dehydrated:

  • Panting. Unlike dogs, cats don't typically pant, so if you notice your cat doing so, it might be dehydrated.
  • Sunken eyes. Your kitty's eyes may look sunken back when it doesn't have enough water in its system.
  • Dry mouth and thick saliva. A lack of water in their system can turn a cat's normally moist mouth really dry. If you notice your cat's gums seem dry or their saliva appears thick, then your cat may be dehydrated.
  • Lethargy. Cats that don't feel well because they aren't hydrated won't be up for doing much. If your kitty's energy level changes, consider that a warning sign.
  • Increased heart rate. Your cat's heart rate may spike if its body doesn't have enough water to function properly.
  • Loss of skin elasticity. If you suspect that your cat is dehydrated, then pinch a bit of skin at the back of its neck. Skin that bounces back quickly indicates a good hydration level, but if it stays pinched and only slowly returns to normal, then your kitty probably needs some water as soon as possible.

When should you take your cat to the vet?

Veterinarian holding and smiling at cat
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If you suspect your kitty is dehydrated, get them to the vet sooner rather than later. While there are a number of ways you can help to get your cat rehydrated, it's hard to tell at home how severe the problem is. Paradoxically, the more dehydrated a cat is, the less likely they will be willing to drink water on their own.

A vet will check your kitty to see how severe their dehydration is. If necessary, they can administer an IV to get your cat's hydration back up to proper levels. You may also need to monitor your cat's hydration levels or change their hydration routines to make sure they get into the habit of hydrating themselves regularly.