A cat must always have access to potable water (Animal Welfare Act 2006), and in multi-cat households there should be at least one bowl available per pet. A cat will be more prone to mild dehydration in hot weather, and pets should not be shut outside all day without sufficient access to water and shade. Older cats will be at greater risk of becoming dehydrated, particularly those with underlying kidney disease or hyperthyroidism. Yet cats of any age can suffer from lack of fluid intake or increased losses, for example due to vomiting and diarrhoea.
If your pet has mild dehydration, you can try to encourage them to drink more using some of the tips in this article. But if their condition worsens, they have a known existing health problem or they are showing signs of more severe dehydration, you should seek veterinary advice.
How much water do cats need?
This will vary depending on your cat’s age, if they have any underlying illnesses and also their level of activity. But an approximate guide is about 50ml of water per kilo. This fluid requirement includes dietary intake from wet food, in addition to drinking from their water bowl.
How can you tell when a cat is dehydrated?
These are some of the signs that your cat is dehydrated. But many of these are non-specific and can indicate a range of other underlying health problems. It is best to book an appointment with a vet, so that these can be investigated:
- Tacky gums
- Increased lethargy
- Decreased appetite
- Sunken eyes
- Raised heart rate
- Loss of skin elasticity (‘skin tent test’)
- Decreased urination.
How do you rehydrate a kitten?
If a kitten is dehydrated, this can indicate a range of problems. They may be struggling to suckle from their mother, they could have a congenital abnormality of the tongue or mouth that makes it difficult to drink, or they may have an illness or infection. Whatever the cause, dehydration can progress very rapidly in kittens and it is always best to have them checked by a vet.
What can I do if my cat is dehydrated?
For mild, suspected dehydration, you can try home remedies. Yet if your cat is showing other symptoms, you should contact a vet. Depending on the severity of the dehydration, your pet may need to be admitted for intravenous fluids. Additionally, they may require diagnostics such as blood tests to investigate underlying health problems such as kidney disease or hyperthyroidism. They may also be given anti-vomiting medication if they are nauseous or have been vomiting.
What home remedies are there for dehydrated cats?
If you suspect that your cat may be dehydrated – because it is a hot day or they have mild gastrointestinal symptoms – you can tempt them to drink by offering them a suitable alternative to water. Sense of smell is very important to felines, so they might prefer a drink that smells more of meat, such as water that has been used to boil some plain chicken or fish (without oil or seasoning).
Other options include oral rehydration fluids that are often meat-flavoured, or a small amount of low-salt cat gravy added to their water bowl. Remember that these should be replaced regularly. If they cannot be tempted to drink or are showing physical symptoms of dehydration, contact a vet for advice.
You should not attempt to force a cat to drink water, such as by syringing this into their mouth, unless advised to do so by a vet.
Can a cat recover from severe dehydration?
Yes, but they are likely to need hospitalisation for IV fluids and veterinary care. Cat dehydration can lead to death if left untreated.
When should I talk to a vet?
If your cat is showing signs of dehydration and cannot be tempted to drink, or does not show any signs of improvement, you should seek veterinary advice.