Why Does My Cat Play in his Water Bowl?

I’ve seen several of our guests at the cats only boarding facility playing in their water bowls. Some cats dunk their feet. Others drown their toys! We have one guest who “digs” at the floor around his bowl while he drinks. It’s all very cute.

So why does a cat play with his water? There are lots of different reasons.

  • Moving water is almost always more appealing than still water. Dipping a paw or a toy makes ripples. (You may have noticed that your cat also prefers to drink running water from the kitchen or bathroom sink! Moving water is generally fresher tasting and smelling than still water.)
  • Cats in the wild take their prey back to their nests. Indoor cats don’t necessarily have nests, so they may perceive a food or water dish as the safest place in their territory. A special, beloved toy may just end up in the water bowl because that’s the safest place to keep it!
  • A cat’s attention is easily captured by things that move. A sparkling drop of water or a toy bobbing on the surface of water in a bowl is very interesting! Much more interesting than a plain old non-floating toy.
  • It might be that the cat is feeling too warm and trying to cool off. My parents’ dog Becca will dip her paws in the water bowl on a hot day — I can only guess that a cat might do the same thing.

I’ve actually seen one guest at the boarding facility dipping her paw in catnip, then in the water dish. It’s absolutely adorable! I’m not sure it gives any special flavor to the water, but at least the little green specks are something to watch in the bowl.

Personally, I prefer my water to be speck and foot and toy-free.