The Cat Can't Drink
November 15, 2007 10:09 AM   Subscribe

My cat seems unable to drink. It's as if his tongue isn't working right. He gets water everywhere, plunges his face into the bowl, getting his snout all wet, drools, cries, but seems not to be able to quench his thirst. He also has a fountain, that's not working too well either. Oddly enough he can eat fine.

I am taking him to the vet as soon as possible, but has anyone seen this before? Any solutions? I am considering a giant vertical bottle like the gerbils drink from.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Supposedly, if he's eating wet food, he's most likely getting all the water he needs. Cats really don't need a ton of water.
posted by drezdn at 10:10 AM on November 15, 2007

Is it new? If so, you should go the vet ASAP.

Could be kidney problems, tooth problems, etc...

My older male cat had kidney problems and used to drink and drink and drink (and ended up all wet) but no drooling or crying.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:22 AM on November 15, 2007

Take him to the vet. Dental problems, oral tumors...I can't think of a good solution, but try to get him to the vet today.
posted by bolognius maximus at 10:33 AM on November 15, 2007

He may have a cleft palate. My landlady's puss does, and he finds it easier to drink from a human-type water glass.

Again, if this is a new development, it's a medical emergency. Dehydration can kill cats fairly quickly.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:37 AM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Good on you for planning a vet visit. He could have a lesion or swelling in his mouth or upon his tongue that makes drinking uncomfortable. Don't wait long if he won't start drinking properly with a new method you devise. Urinary tract infections, kidney trouble, and other dehydration-related trouble could develop.

How long have you had him and how long has this occurred in your time with him? Is this a new behavior in a cat you've known for awhile or is it a behavior in new-to-you cat/kitten?

In the meantime, run some cool water from a tap in a sink and either let him jump up or place him upon the edge of the sink. Once he gets over his skittishness (if any occurs), see if he will drink directly from a slowly-running stream, or from your cupped hand beneath the tap.

Does he groom properly? What happens if you "accidentally" get him wet (paws are a good place to try)--does he attempt to groom the water away? If not, there could be a physical or neurological issue.

Another thing to consider is the type of bowl from which he drinks. The shape, depth, size, and reflective properties of a dish can really flummox some felines. I've had cats dab and dab with their paws until they are confident with knowing where the water is the bowl. Others would slightly tip the unfavorable bowl over to drink directly from the floor. Then, there is my eldest--now only--cat who _can_ drink from a bowl but gets most of her water from "requesting" tap water. Tap water chemicals in some regions are unsavory to cats, but my district has awesome "city" water that she laps directly from the faucet.

[My cat has always been a fiend for water directly from the tap or from the tub after a people shower. This behavior was reinforced after she fell (or was startled by another cat) from a banister railing to the steps below, resulting in a hard-core tongue piercing/tooth breaking. (She recovered very well.) I learned that cats do not always land upon their feet, especially when surprised and falling short distances.]
posted by bonobo at 10:39 AM on November 15, 2007

if she can still eat her food, for the short term, what about putting some water in her food? Of course it will make dry food soggy and wet food... wetter, I guess, but if she's something like my cat, the food probably wont get too soggy because she'll eat it fairly quickly. And if it becomes too unpalatable, you can just throw it out and start fresh.
posted by buka at 10:55 AM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Cats really don't need a ton of water.

This is totally wrong and as others have said, cats can have SEVERE problems if they don't drink enough water. Don't want to scare you, but it is serious. I'm glad you're consulting a vet.

Does he like drinking from a tap? Some cats have an easier time with running water.
posted by agregoli at 12:09 PM on November 15, 2007

When a cat is fed wet food, (cans or fresh meat or fish), it receives well over its water requirement from the water content of its diet. In these conditions, the cat will not drink or drink very little.

That said from the same article:
Cats are "finicky drinkers". They are very sensitive to the cleanliness of and to the taste of the water. To encourage a cat to drink, it is advised to let him have free access to water, to serve it in a clean bowl in glass, earthenware or stainless steel (avoid plastic materials as they may take up external odors), and to change the water twice a day.
posted by drezdn at 12:18 PM on November 15, 2007

Different cats seem to have different ways of getting their water. In my house, one of my cats will tip the water bowl and move it until they get it in the ideal position. Another cat will try filching water with their paw if we leave a cup in a cat-friendly position. Some of them will actively drink from a tap.

Also, I think it's great that you're going to the vet.

How much water should my pet have.
posted by drezdn at 12:22 PM on November 15, 2007

If he can't lap water, he probably won't be able to work a water bottle. You need to take him to the vet today.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:39 PM on November 15, 2007

My cat hasn't been the best at drinking from a dish, although he's improved over time.

Drinking from a dribbling faucet works.

He also likes lapping water from flat surfaces where it has "spilled", particularly the edge of the bathtub. He likes the tepid water splashed up from the tub.
posted by amtho at 12:49 PM on November 15, 2007

You can tell fairly easily if the cat is dehydrated by pulling a fold of skin gently away from his body and then letting it go. It should snap back into place quickly, not meander back, and it should go back flat on his body. I test my kids on their shoulders or ribs when I'm concerned about their water intake.

Take care of your kitty . . .let us know how he's doing.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:59 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Medieval Maven, you may find that the back of the hand is an easier area to test on humans. /derail
posted by rossmik at 3:47 PM on November 15, 2007

Is it a new problem?

What kind of 'crying' are we talking here? (Mine don't make a peep if they can help it - concerning pain! Apparently it is important for everybody to hear of it if they are displeased though...)

Animals tend to hide pain (or weakness) so I'm inclined to think kitty is trying to bring another issue to your attention.

The ability to drink out of the tap or milk (ect) will eliminate your worry and a need for the vet. So be sure to present the opportunity for any such 'miricles'.

Kitties are crafty, precocious and just downright sneaky... Maybe the water isn't fresh enough or is situated 'inappropriately' ect... *sigh* have fun figuring out what the 'problem' is.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 8:32 PM on November 15, 2007

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