How to Keep a Kitten Hydrated

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Kittens need fresh water daily.
Kittens need fresh water daily. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

A kitten can easily become dehydrated due to overfeeding or illness. Monitor your kitten's hydration by pinching the skin between its shoulder blades daily. If the skin bounces back, your kitten's hydration level is normal. But if the pinched skin takes a few seconds to go back to normal, your kitten may require veterinary care and subcutaneous fluids injected under its skin. Take steps to ensure your kitten, whether a few days or a few months old, stays well-hydrated to avoid potentially life-threatening health problems.

Things You'll Need

  • Water dish
  • Low-sodium chicken broth
  • Pet water fountain
  • Canned kitten food
  • Unflavored infant electrolyte replacement solution
  • Powdered kitten milk replacement formula
  • Kitten nursing bottle and nipple
  • Shallow bowl
  • Saline nasal drops
  • Tissues
  • Ice chips

Provide your kitten with fresh water in a shallow dish. Change the water two or three times daily. Bring your kitten to the dish. Dip your finger in the bowl and dab it on your kitten's nose to show the kitten what is in the bowl. Add a teaspoon of low-sodium chicken broth to the water to tempt your kitten to drink more if he ignores the bowl.

Give your kitten its water in a pet water fountain if it prefers to drink water from a sink tap. Some kittens prefer running water, which is fresher and aerated. The pet water fountain will tempt the kitten to drink more water because of the sound and sight of cascading water.

Feed your kitten a canned food diet which contains more water than dry kitten kibble. Add a teaspoon of unflavored infant electrolyte replacement solution or low-sodium chicken broth to the food to increase the water content.

Mix powdered kitten milk replacement formula with infant electrolyte solution substituted for water. Bottle feed your kitten under 4-weeks-old with this solution if you see it has diarrhea or constipation. For kittens being weaned -- usually from 4- to 10-weeks-old -- use this mixture to make a gruel with canned kitten food.

Place one or two drops of saline nasal solution in the kitten's nose three or four times daily if it has an upper-respiratory infection and sneezes. Wipe the nose with a tissue to clean it. A kitten with a stuffy nose will not eat or drink because it loses its sense of smell.

Give the kitten chips of ice if it has vomited. If you give the kitten water to hydrate it, it may vomit that up, too. Ice chips hydrate the kitten more slowly and allow it to keep the water down to help with hydration.

Tips & Warnings

  • Watch your kitten's bowel and urinary habits. Diarrhea can cause dehydration and constipation indicates a lack of hydration in your kitten's diet, as does a lessening in urination.
  • If you find an orphaned kitten less than 4-weeks-old, warm it up with your body heat. Feed it warm infant electrolyte replacement solution for one to two feedings before transitioning to formula. This will hydrate the kitten.
  • A kitten that appears lethargic and refuses to eat or drink for more than 12 hours needs veterinary care.
  • If, when you pinch the skin between your kitten's shoulder blades, it stands up does not snap back, your kitten requires immediate, emergency veterinary care.

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