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The Importance of Hydration in Cats—By Dr. Kimberly Couch

The Importance of Hydration in Cats—By Dr. Kimberly Couch
Written by Dr. Kimberly Couch, DVM
—Veterinarian 🇺🇸

One of the most common complaints I hear from cat owners is that their cats won’t drink water.

Some of my clients report that they have honestly never even seen their cat touch a water bowl. Some cats like to rebel and boycott water altogether by dumping their bowls over in protest. 🤦‍♀️

Is this normal? How much water do cats really need to drink?

In this article, I will highlight everything you need to know about proper hydration in cats. 💧

Why don’t cats like water?

There are many reasons that cats actively rebel against drinking water. The most significant reason is that it’s genetic! Domestic cats evolved overtime from desert felines. These desert cats evolved to survive without regular water intake and have a very low thirst drive.

Today’s domestic cats maintain the ability to store their water by concentrating their urine to go multiple days without water. While this quality was beneficial for desert felines with short lifespans, it can lead to some pretty significant consequences in today’s domestic cats that have much longer life spans than their desert-dwelling ancestors.

Cats are also genetically near-sighted, which may cause issues in visualizing the edge of the water in a bowl. This is why oftentimes, you may see your cat stick their paw in the water to see if anything is there.

Why is hydration important?

Domestic cats have characteristics that allow them to tolerate fluid losses up to 20% of their body weight. One of the ways cats do this is by concentrating their urine. While this can be helpful to prevent severe dehydration in the short-term, it can be detrimental in the long term.

Proper hydration is essential for the function of organs, transport of nutrients, circulation, and digestion. It is especially vital to the urinary tract; It helps the kidneys filter toxins and helps to prevent urinary stone formation. Chronic dehydration can lead to urinary tract infections, urinary stones, kidney disease, and a slew of other diseases.

Signs of dehydration

The most common and easily identifiable signs of dehydration in cats include:

  • Dry or red gums
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased skin elasticity
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Decreased urination

Tips to encourage water intake

  • Choosing a water bowl
    • Oftentimes cats don’t like when their whiskers touch their water bowl. Try switching to a wide, shallow bowl rather than a deep, narrow bowl.

  • Choosing a location
    • Cats prefer to be able to see their surroundings when eating and drinking rather than being boxed into a corner. Additionally, cats are lazy- there’s no way around it. If they have to walk too far for water- they just won’t. I recommend providing access to multiple water bowls throughout the house to make water more easily accessible and less of a chore for your cat to drink.

  • Try a fountain
    • Cats LOVE running water. Many cats like to drink out of sinks, showers, etc. The sound and sight of running water appeals to cats and encourages them to drink. Running water is also more fresh and clean since it’s not sitting out collecting dust and fur. It can get pretty expensive to run your sinks 24/7 for your cat’s drinking pleasure, so a water fountain is a cheaper, more efficient alternative! 

    • The Magic Feline Fountain is a great option! It is quiet enough not to scare cats, yet produces a very appealing sound of soft flowing water that encourages cats to drink from it. It contains a large reservoir of water so doesn’t need to be filled up that often.

      It provides a constant flow of filtered fresh water that is much cleaner than bowls that are sitting out all day.

  • Change diet
    • Wet food contains much more moisture than dry food. This is an easy way to increase your cat’s water intake as wet food is very palatable and appealing to cats.

    • There are also special supplements and foods containing these supplements that help cats absorb water. These supplements act on a cellular level to increase total liquid intake, promote hydration, and decrease urine specific gravity.


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

The easiest way to measure your cat’s water intake is to add a pre-measured amount to the bowl or fountain each day and see how much of it they drank that day.

How much water should cats drink?

Generally speaking, cats should have about 50 milliliters of water per kilogram of body weight. For most cats, about 8-10 pounds, this is about 200-250 milliliters of water per day. This water can come from plain water or canned wet food.

Should my cats only eat wet food?

For most cats, I recommend cats eat a balance of both wet and dry food. While wet food is higher and protein and contains more moisture, dry food also has benefits.

Is my cat drinking too much water?

Since most cats don’t drink enough water, this is a very noticeable issue. If your cat seems to be drinking an excessive amount of water, this signifies your cat may be sick.

  • Common things that cause increased thirst include diabetes, other endocrine diseases, cancer, or kidney disease. Increased thirst usually comes along with increased urination. If you think your cat is drinking too much water, please let your veterinarian know.



In general, domestic cats don’t drink enough water. This is largely due to their genetics and their evolution from wild desert felines. Over time, chronic dehydration can lead to some serious health issues, so it is really important to help encourage cats to drink enough.

This can be done in a variety of ways outlined in the above article. If you feel your cat is dehydrated (or drinking too much), please see a veterinarian.


Featured Product:

The Magic Feline Fountain™

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