How Long Can Cats Go Without Water?

how long can cat live without water?

It can generally go without saying that water is a crucial part of life. Water hydrates all of the cells within a body, bringing something that just about all living beings need to survive for any given period of time. 

Some animals can only survive very short amounts of time without water, while other animals can live for weeks without needing to walk to a source of water. 

Whether you are trying to gauge how much of an emergency you have on your hands because you have found a troubled cat or you simply want to be prepared in the worst of situations, you may want to figure out exactly how long a cat can go without needing water. 

Cats, much like people, need water to survive. Without water for a prolonged period of time, your cat will begin developing signs of dehydration until the point where the cat can no longer live. 

In this article, you will not only learn how long a cat can go without drinking water, but you will also learn what happens to a cat if it is not given water in the allotted time. 

How Long Can a Cat Live Without Water? 

Photo by Brian Wangenheim on Unsplash

Cats, quite similarly to humans, can go for approximately 72 hours without water, or for three consecutive days without a single drink

The longer that your cat is dehydrated, the worse the symptoms of dehydration will become and the harder it will be for your cat to get out of the situation without lasting health effects. 

With all of that being said, there are certainly documented cases of cats who have gone over a week without drinking water, so while you shouldn’t try and see how long your cat can go, most people will agree that a cat’s limit falls between three days and a full week. 

Unfortunately, the true answer to this question is not as cut and dry as giving a time and having that time apply to all cats in all situations. There are plenty of factors that can influence how long your cat may be able to last if you are unable to provide it with water. 

For instance, cats get some degree of moisture from their food, (which is why an automatic wet cat food dispenser is so important) so as long as they have their food, it may be fine. On the other hand, if the food is completely dry food, then your cat is going to need even more water to combat that dryness. 

What Factors Influence How Long Your Cat Can Last Without Water? 

Of course, the moisture content of your cat’s food, if it has had any, is going to play a major role in how long your cat can survive without water. If your cat has dry food, it may be less than 72 hours. If your cat has wet food, it can get some degree of its moisture from that, keeping them going for a little bit longer (especially if your cat manages to “ration” it out over time). There are other factors besides the food that can influence your cat though. 

How the Size and Age of a Cat Impacts Dehydration

A major factor is going to be the size and age of the cat. Consider these factors:

  • A kitten is tiny, so it doesn’t need a lot of water at once. However, a young kitten is going to need water frequently. 
  • A cat who is simply tiny, regardless of age, will need less water to sustain itself than a cat who is naturally large. 
  • Cats who are older may have health conditions that cause frequent thirst or problems regarding water, which can heavily influence how long the cat can last. 
  • The smaller the cat is, the less water it will need, meaning that it can last longer without water than larger and older cats can. 

The amount of activity your cat gets will influence this as well. While cats may not sweat in the same way that people do, cats do sweat. As with people, when cats sweat, they lose some degree of moisture through the sweat’s contents. 

Naturally, the cat will need to replace that content. If it is particularly hot where the cat is or if the cat has recently been active enough to work up a sweat, it is going to need more water than other cats. 

This will lead to the cat not being able to survive as long without water, so you will need to keep the activity level and the temperature in mind when you are trying to decide how long your cat could potentially last without any fresh water. 

What Happens to a Dehydrated Cat? 

As with most other living beings, dehydration can quickly become deadly for your cat. It will begin with your cat becoming more vocal as it is asking for water. 

Your cat knows that you are the one who provides resources, so it may begin meowing more in an effort to take your attention to the lack of water. If you aren’t there, the cat may just meow to nobody in particular, perhaps calling for assistance. 

As the cat becomes more and more dehydrated, it is going to begin experiencing signs of severe dehydration

Signs of Dehydration in Cats

The next stage of dehydration in cats will show itself through constipation and dry gums, although if you are not there and examining the cat, this may not be readily obvious. 

Constipation in cats can be determined by the quality of the feces as well as whether or not it is evident that the cat was straining to pass the feces (meowing while doing so). 

Dry gums can be checked by physically touching the gums. As the dehydration gets worse, your cat will begin vomiting. 

This has an unfortunate effect on dehydrated cats, as vomiting expels even more of the body’s remaining fluids, worsening the cat’s condition further. When this happens, it begins a cycle of vomiting until your cat has depleted most of its bodily fluids. 

At this stage, your cat may begin to pant in an effort to try and cool itself down, especially if the dehydration is caused by excess heat. The cat will become lethargic, slow, and sleeping. As it loses the energy to move around and search for a source of water, if you are still interacting with the cat, it will become moody. 

Most cat owners are well aware of the fact that a moody cat has a tendency to mean an aggressive and fearful cat. If you are trying to approach a dehydrated cat, you may have to be prepared for claws and teeth. 

From here, the lethargy will worsen and progress into unresponsiveness, quickly escalating into a loss of life if the dehydration isn’t treated immediately. 

Move Quickly to Quench Your Cat’s Thirst

cat drinking water
Photo by Rasmus Gerdin on Unsplash

The sooner the dehydration is treated, the quicker the vets can work on reversing some of the damage caused by the lack of water in the body. Usually, when it reaches the degree of the cat being unresponsive, there’s a chance that some of the damage may be irreversible and this should be discussed with the vet who is treating your cat. 

These are all the signs you should look for if you suspect that your cat has been without water for a couple days and you want to make sure that the cat is able to get through it.

Editorial Team

When we aren't scooping up droppings to ensure a luxurious litter box experience for our fur babies, we are writing all sorts of stuff about cats for your enjoyment and knowledge.

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