What to do if your cat is not drinking

In the wild cats get a significant amount of their hydration from their prey, conversely their domestic relatives often have diets which consist of a lot of dry cat food which provides very little hydration. However many cats seem to forget this so many cat owners are often understandably concerned that their cat is not drinking enough.

cat drinking from a tap

Your cat may ignore its bowl but happily drink from a tap

Signs of dehydration in your Cat

Many cats can be very reticent to drink still water from a bowl. This is dangerous because it can lead to dehydration which can be very bad for their health and may even lead to death in extreme circumstances. Some key physical signs to be aware of in your cat which may indicate that they are dehydrated are:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • No appetite for food
  • Tight skin
  • Excessive panting
  • Dry tongue
  • Sunken eyes

If you do notice that your cat is displaying any of these signs then please immediately consult a vet for expert advice.

Why doesn’t your Cat like drinking from its bowl?

It is not known exactly why cats aren’t keen on drinking from a bowl however there are a few ideas:

  • Still water in the wild can be stagnant and drinking it can cause illness so they may have a natural aversion to still water.
  • Still water can often be quite warm whereas moving water is cooler and better oxygenated and therefore favoured by cats.

How to encourage your Cat to drink more

There are a lot of things you can try to get your cat to increase their water intake, some of these ideas may work for some cats and some may not so experiment until you find something that works for your cat.

Keep your water bowl away from their food bowl

It is common for cat owners to keep their cats water bowl right next to their food bowl. In fact some of you may have even bought a dual bowl (a single unit with two containers in it) for both food and water. This is a bad idea, cats do not like their water to be too close to their food. This is perhaps because the food can fall into the water thus contaminating it and making it less fresh.

Make sure you keep their water bowl in a cool place too, don’t place it next to a radiator where it may become quite warm which is likely to put your cat off drinking it. It can be a good idea to add ice cubes to your cats water particularly when the weather is warm.

Try a different type of bowl

cat drinking water

Different types of bowls will change the way that the water tastes. Plastic bowls are very commonly used however these are often the bowls that have the greatest impact on the flavour of the water, particularly when they are new residual chemicals from the manufacturing process can taint the flavour of the water. Plastic bowls can also be easily scratched and these scratches allow bacteria to build up in them which can be hard to wash out, this will also have an impact on the perceived freshness of any water in the bowl.

Water served in steel, ceramic or even glass bowls will often taste fresher and cleaner than water in a plastic bowl. It would be a good idea to offer a variety of bowls for your cat to drink from so that you can work out which type your cat prefers.

If your cat is the type of cat that you constantly catch lapping at dripping taps or trying to drink water from the toilet bowl then it may be worth considering getting a cat water fountain. These provide a constantly flowing stream of water which is filtered and kept cool.

Give your cat more wet food

If you have tried many different options to get your cat to drink more and they all seem to have failed then the best way to get more water into their diet is to give them more wet food. In the wild cats get most of their hydration from the prey they catch so introducing more wet food into their diet is an easy and effective way of making sure they stay hydrated even if they rarely ever drink.


Read our article about how cats drink for further insights into your cat’s drinking behaviour.

Comments (2)

  1. Trevor Steele July 26, 2018
    • Dan July 26, 2018

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