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My Cat Doesn’t Drink Water But Eats Wet Food (What Now?)

If your cat is happily eating wet food but does not appear to drink water you may be worried and wondering what to do and why it’s happening…

Why doesn’t my cat drink water but eat wet food?

The reason why your cat eats wet food but appears to not drink water is that the chances are it gets enough hydration from the wet food alone. It is quite common for cats that drink wet food to consume very little water directly.

So, now you know. But, is it normal for cats to drink less water if they eat wet food? What can a cat drink instead of water? How much does a cat need? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

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Do cats drink less water when they eat wet food?

My cat doesn't drink water but eats wet food.

A cat eating from its bowl.

Cats that eat wet food do usually drink less water. This is because they tend to get the majority of their hydration from wet food. This emulates the behavior of wild big cats as well that tend to get hydrated from their prey.

This is one of the reasons why many cat owners choose wet food (click here if your cat refuses it). Not only does it taste good to them but they also get the benefit of keeping their cat hydrated.

Cats that consume dry food tend to need to drink more water because this food type does not offer the same benefits of hydration as wet food does.

What do I do if my cat doesn’t want to drink water?

If your cat does not want to drink water you can help them by making sure they eat wet food. This will help to keep them hydrated. If you are already feeding them this the chances are they should be getting most of their hydration from this.

Another technique is to use a water fountain (click here to see my best one). Cats tend to be drawn to these fountains and are likely to consume more water this way.

What can a cat drink besides water?

Other alternatives to water can be used in cooking liquid that is more than 95% water. For example, boiling some chicken or fish and offering your cat the liquid.

This is a clever way because they will be attracted to the flavor of the meat or fish and get the hydration from the water it is cooked in.

How can you tell if a cat is dehydrated?

There are some physical signs of dehydration that you can look out for such as lack of energy, your cat may appear to be panting without over existing itself, losing its appetite, or its eyes appearing to be sunken.

Some of these signs are more subtle than others but do not hesitate to get your cat checked out by your vet if you have any concerns.

Knowing the signs of dehydration is vital for the proper health and care of your cat. Below we’ve listed some symptoms that you can look for which might indicate that your cat is dehydrated for one reason or another. Let’s take a look at the symptoms of feline hydration.

Their skin gets loose

While your cat is hydrated, do a little test that you can use as a reference for later. Pull lightly on their skin over one shoulder so that you have a little ‘tent’ of skin and then simply let it go. Take a note of how long this takes, and the next time that you suspect your cat is dehydrated, then try this test again.

If the skin moves back into place slower than you remember, then your cat might well be dehydrated.

The texture of their gums

Your kitty’s gums should typically be moist and a healthy shade of pink. If you feel them and they feel dry or a little tacky to the touch, then this is another sign that your cat may not be getting enough water and a vet checkup might be in order.

Not eating as much

This symptom can occur for several issues, though dehydration is one of them. If your cat is showing a loss of appetite for a period of longer than 24 hours, then it is time to visit the vet.

Cats love their meals and whenever your cat starts skipping them then this is a big, red flag – unless you’ve recently changed their food, of course. Cats are kind of picky, that way.

Should I be concerned that my cat didn’t drink any water?

If your cat is not drinking any water you should be concerned. However, in reality, you may find that your cat has actually been drinking but it might not always be obvious (More on this later).

Now that you know it could be a cause for concern, let me go on to explain how much water your cat should be drinking, how to measure this, reasons why he might not be drinking and so much more.

How much water does a cat need?

A cat licking its mouth.

A cat licking its mouth.

Cats typically need 3 to 4 ounces of water per 5 pounds of body weight, according to this site. However, they do not need to drink as much as you think they do.

The reason for this is that they originate from the desert. Meaning, that they learned how to survive on less water because, as you can imagine,  there wasn’t that much available.

So, you should find that your cat will draw a lot of water from the food that they eat. Especially if they eat wet canned food.

Why do cats need water?

This may seem quite obvious because we all know that every living thing needs water, right?  Water has a lot of jobs and all of them are essential. Including, but not limited to, helping their metabolism, digestive system, brain function, etc.

The bottom line is, that water is something that any living thing could not live without. Food? Well, that is another story.  They could last a lot longer without food. But, water is one of the biggest factors. A cat will not live for more than a few days without having water.

Why has your cat stopped drinking water?

There are several reasons why your cat may have stopped drinking water. The annoying thing is, that it could be something very small that has triggered this behavior. Here are a few reasons why it’s happening…

  • Their water is dirty.
  • The location of their water.
  • They simply forgot to drink.

01. The water is dirty.

If their water is unclean, and I mean, this could be one speckle of food in their water, your cat may refuse to drink the entire bowl. Yes, the entire bowl, but honestly, would you drink a glass of water if you saw a random piece of food in it? Especially if you never poured the glass yourself? (Exactly).

Therefore, this is one of the reasons why people say it’s very important to clean out the water bowl once a day, at least. To be honest, it should be more frequent than that.

02. The location of the bowl.

Believe it or not, the location of the bowl may influence how much water your cat will drink. The annoying thing with this is, that there is no exact science as to where this idea location is, are you with me?

Therefore, you have to take just test it to see how your cat responds.

03. Forgetting to drink.

This may seem silly, if not unbelievable, but sometimes your cat may not have a compelling urge to drink. This could be because they are indirectly getting enough water through the food they consume.

Or, it could be because they simply do not like drinking from the water bowl you’ve provided.

Using devices such as a pet water fountain (Click here for my best one) can vastly increase the chances of them drinking if they are refusing to drink from the bowl.

How do cats drink?

You may be wondering how your cat drinks. The funny thing is, a cat’s drinking technique is very different from a dog’s. They do not lap up the water in big gulps like a dog may do.

Instead, they skim the water with their tongue at an alarming rate. This will create a vacuum of water which they quickly lap up. If you see this it’s very hard to catch it with the naked eye.

It’s better to see this recorded in slow-motion to fully understand how impressive this is.

How can you monitor how much water your cat is drinking?

You may be wondering how you can work out exactly how much your cat is drinking. This can be useful, so you can get an idea if they’re drinking enough. This is a great thing to consider but is not as easy as you may think it is to do.

The reason is, that cats do not make it easy for you to see how much they consume. Why? because you may find that there is a large proportion of their water consumed through the food they eat.

To add more confusion, they do not always drink when you are watching them. Therefore, you may think that they’re not drinking but in reality, she might just be drinking when you’re not around.

Therefore, the best way to measure it is to monitor the levels of water that’s been consumed from their bowl directly.

You need to take a measure of the level of water you’re putting in and consistently put the same in every day. Then monitor how much has been consumed since the last refill. By looking at the water level.

To do this it is important to be consistent about when you fill and refill the bowl.

What happens if your cat does not drink water?

If your cat persists without drinking water and you are confident they are genuinely not drinking properly, it is important to get them to the vet as soon as possible.

Because without water they can become dehydrated which will cause them serious problems long-term. If they are dehydrated your vet may be able to give them a solution that will start working almost straight away.

But, in the worst cases, it could be a longer and more complicated solution that could take days. So better to get her over to the vet ASAP.

How can you encourage your cat to drink more water?

It is much better to prevent dehydration from happening. Rather than waiting for it to happen and then fixing it, are you with me? That old saying, prevention is better than cure, right?

Therefore, in this section, I’m going to suggest several ways that you can encourage your cat to drink more water (Click here to see how much a kitten should drink) to avoid dehydration.

01. Elevating the bowl or changing its location.

Elevating the bowl, believe it or not, may change the way that your cat perceives the water. Try this simple trick to see if it makes a difference.

Also, you can try, as discussed earlier, to change the location of the bowl to see if it makes a difference.

02. Water fountain.

As discussed earlier, water fountains are ideal (Click here for my best water fountain for your cat) because they are more natural for cats. It’s more in line with their instincts to drink from flowing water rather than still water in a bowl.

Some cats will only drink from water fountains because it is more natural for them to do this.

If you tried everything else this is quite a quick win that you can try. The good thing is because it’s flowing constantly it will encourage your cat to have regular drinks of fresh water.

03. Switching to wet food.

As discussed earlier, if your cat primarily drinks dry food and you are finding that she is getting dehydrated. Then there is a good chance that you need to consider switching to wet food.

The reason for this is it is a lot easier to get them to consume more water by having them eat wet food rather than doing it the opposite way round, are you with me?

04. Adding water to dry food.

A white bowl of dry cat food.

A white bowl of dry cat food.

If your cat is adamant that she won’t eat (should it watch you have dinner then? click here) wet food or there are some reasons why you cannot do this. You can also consider applying some water to their dry food to see if this makes a difference.

05. Another suggestion is adding flavor to the water.

Sometimes cats are not drinking the water in the bowl because they just do not like the flavor. You can test out adding some flavor to the bowl. This can be done by adding clam juice, chicken broth, etc. See if this will encourage them to drink more water.

06. Change up your cat’s environment

Changing up your cat’s ‘hydration environment’ is one way to bank on your cat’s most famous asset – their curiosity. Cat fountains, gravity-feeder style water bowls, or even changing the materials of the bowl (for instance, from plastic to stainless steel) can invoke a little curiosity from your cat.

Your curious kitty should then, in theory, find themselves wondering if the ‘new water’ tastes superior to their ‘tired, old water’ and before you know it, they should be taking a lap or two just to satisfy their curiosity.

If the medium is different enough, this can actually be quite effective. For instance, a metal bowl instead of a thin, plastic one, might provide water that’s a little cooler and thus more satisfying for a kitty that’s warmed-up from a bit of play around the house.

Give it a try and see what happens – when it comes to cats, piquing their curiosity is a winning bet, almost every time.

07. Offering multiple drinking bowls

Some cats are picky little critics, aren’t they? They’ll turn the nose up sometimes at the strangest little things, even paltry stuff such as the other housecat getting the first drink of fresh water. As such, you can boost your odds of kitty hydration by simply providing a little variety – in the form of ‘more of the same thing’.

With multiple water bowls placed around the house, if your cat decides that one water bowl is well below their standards of the day, then there are alternatives readily available nearby.

Creative placement helps. You know where your cat likes to hang out, so surprise them with a shiny, new water bowl waiting for them when they get there. Like humans, sometimes cats will put off hunger or thirst if slaking those desires is a little inconvenient.

By providing numerous opportunities, if your cat feels thirsty then they won’t put it off, because it’s too easy to get what they want right away!

08. Locate the water bowl near to the food

Make sure that your cat’s water bowl is right next to the food. Too much space (even if we’re just talking about a foot away) adds time to getting to the water.

Most cats like to switch between food and water when they are eating, just like we do, and if that water is even mildly out of reach, then they might just be annoyed enough to drink less water and to simply ‘gobble and go’. So, put the water right next to their food.

That way your cat can easily switch between the bowls, feeding and hydrating as they go.

09. Try a different bowl

Cats are picky customers and can sometimes be quite the little snobs about what they’ll eat or drink and how you need to present it to them. If the water bowl has seen better days or you’ve recently switched it out and now your cat only seems to drink when they are desperate, then why not switch it out?

A brand-new bowl can often get a better response and we’d recommend that you get a heavy-bottomed bowl. This helps to reduce the chance of splashing, which is something that cats hate already, so you might just find that this simple switch is all you need to make sure that your cat is drinking enough to stay healthy and hydrated.

10. Keep the water bowls clean

Cleaning a surface with rubber gloves and spray cleaner.

Cleaning a surface with rubber gloves and spray cleaner.

Cats are fastidious little creatures and this is something that you learn very quickly when you are sharing your home with one. If the litter box looks off, for instance, then you might get an unwanted surprise, and if a food or water bowl becomes thinned-out or even LOOKS slightly messy, then some cats will avoid them altogether.

Keeping your cat’s food and water bowls squeaky-clean can help to avoid them being ‘snubbed’ and one easy way to do this if you have a full schedule is to simply get a set of spares.

That way, you always have two clean bowls that you can swap out while putting the cat’s current ones in the sink until you can clean them. Your cat always has sparkly-clean bowls and you’ve got an instant way to provide them, instead of always having to quickly scrub and rinse them on the fly.

11. Top the water bowl right to the top

Cat drinking water from a bowl.

Cat drinking water from a bowl.

When you fill your cat’s water, fill it all of the ways to the top. This creates a beautiful and still surface that seems to attract cats more than a bowl that’s 3/4 or 4/5ths full. Aside from the nice optics and presentation value, it is also believed that cats like this more for another reason – their sensitive whiskers.

When your cat dips into a bowl, especially if it’s a small one, they have to lower their heads inside a little if the water level is low. This causes them to brush their whiskers on the side, which annoys most cats in the process.

So, fill it up to the top or even consider a larger bowl with more whisker room. You might be surprised by the results!

12. Try bottled or flavored water

Adding a little flavoring to the water from time to time can boost your cat’s liquid intake. We recommend going with a little broth or broth mix, just be sure to go with salt and garlic-free variety, as salt can dehydrate them and garlic is toxic for kitties!

13. Add some ice cubes

Cats love different textures and temperatures just like everyone else does. Spice things up a little for your kitty by giving them some chilled water or even with a few ice cubes inside. That way, your cat can have a cool drink and they might even play with the cubes if it strikes their feline fancy.

How does old age affect their water intake?

As cats get older they need to consume more water. As discussed earlier, their water intake is based on their body weight (Click here to learn how to measure your cat’s weight). Therefore, they naturally will drink more as they grow bigger and their body will require more hydration.

As they get even older though, beyond their adult years, you will find that they will need to consume even more water to keep them active.

Can a cat get enough water from wet food alone?

Cats that are on a wet food diet are getting a large portion of their daily water from it. Approximately one-half of their daily recommended water intake per can, to be more precise. This is because wet cat food is around 70 – 80% water already.

Can you add additional water to wet food?

You can add a little water, although some salt-free and garlic—the free broth is even better and is less of a risk of turning your cat off from the food altogether. Provided that you only add a little water, it should be okay, just be careful not to overdo it.

Is it a good sign if your cat drinks more when eating dry food?

This is completely normal and it’s something that you would do too. Cats that are eating dry food love to switch between mouthfuls of their food in the water bowl, to help wash it down and to slake their thirst in the process.

You can also make the best of both worlds by pouring a little broth into their dry food and waiting 2 to 3 minutes to serve it. The dry food will absorb the broth and expand, and your cat will get a hot meal with extra hydration on the side! Just be sure to avoid broth with salt or garlic.

Do cats usually drink large amounts in one go?

It depends on the cat. Some cats like to eat their food first and then lap up a lot of water afterward, though most cats are going to drink their water a little at a time unless something is wrong. Watch your cat at their feeding station to get a gauge of what is normal for your cat.

That way, if their feeding habits change, then you can get them in for a checkup at the vet. Changes in food or water intake are one of the first signs of trouble, so this is a good habit to get into.

What causes a cat to get dehydrated?

There are a lot of different ways that your cat can get dehydrated. Hot summer days are one of the more obvious culprits, but other things such as too much sodium, a urinary tract infection, or even diabetes can also be at play.

If your cat won’t touch their water or they can never seem to get enough, then this is something to get to the bottom of immediately – bring your cat to the vet right away for a checkup.

What can happen if your cat does not drink enough?

When your cat isn’t getting enough water, then different things may occur depending on the severity of its dehydration. Some cats will eat less, for instance, and their skin will generally get a bit looser. Dry gums or gums that feel tacky are other red flags that are common with dehydration, as well.

You might even see your cat drinking up most of the water bowl as soon as you put it out, and then is another sign that they either aren’t getting enough water or their body is not efficiently processing it. If you see any of these signs and symptoms, then bring your cat to the vet right away.

Something is wrong and you need to find out what it is before your kitty’s health gets worse.

Why is it a bad idea to offer your cat milk instead?

No, milk is not a good idea. While cats love the fats from milk, most of them are lactose intolerant, so if your cat drinks enough then diarrhea is likely to occur and this will only dehydrate them further.

Keep your kitty away from milk until they are back to their full health and even then, they shouldn’t have much, if any.

Why do cats resist drinking water so much?

Cats can go off of their water for several reasons. Poor health is one, but even disliking their current water bowl or not feeling that it is clean enough can cause your cat to drink less or to avoid the bowl altogether.

If the bowl is too small, they’ll also end up brushing their whiskers on the side, and this can put them off of the water bowl as well. As dehydration risk is nothing to trifle with if your cat stops drinking water then get them checked at the vet right away to rule out any health issues.

Lindsey Browlingdon