Cat not drinking water? Here’s what to do.

23 February 2021

If your cat is not drinking water, it could indicate a serious health issue or simply a dirty water bowl. Find out what to do if your cat won't drink water, and how you can ensure the well-being of your feline friend.

cat feet close up standing by water bowl

Just like you, it’s important for your cat(s) to stay hydrated – so they’ll feel well and stay healthy. If you have a cat not drinking water, watch out: this could be a sign of illness or injury in your feline friend. In this article, we’ll cover how much water a cat needs, why a cat might stop drinking water, and what you can do to get your cat drinking again. If you enjoy this article, check out our other cat-friendly articles here.

How much water does my cat need?

A cat’s daily water requirement depends on several factors, for example: their age, size, diet, and the time of year. In general, kittens and elderly cats need more water than adult cats – as do very active cats or those in warm climates and sun.

In general, an adult domestic cat which weighs 5 kg should drink approximately 250 ml of water – or just over one cup – per day.

However if your cat is very active outside, or eats only dry food (which contains less water than wet food), your cat may need more than 250 ml. You vet will be able to tell you exactly how much water your cat needs each day. But there’s no need to measure out exactly this amount – provide your cat with access to a clean, fresh water supply all day long and let them drink as much as they need.

If your cat is taking less trips to the water bowl than normal, refusing to drink at all, or even drinking a lot more water than normal, you need to be concerned about your cat’s water intake.

Why did my cat stop drinking water?

Many times, when a cat stops eating or drinking water, it is a symptom of a larger illness that will need to be treated as soon as possible. The underlying illness might be:

  • liver disease
  • kidney disease
  • cancer
  • periodontal disease1

Other less-serious potential reasons for a cat not drinking water include cleanliness, material, and location of the water bowl, changes in diet, activity level, temperature, surgery and age of the cat. If the water source is dirty or tainted, if the bowl is being shared with another animal, or if the water bowl location has changed recently, these could all be reasons why your cat stopped drinking water.

For more detailed information about your cat’s daily activity, including calories burned and active minutes, check out the Tractive GPS Cat Tracker and Activity Monitor.

Discover Tractive GPS

Symptoms of dehydration

If your cat is not drinking enough water to meet their daily needs, they may become dehydrated. This can lead to issues in the cat’s energy, organ and skin health. Dehydration is caused by drinking too little water or urinating at a faster rate than they consume water, or by more serious factors such as blood loss, vomiting, heat stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease2.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • dry, non-elastic skin
  • loss of appetite
  • drooling
  • panting
  • urinating excessively or infrequently
  • weakness
  • trembling
  • increased heart rate

Be sure to take your cat to the vet as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms; your cat may be dangerously low on electrolytes.

When is a vet needed for a cat not drinking water?

If you have a cat not drinking water for 48-72 hours, or shows other worrisome symptoms, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or changes in urination/defecation, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.1 Your vet will be able to assess your cat’s health to determine if they are suffering from dehydration, any of the illnesses above or another condition which may require medical attention.

Can I feed my cat milk instead of water?

Cats only need one thing to stay hydrated – water. Generally, milk is bad for cats due to the fact that most are lactose intolerant and will become sick (with for example, diarrhea and vomiting) in case they drink milk. So it’s best to avoid feeding your cat milk, unless it is the kind specifically made for cats3.

Due to its high fat content, cats may enjoy the taste of milk. But avoid giving your cat milk – or else you will likely have a sick kitty on your hands.

Instead of feeding your cat milk, follow our recommendations below to get your cat drinking water again.

How to get a cat to drink water

There are several tips and tricks you can try to get your cat to drink more water or increase their water intake. However, if these tips don’t work, remember to consult your vet if the cat does not drink for 48-72 hours.

  1. Wash the water bowl daily – keep it clean.
  2. Serve water in a glass, ceramic, or metal bowl – not plastic.
  3. Try using a water fountain.
  4. Place different water sources around the house – your cat may like some better than others.
  5. Be sure to place the food and water bowl away from the litter box.
  6. Separate the food and water bowl – some cats will not like these together.
  7. Run the tap and see if kitty drinks.
  8. Feed wet food in the meantime to ensure your cat does not get dehydrated.
  9. Add (unsaltened) tuna or chicken broth or crushed catnip to your cat’s water to tempt them to drink.
  10. Try giving your cat bottled water instead of tap.
  11. Add ice cubes to the water bowl.

For more information and inspiration about getting a cat to drink water, check out the video below. And don’t forget to monitor your cat’s daily activity with a Tractive GPS Cat Tracker!

Discover Tractive GPS


If you liked this article, share it with a friend!

Never lose your cat again

You may also like...

More articles