We examined the effects of estradiol on behavioral responses to osmotic challenges in ovariectomized (OVX) rats to test the hypothesis that estradiol enhances sensitivity to gradual changes in plasma osmolality (pOsm) in stimulating water intake. Despite comparably elevated pOsm after a slow infusion of 2 M NaCl, the latency to begin water intake was significantly less in estradiol-treated OVX rats compared to that in oil vehicle-treated rats. Other groups of OVX rats were injected with isoproterenol, which increases circulating angiotensin II. These rats then were given 0.15 M NaCl to drink instead of water, to prevent decreased pOsm associated with water ingestion. Isoproterenol stimulated 0.15 M NaCl intake by both groups; however, estradiol-treated rats consumed less 0.15 M NaCl than did oil-treated rats, findings that are similar to those reported when estradiol-treated rats consumed water. The estradiol enhancement of sensitivity to increased, but not to decreased, pOsm suggests that estradiol has directionally-specific effects on osmoregulatory drinking. Moreover, the estradiol attenuation of 0.15 M NaCl intake after isoproterenol suggests that estradiol effects on osmoregulatory drinking are independent of those on volume regulatory drinking.