Your kitty's gums might not be pleasant to inspect, but they serve as a detection system of sorts for dehydration. Dehydration isn't like a pesky hairball that comes around every so often; it's very dangerous for your feline, so always heed the warnings her gums send out.
Your kitty's normal gum color is a healthy pink -- not too dark, not too light. When dehydration sets in, you'll often see her gums turn from that nice pink color to a very pale pink or even white. But if you haven't looked at your cat's gums before, it can be difficult to judge whether they're actually lighter than normal, especially if she's not severely dehydrated. The capillary refill test will give you a better idea, although your cat probably won't be a fan of it. Hold her steady and lift up her lip. Press a finger against her gums so that they turn white, and then remove your finger. Her gums should return to a pink color almost immediately after you pull your finger away. If it takes more than 3 seconds, she's dehydrated.
No feline likes some human poking around in her mouth, but getting a little touchy feely with her gums is a good way to find out if she has enough water in her body. Lift up her lip and gently run your finger across her gums. Normal gums should feel slick and a bit wet. If your kitty is dehydrated, you'll notice her gums are dry and sticky.
Beyond paying attention to the color of and feeling your kitty's gums, symptoms of dehydration aren't usually present elsewhere in her mouth. Her behavior, eyes and skin are a different story. Your meowing friend's skin usually returns to its normal position when you give it a gentle tug, because her body has a proper amount of moisture. But all that needed moisture vanishes in the case of dehydration. Gently pull the skin on her back upward and let go. It should bounce back into position right way. If it doesn't, she's possibly dehydrated. Dehydration will also cause her eyes to sink back into their sockets, and she'll become lethargic and her heart will seemingly be beating out of her chest.
Causes and Warnings
Dehydration is obviously caused by a lack of water in your kitty's body, but something has to be causing her to lose water faster than normal or to drink way less than she usually does. Things like medications, excessive heat, diarrhea and diabetes can cause your kitty to become dehydrated. Dehydration is not something to play around with. If your cat has fresh water and is dehydrated, she needs attention quickly, so always call your vet as soon as possible. If you notice her breath smells like ammonia, that's an emergency and indicates she's suffering from kidney failure, so hurry over to your vet or your nearest animal hospital.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.