Why is my cat not drinking?

People ask why their cat is not drinking. I believe that there are three possible answers or things to consider.

Mistaken Perception

The cat’s owner is unaware that domestic cats normally drink very little compared to humans. They don’t need to drink much if they are fed wet dry food which is 80% water. As we know this is an inherited trait from the African wildcat. If may be the case that the owner wants to see her cat drinking at a human rate and when it is doesn’t happen asks Dr Google for the reason. There is no reason. It’s normal. If the sand cat had been domesticated rather than the North African wildcat, our domestic cats would drink almost nothing!

Why is my cat not drinking?

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Not Drinking Enough

Some cats don’t drink enough. Cats fed predominantly dry cat food need to drink more water and not all cats compensate adequately for the lack of water in their diet. A cat fed dry cat food should be seen to be drinking more than usual. If not the owner should do the obvious: fed wet cat food. Or add water to home prepared treats such as cooked fish provided it does not constitute the entire diet.

There are ways to get cats to drink more water. I think the type of bowl may be relevant. There was a time when a previous cat of mine preferred to drink from clear glass bowls. The position of the bowl may be a factor. There no harm in trying different positions.

The water should be fresh; changed daily. Some cats like to drink from the faucet (tap). It solves the problem of not drinking enough. However drinking from the faucet can be dangerous as the water can get into the lungs. I am not sure about this.

Flavouring the water may encourage the reluctant cat. Tuna flavour may help. This is an alternative to mixing in water into tuna. It is about the relative quantities.

I have never tried it but ice cubs mixed in the food can encourage a cat to drink.

Water fountains are common these days. The water flows and is fresh but the devices need regular cleaning to avoid contamination and if it is not encouraging drinking there is no advantage to having one.

Finally eating less more frequently may help as eating prompts drinking. The more he eats the more he should drink. There is a point to make about the quality of the water. A study concluded that hard water can lead to urinary crystals in cats. Should we give our cats bottled water?


If the cat is genuinely not drinking enough water there may be a medical reason for it but this would probably also show in not eating properly too. A possibility is that his tongue is inflamed and therefore sore. This is called glossitis. This condition often accompanies feline leukaemia and other immune deficiency diseases or it may be caused by a URI or renal disease. Or the tongue may have been burnt or injured. In addition to not drinking the cat’s coat may look unkempt. The cat may have lost the spikes on her tongue. There may be ulcers. See a vet for advice. Other mouth conditions such as (1) foreign body in the mouth e.g under the tongue (2) an inflamed, sore mouth due to gum disease – there are other causes.

There is one last remote possibility: the water is making your cat sick.

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