How to Rehydrate a Cat

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rehydrate a cat

Re-hydration is the process of restoring lost water to the body fluids and tissues. The loss of body water is called dehydration. It is a common finding in the feline world, because of their small size and the fact that most of a healthy cat’s water intake comes from his food. So if a cat eats less food than usual, it can quickly result in fluid deficits. There is also normal water losses from urination, defecation and respiration. Untreated dehydration results in electrolyte disturbances (sodium, potassium and chloride) and further drop of food intake. If dehydration is not treated promptly, there may be serious consequences that could lead to a state of decreased blood volume (hypovolaemia) and result in shock.

Symptoms of dehydration in cats

  • Skin tenting test: This is when you pinch the skin over his shoulders and pull up gently. If your cat is well hydrated, the skin should go back into place promptly when released. As he gets more and more dehydrated, the skin will take longer to get back into place. Once the skin is staying in a “tent” position and not going back to its place, then your cat is severely dehydrated. You should immediately seek veterinary advice.
  • Dry, tacky gums. When a cat is well hydrated, his gums should be pink and moist. When you press a finger against his gums (called checking the capillary refill time CRT), the white spot that you have created should go back to pink in 1 or 2 seconds. If it takes longer, you cat is dehydrated.
  • Sunken, dull eyes.
  • Lethargy.
  • Elevated heart rate: as the blood volume circulating around your cat’s body is decreased, his heart is beating faster to try to compensate  and is beating faster, increasing his heart rate.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Very hard dry stools.
  • Panting.

Dehydrated Cat Symptoms Video

What causes dehydration in cats?

There are many reasons why your cat may be dehydrated. Here are a few:

  • Through vomiting.
  • Through diarrhea.
  • By heatstroke.
  • Through a metabolic disease such as kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism to name a few.
  • Being unable to access water: being locked in a garage or shed for example.
  • Being unable to drink: due to a jaw fracture for example.
  • Being unable to eat due to dental problems.
  • Through blood loss.
  • Through damage to the skin: for example a large open wound or burns on the body.
  • Because of a fever.
  • Elderly cats or nursing cats are more prone to dehydration.

How to Re-Hydrate a Cat 

If you suspect your cat is dehydrated, call your veterinarian immediately. Your vet team will be able to perform a health check and will let you know if he needs to be rehydrated through intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy. They can also perform diagnostics tests such as blood tests for example which will help detect how dehydrated your cat is. Those tests could also reveal an underlying issue or disease that could be treatable.

How the vet would re-hydrate a cat video

How can I prevent dehydration?

Once your cat has been seen by a professional, you can take a few measures to help your cat stay well hydrated.

rehydrate a cat drinking

  • Provide a few water bowls in your house in different locations so your cat has more than one opportunity to drink. Please see the article: “How to encourage my cat to drink”.
  • Avoid placing water bowls next to litter trays or noisy appliances such as washing machines.
  • Always provide clean water and wash your bowls daily.
  • Observe your cat and find out his preferences. Some cats like different tasting water, so try collecting rainwater or offer distilled or bottled water.
  • Feed wet food mainly and add a little bit of water to it.
  • Some cats like running water so try investing into a cat drinking fountain.
  • Try freezing ice cubes made out of water and tuna juice. Offer it to your cat in a bowl or on top of his usual food.
  • If your cat has a problem with his jaw or has become inappetant, your vet will be able to advise you and the placement of an oesophageal tube might be indicated to provide him with the nutrition and liquids that he needs. Never force feed a cat by syringe through his mouth as that will create food aversion.
  • Try using commercial electrolyte solutions. Ask your vet for advice.

Dehydration is common in cats and may be a serious health issue as cats can become severely dehydrated in just a few hours. If you suspect your cat is dehydrated, it is always best to phone your veterinarian professional for advice. Always make sure that your cat has access to clean water in and outside your house. I would recommend that you get a cat drinking fountain as it will encourage your furry friend to drink more water. 

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