Most pet parents know it’s important that their cat drinks enough water. After all, water is life, and cats need it to stay healthy and live a long and happy existence. One concern many cat owners have is when their cat doesn’t drink water but eats wet food.
Is that enough water? Will a cat’s health suffer if they don’t drink water but still eat wet food? According to veterinarians, the answer is that if your cat is healthy and shows no signs of dehydration and other illnesses, everything is most likely fine. Read on to find out why, learn more about the importance of water for your cat, and discover how to convince your feline to drink more H2O!
How Much Water Do Cats Need Every Day?
On average, cats should drink around 0.88 fl. oz (25ml) per pound per day, so a 10-pound cat should drink about 8 ounces daily.
Of course, that varies from situation to situation. For example, during winter, a cat will drink less than in summer when it’s hot. A mother cat will drink more when nursing to make more milk for her kittens, while an older cat usually drinks less since they’re less active.
Is the Water from a Can of Wet Food Enough for a Cat?
A single 5.5-ounce can of wet cat food is about 70% to 80% water, equating to about 3.85 to 4.4 ounces per can. Thus, for a 10-pound cat, one can of wet food per day would meet half the daily water requirement.
You might think that’s not enough, but if your cat is healthy and shows no signs of dehydration or illness, it’s probably just fine, even if they don’t touch the water in their water bowl. Why? Cats usually get water from several sources.
An indoor cat, for example, might get water from the bathroom or kitchen sink, from potted plants, a fish tank, and even from licking a window covered with condensation.
Outdoor cats get water from even more sources, including puddles, by killing and eating small animals and leaky outdoor faucets and hoses.
Do Cats Naturally Drink a Lot of Water?
Another reason a cat that eats wet food can go without drinking water is that cats are built to survive on less water. Not only do wild felines get their water from a wide variety of sources not classically listed as “water” (i.e., the animals they eat), domestic cats have a diminished “thirst drive” as they have adapted to a lifestyle where water is rarely scarce.
Studies have shown that cats can survive by getting almost all the water they need from their food. If your cat eats a 5.5-ounce can of wet food each day, they might only need a single extra ounce of water to stay hydrated to an adequate and healthy level. In short, cats don’t drink much water, to begin with, and if they’re eating wet food, they can drink a little extra water and still stay perfectly healthy.
The fact that cats that eat a diet of dry kibble drink more water than those on a wet food diet is due to two things:
Cats that eat a mostly wet diet, have the opposite situation:
Do Cats Sometimes Need More Water than Wet Food Can Provide?
We’ve established that cats don’t drink much water and can do well on the water from wet food alone. However, sometimes, your cat will, or at least should, drink more water to stay hydrated. Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent examples.
1. When the Weather Is Hot
When the weather is hot, all animals, including cats, need to drink more water because the water in their body will evaporate and be used to stay cool. That goes for outdoor and indoor cats, but outdoor cats are more prone to losing water because they’re more exposed to high temperatures. If you don’t use A/C, an indoor cat will need more water when it’s hot.
2. When Your Cat Is More Active
Like most animals, an active cat will use more water in their body and need to replenish it more frequently.
3. You’ve Recently Switched From Wet Cat Food to Dry Cat Food
Dry cat food has significantly less moisture; if you switch to dry food, your cat will need more water, and this will usually be very obvious.
4. Your Cat Might Have a Health Condition
Cats with kidney disease, diabetes or urinary issues often drink more water and urinate more frequently or in larger volumes. A trip to your vet is necessary if your cat suddenly starts drinking and peeing much more than usual.
Signs Your Cat Might Be Suffering from Dehydration
As we’ve discussed, conditions like warmer weather, increased activity, diet change, or disease will cause your cat to increase their water intake. But what if they don’t? What happens when the amount of fluid they are losing is more than they are taking in?
The body needs fluid in order to transport oxygen to organs in the blood. As hydration levels drop, the blood becomes thicker, slowing down oxygen transport, and severe dehydration can cause disorientation, dizziness, and organ damage.
This is a particular risk with conditions like kidney disease, vomiting, diarrhea, or heat stroke. You might think that a cat that has become overheated will naturally drink more water, but the trouble with dehydration is that drinking water is often the last thing they want to do, which only makes things worse.
There are several ways in which you can assess your cat’s hydration status and determine if they are dehydrated.
How To Encourage Your Cat to Drink More Water
As we’ve established, cats are not always big water drinkers, even if their body needs it. To help your cat stay hydrated, follow the tips below.
Unlike dogs, a lot of cats aren’t as fond of drinking from their water bowls. but as a general rule, they will naturally drink as much, or as little, as their body requires. Wet cat food is an excellent source of water for cats, and studies have shown that it gives them almost all the water they need to stay healthy. As long as your cat has no signs of illness or distress, a 5.5-ounce can of wet food per day will provide nearly all the water they need, and by adding an extra tablespoon or two, you can be confident they are getting everything they need.
That’s not to say you can’t encourage your cat to drink more water. The tips we provided will help encourage your pet to drink more water to stay hydrated and healthy. If you are worried that your cat is drinking excessively, not enough, or particularly if they might be dehydrated, make an appointment with your veterinarian for a health check.
Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock