All of us, out cats included, should probably be drinking more water. Proper hydration keeps us all healthy. In cats, proper hydration encourages healthy circulation and digestion and the successful absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Dehydration can be caused by a low intake of water or cases of high fluid loss. A cat might not have access to enough water, or a cat may be experiencing diarrhea or vomiting which deprives him of the fluid that he does have. Additionally, overheating or high activity followed by little or no water intake can lead to dehydration.
A dehydrated cat is at higher risk for infections and digestion complications. Typical signs of dehydration in a cat are lethargy and depression, no appetite, panting, and low skin elasticity. WebMD suggests a simple way to test if your cat might be dehydrated. Gently pinch and lift a fold of skin between your cat’s shoulder blades or just at the back of their neck. When you release the skin, it should immediately return to its normal position (indicating that the subcutaneous layer under their skin is properly elastic and hydrated). If the fold keeps its form for too long, you probably have a dehydrated cat.
It’s important to note that dehydration, while a condition of its own, can also be an indicator of another, deeper problem. If you notice that your cat is dehydrated, also look for other symptoms that might indicate a more serious condition. If you feel unsure, take your pet to the veterinarian for a check up. You don’t want to be treating a symptom while missing the root of a deeper problem.
If you have determined or your veterinarian has informed you that your cat is dehydrated, here are some of the ways to help your cat hydrate himself.
If your cat seems finicky about his water, try changing it out more regularly. You can also try different temperatures. One cat may prefer cold water while another doesn’t mind room-temperature water. In all cases, make sure that the water bowl is always clean. In addition to changing out the water, you should be sterilizing the bowl daily. It’s easy enough to buy multiple water bowls and switch them out as needed so you can always have a fresh and clean one set out for your cat. For ease of changing and washing your cat’s water bowl, consider getting a separate bowl rather than joined food and water dishes.
Your cat may prefer to drink running water, as it more closely matches the water sources an animal is likely to encounter in nature. You may notice that your cat likes to lap water from the stream of a running faucet. Since it is not very cost effective to leave a tap running, and since you cannot always be there to switch the water on for your feline, you can consider buying a running water cat dish. These dishes act on the same concept as a small water fountain and can be left running continuously. The water should still be changed regularly for freshness and the bowl should be regularly sterilized.
If you notice that your cat doesn’t spend much time around his food and water dish, you can try bringing the water to him. Place multiple bowls around the house in those places where your cat spends most of his time. Sometimes cats just might not think about being thirsty. Another cat owner suggested an after-meal habit of bringing the cat back to the water dish. After her cat finished eating and drinking, it would wander away. She’d wait a minute and then bring her cat back to the water dish. Often, the cat would drink a little more, as if realizing that it was still thirsty. She would repeat the process once more and then leave her cat alone so as not to annoy it.
A great way to bring water into your cat’s system is to feed him wet foods. The water content in the food is of course much higher than the commonly eaten dry food. This rehydrates your cat rather than dehydrating him with dry foods. The down side is wet diets also tend to be richer, which will lead to weight and health problems if you only feed your cat an exclusively wet diet. One solution is to use less wet food and add more water. You cat probably won’t mind the more soupy version of the wet food and will happily lap up the additional water. This will increase the water without increasing the calories that your cat consumes.