Why Does My Cat Play in the Water Bowl?

Why do some cats play in water bowls?

It can be kind of cute, but it also tends to make a big mess—a cat with a habit of slapping at the water in the bowl. Why do cats do this?

It turns out there are several good feline reasons that could be behind this behavior. You might have to put on your detective monocle to determine which one your cat has.

Cats Like Moving Water

In the wild, cats have evolved to understand that still, stagnant water mis more likely to sicken them than running or moving water is. Even though the water in their bowl is nice and clean because of human intervention, a housecat's instincts don't know that.

Your cat might bat at the water in the bowl to make it more attractive for drinking by getting it moving.

Your Cat Might Be Checking the Water's Depth

When the water in a cat's bowl isn't moving, it might be hard for your cat to see the water level. Batting at it makes it more visible, so the kitty knows she won't stick her face in too deep.

Drinking off the Paw Might Be Safer

Some cats don't like to hunker down at the water bowl, turning their back to the room. This is most common in multi-cat homes where some cats tend to ambush others. Instead of making herself vulnerable to being leapt on from behind, your cat might prefer to face the room and drink water off a dipped paw.

Playing in Water Is Fun

Some cats might bat at the water in their bowl simply because it's fun. This can especially be the case for kittens, but all cats like to play.

Whisker Fatigue

This is probably the single most important reason cats dip into their water bowl and then drink from their paws. Whiskers are highly sensitive, with lots of nerve endings to accomplish their jobs of feeling air currents and determining what's around a kitty in the dark. When the whiskers are routinely pushed backward, such as when a cat reaches into a deep, narrow bowl regularly for food and water, the result can be chronic face pain.

Providing wide, shallow bowls for your cat's food and water can help eliminate whisker fatigue. Check these out:

  • Dr. Catsby's Whisker Relief Bowl: This bowl is fantastic for serving your kitty dry kibble. She'll be able to get the very last bite without worrying about pushing her whiskers back uncomfortably.
  • Dr. Catsby Stainless Steel Water Bowl: This bowl is a bit deeper on the inside and even wider, so it's ideal for holding water and for serving wet cat food without aggravating or causing whisker fatigue.

If your cat tends to make a mess around the water bowl, try putting it on top of a new (never used for the litter box) litter mat. They're easy to clean and can help contain any mess.

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