All that you must know about cat dehydration

If you are a responsible cat owner, knowing how to detect cat dehydration must be an important part of your feline knowledge set. Dehydration is a dreadful enemy of both humans and pets alike and can affect the cats severely. Know more about cat dehydration symptoms, causes, and cure by reading on.


About dehydration in cats

The most common issue that can also prove to be fatal to cats is dehydration. A cat suffering from dehydration faces immense water loss from the body in different forms along with the vital electrolytes that keep the body mechanisms running. A cat’s body is 80% water and that’s how the body maintains all the biological processes and health in good shape with proper liquid intake.

General water requirement of cats

For every 5 pound portion of a cat’s weight, around 3.5-4.5 ounces of water is required on an average and you can calculate further accordingly. Putting it another way, the water amount consumed by the cat must be equivalent to the entire kilocalorie consumption of a day.

The important thing to understand here is that this amount of water must get absorbed in the body of the cat irrespective of the source of the water. Water is a great requirement of cats for the maintenance of body temperature amidst the clashing of calorie consumption and metabolic waste generation.

Impact of dehydration on cats

Cat dehydration is a serious issue as the fluid levels dropping below the normal rate can obstruct many vital body functions. Here are some of the dangerous ways dehydration can impact your cat:

  • Mild dehydration can cause kidney and organ failure.
  • Heart problems like high blood pressure, fluid flow loss, etc. can occur with severe dehydration.
  • The cat can go into a shock too, causing all the organs to stop immediately.
  • The most fatal result can be the death of the cat.

Cats that have been patients of various medical issues like hyperthyroidism, cancer, or renal disorders are more prone to dehydration and fluid loss. Similarly, aging and nursing cats can also catch dehydration sooner than the others if they go unmonitored.

Causes of dehydration in cats

cat dehydration

There can be many reasons behind cat dehydration as some of them are caused while some of them happen. Here is how:

  • Cats have a very low natural thirst drive as they tend to derive most of their moisture intake from what they eat.
  • Your cat might not be able to access water due to the unavailability of any water source, unreachable water source, or due to immobility. They won’t drink water if they don’t like it too.
  • The cat may also have suffered any heat shock.
  • Fluid loss from the gastrointestinal organs due to diarrhea, vomiting, etc can cause excess water loss in cats.
  • Severe feline medical conditions, diabetes, and kidney diseases are also factors responsible for major fluid loss and dehydration.
  • Medications that promote urine discharge may also turn out to cause dehydration as side-effects.

Watching out for symptoms in a dehydrated cat

Detecting dehydration in a cat is not as easy as doing so in humans because the symptoms have to be observed closely and might also be confusing. Some of the usual cat dehydration symptoms are:

  • Lethargic attitude
  • Appetite loss
  • Dry mouth or gums
  • Excessive panting
  • Sunken and dull eyes
  • Tight skin
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Low urine discharge

Here are some of the ways you can diagnose dehydration in your cat:

  • Gently try to pull some of the skin off your cat’s shoulder and release it. If the skin doesn’t settle back normally or slides back slower, it indicates degraded skin elasticity which is a symptom of dehydration. In case of severe dehydration, the skin will remain tight for a longer time, and that an indication that you must run now.
  • Touch the gums of your cat carefully. If they are drier than usual, it indicated saliva loss and dehydration.
  • Observe the behavior of your cat. If they are seeking water from random spots, becoming lethargic, or have stopped self-grooming, it’s a sign of dehydration.
  • Check the litterbox too and see if there are small to no stools in there. This indicates constipation which also happens due to water insufficiency.

Preventive measures to keep cats dehydration safe

Since cats are not much into drinking water themselves, it becomes important that you monitor their water intake regularly and also feed water to them. Analyze the amount of food and actual water that they consume by watching out their food and water bowls. With that info, you will come to know if the cat is getting the required amount of moisture its body needs.

Here are some tips you can try out to lower down the risk of cat dehydration:

  • Make sure that they get fresh water access all the time. Keep more water bowls at different places so that the cat has more options.
  • Keep the water bowls clean and freshly re-filled from time to time so that the cats don’t get discouraged from drinking due to the bad water taste. Clean bowls are very important as bacteria and odors can deter the cat from water consumption.
  • Promote water intake in your cat by getting them interesting cat water vessels like water fountains, faucets, or others.
  • Make drinking interesting for them by adding ice cubes in the water that create a popping sound upon them licking the bowl. You can even try adding drops of chicken broth with low sodium, clam juice, or luna juice to enhance the flavor of the water for the cat to drink.
  • Take special care to provide small water portions or ice cubes to a cat who recently recovered from any illness.
  • Travel nausea can make cats dehydrated; thus, ensure regular water access to them all the time.
  • As the food is another major source of moisture for cats, include canned or wet cat food more in your cat’s diet. You can even add some water to the food to adjust the consistency as per your cat’s preference or condition.
  • If you notice any drastic change in the water intake of your cat, immediately make a vet appointment.
  • For any measure that you are not sure, it’s better to seek medical advice. Also, regular visits to the vet can help your cat.
  • Cat dehydration symptoms become more difficult to diagnose in cats with abnormal weight. It's better to start their treatment with medical advice only.

Treating dehydration in your cat

If all your attempts at making the cat consume water fail, then you must not wait further for vet consultation. The condition of your cat will be diagnosed first and suitable treatment will be recommended.

  • Home treatment is usually recommended for mild symptoms of cat dehydration at 5% or lesser risk. Wet food and rehydration solutions are given to the cats under home care. Sometimes, safer electrolyte solutions like Pedialyte can also be given to the cat as per vet recommendation along with regular water supply. 
  • Some medications may also be given to the cat in case of abrupt dehydration due to diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Severe cases of dehydration may also generate the need for an injection of intravenous fluid because they only work for rehydrating severely dehydrated cats. Intravenous fluids are sterile solutions of electrolytic water that rejuvenate the effected bloodstream and body tissues.
  • Understand the underlying cause of the dehydrated condition of your cat from the vet and pay attention to the details. This will help you in better prevention.


Cat dehydration is definitely not an issue to be taken lightly as it can lead your cat to greater sicknesses. Felines hide their pain easily and so it is your responsibility to keep checking on them for any discomfort. Always monitor their behavior and diet patterns for keeping them healthy and being able to save them from disastrous situations at the right time.

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Luna Tran

My name is Luna and I am a great cat lover and a cat owner of three lovely cats. I have owned many cats till now and have dedicated many years to nurturing and caring cats. Through this blog, I am here to share my knowledge and experience about cats.