3 Vet Approved Cat Hydration Tips

By: Champion Senior Veterinarian, Dr. Darcia Kostiuk, DVM

Ensuring your cat stays hydrated is just as important as keeping yourself hydrated! Just like all of us, cats require hydration but their needs are unique because of their ancestry. Cats are descended from Felis lybica — desert-dwelling animals, and that makes them very efficient at conserving water in their bodies, as well as the ability to concentrate their urine. They’ve also evolved to naturally extract water from their prey instead of drinking water that is not freely available.

Cats are unique in terms of how they drink water – each lap only brings approximately 3/100ths of a teaspoon into their body! They also have a physiological impediment in the way their eyes work that doesn’t allow them to see a water line in a bowl (basically, they are farsighted in human eye terms).

This leaves the modern cat owner with a bit of a dilemma as they try to give their cat enough hydration to prevent potential health problems developing, such as dehydration and the subsequent issues that can arise. To help, here’s a list of details to pay attention to and look out for to help your cat stay hydrated & happy.

Tips to Help Keep Your Cat Hydrated:

  1. Pay attention to bowl materials, shapes, and sizes. There’s no one size fits all solution here, and it’s very personal to each cat. There are some theories on the shape of certain bowls affecting whiskers, or how running water is easier for cats to “see”, but research has not really proven those theories. So, I recommend trying out different kinds of bowls and/or fountains to determine your cat’s personal preference. Options to try may include stainless steel, enamel, ceramic, and plastic bowls.
  2. Bowl placement and sharing may also affect how much water your cat drinks. If there is a communal water bowl with other cats and/or dogs in the household, your cat may not like that.  In addition, never place your cat’s water or food dish too close to their litter pan – cats are fastidious and do not like that. Try putting your cat’s bowl in a safe and quiet spot it can easily reach and enjoy without too much traffic or interruption.
  3. Wet cat food provides up to approximately 80% of a daily cat’s water requirement* if wet cat food is fed exclusively. Studies have shown (1) that when wet food is fed in conjunction with dry food, the wet food cannot make up enough of the cat’s hydration needs. Dry food only consists of 6-10% water on a dry matter basis, so ensuring your cat drinks water separately from their food is essential to their health. This means that even if you feed your cat wet food to help supplement their hydration, always ensure you have a bowl of clean, fresh water out for them to use.

Cats are excellent at hiding any kind of health concerns because not only are they predators, but they’re also prey animals. Here are signs to look out for if you think your cat might be dehydrated:

  1. Early signs to watch for include open-mouth breathing. This shows that your cat is feeling hot, and this may lead to dehydration if their environment is not modified to reduce the cat’s body temperature.
  2. If your cat shows further signs of dehydration, such as sticky or tacky gums, listlessness, or depression, it could be a medical emergency, and your cat needs to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

To reiterate, cats are very good at hiding health problems, so seek veterinary care at the first sign of dehydration to ensure your feline is safe, healthy, hydrated, and happy!

* Individual cats may vary in their requirements.

Dr. Darcia Kostiuk is the senior veterinarian behind ORIJENTM pet foods. She has over 20 years of veterinary experience and is the proud pet parent of Max, Ruby, and Ember.


  1. Xu H, Greco DS, Zanghi B, et al. The effect of feeding inversely proportional amounts of canned versus dry food on water consumption, hydration and urinary parameters in cats. In: Proceedings from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, 2014; Cape Town, South Africa.