How Long Can Cats Go Without Water?

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As a cat parent whose two kitties have lived for more than 8-10 years, I hear new cat owners asking: “How long can cats go without water?

No question, your kitty is a descendant of ancient desert-dwelling wildcats and can survive on less water than other pets. However, that doesn’t mean your cat can thrive under the same conditions as its ancestors.

Your feline friend’s diet and lifestyle are different from the ancestral wildcats. Most wild cats get water from their prey and maintain high activity levels. Conversely, most domestic cats eat dry food that contains little moisture, requiring regular water intake.

Keep reading to learn:

How Much Water Do Cats Need?

The amount of water a cat needs varies, depending  on factors such as:

  • Age
  • Size
  • Diet
  • Activity levels
  • Environmental conditions

Unlike other pets, though, cats have a low thirst drive and might not drink as much water. However, adequate hydration is essential to keep your cat healthy.

According to WebMD, the average water intake for a normal cat should range between 40-70 milliliters per kilo of body weight per day. Since the average cat weighs 5kg, the water your cat should consume daily is about 250 milliliters.

And since cats don’t show the urge to drink until the dehydration is extreme, you should understand your cat’s normal behaviors. That way, you’ll know when your cat’s water intake goes up or down.

If your cat eats wet food often, you may note that it doesn’t drink as much water. That’s because it’s getting water from its food. After all, wet food is up to 80% water.

On the flip side, if your cat primarily eats dry food, it won’t get much water from its food and will demand more water to stay hydrated.

How Long Can a Cat Go Without Water?

Cats are ancestrally desert animals, meaning a healthy cat can stay hydrated with relatively little water (mostly derived from their food).

However, modern cats’ diets and lifestyles necessitate drinking water, and they can’t survive more than two or three days without water access. After 24 hours without water, dehydration will occur. If left dehydrated, your cat’s internal organs will be stressed and strained, leading to failure and death. 

But the question that brings everything into perspective is:

How long can sick cats go without water?

The most straightforward answer is: You shouldn’t let that happen. 

An unwell kitty is more prone to severe dehydration, especially if it’s having diarrhea or vomiting. Consequently, not drinking water can get your cat into trouble faster without drinking water.

Besides diarrhea and vomiting, other conditions that require your cat to be constantly hydrated include:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease

The above conditions can worsen dehydration, making it potentially severe within a day.

What Are The Signs of Dehydration in Cats?

If you’re worried your cat is dehydrated and don’t know how to check, you should familiarize yourself with the signs of cat dehydration, such as:

  • Lethargy (your cat may appear more tired, sluggish, and less active than usual)
  • Sunken eyes (dehydration can cause the eyes to appear recessed or sunken)
  • Dry or sticky gums (check your cat’s mouth and gums)
  • Thick, stringy saliva (lack of water can lead to changes in the composition of your cat’s saliva, making it thick)
  • Skin getting less elastic (Gently pinch and lift the skin on the back of your cat’s neck. If it doesn’t return to the normal position quickly, this could be a sign of dehydration).
  • Reduced urination (or concentrated urination)
  • Constipation (lack of adequate water can lead to dry or hard stool that can cause constipation)
  • Panting or breathing rapidly (to cool down)

If your kitty shows any of these signs and you suspect dehydration, consult a vet to assess your cat’s hydration status and address the underlying issue.

Reasons Your Cat Isn’t Drinking Water

As I was new to cat parenting, I usually didn’t notice my cats sipping water. And this is common even today because cats rarely beg for water as they do for food (even when thirsty).

However, some reasons might discourage your cat from drinking water, such as:

  • Cleanliness: If you serve your cat dirty or old water, your cat may refuse it. That’s equally true when you put water in a slimy or murky bowl.
  • Pain or sickness: If your cat faces physical challenges to get to the water source, it could have decreased intake.
  • Your cat has sufficient hydration: Since cats require less water than other pets, they may already be sufficiently hydrated.
  • The water bowl in an unfriendly location: Cats are creatures of habit and might respond when you change their drinking bowl location. Placing the bowl in high-anxiety locations, such as around alpha animals in the house or near a loud washing machine, may discourage your cat from drinking water.
  • Dental disease: Mouth or tooth pain may cause your cat to stop drinking due to discomfort.
  • Gastrointestinal upset: Your cat may stop drinking water when suffering from gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, cancers, or inflammatory bowel diseases.

Is It an Emergency if Your Cat Won’t Drink Water?

Avoiding drinking water will dehydrate your cat if it continues for long enough. And dehydration is serious in cats as it can be fatal.

Unfortunately, many cat parents can’t tell the signs of dehydration in their feline friends until the condition is severe. However, dehydration poses the following dangers for your cat:

  • Kidney Damage: Dehydration stresses the kidneys, which filter waste products from the blood and maintain the body’s fluid balance. Prolonged dehydration can potentially lead to kidney damage or even kidney failure.
  • Urinary Tract Issues: Insufficient water intake can induce urinary crystals and stones. The crystals and stones can cause painful urinary tract issues and potentially block the urinary, leading to life-threatening emergencies.
  • Electrolyte Imbalance: Not drinking enough water disrupts the body’s balance of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and chloride. The disruption can affect various body functions and induce health complications.
  • Organ Dysfunction: Inadequate water consumption impacts several organs like the liver, heart, and gastrointestinal tract functions. Lack of enough water might cause organ dysfunction and other health programs.
  • Digestive Issues: Lack of enough water can cause constipation and gastrointestinal problems, making it difficult for your feline friend to pass stool. Constipation can also cause discomfort and potential blockages.
  • Reduced Immune Function: Dehydration can weaken your cat’s immune system through several interconnected mechanisms, such as an impaired lymphatic system, alteration of immune cells, and increased susceptibility to infections.
  • Lethargy and Weakness: Insufficient water intake can cause lethargy and weakness in cats through a combination of physiological and metabolic changes due to a lack of adequate fluids.

You should promptly address dehydration to prevent escalation to the above dangers.

What To Do If Your Cat Isn’t Drinking Water

A healthy cat will self-regulate its water intake and drink as much as necessary. If you suspect your cat isn’t taking enough water, you might want to consider different ways to increase your cat’s hydration at home. You can:

  • Serve Your Cat Wet Food: Wet food is 80% water. Replacing dry kibble with wet food can contribute significantly to your cat’s hydration.
  • Provide Fresh Water: Just as cats’ ancestors wouldn’t drink out of stagnant water, your kitty will refuse to drink old water. 

Changing the water several times daily and rinsing the bowl can make your cat drink more.

  • Offer Multiple Water Sources: Place water bowls in various locations around your home to make it convenient for your cat to access water.
  • Consider Using a Water Fountain: Like wild cats, most cats consider stagnant water dangerous and prefer moving water. 

A water fountain can provide a continuous flow that entices them to drink.

  • Serve your cat meat broth: If your cat doesn’t like water or medically needs to drink more water,  a bone broth twice a day might serve the hydration purpose best.
  • Use Water Toys: Some cats enjoy playing with water toys, which can help them engage with food and water and potentially drink more.


Will my cat be OK without water for 3 days?

Cat can’t survive more than two to three days without water. Once 24 hours pass without water, your cat will start dehydrating. The more dehydrated your cat gets, the more its organs strain resulting in organ failure and death.

Can a cat go for 12 hours without water?

A cat can survive without water for 3-4 days. Dehydration starts past 24 hours. While your cat has a lower thirst drive, dehydration can set in quickly, and even 12 hours without water can increase the risk of health problems.

Can a cat go 7 hours without water?

A healthy cat can tolerate going without water for around 7 hours because they have a lower thirst drive. However, your cat needs to be properly hydrated to maintain their health and well-being.

How long can a cat not eat or drink water?

Your cat can live for up to two weeks without eating but only 3-4 days without drinking water. However, the longer your feline friend goes without proper nutrition, the weaker it will become.

About Laura Martin

I'm Laura Martin. I get excited about all things cat related. I love my two cats - Dom and Kitty. When I'm not playing with my two feline friends, you can probably find me hiking. And yes, I have a 9 to 5 job. Although if you asked me I'd rather spend my time blogging and educating other cat moms and dads about what it takes to raise a healthy cat.

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