Why Does My Cat Paw Its Water?

Cats exhibit some pretty bizarre behavior. Many cats tend to paw away at their water.  Of course, you cannot ask your cat why they insist on sticking a dirty paw into clean water.  They probably would not answer you.  My cat does this just periodically and it is odd to watch.  The water from what I can tell is not dirty. Here is my theory as to why a cat would stick its paw into a clean bowl of water.

Why does my cat paw its water? A cat paws its water because it is trying to find the waterline.  They do not like to stick their faces into areas that touch their whiskers.  If a bowl is narrow, it makes them nervous and they want to ensure that the water is close enough to the border of the water bowl before they continue to drink.

Why Does the Fact that their Whiskers Touch the Inside of Water Bowl Scare a Cat?

Cats are a great judge of whether or not they will be able to enter into a small opening.  If their whiskers are touching the inside of a narrow water bowl, they are most likely going to react.  They will fear unrealistically that they are going to get their head trapped.

What my cat does is she pulls away once her whiskers are touching the inside of the bowl and then she paws the water as if she is checking to see if the water level is high enough for her to safely push her face into the bowl.

If you wish to monitor how much your cat is drinking, I recommend that you check out the ceramic cat water bowl by Y YHY that is available on Amazon.

Another reason that a cat might paw the bowl instead of allowing her whiskers to touch the inside of the bowl is that whiskers have a high level of sensitivity.  There are nerve endings that connect to each whisker and if the whiskers are being flattened by the narrow opening in a bowl, the cat feels some discomfort.

Checking the water level with a paw is going to reassure the cat that the water is actually there and that it is worth it to deal with temporary comfort caused by drinking from the bowl.

Could it Be that a Cat is Playing When they Paw a Water Bowl?

Cats like to play and to be entertained.  Even though some older cats are more subdued, they will play from time to time.  Some cats are pawing at the water in a bowl just simply out of play.  They like the sound that splashing water makes and they love to check to see if something is in the water that might prove to be an interesting cat toy.

Even though most cats have a fear of water when it is forced on them, most are fine with playing in water using their paws because of the sense of control.  For instance, stirring the bowl water with a paw will actually relax a cat and make it more content.

The Water Bowl Might Not Contain a Consistent Level of Water

Cats like consistency.  They prefer to be in control of their environment and they do not like it when something is out of sync. If their water bowl is full one day and half-full the next, they are going to be very curious and wonder about the change in the water level.

I have noticed that my cat will paw her bowl more often if the water level is low.  I would swear that she is trying to coach the water level to change.

The main reason that a change in the water level stresses a cat could be because this does not happen in the wild.  In the wild, they are drinking from a larger body of water, like a stream, or a lake.  The level does not change even if they were to drink for a long period of time.  A tiny water bowl will experience a change in its water level if a cat were to drink from it numerous times a day.

Slight Fear of Getting Face Too Far into Water, Using Paw Creates More Distance

Another theory as to why a cat might paw away at its water bowl is that it fears that it will dunk its head too far into the bowl.  Cats do not like to get wet.  Some are OK with it if they feel that they are in control of when and how much water is involved.  For instance, playing in water that is in a sink.

They might be pawing the water to create some distance between their heads and the water.  Many cats will just dip their paw into a bowl of water and then lick their paw.  I once had a cat that would only drink water using his paw, even if the bowl was shallow and had a large opening.

Instinctively Cats Like Moving Water, Stagnant Water is Dangerous

Cats instinctively prefer to drink water that is moving.  Their genetics are telling them that water that is stagnant could be dangerous to their health.  Pawing the water will disturb the surface of the water in a bowl.  They feel more relaxed when it is evident that they are able to move the water.

Besides just checking to see if the water is fresh by being able to create movement in the water bowl.  It could be that they are ensuring that the water is in a liquid state.  One person that had found a stray cat in the wintertime surmised that perhaps her cat was pawing at the water to break any ice that may on top of the surface of the water.

Another way to create lots of movement in water for your cat is to purchase a cat fountain.  I recommend the Veken Pet Fountain, click here to view the current pricing on Amazon.

A Cat Could Be Pawing at Water to See if It Is Clean

If you have ever allowed your dog and cat to drink from the same water bowl, you may have noticed that the cat does not like to do so.  Dogs are messy sometimes, and they may leave food particles or dog hair in the drinking bowls.  A cat will not appreciate the unclean water at all.  They probably will paw at it to push aside dog hairs that are floating within the water.

Pawing at their water to remove debris is something that is done in the wild.  If something is in the water, it is will affect their lapping.  When lapping, they pull a column of water into their mouths before gravity takes over to pull the water away.  If something is floating in the water, it makes is next to impossible for a cat to lap.

Cats May Paw at Their Water Bowl In Order to Check the Temperature

Besides checking for debris from a messy dog, a cat may paw at the water to ensure that it is the right temperature.  My cat loves to drink water that is cool or that contains a few ice cubes.  She even likes to lick cold windows that have drops of condensation.

Perhaps a Cat is Seeing Its Reflection in the Water

I have thought about this theory, and it makes sense.  Cats can see their reflection in water, just as they would in a mirror.  Nevertheless, when a cat looks into a mirror, sometimes they have zero reaction.  The scientist Marc Bekoff conducted multiple experiments with his dog that proved that his dog reacted more to smell than to simply seeing its reflection in a mirror. We can deduce that cats are the same, they would react more to a sense of smell than to something that they can see.

While drinking from their water dish, they would be able to smell a cat-like odor that is being added to the water as they lap it.  Perhaps, that cat-like smell along with a reflection could be triggering them to tap at the water with their paw to ensure that a cat is not lurking in the water.

What Can We Conclude About Why a Cat Paws Its Water Bowl

There are multiple reasons as to why a cat could be pawing at its water.  Nevertheless, I would not worry if your cat is pawing at their bowl, it is something that normal for many cats.

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