If you have been a guardian angel for cats for a long time, you would know how notorious they are when it comes to taking enough water. It is no surprise that industries decided to make a fortune from pet fountains since cats have to be enticed to drink somehow.

Some people have been lucky enough to own cats that know they need to gulp down some every now and then. However, certain circumstances might lead to water being inaccessible. This could have made you wonder if your cats will be fine and how long they could have gone without water.

To be candid, there have been no medical studies or research on how long a cat can go without water. The reason isn’t far-fetched. It is against societal morals to deprive a bunch of cats of some water till they die just to identify how long it takes.

Hence, our calculations are purely anecdotal, majorly derived from cats accidentally locked in or trapped in a cellar. With this, it is thought that a cat can only go three to four days without water. And this is very similar to the time a dog can be without water.

How Much Water Do Cats Need?

For every 5 pounds of body weight, a cat should take about 3.5-4. ounces of water each day. Simply put, a cup of water per day is a necessity for a 10-pound cat. However, you need not panic if your cat doesn’t empty the cup.

The moisture content of wet food is about 80%, and that’s also enough nourishment. Since dry food only contains 10% water, you need to make extra drinking efforts if that is what you feed your cat.

Dangers of Dehydration

Dehydration in cats is a serious issue, and it doesn’t take up to 24 hours before kicking in. And yes, we have seen many cats suffer irreversible organ damage from severe dehydration within 24-48 hours, meaning this is miles away from an anecdote.

Many cats can’t risk a 20% loss in weight due to a lack of water. This might just be the thin line between them and organ damage. Changes in breathing and heart rate, lethargy, disorientation, and kidney failure are all resultant effects of severe dehydration.

Cats refusing to take enough water are more susceptible to urinary issues like urinary blockages, especially in males, and urinary tract infections. These are extremely painful and require urgent medical attention.

Elderly cats may have age-related conditions like hyperthyroidism, and this increases their risk of dehydration. Hence, special attention and adequate monitoring are required to keep them fit.

Symptoms and Test for Dehydration

The easiest and most accurate way to identify dehydration in a cat is by testing for “skin tenting.” All you need to do is draw up some skin between your cat’s shoulder blades and see if it snaps back to place. If it does, then all is well. If it, however, remains tented, your cat is most likely dehydrated.

The next step is getting the cat urgently inspected by a qualified vet and making plans for rehydration. Other symptoms you can check for are lethargy, panting, and dry gums. These help confirm that the tenting is indeed from dehydration.

Excessive urination, vomiting, diarrhea, sunken eyes, and lack of appetite often accompany dehydration. While your cats might not exhibit these symptoms even when dehydrated, seeing them means they require medical care.

What to Do If Your Cat Isn’t Drinking Water?

The first step is figuring out if they are really not drinking or they are just not drinking from your bowl. Your cats might be getting water from other sources or absorbing the required from their food. If that is negative, you can try out these few tips to boost your cat’s water intake.

Put Your Cat On A Wet Food Diet

Since wet food generally contains 70-80% water, making this available to them will skyrocket their daily water intake. You can be certain over half of their daily requirement is met by feeding them 5oz of wet food. Hence, switching to wet food if they have been on a dry food diet or mixing the dry food with water is a good starting point.

Try A Water Fountain

Some cats flatly refuse to drink from a standing water source. They believe standing water can be easily polluted and can be a source of danger to their health. Moving water, on the other hand, has a reduced risk of contamination, and since your cat is hardwired against hydrating from a standing source, a water fountain might be the best bet.

Use A Small Water Bowl.

According to research, cats are more likely to drink from smaller bowls and less willing to use the bigger types. Bowls with a diameter of less than 15 cm allow the cats to use their whiskers in judging the distance between them, the bowl, and the water surface.

Clean Water Bowls Regularly.

You won’t take water served in a dirty cup, do not expect your cat to do otherwise. Scrub their water bowls regularly and don’t leave water in them for eternity. Doing this will attract pollutants, algae, and other organisms that can cause nasty buildups and leave the water unfit for consumption. Even the smell is enough to repel your cat.


Cats can be tough to nurture sometimes, but these pets rely on us to survive. Keeping them in a safe environment and ensuring they have an adequate water intake is your duty as a pet owner. Speak to a veterinarian if you discover a change in their drinking habits. You can also experiment with the above tips so they can feel the thrilling relief quenching their thirst brings.

By Manali