Why is my kitten not drinking water? Keep your kittens hydrated!

Welcoming a new kitten into your home is an exciting time, but ensuring their health and well-being is a top priority. One crucial aspect of kitten care is hydration, as adequate water intake is essential for their growth, development, and overall health. Although uncommon, we have seen kittens that suffered from dehydration – usually caused by owners’ neglection or poor living condition. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of keeping your kitten hydrated, common reasons why kittens may not drink water, signs of dehydration to watch out for, and practical tips for encouraging healthy water intake. Let’s dive in and ensure your furry friend stays happy and hydrated!

What age do kittens start drinking water?

Kittens typically start drinking water around the time they begin weaning, which is usually between 3 to 4 weeks of age. Prior to weaning, kittens receive all their hydration from their mother’s milk. As they transition to solid food, they also gradually start to drink water to supplement their fluid intake.

The weaning process usually begins when kittens show an interest in solid food, which can occur as early as 3 weeks of age but typically starts around 4 weeks. As kittens begin to nibble on solid food, they also become more curious about their surroundings, including exploring the water bowl. At this stage, it’s essential to provide fresh, clean water in a shallow bowl that is easily accessible to the kittens.

While kittens may start drinking water around 3 to 4 weeks of age, they may not drink large amounts initially. It’s essential to monitor their water intake and ensure they have access to water at all times, especially as they continue to grow and become more active.

What are the signs of dehydration in kittens?

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if your kittens are dehydrated. But here are some common signs to watch out for:

1. Lethargy: Dehydrated kittens may appear unusually tired or lethargic. They may lack their usual energy levels and show little interest in playing or exploring.

2. Dry Gums and Mouth: Check your kitten’s gums and mouth for moisture. Dehydrated kittens may have dry, sticky gums and mouth due to decreased saliva production.

3. Sunken Eyes: Dehydration can cause the eyes to appear sunken or dull. Check for any changes in the appearance of your kitten’s eyes, such as a lack of moisture or brightness.

4. Loss of Skin Elasticity: Gently pinch the skin on the back of your kitten’s neck or between their shoulder blades. In hydrated kittens, the skin should quickly return to its normal position. Dehydrated kittens may have skin that remains “tented” or takes longer to return to normal.

5. Decreased Urination: Monitor your kitten’s litter box habits. Dehydrated kittens may produce less urine or have difficulty urinating due to decreased fluid intake.

6. Panting or Rapid Breathing: Dehydrated kittens may pant or breathe rapidly as their body tries to compensate for fluid loss. Pay attention to any changes in your kitten’s breathing patterns.

7. Weakness or Collapse: Severe dehydration can lead to weakness, collapse, or even unconsciousness in kittens. If your kitten shows signs of severe dehydration, seek veterinary attention immediately.

If you notice any of these signs of dehydration in your kitten, it’s essential to take action promptly. Offer your kitten fresh, clean water and encourage them to drink. If they continue to show signs of dehydration or if you’re concerned about their health, contact your veterinarian immediately! Dehydration can be serious, especially in young kittens.

10 Reason why your kittens won’t drink water

1. Water Bowl Placement

Sometimes it’s as simple as where the water bowl is placed. Kittens may avoid drinking if the bowl is near their food, litter box, or in a high-traffic area where they feel vulnerable. Move the water bowl to a quiet, low-traffic area away from their food and litter box. Cats prefer to drink from a separate water source, so providing multiple water bowls in different locations can encourage drinking.

2. Water Quality

Cats are sensitive to the taste, smell, and temperature of water. If the water tastes or smells off, they may avoid drinking it. Stale or dirty water can also deter them. Provide fresh, clean water in a clean bowl daily. Some cats prefer running water, so consider investing in a pet fountain. Using filtered water can also improve taste and smell.

3. Bowl Type

The type of water bowl may influence a kitten’s willingness to drink. Some kittens may not like the shape, size, or material of their water bowl. Experiment with different types of bowls, including shallow dishes, wide-bottomed bowls, or stainless steel bowls. Avoid using plastic bowls, as they can retain odours and harbour bacteria.

4. Illness or Pain

Kittens may avoid drinking if they are feeling unwell or experiencing pain, such as dental issues, urinary tract infections, or gastrointestinal problems. Monitor your kitten for other signs of illness, such as lethargy, vomiting, or changes in litter box habits. If you suspect they are unwell, speak to a vet.

5. Stress or Anxiety

Stressful situations, such as moving to a new home, changes in routine, or the presence of new pets or people, can cause kittens to reduce their water intake. Create a calm, comfortable environment for your kitten, providing hiding spots and opportunities for mental and physical stimulation. Gradually introduce changes and give them time to adjust.

6. Flavoured Water

 Some kittens may refuse plain water but enjoy flavoured water or water mixed with wet food. Offer water flavoured with low-sodium broth, tuna juice, or water from canned cat food. Gradually reduce the amount of flavouring over time to encourage drinking plain water.

7. Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism, can affect a kitten’s thirst and water intake. Schedule a vet examination to rule out underlying medical issues. Diagnostic tests may be necessary to identify the cause of decreased water intake, and treatment will depend on the specific condition diagnosed.

8. Seasonal Changes

Kittens may drink less water during colder months or in dry climates when the air is less humid. Provide additional sources of hydration, such as wet food or water-rich treats. Consider using a humidifier to increase moisture levels in the air and encourage drinking.

9. Preference for Other Beverages

Some kittens may prefer milk or other beverages over water, especially if they have been offered alternatives in the past. Avoid offering milk, as many cats are lactose intolerant and can experience digestive upset. Encourage drinking water by providing fresh, clean water as the primary beverage option.

10. Behavioural Issues

Behavioural issues such as fear of water or negative associations with the water bowl can lead to avoidance of drinking. Use positive reinforcement techniques to help your kitten associate the water bowl with positive experiences, such as offering treats near the water bowl or playing with them nearby. Gradually desensitise them to the water bowl by making it a part of their daily routine.

kittens can get most water from wet food

Yes, kittens can get a significant portion of their water intake from wet food. Wet cat food typically contains a high moisture content, often around 75% or more, which helps keep kittens hydrated. This is especially beneficial for kittens who may not drink enough water from a bowl, as they receive moisture directly from their food.

Feeding wet food to kittens can help ensure they stay properly hydrated, which is essential for their overall health and well-being. In addition to providing hydration, wet food is also easier for kittens to eat and digest, making it an excellent choice, especially for very young kittens who are still learning to eat solid food.

While wet food can contribute to a kitten’s water intake, it’s still essential to provide access to fresh, clean water at all times. Overall, a balanced diet of wet food and access to water will help keep kittens properly hydrated and support their growth and development during this critical stage of life.


There you have it, folks! Ten possible reasons why your kitten might be avoiding the water bowl, along with practical solutions to address each issue. Remember, staying hydrated is essential for your kitten’s overall health and well-being, so it’s essential to encourage regular water intake. If you’re ever unsure why your kitten isn’t drinking or if you suspect an underlying health issue, don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet for guidance and support. Here’s to happy, hydrated kittens!

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