Your cat and dehydration

Due to their origin, cats are not good drinkers and can be subject to dehydration. This occurs when your cat loses too much water from her body, along with electrolytes vital for bodily function. Although seemingly simple, dehydration can cause severe health issues if untreated.

An important part of cat ownership is being able to recognise the signs of dehydration in your pet. These include listlessness, refusal to eat, panting, sunken eyes and dry, tacky gums.

A good test to see if your cat is dehydrated is ‘skin tenting’. To do this, take a pinch of skin around her shoulders and gently pull it up - if she is adequately hydrated it should ping straight back into place. If she is dehydrated, then her skin will return to position more slowly. Should her skin stay pulled up in a tent shape once you’ve let go, this means she is dangerously dehydrated, and you should seek professional help immediately.

Sometimes the symptoms can be more difficult to spot, especially if she is over- or underweight. If in any doubt, visit your vet for a check-up. This is especially important as dehydration is often caused by another underlying problem.

Keeping Her Hydrated

If she is vomiting or has diarrhoea, your cat has probably lost liquids and may be at risk of dehydration. If she’s able to drink, put her in a cool, quiet place with fresh water. If she is unable to drink, visit your vet as she may need a drip to prevent serious dehydration.

Even when your cat is in good health, she could still be at risk of dehydration if care is not taken. Always make sure there is fresh, clean water available for her and that you wash her bowls daily. Ideally, position multiple water sources around your home.

Some cats have sensitive whiskers, so try giving her a wider bowl or a cat water fountain. Many cats prefer running water to water in a bowl, so a fountain may be a good idea if she’s reluctant to drink.

Finally, if she is a light drinker and eats dry pet food – which doesn’t contain a lot of water and can’t provide the hydration that her body needs – make sure that she stays hydrated, particularly during hot spells when her body loses a lot of water. Always keep a bowl of fresh water at her disposal. And if your cat doesn’t look like she is hydrating properly, you can encourage her to drink by adding meat juices to her water.

10 years and +. Some cats may be at higher risk of dehydration than others, such as older cats, those nursing a litter and diabetics.
When travelling with your cat, it is still important that she has constant access to water, particularly after flying or if she suffers from travel-induced vomiting.