Signs of Dehydration in Cats

Your cat’s body is made up of 70-80% water or three-quarters of your cat’s body weight is water, so it’s critical that your cat gets enough fluids daily to maintain good health and prevent dehydration. Water is essential for cat’s urinary and kidney health, circulation, digestion, and waste removal. With hot summer days now upon us, it’s even more important that your cat has access to and drinks enough water, as dehydration can lead to a number of serious medical problems and even death. Here are the signs of dehydration in cats and why it’s so important to treat dehydration immediately.

Why Hydration is So Important

Dehydration happens when your cat loses body fluids faster than he can replace them, and it can happen when your cat is either not drinking enough water or is losing too many fluids. Fluids lost through daily urination, elimination and respiration all need to be replaced to normal levels everyday. But if your cat hasn’t been drinking enough water; has been vomiting or has diarrhea; or has been ill or had a fever; or your cat is old, then rehydration is even more critical as all of these can leave your cat severely dehydrated.

In summer months, hydration is especially important because cats can get overheated due to the hot weather and they can lose their ability to maintain their normal body temperature—leading to possible heat stroke, respiratory (panting and difficulty breathing) problems, heart problems, kidney issues, lethargy, depression and loss of appetite. If you see any of these signs in your cat, take them immediately to your vet for treatment. Time can be critical. Dehydration is serious and treatment needs to be immediate or your cat’s health can quickly become compromised.

Signs Your Cat is Dehydrated

The easiest test to see if your cat is dehydrated is to check their skin. Simply take a good pinch of skin on the back of their lower neck or above the shoulders and gently pull it up, then release it and watch how quickly it snaps back into place. If it goes back to normal quickly, your cat is well hydrated, but if it falls back slowly or stays raised at all, your cat is severely dehydrated and needs hydration treatment. This is called skin “tenting” named after the tent-like shape of the skin when it’s pulled up. If your cat is dehydrated, visit your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Here’s an easy way to check for dehydration in your cat.

Causes and Preventing Dehydration

First you want to understand why your cat is dehydrated and if there’s an underlying medical issue causing the dehydration, so you may need to take your cat to the vet for diagnosis. Often cats with certain illnesses such as hyperthyroidism, cancer and kidney disease are more prone to getting dehydrated. Senior cats can be at risk as well, and diabetic cats that are not well monitored can be at risk too.

If your cat is otherwise healthy, consider helping your cat get more water with some of the following ideas. Do you have enough water bowls with fresh, cold water available? Does your cat have easy access to water in several locations throughout your home? If you only have one bowl of water out, add 1-2 more bowls in different locations. Also, some cats like the sound of water running, so getting a water fountain (available at pet stores) can help, but they require regular cleaning.

Are your water bowls refreshed regularly? Water gets stale in a couple of days, so be sure to replace standing water daily or every other day. The type of water bowl can make a difference to your cat too—try to use glass (like Pyrex) or stainless steel, and avoid using plastic since the chemicals plastic is made of leach into the water. Also avoid using dark colors for your water bowls.

If you’re in a chorine-treated water area for your tap water, some cats do not like the taste of chlorine, so you may want to buy bottled water or use filtered water or a combination to reduce the chlorine levels.

If your cat is severely dehydrated, you will need to see your veterinarian for treatment. Your vet will give your cat either subcutaneous fluids (under the skin) or intravenous fluids with electrolytes, and it may be necessary to give them for 1-2 days to hydrate them sufficiently. In addition, they will likely need to do a blood and urine test to further determine why your cat was so dehydrated, then treat the medical issue.

Other Ways to Get Your Cat to Drink More Water & Increase Hydration
  • Feed your cat wet food daily and go further by adding some water to the wet food
  • Avoid using dry food or giving a dry food-only diet, as it contains only about 8-10% water as opposed to 80% water in wet food. Cats who eat dry food-only diets, need much more water daily due to eating a low liquid diet than they would by eating a higher liquid diet of wet food. Plus studies have shown that cats on a dry food diet have great difficulty catching up with needed water intake to compensate for the dry food diet.
  • Flavor your water – you can do this with some wet cat food tuna juice (like Trader Joe’s tuna for cats) or chicken broth juice—you could do this in one water bowl, then be sure to thrown out in one day (it turns bad quickly)
  • Increase the number of water bowls in your home, put a water bowl in each room that your cat spends time in
  • Wash water bowls daily or every other day to prevent bacteria from building up
  • Consider adding a water fountain that is made for cats and dogs and put it in a quiet, safe place to encourage them to use it
  • Keep your cat cool during hot summer months to keep him from overheating—keep blinds pulled down; increase ventilation with fans; allow them to be in a dark place or create one for them; wet a towel for them to lie on; wrap ice up in a towel and put in a pan placing beside them to cool them.
  • Syringe water into your cat’s mouth (only if she is moderately dehydrated) carefully, a little at a time, and only in the side of the mouth—don’t directly or forcefully squirt the water to the back of the mouth. Cats can choke when water is forced into their mouths and even aspirate.
  • Give subcutaneous fluids using lactated ringers based on how dehydrated your cat is, and according to their weight. You can learn how to do this from your veterinarian, and keep extra lactated ringer bags on hand. Usually you can give between 100-200 ccs of fluid one time per day, but always consult your vet for exact instructions. A great source for lactated ringers is COSTCO, with a veterinary prescription.

Signs of Dehydration in Cats


Cats Need Clean Water Daily to Maintain Their Health

Cats are made up of about 70% water, so they need clean, fresh, cool water daily to maintain their health. If you feed your cats dry food, then water is even more critical as dry food has a very low water content (about only 10%), so they will need an additional supply of water.

It’s critical to always provide your cat plenty of fresh water in various places of your home. Make sure that the bowls are large enough and be sure to clean, wash, and refresh the water bowls at least every other day.

Just because you have larger bowls doesn’t mean you should wash them less. Be sure to wash bowls with soap and water. Bacteria and germs develop quickly when water sits still after a couple of days.

Cats Need Clean Water Daily to Maintain Their Health
Pyrex Glass Bowls for Cats Water

Consider using only glass, stainless steel, or ceramic bowls for water—avoid using plastic for water or food. Plastic can leach out chemicals and can hold bacteria.

The more cats you have the more water bowls you need. We have several in each area of our house and refresh them daily. I like and recommend using large Pyrex glass bowls, they’re very inexpensive, strong, ample, and safe for cats to drink from them.

Most Toxic Plants for Cats, Lilies and More

With Easter right around the corner and springtime here, it’s time to highlight the list of the most poisonous and toxic plants for cats.

Most Toxic Plants for Cats
The Lily is Extremely Toxic and Deadly for Cats

Many people give and receive lilies for Easter, but know that lilies are considered highly toxic and poisonous to cats—they are so severely poisonous they are in fact deadly.

The reported mortality rate for lilies is as high as 100% if left untreated later than 18 hours after ingestion.

For cats that even ingest a small amount of most types of lilies, severe kidney failure can occur within 36 hours. Just the yellow-orange pollen that falls off the stamen onto your table or counter is lethally poisonous to cats. Since cats groom, if the pollen gets onto your cat’s fur, be sure to wash it off with water or a wet towel, and make sure there are no traces left. Continue reading Most Toxic Plants for Cats, Lilies and More

How to Afford the Cost of Veterinary Care

When you adopt a cat, you aren’t thinking about the day when your cat may become ill, or get injured, or need emergency care. But cats do get sick and sometimes do require expensive diagnostic tests and emergency care. You may be faced with veterinary expenses far beyond what you can afford, or need unexpected medical care that you didn’t anticipate and don’t know how you’re going to pay for it. Of course, you want to make the best decision for your cat, regardless of the cost, but how to pay for it? Here’s how to afford the cost of veterinary care.

I have been in this situation countless times with our many rescue cats. So often, I have needed to pony up and pay for complicated dental care, full-mouth extractions, multi-day emergency hospitalizations, or treating kidney failure to the tune of thousands of dollars—and I had no idea how we were going to pay for it.

Continue reading How to Afford the Cost of Veterinary Care

How to Protect Your Pet With a Pet Trust, Will and Pet Protection Agreement

Have you thought about what will happen to your cat if you become ill, or incapacitated and must move into a care facility, or you unexpectedly die? Have you made permanent arrangements for your cat after you’re gone?

More than 500,000 pets that were loved and cared for are euthanized every year in U.S. animal shelters because their caregivers became incapacitated or died and they made no prior arrangements for the ongoing care of their pet. This is tragic, but it doesn’t have to happen. Here’s how to protect your pet with a pet trust, will and pet protection agreement.

It’s critical to have a plan in place for when you die. Your plan should include two elements: an emergency plan that goes into effect to provide immediate care for your pet, and a long-term plan through a trust or pet agreement that is shared with a good friend, relatives, and neighbors. This will ensure that your pet receives the immediate care needed and promptly goes into the right hands that know your plan.

Continue reading How to Protect Your Pet With a Pet Trust, Will and Pet Protection Agreement

Why Your Cat Needs Good Dental Care

February is dental month! Dental disease has become the number one health concern in adult cats. Your cat needs good dental care just like you do. Without it, cats are more prone to problems associated with poor dental hygiene and can get serious and painful dental diseases. Without good dental care cats can suffer from having a painful mouth and as a result, can even stop eating. Good dental hygiene is as important to cats as it is to humans and contributes to your cat’s overall well being, comfort and happiness. The good news is most periodontal disease in cats is completely preventable with good dental care and annual wellness checks.

Roughly 4 out of 5 cats develop periodontal disease. Why? Partly because dental care in cats is often overlooked and left untreated. Cats hide their pain very well though they may be silently suffering, and many cat owners don’t take their cat for regular annual wellness exams each year. Untreated gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) often progresses into gum infection, chronic disease and can even impact vital organs.

Continue reading Why Your Cat Needs Good Dental Care

Top Dangers for Cats in the Home

When you think about it, our homes can present a minefield of possible hazards for cats. Here’s some help navigating the dangers, and making your home safer, happier and healthier for your cat. Checkout our full list below.

Continue reading Top Dangers for Cats in the Home

Preventing Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Cats

Lower urinary tract problems in cats can be life threatening, are extremely painful, and need immediate attention and treatment by a veterinarian. Preventing lower urinary tract problems in cats is critical for your cat’s health.

Urinary crystals can quickly turn into kidney stones, and kidney stones are deadly in a short period of time, so never wait or postpone seeing your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Your vet will determine if there are underlying medical conditions causing the symptoms through conducting a urinalysis, culture and cystoscopy and a complete medical review. If your cat is visiting the litter box repeatedly in a short period of time, straining in the box and sitting in the box trying to urinate, or urinating outside the litter box, it’s time to visit your vet.

Continue reading Preventing Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Cats

Building A Simple Cat Shelter in Minutes

There’s a beautiful black and white homeless cat that has lived outside our home for several years now. He wanders between several neighbors’ homes, but he has two homes that he actually calls “home” and that feed him daily—ours and our neighbor. His name is Alex and he’s lived outside for so long that he’s deeply afraid and distrustful of people. Building a simple cat shelter for Alex seemed like the right thing to do to protect him from the elements and give him a comfortable place to lay his head.

Alex appeared to have been abandoned many years ago, when he was a very young cat. He likely had been left homeless when his people moved away from the neighborhood, and left him behind. So Alex’s defenses were always up, he had learned to be on high alert to dangers, and he had become a scared, shy and cautious cat around humans. However, he trusted me enough to let me within about five feet to watch him eat and quietly talk with him. He always watches me carefully—eyeing my every physical move to see if I’m going to betray his trust. Over time though, Alex has come to know that I’m not a threat, but rather his friend who is just simply trying to make his little life better.

Continue reading Building A Simple Cat Shelter in Minutes

How to Create a Happier, Stress-Free Environment For Your Cat

Sometimes change is unavoidable for our cats, like moving into a new home, bringing home a new baby, having house guests, or adopting a new dog or cat. All of these can truly rock a cat’s world and trigger behavior changes. Sometimes even the slightest change can cause some cats to become uncomfortable, fearful, stressed, and anxious. Here’s how to create a happier, stress-free environment for your cat and ways to enrich their environment at home.

Cats are very vulnerable to changes in their life, and they will often show us when they are feeling anxious and uncomfortable by hiding more often, obsessively licking or vocalizing more, uncontrollably chewing or drooling, sleeping all day or more than normal, urine marking or even potting outside the litter box. Sometimes external changes in the cat’s home environment can even negatively impact your cat’s overall health and quality of life.

Continue reading How to Create a Happier, Stress-Free Environment For Your Cat