If your cat is often at the water bowl, in the litter box, or peeing on your carpet, you might wonder if it’s drinking too much water. This article is a summary of expert opinion on the topic.
How much water should a cat drink?
There’s no set amount, because a very active, growing, or heavy cat will naturally need more water than a dormant skinny cat.
Method 1: based on Calorie intake
According to Dr. Jennifer Coates:
“Water needs in ml are the same as caloric needs in kcal”
And a “kcal” is a regular, dietary Calorie that we’re all familiar with.
That means if your cat eats 300 Calories of food per day, it should get 300 mL (1.3 cups) of water per day (including all sources of water, including food). Simple!
Method 2: based on cat weight
How many calories is my cat eating?
So to calculate water requirements, you need to estimate the amount of calories your cat gets daily.
Method 1: if your cat eats all its food
If your cat always eats everything in its bowl, your job is easy: Just keep track of the amount you feed it. If you feed it three cans of wet food a day, check the can to see how many calories are in each can. If you feed it dry food, weigh the amount you give it, and again see the label to learn how many Calories that provides. Do this over a few days to get an accurate estimate.
Method 2: if your cat just eats all day
If you just keep the cat bowl filled with dry food, it’s also easy: fill the bowl in the morning, and weigh the bowl plus food together. Then weigh the bowl 24 hours later, and subtract the weights. Check the food label to see how many Calories were in the amount consumed. Do this over a few days to get an accurate estimate.
Method 3: estimate by cat weight
If your cat gets food from several sources, you have several cats sharing the same food, or it’s too difficult to weigh, use the below table (numbers shown are Calories):
How to calculate cat water intake from Calorie consumption
Once you know the amount of Calories your cat consumes daily, use one of the below formulas to calculate daily water requirements:
Water (mL) = Calories
Water (US fluid ounce) = Calories/29.5
Water (US customary cups) = Calories/237
How much water is my cat drinking?
Now that you know how much your cat should drink, you can consider how much it is drinking.
Measure the water bowl
If you have one cat that drinks from a water bowl, just measure how much water you add to fill the bowl. After 24 hours, empty the remaining water into a measuring cup, and subtract the difference.
- Consider if your cats drink from other sources (such as a toilet or sink) and restrict these sources while you measure.
- If you have several cats that share the same water bowl, you may need to separate them while measuring, in a way appropriate for your situation.
- Try not to change anything while testing, such as using a different water bowl, which may change your cat’s drinking behavior.
- Don’t forget about water from food sources: see below!
Water from cat food sources
Food is the other major source of water for your cat, so remember to include it in your estimate of total water intake.
Wet/canned cat food:
So if your cat eats two of these cans per day (312 grams total weight), it would include up to 312 x 78% = 243 grams of water, which is 243 mL of water (1 mL water weighs 1 gram).
Dry cat food:
Dry cat food is only about 10% water (moisture). If your cat eats 200 grams of dry food per day, it’s getting: 200 x 10% = 20 grams of water, which is 20 mL.
Does my cat have a drinking problem?
Now that you know your cat’s water requirements and the amount it actually consumes, you can assess if your cat drinks too much or too little.
Keep it in mind that your estimates or measurements may be inaccurate or wrong, or your cat may have a medical condition you’re not aware of.
So do not make any drastic changes to your cats nutrition (food or water) without first consulting your veterinarian.
Dangers of cats not drinking enough water
Lorie Huston, DVM, explains:
As remarkable as it may seem, the domestic cats that currently share our homes and fill our hearts evolved from a desert-dwelling species. Though there are many differences between those original ancestors and the cats we currently keep as our pets, one thing that has not changed is the ability of our domestic cats to produce strongly concentrated urine as well as a low thirst drive in many cats.
Cats that do not stay hydrated may suffer from urinary tract disease, including kidney disease and lower urinary tract disease, which can be present in many forms. Inflammation of the bladder (cystitis) is common. Bladder stones are possible and can lead to life-threatening urethral blockages, particularly in male cats. Contrary to popular belief, urinary tract infection is actually not very typical in cats less than 10 years of age. However, younger cats can suffer from various other urinary tract diseases.
According to Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, a California veterinarian focused on feline medicine and nutrition, the biggest (nutritional) mistake people make is feeding cats dry food:
“We know that a cat’s sensitivity to thirst is blunted compared to a dog,” Case says. “They don’t voluntarily drink water like a dog would.” And because cats naturally produce highly concentrated urine “we’re setting them up for urinary tract problems when their diet is low in liquids.”
Dangers of cats drinking too much water
If your cat has been drinking noticeably more water lately, it may be a sign of a developing medical issue such as diabetes, kidney disease or hyperthyroidism. A trip to your vet is recommended.
Excessive drinking can also contribute to a cat’s inappropriate urination problem. If your cat is peeing on the couch or carpet several times a day in total volumes much over one cup, it’s evidence your cat may be a little too well hydrated. However, problem cat urination can be caused by many factors, so consult your vet for a professional opinion.