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How Long Can Cats Go Without Water

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Cats can survive for three to four days without drinking water.
  • Cats evolved from a species native to dry environments, which is why they are not fond of water.
  • The amount of water a cat needs depends on their body weight and diet.
  • Reasons why a cat may not be drinking water include the location of their water bowl, the freshness of the water, and underlying health problems.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Tuesday 26 September 2023
Last updated on
Monday 25 September 2023
How Long Can Cats Go Without Water
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Cats can survive for three weeks without eating. However, it is a different case when it comes to drinking. With that, we will discuss how long a cat can go without drinking water, how much water they need, why most cats don’t like water, and what to do if your cat suddenly stops drinking or eating. 

How Long Can Cats Survive Without Water

Cats can only survive for three to four days without water. Water is extremely crucial as it is responsible for carrying nutrients throughout the body. It also aids in absorbing nutrients and vitamins. Thus, a lack of water, even for a short time, can cause tremendous health problems. 

If your cat does not drink water for a day, they can be dehydrated or at risk of dehydration. And the longer they have no water intake, the worse problems like organ failure and electrolyte imbalance can occur. Electrolyte imbalance refers to the body’s mineral levels being too high or low. 

Furthermore, their environmental conditions can also contribute to how long they can survive without water. For example, cats in a dry place might experience worse dehydration symptoms earlier than those in a cool space. 

More importantly, note that even though your cat is extremely healthy and has no prior health problems, not drinking water even for a short time can still have big adverse effects. However, cats with special health conditions or problems are more prone to worse effects. 

Why Do Cats Don’t Like Water?

Many people know that felines are not fond of water or being wet. Thus, cat owners often struggle to bathe their pets. With that, we will enumerate the reasons behind this cat’s behavior. 

First, their genetics and ancestry have something to do with it. Domestic cats evolved from the African Wildcat (Felis lybica), a species native to the dry lands and climate of Northern Africa (Krajcarz, 2020). Thus, many researchers believe that water is an element that they are not familiar with. 

Following that, cats use their tongue’s rough surface and “comb-like” paws to groom themselves. So, felines originally did not need water to groom or clean themselves. That skill also contributed to why cats are not used to the water. 

In addition, cats avoid getting wet because their fur is not waterproof, making their fur a lot heavier. A heavy fur feels uncomfortable and makes it harder to move. Cats with shorter furs get cold easily once in contact with water because it directly touches their skin.

Furthermore, related to genetics, kitties are not used to drinking ‘still’ or stagnant water. That’s why you might observe them ignoring their water bowl but are interested in running water. For these reasons, it makes the cat owner’s duty to monitor their cat’s water intake more important. 

However, note that not all cats hate water. There are feline breeds like Bengal, Maine Coon, and Turkish Van that enjoy water more compared to other cat breeds. One of the reasons behind this difference is their fur. The cat breeds mentioned have a unique fur texture, making them more water-resistant. 

How Much Water Is Enough for Cats to Survive? 

A cat’s required minimum water intake varies depending on body weight and diet. For their body weight, bigger cats need more water than smaller breeds to maintain their body. When it comes to diet, cats who consume wet food usually need a lesser amount of water. It is because wet food is 80% water. Meanwhile, cats who only consume dry cat food might require more water because their diet only contains 10% water. 

However, another golden rule of thumb is that the average 10-pound cat should have around one cup of water daily since cats need to drink roughly 4 ounces of water for every 5 pounds of body weight daily. Below is a table to understand it properly: 

Cat’s Body WeightOunce of Water Per Day
10 pounds8 ounces of water
15 pounds12 ounces of water
20pounds16 ounces of water
25 pounds 20 ounces of water
Daily Amount of Water for Cats

You should also note that cats can consume water aside from drinking it. As mentioned, giving them wet cat food also contributes to their water intake. Moreover, if you are still unsure about how much water your cat needs, we recommend talking to your veterinarian about how much your cat should be drinking. 

Reasons Why Your Cat is Not Drinking 

Below are the possible reasons why your cat is not drinking. Being aware of these reasons can help you provide a solution when it happens. 

The Location of Their Water Bowl

Some cats do not like it if their water bowl is placed near their litter box. Felines are genetically predisposed not to drink water near their meals or bathroom. According to most studies, this behavior is rooted in their instinct of not exposing their water to possible bacterial sources.

Change Their Water Bowl

Some kitties do not like to drink from water bowls since they touch their whiskers. And since cat whiskers are sensitive, they might feel uncomfortable when it happens. With that, we recommend experimenting with different modes of water dispensers. Plus, their genes and natural instincts might prefer running water more. 

The Water is Not Fresh Enough

Cats’ sense of smell is a lot 14 times sharper than humans. Thus, it is possible for them to detect substances in water that human smell receptors cannot. Aside from having a keen nose, cats are also sensitive regarding taste. So, they naturally lean more towards fresh water. 

Underlying Health Problems

There can also be various health problems behind why your cat suddenly stops drinking. One example is dental problems. Reduced appetite, dropping food while eating, pawing at the face or mouth, facial puffiness, and drooling are further indicators of dental illness.

Aside from dental problems, gastrointestinal issues can also be the culprit. Some GIs like pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel diseases might cause your cat to limit or stop drinking water. 

Now, no matter why your cat is not drinking water, we advise you to call your veterinarian if 24 hours have passed. 

What to Do If Your Cat Is Not Drinking or Eating?

It is extremely alarming if your cat suddenly stops drinking or eating. With that, cat owners should be aware of the measures they must take if it occurs. 

  • If you recently changed your cat’s food, it might be the reason behind their sudden food avoidance. Some cats prefer not to eat if they do not like their food. With that, most veterinaries recommend slowly introducing your cat’s new food slowly. 
  • When it comes to drinking, try relocating their water bowls or dispensers since cats are very sensitive about their location. Cats have a sharp sense of smell, so they can easily detect if the water is fresh or not – and some cats only prefer fresh water. 
  • You can also add your cat’s favorite treat or food to their water to encourage them to drink.
  • However, if they still refuse to eat or drink for 24 hours, it is best to go to your veterinarian immediately. The lack of food or water for a whole day is extremely alarming, and underlying medical issues might be behind it. 

In addition, you should also watch out for signs of dehydration once you notice that your cat stopped drinking. Here are the most common signs of dehydration:

  • Continuous vomiting and diarrhea 
  • Dry gums and sunken eyes
  • Weakness
  • Lack or loss of appetite

In conclusion, cats can only survive on an average of three to four days without water. Furthermore, most domesticated cats’ shared behavior toward water is rooted back from their genetics and ancestry. More importantly, no matter the cause, if your cat suddenly stops eating or drinking out of nowhere, call your veterinarian right away.

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