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What is Refusing to Drink?

In order to live long and healthy lives, cats need food, water and affection. Although legend says that cats hate water, it is still necessary for them to drink it in order to be healthy. If your cat is refusing to drink, it can lead to illnesses that can be serious and dangerous. It can cause dehydration, which is an imbalance of water and electrolytes, which can lead to health issues for your feline. Your cat can be refusing to drink water for a number of reasons, some of them being:

  • A lack of available water
  • Blood loss, shock or fever
  • Heat stroke
  • Lifestyle and diet

Cats are very much like us, and need to drink a lot of water in order to survive. They are made up of primarily water, just as humans are, and not drinking can cause some serious issues. If your cat has suddenly dropped their water intake, it may be wise to take them to the vet for a checkup and to ensure that there is not a more serious cause behind it.

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Why Refusing to Drink Occurs in Cats

There can be many causes to your cat refusing to drink. Some of them can be as simple as stubbornness, and others can be as complicated as heat stroke. Drinking a sufficient amount of water is important for your feline, as it is necessary for all of their biological processes. Some possible causes are:

A Lack of Available Water

Your cat could simply be refusing to drink water because they are picky about the kind of water that is available to them. Some cats prefer water with minerals while others are satisfied with tap water. Sometimes even the type of bowl can play a part in the amount of water that your cat drinks. If the bowl is too big or small, it could make a difference in whether or not your cat wants to drink. Some cats don’t like when their whiskers brush against the sides of a bowl and therefore may refuse to drink from a bowl that is too small. Some cats prefer stainless steel bowls over ceramic, or vice versa.

Blood Loss, Shock or Fever

Blood loss can be either internal or external. External blood loss can be seen, possibly coming from bites, fractures, bleeding after delivering kittens, nosebleeds or injuries and wounds from other accidents. Internal blood loss can be obtained by trauma, poisoning, blood clotting disorders or hookworm and other internal parasites. 

Shock and fever may also keep your cat from drinking. Shock is caused by a lack of blood flow due to an imbalance in the amount of oxygen and nutrients in the body. Some symptoms include a weak and rapid pulse, mucous membranes and pale skin, unawareness of surroundings, difficulty standing, dark pink or red gums that turn grey, rapid and shallow breathing, slow capillary refill time, hypothermia and panting. Shock can be extremely dangerous for your cat and requires veterinary intervention. 

Although the only way to know if your cat has a fever for sure is by taking its temperature, there are other signs. These include depression, a loss of appetite, a lack of energy, a decrease in drinking, rapid breathing and shivering or decreased grooming. These three health conditions can cause a decrease in your pet’s water intake.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke can be very dangerous and it is important to know the signs. The symptoms include panting, collapse, lethargy, vomiting and a high temperature. It can also cause and be caused by a decrease in drinking water. If you suspect that your cat is experiencing heat stroke, they should be brought to the vet immediately as it can be life threatening.

Lifestyle and Diet

You should also consider the lifestyle of your pet. If you own an outdoor cat, it is possible that they are able to find water from streams and ponds while out adventuring, and therefore will need less water from home. How much exercise they get will also play a part. If your cat tires itself out too much, they can easily become dehydrated. The more active your cat is, the more water that they will need, and they should naturally consume more or less, depending on their needs. If you feed your cat wet food, they will not need to drink as much water as they would if they eat dry food, since they will be getting some of their water content from the wet food.

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What to do if your Cat is Refusing to Drink

Determining the cause of your cat’s refusal to drink water can be a challenge, and if you have any concerns that it may be serious, then you may want to consider bringing your cat to the veterinarian to ensure that they are in good health. If your cat has internal blood loss, they may require x-rays or ultrasounds to determine the source of the bleeding. External bleeding will be treated by cleaning and dressing the injury, or some cases may require surgery. 

If you suspect shock, it is important to stay calm and proceed to the veterinary clinic immediately.  A cat with a fever for over 24 hours or a temperature of above 106 should be brought to the vet. Unless you suspect heat stroke, shock, illness or injury, bringing your cat to the vet for refusing to should not be necessary. If your cat is acting normal but the water in their bowl never seems to go down, then consider their lifestyle and try to find out if they may be getting water from some other source. Try different size and types of bowls and water to see if your cat has a certain preference.

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Prevention of Refusing to Drink

To prevent serious incidents like heat stroke, avoid leaving your cat outside for long periods of time if it is very hot. You should never leave your cat or any pet in a parked car, as the interior can quickly get hot and the intense heat will cause your cat to experience heat stroke. 

If you cannot find a way to get your cat to drink more water, you could feed them wet food as it has moisture and will add to their water intake. If your cat is not drinking from their bowl, try experimenting with different types. Place bowls of different shapes, sizes and materials around the house and see which ones get used the most in order to determine what your cat prefers. Sometimes adding ice cubes or bath toys to your cat’s water bowls can increase their interest in drinking. 

You should ensure that your cat has water available at all times in order to prevent dehydration. It is important to monitor your cat’s behavior and drinking habits, because even if it may not seem like a big deal, it could be a symptom of something much bigger.

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Cost of Refusing to Drink

Curing your cats dislike of water can have a varying cost. It can be as cheap as buying a new water bowl from the dollar store or as expensive as a trip to the vet. Treating heat stroke can cost an average amount of $2500, and curing shock can cost around $2000. Treating fever will cost around $400.

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Refusing to Drink Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Tink

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Calico

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4 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Fever, Not Eating, Not Drinking

My 4 month old inside cat started running a fever not eating or drinking now x's 3 days. I use a syringe and give her about 10 to 15 cc's of water with a touch of salt and sugar3 x's a day. Yesterday after I did that she seemed better today she did try a couple bites if food but no water so I again gave her about 15 cc's of the sugar salt water 3x's a day. She still has a fever just not a high it was 105 now it is 103. No other symptoms so I'm concerned. Her gums are pink and she responds to touch and her name,she will get up and move.Really don't have extra money for a visit Tu the vet but would if I had to. Is there any other advise.

Aug. 21, 2018

Tink's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Fever is a vague symptom and is common with various infections, inflammatory diseases and autoimmune diseases; based on the information I cannot say what the cause is and a visit to a Veterinarian would be recommended regardless of cost if there is no improvement. You should continue with the supportive care you’re giving, as for fluids I would recommend giving 50:50 water and plain Pedialyte as well as encouraging appetite. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 21, 2018

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Phoebe

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dsh

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7 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Sunken Eyes, Weight Loss

My cat had sunken eyes and was eating and drinking very little and lost weight. After a blood test the vet could find nothing and suggested a virus She was given an injection of antibiotics on Monday and the vet said she should perk up. It is now Wednesday and she is finally eating wet food, but drinking nothing. She has a bowl of water and we bought a water fountain. Her eyes are still sunken from what the vet said was dehydration, but she is refusing to drink. I am so frustrated. What can i do?

May 16, 2018

Phoebe's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Phoebe will receive some moisture from the wet food, but you could mix a little more water into the food to boost the overall consumption of water; if she is very dehydrated you may need to visit your Veterinarian for fluids to get her hydration up especially if the eyes are sunken. I don’t know why this is occurring, but without examining her I cannot start to make a diagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 17, 2018

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Paco

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Mix

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Not Drinking
Sleeping Alot
Eating Very Little

My cat ran outside and it took me awhile to find when I found him he acted weird we gave him wet food but he ate very little but he won’t drink water and he hasn’t pooped or peed of what I’ve seen and all he does is sleep in the same spots and not on his usually spots he sleeps in.

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Pebbles

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Domestic long hair

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Hiding
Timid
Not Playful
Refuses To Drink Water

Our cat is 1.5 years old and she's on an antibiotic twice a day as well as pain/ inflammation medication once a day to treat a UTI. Today is day 5 and although she's urinating more she's still hiding, timid and testy she also refuses to drink water. She's almost solely eating wet food and treats at this point. She's also on a prescribed diet for crystals in her bladder. I feel like she should be feeling better and more like her playful loving self at this point in her treatment.

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Mr. Bond

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Cat

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8 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic, Won'T Drink

My cat became very sad because his kitty friend died. He was lethargic and started losing weight, so we took him to the vet. He had lost 3 pounds and was dehydrated but otherwise fine. CBC and urinalysis came back normal. She gave him a subcutaneous injection of fluid. He seemed a little better at home and started eating better, but he still won't drink and is starting to look dehydrated again. What should I do?

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Amity

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DOMESTIC

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Won'T Drink Water, Sleeps All Day

My 5 year old cat suddenly stopped drinking water and has dropped weight. She has a digestive disease but we treat it daily with the prednisone stick in her ear and have been doing this for afew years (only symptom is that she will throw up occasionally but even then she would immediately go drink water) I have several water bowls placed throughout the house and I change the water afew times each day sd when she was drinking she liked it cold. She was at 8lbs but now under 6lbs in a week. I am very sad and upset as the doctor has no appointments .

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Mano

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tabby

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Not Drinking Enough Water

She just went through a bad uti infection. She got 2 rounds of the UTI antibiotic. But she is still not drinking enough. She is still eating though but since she isnt drinking enugh she is getting constipated. Shes also pretty active. Only thing I've noticed is the lack of thirst.

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