Cat Plays With Water Dish: Solutions For Wet Floors and More

Cats certainly do many odd things, but among these are cats who play with water dishes. Since most felines dislike getting wet, this naturally leaves us with questions. When you get your cat tons of toys, they should be happy with what they have, right? Most beloved house pets never lack entertainment, so why go after that bowl? I have owned and researched cats for many years, and some of their mysterious behavior is still unexplained. However, there are quite a few kitty behaviors that science has answers for. The reasons why cats play with water dishes are among these solved mysteries. Certain behaviors were passed on from the larger roaring cats’ DNA according to Tiffany Lennox, DVM.

Why does my cat play with a water dish? Your cat plays with their water dish to make the water move. Moving water is safer to drink in nature, so cats prefer mobile water sources. While not all cats do this, many instinctually swat the dish or water because their genetic memory says this water is safe to drink. 

Why Does A Cat Pull On A Water Dish

Some cats are just lazy. While most cats are moving their water because they prefer a mobile water source, a few cats are just doing this for convenience. Pulling the water dish closer for lazy kitties is the easiest way to grab a drink.

Most cats who move water dishes do so for the same reason some cats swat the water itself. You can take a cue from these cats if you are ever lost in nature. A moving water source is less likely to have pooled contaminants inside it. Best of all, a waterfall will cycle the water fastest, leaving fewer overall worrisome inclusions in your drink.

Of course, it’s better to drink filtered water to avoid illness, but it’s still useful to know this about water. Cats love moving water because, like most animals, they know that it is good to drink on a deeper level. If your pet tries to drink from faucets, or seeks out drips and showers, get them a water dish that cycles the water through a fountain.

When your cat engages the dish by pulling it, they are solving a problem. The still water bothers them. It is ingrained into their species memory that water is supposed to move.

The Orsda Cat Water Fountain from Amazon is perfect for picky drinkers. The light-weight, stainless steel fountain comes with a silicone mat and six replacement filters to keep the mess and contaminants where they belong out of the way. Better still, this BPA-free fountain is dishwasher safe. Have yours delivered to your door fast by clicking here. 

Why Does A Cat Put Her Paw In A Water Dish

Your cat may opt to put her paw in the water bowl instead of pushing or pulling it. This is another normal way cats play with water dishes. It may seem like they are cleaning their feet the same way a raccoon does, but that’s not why they wet their paws.

Cats bathe by licking themselves. Their unique tongues are perfectly suited to their bathing needs. Additional water is not necessary, so why dip the paws?

Non-moving water isn’t just more likely to be contaminated. Non-moving water is hard to see. Cats’ eyes have trouble distinguishing the level of the water. Since felines mostly hate getting wet, they don’t want to dunk their faces by accident or fall into the water.

As a result, your cat may solve the problem by swatting or dipping a foot in the bowl. Doing this makes the water move, and moving water is highly reflective. The dining water surface is easier to see and easier not to miss.

Cats Who Drink From Their Paws

There are a few quirky cats that take the paw-in-dish drinking to extremes. You will find these silly kitties laying or standing beside a bowl and repeatedly dipping a foot inside only to then lick their paws. They are drinking from their feet.

Water levels in the bowl can change daily, and some cats really don’t want their faces wet. In other cases, the cat may have learned the behavior from watching another animal, especially if their mother did the same thing.

Other Reasons Cats Play With Water Dishes

There are a few other common reasons why cats play with water. The list below is a detailed explanation of why they do this when it’s not for convenience, water safety, or related to paw dipping.

Your Cat Just Does Like the Water Dish

Cats can be very choosy about how they drink. If your pet feels that something is ‘off’ about their bowl, they may swat at it. This is an expression of displeasure.

Does your cat knock the bowl over? If so, they may be trying to communicate. Consider switching to a shallower container, or better yet, one that has a fountain. Deep bowls can cause anxiety in cats that don’t want wet faces.

Alternately, a plastic kitty bowl probably tastes bad. Some cats love plastic, or at least don’t mind it. For others, all the extra scent receptors mean that flavor is extremely nasty to them.

Some Cats Like to Play in their Water

Not all cats are afraid of water. In fact, some quite enjoy it. As a result, some cats play with water.

Especially if your water is self-filling, the bubbles that rise when the bowl gets empty can look like fun. Not unlike that red laser dot, a bored housecat will play with something even when they know they can’t win. It’s all in good fun despite the mess.

Cats Are Territorial, They Might Attack Their Reflection in their Water

Some cats are extremely territorial according to Melissa Bain, DVM. While others share well. If your favorite feline goes nuts when they see a reflection, they may also go after their water dish. Water is a reflective surface.

Your cat could be seeing themselves in the still water. Since cats are not typically self-aware enough to recognize a reflection as an image of the self, they interpret that as another cat. That cat is an intruder in their space, and they are attacking.

Once the water starts moving, the image disappears. Victory! Your cat thinks they’ve scared off the invader and protected their domicile. They are proud of their self-defense skills, so they keep doing it every time the mystery cat shows up to steal their drinks.

How To Stop Your Cat From Spilling Her Water

Cleaning up a mess every day is frustrating, plus water can develop mold and bacteria if it sits too long. When your cat plays with her water bowl all the time and spills everywhere, there are several sensible solutions for this problem. Water hiding under the bowl or in other crevices isn’t something you should ‘just live with.’

Most of the time, you will need to change the drinking container. Choosing the right type for your cat is crucial. I will walk you through some of the best options.

  1. Go Bigger- Cats’ whiskers are connected to sensitive nerves. Tiny water bowls may look cute to you, but the feel on her whiskers is annoying to your cat.
  2. Choose Shallow- Deep bowls can make cats nervous. Spilling the water on the floor keeps her from dipping her face into the drink.
  3. Add Ice- Cold water is nice to drink, but it doesn’t feel so good on the paws. A cold water dish might be the ideal solution, plus the cubs will break up any reflections and make the water level super-obvious.
  4. Get Moving- Fountain water bowls are the best for pets. Since they provide continuous, fresh, filtered water, cats don’t have to DIY the locomotion.

Pro Tip: If nothing else seems to work, you can always place the water dishes inside a shallow plastic storage tub. At least your stubborn kitty will have to spill in a limited, easy-to-clean area. Doing this will prevent slip and fall accidents for humans and other animals as well.

Can You Buy A Spill-Proof Water Dish for your Cat

Stopping a cat who plays with their water dish isn’t quite the same as buying a spill-proof water dish. Sometimes a basic swap just isn’t enough. Stubborn or especially playful cats will find a way.

Do you need to train them to use a hampster bottle? Well, you can do that, but there are better methods such as buying a spill-proof water dish. These dishes are weighted on the bottom to prevent tipping.
Sometimes you can find dishes with a lip, but those are mostly for messy drinking dogs, and a clever cat will reach around it.

The best spill-proof bowl for cats who like to tip is a fountain. Water fountain bowls have weight in the bottom because that’s where the water reservoir is. Cats love these bowls and don’t need to move the water. Plus, they don’t make bubbles as some self-refilling bowls can.

Raising the level of the drinking surface and keeping the water in motion prevents reflections and other common cat drinking issues. A kitty who doesn’t need to spill and can’t tip the container will leave far fewer messes. Moreover, a higher surface is easier on cats’ necks and backbones, which is beneficial as they age.

I recommend the outstanding Kastty Cat Water Fountain from Amazon. Not only do these fountains have multiple streams and LED lights, but they are also available in four colors to suit any decor. With two modes, your choosy kitty can have a waterfall-like drink or a gentile stream. Learn more by clicking right here. 

How To Stop Kittens From Playing In The Water Dish

Kittens, like mature cats, love to play with everything, including water dishes, but they do it more often. When your kitten plays in the water dish, it can mean multiple, slippery, daily messes. This is bad for both safety and sanitation, so let’s look at ways to stop them.

If your young pet only occasionally plays in the water, try filling it less full to minimize the mess. However, I always recommend you also consider a fountain for drinking if they tend to tip it over. The added weight may stop the problem since little cats lack the strength of their larger companions.

Alternately, when kittens play with water constantly, they may be trying to tell you something. Particularly if they also make a big mess with the food bowl and tend to attack anything that moves, your new pet needs more playtime. Providing toys for solo play helps, but they also need a challenge.

Interactive playtime with your kitten is a good remedy. Don’t just play for a few minutes. Instead, give them all the interaction they need until it wears them out. Lucky for you, cats need a lot of sleep.

Not only will the added play help minimize water dish messes, but it will also help you bond. Plus, addressing the behavior before it becomes a lifetime habit will save you hours of cleanup over the life of your pet. In the meantime, grab a rubber mat to put under their food and water so you can clean up any spills easily and safely.

My Cat Knocks Over The Water Dish

Beyond merely playing with a water dish, some cats seem to delight in knocking it over. Naturally, you can get a heavier water dish, especially a fountain, to help solve the issue, but it also helps to understand why they do this. Sure, it could be for any of the reasons above, like bad-tasting plastic or too-deep bowls, but there is a simpler solution.

Perhaps your cat is trying to get your attention. After all, kittens aren’t the only ones who want to play and interact. You may think that you give them everything they need, but felines, like humans, have individual personalities.

We don’t have an IQ test for cats, but they are at least as smart as very young human children. Toddlers will throw things down or act out to get attention. This is exactly what your cat is doing when they knock things off the table in front of you.

Basically, acting out is a lot like belly rubs. Some cats want more or less from you, and you don’t get a vote on their desires. Your pet will settle for negative attention if you don’t give them positive interaction when they feel it is necessary.

Final Thoughts

The trope of the mysterious feline predates many modern researchers’ efforts. When your cat plays with the water bowl, it is not a real mystery. Try to think of it more as a checklist of possible solutions rather than simply throwing your hands in the air and getting a towel for the five-hundredth time.

Water play is not as uncommon in cats as you were led to believe. Some kitties genuinely enjoy being wet or watching the droplets fly. If you have this type of cat, please put their dish in a plastic tub and let them enjoy it. Otherwise, one of the solutions above should fix the issue promptly.

Whether they don’t like the bowl or your cat wants you to play, messing with the water dish always gets a reaction. Once you take the time to puzzle out which issue they’re having, you’ll have dry floors again.

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