Last Updated: 1 month ago
Why do cats touch the water before drinking?
Is it just another one of those funny cat habits, or is there a deeper meaning to it?
That’s what we set out to explore below! We have much to discuss, so let’s dive right in (pun intended).
Reasons Why Do Cats Touch the Water Before Drinking
You just served your cat some food and water and noticed that they touched their water before taking a sip.
It may bother you, almost like when someone sniffs the food you cooked to see if it’s edible. You know that what you’re serving is safe and refreshing, but why is your furry friend so suspicious?
Cats, of course, are notorious for being mysterious and elusive. What could they be thinking, and what can you do to figure this situation out?
Not to worry, though. Cats paw at their water for a variety of reasons, and none of them are statements against you as a cat owner.
Knowing these reasons may just very well help you understand and treat your furry friend better.
Keeping a healthy relationship with your cat is important, but sometimes understanding their behavior is not intuitive.
Here are some helpful reasons your little fuzz ball may behave in this way and what you can do to help them stay hydrated in their own home
1. Keeping a level head
We know our pets are very intuitive and keep their natural predatory instinct.
For cats, lowering their heads can be dangerous if they are in the wild, but we know that is not so in the home.
If they are a new pet, then they may tap the water to feel more controlled and safe.
They are literally “testing out the waters.” In this case, just being consistent in where you put their water bowl should let them feel safe over time.
If they do this and are already used to the home, then chances are you might have changed the positioning. Again, consistency is key!
2. Those dang whiskers
One reason they dip their paws in the water is to analyze the shape of the bowl and depth of the water to avoid having their whiskers touch the water.
Yes, it sounds weird, but some cats do not like the sensation of water touching their whiskers. The hair follicle of a cat’s whiskers is actually loaded with nerve endings.
Pretty amazing, right? No worries if you ever touched your furry friend’s whiskers, though.
As long as you don’t pull on them, this shouldn’t be an issue or end up hurting your cat. With that said, there are two things you can do to accommodate your cat.
Be consistent with the amount of water you put in their bowl
Being a reliable parent to a pet means being consistent in your habits to ensure safety and predictability.
If you have a deep and narrow type of bowl, then you typically always want to keep the food and water level high.
That way, they do not need to reach low and get their whiskers wet.
This may seem like a waste of water and food, so it is not my recommended method. I personally like this next tip much better.
Buy a wider and Shallower bowl
A wider bowl will make room for the whiskers, so they don’t have to touch the inside of the bowl.
I also think a shallow bowl is best, so they can predict the depth of water every time.
I think this is an overall better investment that will allow your cat to drink comfortably.
Better yet, keep reading for my favorite solution.
3. Running v. still water
Another reason cats touch the water in their bowl is to create a flow or make the water move.
Some cats prefer to drink from what looks like a running stream—perhaps because it is in their nature to do so.
Still, water may not always feel safe because, in the wild, it can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
That said, if you have a cat that is dehydrated or, for other reasons, needs to drink more water, then a fountain water bowl is the way to go.
They actually have lots more perks than just making your cat drink more water.
Water fountain bowls can offer a filtration system
Still water can be an ideal spot for bad bacteria to grow.
So, purchasing a fountain for your cat’s health, especially if they are older or suffer from other health conditions, can be a great investment.
You can save time checking and refilling your cat’s bowl
The filtration system can save you time from dumping and pouring new water each time the bowl gets dirty from either their fur or other debris that falls into the water.
The constant cycling is sure to keep your cat entertained.
Water fountains can promote the habit of drinking water
Because most come with filtration and cycling, it is also likely that they also control the temperature of the water.
You don’t have to worry about changing it up quite as often, especially on those hot summer days. Your cat is sure to get refreshing, cold water.
Take a look at our recommendations for the best battery operated water fountain!
These will give both you and your cat peace of mind, and it’s a great investment to consider for the long run.
It’s definitely one less variable to worry about as you continue to be a responsible pet owner.
I hope you found a new interest and understanding in reading your cat’s mind and helping them feel more comfortable around their home.
Remember that all cats are different, with varying backgrounds and experiences. The more vulnerable cats who are either new to you or have been rescued may need a little more time to adapt.
For this, I would recommend a consistent drinking schedule and placing the bowl in an environment where they feel safe.
If your cat is more sensitive around the whiskers, a new shallow and wide bowl should do the trick. It won’t interfere with their whiskers, and they will be sure to feel comfortable slurping up the water.
Lastly, if they just enjoy the sensation of flowing water, there are many cordless cat water fountains to choose from that offer filtration, temperature control, and save time.
Whatever the behavior of concern may be, your cat definitely deserves to feel safe and be hydrated in their space with you.
What do you think about why cats touch the water before drinking? Share below!
Dr. Linda Simon MVB MRCVS is a locum veterinary surgeon who has worked in London for the past 8 years. She graduated top of her class in small animal medicine from UCD, Dublin. She is currently a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Linda is the resident vet for Woman magazine and a frequent contributor to People’s Friend Magazine, the Dogzone website, Vet Help Direct and Wag! Linda also writes content for the CVS veterinary group, Vetwriter and a number of other establishments.