Cat Dehydration: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Water is essential for maintaining your cat’s health. As well as helping to replace the fluids lost through their urine and faeces, it is necessary for their circulation, digestion and waste removal. Dehydration occurs when there is excessive fluid loss from your cat’s body. This is not simply a loss of water, but also the loss of essential minerals such as sodium, potassium and chloride. If left untreated, it can lead to other severe medical concerns.

What Causes Dehydration in Cats?

Dehydration in cats is typically caused by your cat not drinking enough water or from excessive water loss. Cats can also lose moisture by sweating small amounts through their paws, but this does not usually cause a drastic water loss. 

Dehydration could be the result of many different factors including:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Trauma
  • Heatstroke
  • Diabetes
  • Overheating or hot weather

To help your cat maintain healthy hydration, ensure that it can access fresh water and a clean bowl all day, every day.

How Much Water Does My Cat Need?

Your cat needs about 3.5 to 4.5 ounces of water per 5 pounds of body weight every day. For example, if you have a 10-pound cat, it should be drinking about half a bottle of water every day (between 7-9 ounces).

If your cat eats wet food often, you may notice that it doesn’t drink as much water. That is because the cat is consuming water when it eats. Wet food for cats is made up of 80% water.

On the other hand, cats who primarily eat dry food won’t consume as much water from their food. It is vital for them to receive hydration by drinking from their water bowl.

What Are the General Symptoms of Dehydration in Cats?

It’s essential to keep an eye on your cat and ensure that it is having enough fresh water as a part of its daily diet. If your cat is not getting enough water, it may be at risk of becoming dehydrated.

Signs of dehydration in cats include:

  • Dry, tacky gums
  • Loss of energy
  • Refusal to eat
  • Sunken eyes
  • Panting

A good test to help you determine if your cat is dehydrated is called ‘skin tenting.’ To do this, gently take a small portion of skin around the cat’s shoulders, pull it up and let go. If your cat is hydrated, the skin will snap back into place. If the skin falls back down slowly, this probably means that your cat is dehydrated. If your cat’s skin remains up in a tent position and does not fall back down, it can be a sign of severe dehydration. You should seek medical care for your cat immediately.

What Should I Do if My Cat Is Dehydrated?

Dehydration in cats is often a sign of a serious underlying medical condition. If you suspect that your cat is dehydrated, contact your veterinarian for help right away.

In the meantime, you can try some of these home remedies to try to rehydrate your cat:

  • Add a small amount of tuna juice or chicken broth to their water.
  • Try giving them wet food instead of dry food.
  • Place a few ice cubes in their water bowl.

It is important that you get to know your cat’s preferences and that you go with what they prefer. For example, some cats like drinking water from a cat fountain instead of a water dish. You should never force them, but rather try to encourage them to drink.

Are Certain Cats Prone to Dehydration?

Generally, older cats or cats that have been diagnosed with another illness are more prone to dehydration. For example, if your cat is experiencing kidney disorder, cancer, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes, it is helpful to discuss with your vet how to maintain healthy hydration levels.

How Is Dehydration Treated?

Your veterinarian may perform a quick procedure, by giving your cat fluids under the skin. In severe cases, your veterinarian may hospitalise your cat and give them fluids through a needle that goes directly into the cat’s vein. This method can usually rehydrate the cat within a few hours or days.

Your veterinarian will diagnose the underlying reason for your cat’s dehydration and help nurse them back to health.

How Can I Prevent Dehydration In My Cat?

There are a few different ways in which you can help prevent dehydration in your cat. A few options include:

  • Use a cat water fountain with fresh water to encourage them to drink.
  • Try giving your cat meat-flavoured water or an electrolyte supplement from a trusted pet food store.
  • Provide multiple clean water sources around your home for the cat to drink from.
  • Clean out and provide fresh water in your cat’s water bowls daily.

If your cat seems hesitant to drink or appears to be dehydrated, it is important to get them to the vet promptly. Dehydration in cats can lead to other serious medical concerns that should be addressed as soon as possible.