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Home > Cats > Can Cats Drink Salt Water? Vet-Approved Risks, Care Tips, & FAQ

Can Cats Drink Salt Water? Vet-Approved Risks, Care Tips, & FAQ

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

Veterinarian, BVSc MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The most important nutrient a body needs to survive is water. Without it, blood flow slows, oxygen supply stalls, and organs die. We all know that providing clean, fresh water is an essential part of looking after our pets. You might be surprised to learn that cats can drink salt water, to a certain degree, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should. Due to the impressive capabilities of their kidneys, our feline friends can filter out enough salt from saltwater to rehydrate when needed to survive.

This incredible adaptability can be traced back to their ancestors—African wildcats, who thrived in water-scarce desert environments. Despite this capability, however, domestic cats should not depend on saltwater for their hydration needs, and should never deliberately be given salt water to drink.


Cats and Their Kidney Power

siamese cat drinking water
Image Credit: Ermolaeva Olga 84, Shutterstock

Their robust kidneys are one of the many fascinating traits that distinguish cats from their human counterparts. The kidneys’ primary function is to filter waste materials from the blood and regulate the body’s electrolyte and fluid balance, among other tasks.

In felines, these organs are particularly efficient at managing high sodium chloride (salt) levels, an adaptation developed to aid the survival of their desert-dwelling forebears. This powerful filtration mechanism enables cats to derive some hydration from saltwater if absolutely necessary.


The Origins of Feline Saltwater Adaptability

The domestic cats we cherish today are descendants of the African Wildcats, inhabitants of arid desert regions where freshwater is often a scarce commodity. In response to these challenging conditions, these adaptable creatures developed the ability to derive hydration from less desirable sources, like saltwater.

Although our pampered house pets no longer need to rely on such survival strategies, the ability to drink salt water remains a testament to their wild heritage.

Should Cats Drink Salt Water?

The ability to drink salt water is a survival strategy, not a choice, and doing so, puts immense strain on their bodies.

It is like the question “How long can a cat survive without water?” Just because we know that they can survive for 3 to 4 days without drinking, it doesn’t mean that we will only give them water every 4 days.

Although sodium is an essential nutrient in a cat’s diet, it is usually adequately present in high-quality cat foods. Sea water contains more than three times the amount of sodium as normal tap water, so the additional sodium intake through saltwater isn’t necessary, and can potentially cause problems like hypertension, kidney disease, and even electrolyte imbalances.

The more fresh water a cat consumes, the less pressure kidneys are under, which can only benefit your kitty in the long run.

Ensuring Hydration: The Importance of Fresh Water

Fresh and clean water should always be readily accessible to your cats, preferably in multiple locations around your home. Providing various water sources encourages cats to drink more, contributing to their overall hydration and health.

cat drinking water
Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

How Much Water Should My Cat Drink?

The amount of water a cat needs to drink each day depends on a number of factors, including their age, health, weather, activity levels, and diet. A cat that eats mostly dry food will need to consume significantly more water than one who only eats wet food. In terms of water requirements, cats need around 0.88 fl. oz per pound of body weight per day.

As a rough guide, the average 10 lb cat should drink
  • 8 fl. oz if they eat only dry food
  • 4 fl. oz on a mixture of wet and dry food
  • 0 – 2 fl. oz on a wet food only diet

This is only a guide, and other factors can affect their water consumption, such as the sodium content of their food.

How Can I Encourage My Cat To Drink More?

As a general rule, cats will drink as much water as their body needs, but if they are unhappy with the taste, location or presentation of their water, they may neglect this.

Here are some tips to make sure you are making their water as appealing as you can:
  • Ditch the plastic bowls – water tastes better, keeps cooler, and stays fresher from ceramic or stainless steel bowls
  • Use a cat water fountain – moving water = fresh water, and many fountains have filtration systems to keep it that way. Cats are often fascinated by the fountains, encouraging them to visit more often.
  • Keep their water away from their food and litter box. The second one might be obvious, but cats don’t like to drink from water too near their food in case of contamination.
  • Have multiple water sources available – having a number of bowls makes it less likely that they will run out, and it also gives your cat more opportunities to have a sip as they pass by.
  • Choose a wider water bowl to stop their sensitive whiskers hitting the sides.
  • Keep it cool – particularly in warm weather. Use refrigerated water or pop in some ice cubes. Even better, make ice cubes using a little bit of bone broth or juice from a can of tuna in the water – irresistible!


When Your Cat Can’t Resist Salt Water: What to Do?

If your cat occasionally sips from your saltwater fish tank or pool, don’t panic; an occasional saltwater drink won’t harm them. However, if this behavior persists, it’s worth consulting your vet. Regular saltwater consumption could indicate deficiencies in their diet or underlying health issues.

vet checking up the cat
Image Credit: Andy Gin, Shutterstock

Maintaining a Balanced Diet for Your Feline Friend

Just as it is crucial to monitor the type of water your cat drinks, it’s equally important to pay attention to their overall diet. A well-rounded diet high in moisture (like canned wet food) can contribute significantly to your cat’s hydration levels. Adding just 2 tablespoons of water to your cat’s wet food can make a significant contribution to their moisture requirements.

So even if your cat isn’t a big water drinker, you can ensure they receive adequate hydration through their meals.


Care Tips for Your Furry Friend

Caring for a cat involves much more than providing fresh water and a balanced diet. Let’s explore some top care tips to help your feline friend live a healthy and fulfilled life.

white Persian cat drinking from water bowl
Image Credit: Punyaphat Larpsomboon, Shutterstock

Regular Vet Visits

Regular veterinary checkups are vital for keeping your cat in good health. A routine checkup typically includes a physical examination, vaccinations, parasite control, and screenings for common feline diseases.

Taking your cat to the vet often can help detect potential health issues early and provide you with expert advice tailored to your cat’s needs.

Regular Grooming

While cats are self-groomers, they can benefit from regular brushing to minimize hairballs and keep their coats clean and shiny. Depending on the breed, some cats may require more frequent grooming than others.

Provide Mental Stimulation

Cats are naturally curious and active creatures. Providing toys, scratching posts, and interactive play sessions can help keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Puzzle toys, laser pointers, and feather wands are just a few examples of play items that most cats love.

cat plays with a laser pointer
Image Credit: Seika Chujo, Shutterstock

Maintain Dental Health

Dental health is often overlooked in cats, but it’s crucial to their overall well-being. Regular teeth brushing and dental-friendly diets can help prevent oral health problems.

Keep Them Safe

Ensure your cat is safe at all times. If you let your cat outdoors, be aware of the risks, including traffic, predatory animals, and disease exposure. Consider creating a secure outdoor enclosure or catio for them to enjoy the outdoors safely.

Maintain a Stress-Free Environment

Cats thrive in a stable, stress-free environment. Keep any changes in the household to a minimum, and if they do occur, introduce them gradually. A safe, quiet space where your cat can retreat is also a good idea.

charcoal bengal cat lying
Image Credit: Smile19, Shutterstock

Watch Out for Changes

Stay alert for any changes in your cat’s behavior, eating habits, or litter box usage. Suddenly drinking a lot more or less can be significant indicators, not to be ignored. These could be signs of health issues and should prompt a visit to the vet.

Taking care of a cat requires attentiveness, commitment, and a whole lot of love. But the joy and companionship they offer in return make it all worthwhile. After all, they’re not just pets; they’re family.



Due to their ancestor’s survival strategies, cats are able to drink salty water in times of great need. However, this does not mean that we should be offering salty water to our cats as a form of nourishment. A cat that has the occasional sip from a salty source is not at any great risk, but any excessive consumption of salty water needs investigation at the vets.

If your cat is a reluctant water drinker, this may be related to the diet, among many other factors. By following the tips above, you can ensure that you are providing your feline friend with everything they need to stay hydrated, healthy, and happy.

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Featured Image Credit: ezgi nilsu kiraz, Shutterstock

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