Do Feral Cats Drink Water? (Most Valuable Insights!)

More Meows is an Amazon Associate. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. We may also earn commissions if you purchase products from other retailers after clicking on a link from our site.

Feral cats are found in many places and are often considered a nuisance by some and victims of bad luck in life by others. If you are compassionate towards feral cats, you might be tempted to put out some water so they can stay hydrated and keep on living.  Before you put out water for feral cats, you might be wondering about a question in the first place.  Do feral cats drink water?

Yes, feral cats do drink water.  Feral cats will know local water sources and will drink from them.  Additionally, feral cats will receive hydration from animals they eat, such as mice and birds.

We go into great detail about feral cats and water.  Read on to learn more!

Do Feral Cats Drink Water?

Video: Giving Water To Feral Cats

Yes, feral cats drink water daily. Other than how they live their lives, feral cats are biologically the same as house cats, and they need constant access to fresh water daily.

The amount of water that they require differs with the season and with their diet. Feral cats will often have a great idea of where water sources are and visit them as needed. 

In the wild, cats eat mice, birds and other wildlife without any human interaction, along with different types of grass and bugs. This means that they do obtain some liquids from their food.  If they are lucky enough to have someone set out some wet cat food for them, they will get liquids there as well.

If you do end up setting out food for feral cats, which I am not advocating, you should be aware that it could attract raccoons.  We detail the dynamic between cats and raccoons and if they get along in our article:  Click Here.

Cats have the ability to concentrate their urine as shown by many studies, in order to preserve water and prevent dehydration that would affect their ability to hunt.

However, this is one reason cats are likely to have kidney problems, bladder infections and renal insufficiency. This means if feral cats are concentrating their urine, they are probably more likely to eventually have one of these conditions.

Dehydration is a real threat to feral cats.  However, if cats are offered different water sources, in large bowls, with clean water, they will be inclined to drink more, thus preventing dehydration.  

Even if cats can resist dehydration, a trait inherited from cats originating in desert climates, a permanent water source can improve their life and longevity as lack of proper hydration can make digestion, excretion, and the immune response quite problematic. 

Do Feral Cats Need Water?

Like most mammals, feral cats need water for the following reasons:

  • To regulate their metabolism.
  • To eliminate waste
  • To maintain an optimal body temperature
  • To help digest food.

The feline body comprises 70% water, and they need to maintain this level to be healthy.

Furthermore, feral cats exercise a lot more, and burn more calories. When calories are being burned, the demand for water increases, because cells need it to transform carbs, protein and fat into energy.

Do Feral Cats Drink a Lot of Water?

Feral cats need as much water as domestic cats, although some circumstances may separate the two types of cats when it comes to hydration.

A feral cat’s diet is based mostly on protein since they are prey animals, and they will hunt for their food. They may get some hydration from the animals they eat.

Protein tends to cause an increased acidity level, because it is more difficult to break down and transform into energy. To eliminate excessive acidity, the feral cat may drink more water.

Domestic cats, on the other hand, eat a lot of dry cat food. Dry cat food requires water if you want it to rehydrate inside the cat’s digestive system and because it too contains a lot of protein.  So if a house cat is eating dry food, they will likely drink more water than if they were eating wet cat food.

How much water should you expect them to drink?

You should expect a feral cat to drink between 5-10 fluid ounces of water per day; however, remember that they may get some hydration through animals they eat.

Most cats can self-regulate their water intake, and instinctively know how much they need.

How often should I refill their water bowl?

If you offer water to feral cats, place the water bowls in different places around the area where they live. If you start providing for feral cats, you need to understand that they may now come to rely on you more. 

Cats need water daily, so if you can, you should watch out to see how long it takes for the water bowl to empty.  If you are setting out these bowls of water, you probably need to refill them daily with fresh water.  Try to keep an eye out to see if you are attracting other animals to these new water sources.

How Do Outdoor Cats Get Water?

Feral cats that don’t benefit from human presence will always prefer springs, rivers or lakes to potholes or puddles.

Inside a city, things are different. Feral cats roam a lot and may drink water when the opportunity arises.  Still, even in a city there are rivers and creeks and opportunities to grab a drink.

One study found that they can live, hunt, and drink across areas as large as 2.1 square miles.

Knowing this, and the fact that cities tend to be loud and crowded, how can they ever find water?

They can smell it. Most animals use their sense of smell to reach water sources. When cats don’t use their sense of smell to find water, they learn its location.

So, if someone places water in certain spots, cats will walk by, find it, and likely start coming around more often.

Should You Give a Stray Cat Water?

There is a debate around this subject.

Feral cats that live in cities tend to live in colonies. These colonies can range in size and are a threat to birds and other small animals.

Stray cats are problematic because they tend to reproduce fast and have large litters. Offering them accessible resources might encourage them to grow their colony.

It’s illegal to feed or offer water to strays in some states, so you should consider this when placing the bowl of water down.

Is it Okay to Give a Stray Cat Water?

In the end, it all comes down to ethics and your own principles.

Stray cats desperately need water, and often they do not have access to a safe source. When the temperatures go extremely high in the summer months, all wildlife suffers from a lack of hydration. 

Cats will learn that they can find water in particular places, and they might become slightly dependent.

One option is trapping, neutering, then returning (TNR). This way, you will make sure that they will not produce a litter that will live in the same poor conditions.

Video: Trap Neuter Return

Is it Okay to Feed a Stray Cat?

Depending on your state’s legislation, and on your moral principles, it could be perfectly fine to feed a stray cat.

They usually roam around and need food for basic survival. You probably noticed that there aren’t many obese feral cats.

What to Feed a Stray Cat?

Canned cat food would be ideal because it offers hydration and nutrition.  Be sure you are not attracting other animals to the food source, such as raccoons.  It is a good idea not to leave food out overnight; otherwise raccoons will find the food and take over eating from that food source.

Will a Stray Cat Starve if I Stop Feeding It?

No, a stray cat will not starve if you stop feeding it.  The idea that a cat that used to be fed by humans will die of starvation is fundamentally wrong.

Feeding a stray cat won’t lead to starvation; it will only offer them nutrition for free. 

When there isn’t anyone around to feed stray cats, they hunt. They are prey animals and survivors, and instinct will prevail.

For more information on the interesting subject if cats like to hunt:  Click Here.

This is one of the reasons for which humans domesticated cats. They hunt rodents that are a threat to crops. Even cats that have spent their entire lives indoors can fend for themselves.

As we previously talked about, cats can find water. If you will stop providing them with a water source, they will sniff around until they find another water source.

Dehydration is still a threat, especially in the torrid summer months when water is nowhere to be found.

Can Stray Cats Drink Milk?

No, stray cats cannot drink milk.  Cats should never drink milk. In fact, milk is bad for them, and a threat to their overall health.

Most cats are lactose intolerant, feral cats included. This means that if they drink milk, they might get diarrhea or start vomiting. This will eventually lead to dehydration and loss of nutrients.

Cats and milk are often depicted together. This happens in movies, in cartoons and in TV commercials.  So, it isn’t surprising that a lot of people think milk is a great option for cats.

Do Stray Kittens Drink Milk? Is it Safe?

Kittens drink their mother’s milk up until about five weeks old, when they start experimenting with solid food.  Mother’s milk is safe for kittens.

However, if you are tempted to give a kitten cow’s milk you should not do so.  Cow’s milk is not suitable for kittens and will make them sick.  A kitten that drinks cow’s milk will likely get diarrhea.

Can Stray Cats Drink Lactose Free Milk?

Yes, you can give stray cats lactose free milk found in pet stores, however, I would advise against this unless the cat has stopped eating and all other options to get the cat to eat have been exhausted. You should consult your veterinarian.

I took a look at many options for lactose free milk and found that in the reviews the people that were happy with the products all had cats that had stopped eating.  They were thankful for the products since their cat was interested in it and now started getting some nutrition again. 

Lactose free milk is not a meal for a cat.  If you read the labels to the products, they will clearly say that they do not provide enough nutrition for your cat.  However, if you are worried about how your cat is not eating it may be useful to try.  This may even apply to stray cats, although I would assume a stray cat would just go out and hunt and not really have this problem to be honest.


In Summary, feral cats absolutely drink water and rely on water for good health.  Feral cats also receive some hydration from animals that they hunt and eat.  If you are going to start giving a feral cat water or food, I would highly recommend trapping, neutering, and releasing the feral cat to help keep feral cat populations low. 

Christopher Carlson

I have an Domestic Shorthair Tabby named Charlotte. She is full of energy when she isn't sleeping most of the day. I share what I learn about cats on this site.

Recent Posts