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How Can You Tell If a Cat is Dehydrated?

Dehydration in cats occurs the same way it does in humans, that is when there is a lack of water in the body. Either the cat is losing more water than it is consuming or simply not drinking enough water.

Both of these cases are extremely dangerous.

Well, if you are a cat parent, this question might have popped into your mind at times. So, we are here to help you out. 

How to tell if a cat is dehydrated
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A dehydrated cat shows multiple signs and symptoms. Being able to recognize these will enable you to help with your cat’s dehydration and also in preventing dehydration.

1. Why It’s Important to Check If Your Cat is Dehydrated

how to tell if a cat is dehydrated
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Dehydration in cats can have fatal consequences if not treated immediately and effectively. It can cause organ failures and can accentuate underlying diseases.

A dehydrated cat has unbalanced levels of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, etc.) in its body which can cause organs and tissues to become dysfunctional.

Dehydration in cats can also be caused by underlying cases such as diarrhea, or kidney disease. Medical drugs used to treat certain conditions may cause extreme dehydration in certain cats, therefore it is important to recognize dehydration in your cat and administer the drug accordingly.

2. Signs of Dehydration in Cats 

2.1. Lethargy

how to tell if a cat is dehydrated
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A dehydrated cat is lazy. It will not want to move much. It might even stop responding to feeding calls and stop being interested in stuff it is usually interested in.

It will spend most of its time lying down and sleeping. The cat will show extreme tiredness and be unresponsive to most things.

2.2. Loss of Appetite

When cats are dehydrated, they lose their appetite for food. They consume very little food, and sometimes some cats don’t consume any food at all.

This can be extremely dangerous for cats if this behaviour is prolonged for an extended period. They will lose weight and become weak. This will again majorly affect their overall health conditions.

2.3. Unusual Behavior

Dehydrated cats display unusual behaviour. They don’t perform tasks characteristic of them such as playing, being cuddly, or daily habits.

They behave unlike themselves and it may feel peculiar for their owners to witness such drastic change in their pets’ behaviour. However, unusual behaviour is a quite common observation in extremely dehydrated cats.

2.4. Sunken Eyes

Dehydrated cats’ eyes sink into their sockets. This is easily noticeable and recognizable. If you believe that your pet cat’s eyes have sunk in and they look especially sleepy or drowsy, it may be caused by extreme dehydration. In this case, immediate attention must be paid to hydrating the cat.

2.5. Weakness

how to tell if a cat is dehydrated
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Dehydration in cats can cause them to become severely weak and due to this your cat may not be able to perform any mobile tasks at all.

They will become very sedentary and in cases such as these, their health tends to deteriorate very rapidly. In very severe cases, the cat may lose consciousness and collapse due to dehydration. In such situations, contact must be made with the vet immediately.

3. How to Check if Your Cat’s Mouth and Gums Are Dry

You can check your cat’s gums by very gently and slowly lifting their lips and touching their gums with your fingers. A cat’s gum is supposed to be wet and slimy just like a human’s gum.

Dry gums indicate severe dehydration in cats. Similarly, if your cat’s saliva production is noticeably reduced, you should be concerned because that indicates increased water loss and consequently, dehydration.

In more severe dehydration, the cats’ gums lose their normal colour. Normally, gums are supposed to be pinkish. In cases of dehydration in cats, they may become stark white and may lose their pinkish hue. This can happen because of decreased circulation of blood caused due to cat dehydration.

4. Checking If Your Cat’s Skin Bounces Back When Gently Pulled

When a cat is dehydrated, its skin undergoes water loss. The water content in a cat’s body gives its skin a soft nature and elasticity. If there isn’t enough water, a cat’s skin might lose its softness. 

A hydrated cat’s skin should ideally bounce back when gently pulled. This is not the case for cats suffering from dehydration. A cat’s skin elasticity is severely reduced with dehydration.

Gently pinch the extra skin present between the shoulder blades of a cat. If the skin does not bounce back and visibly less elastic skin is noticed, then your cat is dehydrated.

This test is affected by the cats’ age. Sometimes in older cats, the skin does not bounce back despite their hydration conditions. In young cats, the skin is young and more often than not tends to bounce back into place.

5. Paying Attention to Your Cat’s Urine Output

how to tell if a cat is dehydrated
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If you suspect that your cat is dehydrated, pay attention to their litter box.

A well-hydrated cat should pass urine every few hours. If your cat has not passed urine or is passing urine in very small amounts, contact the vet immediately. Your cat may be undergoing a severe case of dehydration and this may lead to kidney diseases.

6. Noticing if Your Cat is Eating and Drinking Less

how to tell a cat is dehydrated
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Dehydration is caused by decreased water intake. However, a dehydrated cat may not always want to voluntarily consume food or water.

If you suspect that your cat may be dehydrated and is yet refusing to drink water, you may have to try to force-feed them tiny amounts of water possibly using a needle-less syringe. You can also try providing running water to your cat and see if they show any interest in drinking it. If this does not seem to work, seek medical help immediately.

Normal hydration is greatly affected during dehydration as is normal consumption of food. Both of these signs are very concerning and you must be on the lookout for them.

7. Watch Out For Signs of Tiredness and Weakness In Your Cat

Cats prone to kidney disease and other sorts of organ diseases tend to get dehydrated very frequently as compared to other cats in good health.

Hydrated cats are generally not perennially lazy and tired. Whereas dehydrated cats tend to show frequent and evident signs of tiredness, laziness, and extreme weakness. Seek professional help if you notice your cat being unusually lazy for an extended period.

8. Keeping an Eye On Your Cat’s Body Weight

Less water intake alleviates the symptoms of cat dehydration and can cause severe weight loss. Weigh your cat to see if it has lost any weight. If a significant difference is observed, then please contact a doctor immediately. Dehydration in cats causes weight loss and it can be very harmful if gone unnoticed.

9. How Can You Help?

First and foremost, a pet owner must be aware of the signs of dehydration as they can help to prevent severe dehydration by knowing these signs.

Try to incorporate more fluids into your cat’s diet. Consumption of an increased amount of fluids reduces the risk of getting dehydrated and it also helps in temperature regulation. As cats aren’t very enthusiastic about actively drinking water, you can provide them with wet food rather than dry food.

Consuming only dry food can cause dehydration whereas if they eat wet food they are also consuming fluids which causes hydration. An example of such a meal can be chicken broth. Chicken broth is nutritious for them and also keeps them hydrated.

Always keep fresh water in their water bowl so that they are encouraged to drink water. Many cats prefer running water, and some may like a water dish. You should also have multiple water bowls kept all around the house and encourage your cats to drink from them.

Please be especially careful about proper hydration in hot weather conditions as the risks of getting dehydrated get increased by a manifold in hot weather conditions.

10. Knowing When to Get Help From a Vet if Your Cat Is Dehydrated

The underlying cause of water loss and dehydration in cats may sometimes also be an underlying illness. You should run blood work on your cat if they are dehydrated to be completely sure that they are not suffering from any severe hidden diseases. And medical attention in case such suspicions arise needs to be provided immediately.

In case of extreme dehydration, a veterinary doctor will supply your cat with subcutaneous fluids to hydrate it. Fluid therapy may be done to help your cat deal with dehydration. Moreover, if needed veterinary medicine may be provided as well.

These are the ways that you can keep your pet healthy and in case of an emergency, do not hesitate to seek help.

Last Updated on December 23, 2023 by