Dehydration in Cats
There are several critical nutrients your cat needs but combined they are still not as important as water

Dehydration in cats is more than just a case of your pet not drinking enough water.

It can also be caused by an increased fluid loss as the result of an illness and involves more than just water as it also affects your cat’s electrolytes.


Electrolytes are made up of minerals that are critical to your cat and include potassium, chloride and sodium.

Water is the most important nutrient in your pet’s body.

A cat can go days without food and not be harmed.

However if they become dehydrated and lose over 10 percent of their body fluid it is not only an emergency, it could be so severe it could take your pet.

Dehydration in cats can occur very rapidly or it can be a gradual event, but in either case it is a situation where your cats needed water supply becomes less than normal.

When this occurs, your pet’s body will shift fluids out of their cells to compensate for the lack of water.

When this occurs, it leaves the cells without the necessary fluid levels to operate properly and the result is dehydration.

Dehydration can be caused by a lack of water intake, a lack of food and water, or it can be caused by fluid being lost in your cat.

This is usually the result if an illness or some type of a traumatic injury.


The first major cause of dehydration in cats is from a reduced amount of the proper fluid that is needed by your cat to remain healthy.

Your pet’s body needs these fluids to maintain hydration throughout their body, not just their cells.

This lack of fluid can be accidental or it can be intentional, but the intentional part will never be caused by your cat unless they are extremely ill and cannot drink properly or hold the fluids down.

If you leave your cat unattended for even just a few days, it is extremely important that you supply your pet with a drinking devise.

Most of these will contain and disperse enough water automatically until you return.

If your cat accidentally spills their water and they have no other source, it can place them in a critical situation and cause Dehydration in cats

The second cause of dehydration in cats is almost always from an illness.

The most common illnesses that will cause dehydration are kidney disease, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Kidney disease usually causes a gradual loss of body fluids, while vomiting and diarrhea will cause fluids to be lost very rapidly and in very large amounts.

Proud catsMeasuring elasticity is critical if you suspect dehydration

It will be critical to monitor your cat’s body and their fluid loss during this type of an illness to prevent it from becoming an emergency situation.

Watching the symptoms very closely can help to prevent it from becoming and emergency situation.


There are several symptoms that you can watch for with dehydration in cats.

Dry gums and sunken eyes are very common and will show you your cat is starting to lose a significant amount of body fluid.

They will also become lethargic and depressed as this lack of fluids is causing them a lot of stress and their body’s cells are signaling their brain for some type of help.

If the dehydration becomes severe, it could send your cat into shock.

However, the most obvious and largest symptom you can watch for that your cat is losing fluids at a dangerous rate, is the loss of skin elasticity.


There will always be some controversy on the exact ways to measure your cat’s skin elasticity.

In most cases it can vary somewhat depending on the actual physical condition of your cat prior to the fluid loss.

Obese cats will measure differently than healthy cats.

However both will measure slightly different than cats that are very thin either from a previous illness or by other factors.

The most common way to measure elasticity is to lift the skin over your cats shoulder and watch how fast it goes back to its normal position.

It is a good practice to do this a couple of times a week as a safety precaution but it also helps you become familiar with your cats skin and how it should react.

In a normal and very healthy cat, when you lift the skin, it should immediacy fall back to its normal position as there will be absolutely no resistance or hesitation.

If your cat is starting to become dehydrated, and they are at a point that is considered moderate, there will be a definite delay in this fallback position.

This indicates that your cats loss of body fluid is somewhere between six and eight percent.

If you cat is in a situation that is considered extreme, when you pull their skin back it does not retreat at all. It will literally set there almost like a pup tent that has been erected within their skin.

If it does stay in this position, your cat has lost between 9 and 12 percent of their body fluids. It is now an emergency situation.

In fact, if it does stay up, your cat may be on the verge of going into shock.

To quickly double check, examine their gums. The mucous membranes in your cat should always be moist. If they are not, this confirms that they are dehydrated.

You can also check their pulse, as weak pulse rate also signifies that they are in the extreme stage.


If your cat is obese, this common test is a lot more difficult simply because the skin will return back to normal due to excessive skin fat and as a result it will be very easy to underestimate the condition.

This is why it is so important for you to fully understand your cats’ skin. Although it will go back to normal, you will still notice a delay.

In very thin cats, this test is very difficult and will not show any type of results with the skin.

However the mucous membrane test as well as the pulse test will still give you significant signals to watch for with dehydration in cats.


Dehydration in cats happens very rapidly in most cases, by an illness or an accident. Your cat should always consume 2.5 times the amount of water compared to their food intake.

If you feed them a moist food, it can be slightly less, but not much.

If your cat eats two pounds of food daily, they will need five pounds of water.

One pound of food will require two and one half pounds of water. There are eight pounds of water in a gallon to help with the measurements.

If you are going to leave your cat alone for several days, give their water supply a lot of second thoughts as if they lose this supply and become dehydrated, it can place them in severe jeopardy.

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