Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
We got back from vacation Sunday and discovered that one of our cats was inadvertently locked in a closet for 4 days. The cleaning people came; the cat is very shy and hid in the closet, not her usual spot, and they must have closed the door. Since this cat never comes out to see our cat sitter, she didn’t know she was locked in (this cat wouldn’t cry unless she knew we were in the house). She is now eating and drinking normally it seems, and very happy to see us–and I’ve added “check closet” to the cat sitter’s list of things to do.
I’m concerned about possible kidney damage, etc., from her not drinking for four days. She’s an otherwise healthy 5-year-old spayed female. Any thoughts?
Siouxsie: Well, Jon, you are right that dehydration can cause kidney failure in cats, so we do recommend that you take your cat to the vet to get her checked out.
Thomas: We cats are descended from desert creatures and our bodies are adapted to survive on minimal amounts of water. Still, it’s not healthy for a cat to go without water for days.
Dahlia: If a cat loses as little as 10 percent of the water in its body, it can have fatal consequences.
Siouxsie: One sign of dehydration is a loss of skin elasticity. You can check for this by pinching up a fold of her skin. If the skin springs right back into place, she’s probably not too dehydrated. If it doesn’t spring right back, however, she needs immediate help to get hydrated again.
Thomas: Another sign of dehydration can be found in your cat’s mouth. If you check her gums and they’re dry and tacky to the touch, she’s dehydrated.
Dahlia: If she’s mildly dehydrated and not vomiting, she can be given fluids by mouth. Make sure your cat always has fresh, clean water to drink, and she may take care of her dehydration on her own.
Siouxsie: A severely dehydrated cat may refuse to drink. It’s possible to get so dehydrated that the idea of drinking anything is repulsive and may even make your cat feel sick.
Thomas: If she refuses to drink, you’ll have to feed her water and possibly an electrolyte solution (the kitty version of Gatorade) by bottle or syringe into her cheek pouch. Take your cat to the vet right away if she’s refusing to drink!
Dahlia: Balanced electrolyte solutions for treating dehydration in children can be appropriate for use in cats–with your vet’s guidance, of course.
Siouxsie: If your cat is severely dehydrated, your vet will treat her by administering subcutaneous or intravenous fluids.
Thomas: A cat can survive without food longer than a person can. In fact, a lot of vets say a cat can lose up to 40 percent of its body weight without severe consequences.
Dahlia: Still, it is possible that not eating for several days can cause liver damage, especially if your cat is overweight to begin with.
Siouxsie: With all that in mind, we’d say a trip to the vet is definitely in order. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Thomas: Thank you for caring so much about your cat’s well-being, Jon. People like you make us purr!