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Why Cats Play With Water

Why Cats Play With Water

In spite of their reputation for tolerating only dry land, many cats are actually water lovers. Some like to play in standing water, whereas others are fascinated by running water and perfer to drink from a faucet. In The Cat Behavior Answer Book (Storey, 2007), pet writer Arden Moore writes that there are many theories as well as urban legends about this behavior, but no one knows for sure. This attraction to running water may reflect an adaptive behavior from a wild past. Perhaps because running water has fewer contaminates, many wild animals prefer to drink from streams rather than ponds.

Water bowl splashing could also be attributed to the need to test the water to make sure it’s safe. The paw pad represents one of the most sensitive areas of a cat’s body. A cat may scoop water with her paw to check for possible “dangers” in the water or to test the temperature. Cats’ long distance eyesight is superb and they see anything moving easily, but their close-up vision is somewhat weak. They rely on their noses to sample food and paws to test water. And they may be partaking in a little fun and enjoyment seeing the mini-ripples their paws create in the bowl.

Make sure that you provide your cat with fresh water every day, even if she makes a mess. Offer her more than one bowl in your home. If you don’t mind her perching on a bathroom sink, leave one with a few inches of water for her to play in during the day. You might consider an inexpensive automatic water dispenser that trickles water continuously. Many cats find them irresistible. These are readily available at pet supply stores and through catalogs.

Another idea is to take a one-gallon plastic jug and cut a hole about two inches from the bottom. Make the hole just a bit bigger than your cat’s head (don’t forget to allow for her whiskers) so that she can reach in for a drink but can’t splash too much water on the floor. If she pushes the jug around, you can attach it to a wall.

Does you cat play with water? Does he splash in his bowl or drink from the faucet? Share your cat’s water tales with us in the comment field below.

Read more: Behavior & Communication, Cats, Everyday Pet Care, Pets

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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10:15AM PDT on May 7, 2014

Now I partially understand our youngest kitty. She loves water so much, I couldn't even imagine such behavior of cats ^^ After the rain she usually walks in puddles, drawing some water now and then, makes ripples and bulges, and then tries to catch them. She seems to be extremely curious on water.

8:48PM PDT on Apr 21, 2014

In the summer my cat likes me to wet her head, she is really silly. Two out of the three cats like to play in the tub and get their feet wet then race for the bed.

8:17AM PST on Dec 21, 2013

Ben likes to paw the surface of a bucket of water. Why? It's FUN! Who needs more of a reason than that!

4:42AM PDT on Oct 12, 2013

Jellybean loves to splash the water coming out from the dripping tap, or licking your legs dry after a shower

11:52PM PDT on Jun 27, 2013

Picasso likes to go in the shower after someone has been in there but I try to keep him out ; / Cupcake and Luna like to drink from the faucet. Cupcake sometimes likes to wet her whole head under the faucet. She's goofy! Good to know that she's not alone : )

6:04PM PDT on Jun 7, 2013

My Jenny likes licking the water after my shower, crazy kitty

3:48PM PST on Feb 19, 2013

My cat drinks from the trikling tap.She has trained the household to turn it on for her when she needs water!

3:40PM PST on Feb 19, 2013

My cat Sammy likes to get in the bathtub after I have taken a shower. He sits in the tub and watches the little pools of water that are left behind every morning for about 10 minutes. When he gets out he has wet legs and tail but it's super cute!

2:47PM PST on Nov 5, 2012

Thanks for sharing this information!

9:52PM PST on Nov 4, 2012


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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