How to Prevent Dehydration in Cats

How to Prevent Dehydration in Cats

You are not the only one that needs to drink lots of water while you are out adventuring.  Knowing how to prevent dehydration in cats is something you should educate yourself about.  This is important if you plan on doing different outside activities with your cat.  Even if your cat is just being lazy around the campfire, it’s easy for him to become dehydrated from the outside weather.

Dehydration is not simply just a loss in water.  Dehydration is when your electrolyte levels become imbalanced due to water loss.  Electrolytes include magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride which are very important for normal bodily function.  This is why people tell you to eat a banana if your muscles are cramping.  A banana is very high in the electrolyte potassium.

Symptoms of Dehydration in Cats

  • One of the early signs for dehydration in cats is panting.  Cats do not sweat like humans.  Humans have sweat glands which are activated when our body starts to overheat.  A cat does not have these glands, but their body still needs to cool down.  Your cat will start panting to try and dissipate the excess heat in their body.
  • Another sign of dehydration in cats is dry mouth and gums.  This is usually brought on from your cat’s excessive panting.
  • Lethargy is another symptom of dehydration.  Your cat will be tired and just not “himself”.  You will notice that he just doesn’t have the same amount of energy he usually has during this time.
  • Your cat may even refuse to eat his food or favorite cat treat.
  • On top of not eating, your cat will have an elevated heart rate due to the distress.
  • Decreased skin elasticity is another tell tale sign of dehydration in your cat.  To check your cats skin elasticity, simply pinch the skin over your cat’s shoulder and gently pull it up.  Once you release his skin, it should quickly snap back into place if he is properly hydrated.  If it is slow to retract back to its normal shape he may be dehydrated.  The correct term for this is “tenting”.

Causes of Dehydration in Cats

The most obvious cause of dehydration is excessive exposure to heat and increased physical activity without having proper fluid replacement.  An increase in physical activity will cause your cat’s internal body temperature to raise as well as his caloric expenditure.  Since cat’s are a lot smaller than us it takes them a lot more effort to walk or run the same distance as us.  This in turn causes their bodies to overheat faster than ours.  This is something you need to watch for if you are ever out adventuring with your cat.

Vomiting and diarrhea are also a main cause for dehydration as they will throw off the electrolyte balance in your cat.  Most of the time dehydration is symptomatic of other health problems.  If your cat is is often showing signs of dehydration then it would be a good idea to get him checked out at the vet.

The age and condition of your cat also play a big role in dehydration.  Older adult cats are more prone to dehydration than a young cat.  Nursing cats, cats with diabetes, cancer, and many other health problems are also very susceptible to dehydration.

Another cause of dehydration in cats is motion sickness.  Motion sickness itself isn’t what will cause dehydration in your cat.  It’s the after effects of motion sickness that will cause it.  Motion sickness will eventually cause an increased level of nausea in your cat which will lead to vomiting.  Your cat will lose a lot of electrolytes through his vomit.

Do Cats Sweat Or Pant When They Overheat?

Cats are actually able to sweat through their paws.  This is actually an ineffective way at cooling them down since their paws cover such a small surface area.  If your cat is sweating you may even see him start to leave little footprints as he is walking.

If you ever see your cat panting this is a very bad sign.  Panting is the last resort your cat has at cooling himself off.  When your cat starts to pant you should immediately start aiding him with liquids to re-hydrate him.  Try not to let your cat get to the point of panting.

How Much Water Does My Cat Need?

As a good rule of thumb, adult cats should drink the same amount of water in millimeters as the number of calories they eat each day.  Dry food contains anywhere from 7 to 12 percent water.  While canned food can be made up of 80 percent water.  If your cat primarily eats dry food, they will need to drink more water than if they primarily eat wet food due to the difference in water of the foods.

It’s not always practical to count your cat’s calories, so a good rule of thumb is to always have water readily available for your cat.  Just like in humans, cats will also stop drinking water when their body feels they have had enough.  The only exception to this is if your cat is parched.  It will take his body a little extra time to actually tell him tat he is no longer thirsty.

Hydrating Your Cat in Hot Weather

Before you head out to walk or camp with your cat, it’s important to check the weather conditions.  If you plan on going for a hike with your cat, make sure to check the trail conditions.  Check the weather and if it seems to be very hot then it may be a smart move to leave your cat behind to prevent a possible dehydration scenario for your cat.

If you are still adamant on bringing your cat along then you will need to do some proper preparation before taking him into hot weather.  Be sure to give your cat plenty of water before heading out for your trip.  You want to ensure that he is adequately hydrated before stepping foot outside.

Once you are at your destination be sure to offer your cat small amounts of water frequently.  Do not offer your cat a large amount of water in a short period of time.  Giving your cat a lot of water at once time can cause electrolyte imbalance which is another problem of its own.  The small frequent feedings of water will help ensure that your cat’s lost fluids are replaced as quickly as possible.  Going too long without water will put your cat at a greater risk of reaching severe dehydration levels.

Motion Sickness and Dehydration

Traveling with your cat is already a very stressful event for them.  Motion sickness in a car ride can indirectly cause dehydration in your cat because it causes nausea and vomiting.  If traveling in a plane with your cat, the altitude and humidity during air travel can also cause motion sickness and dehydrate your cat.  Always have clean water available for your cat during all of these times.

A cat that is affected by motion sickness may be reluctant to eat or drink due to nausea.  There is not much you can do but to continuously offer water.  Another trick to try and help get some fluids in your cat is to feed him wet food.  Wet food is not a good source of liquids, but it is better than your cat not getting any at all.

Pack Enough Water While Outdoors

Before starting a hike with your cat or any other adventure, make sure to pack enough water for the both you and your cat.  As with food, bring water that your cat is used to drinking.  You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where your cat is refusing to drink water because he is not used to that type or brand.  He may reject the water if it smells or tastes different than what he is primarily used to drinking.  This will be counter productive if trying to prevent dehydration in your cat.

Also stay away from streams or lakes because the water source can be infected with harmful bacteria and parasites for the both of you.  It would be a good idea to bring along a collapsible water bowl like this one from amazon.  You can simply pull out the water bowl and fill it with bottled water that you have brought with you.  Be sure to stop every half hour or so based on the outside temperature to re-hydrate your cat.

If your cat is being difficult and not wanting to drink water, you can try bringing along his favorite wet food.  Remember, wet food contains almost 80 percent water and can be a great alternative to hydrating your picky kitty.  If he is still being difficult, you can try to tempt him to eat by putting a few cat treats in his food.

Keeping Your Cat Hydrated at Home

Your cat should always have access to a clean water source that he can drink from.  You can try a few different methods to be sure your cat is drinking enough at home.

Some cats prefer room temperature water over cold water, while some cats prefer to have a few ice cubes in their water while drinking.  Cats that have sensitive whiskers may prefer to drink from a wider bowl like this one from amazon to prevent their whiskers from being crunched.

If you only feed your cat dry food during meal time, try adding wet food into the mix to help supplement his water intake if he isn’t good at drinking water from his bowl.

If you are ever gone for extended periods of time then it may be smart to use some sort of water fountain for your cat.  A water fountain like this one from amazon works great for when you have a stubborn cat that doesn’t like to drink his water.  Using a water fountain will help spark your cat’s interest and curiosity.  Before you know it he will start to enjoy drinking water just because of the fountain.

What Do I Do If My Cat Is Dehydrated?

If you know that your cat is dehydrated the best thing to do is get him to a cool area with shade.  If you have a cloth available go ahead and wet it and place it on your cat.  You will want to rub the wet cloth that has cold water over your cats coat like you were giving him a sponge bath.  Using a wet cloth on his coat will help him cool down.  This works in the same fashion as to when humans sweat.  When our sweat evaporates off our skin it cools us down.  Since cat’s don’t sweat the same way we do using a wet cloth is the next best thing to help cool them off.

The next thing to do is to offer your cat water in small amounts.  The keyword here is small.  You do not want to engorge your cat with lots of fluids all at once since this can make the situation worse.  Your cat may even start vomiting if he drinks too much water too soon.

Try to let you cat calm down in a nice cool area while you offer him small amounts of water every 10 minutes or so for him to re-hydrate.  Fully re-hydrating your cat can take hours from when you first start giving him fluids.  Have your cat avoid any physical activities or extreme weather conditions while you are trying to get him back to normal.

Final Thoughts

Dehydration can be a severe condition for your cat if not taken care of immediately.  Take the proper precautions when traveling with your cat to be sure he is properly hydrated throughout the duration of your travel.  Don’t be stubborn and make sure to leave your cat behind on very harsh weather conditions.  It’s better to be safe than sorry when preventing dehydration in cats.

Be sure your cat is fully hydrated before, during, and after your activity for the best results in hydration.  If you suspect your cat may be sick because of severe dehydration then see a vet immediately.

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