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The Mysterious Behavior of Cats Playing with Water


The Mysterious Behavior of Cats Playing with Water



this post was updated on January 6th, 2024 by Lisa Illman

Abigail, one of my three (who has past on) cat kiddos, had a unique talent for turning water play into a spectacle. She was the true feline aqua enthusiast, transforming her water bowl into a miniature water park. Meanwhile, Finnegan, takes a more refined approach. He engages in the delicate art of the “paw dip.” No wild water bowl flips for him; he prefers a sophisticated interaction with his water. Either way, I always thought it was super cute and wondered about cats playing with water.


Cat Splashes Water: Unraveling the Mystery Behind Feline Aquatic Antics

If you’ve ever wondered why your cats turn their water bowls into impromptu splash zones, you’re not alone. Witnessing your feline friend engage in water play might leave you both puzzled and entertained.

Some cats exhibit this behavior by pawing, splashing, or even outright flipping their water bowls into a liquid frenzy. It’s a spectacle, to say the least!

But what prompts this watery chaos? It turns out, there are various reasons behind your cat’s water shenanigans. Here’s the scoop:

Communication Tool

Some cats may spill water as a way of communicating their displeasure with their bowl or its location. For example, if the bowl is too close to their litter box, they may tip it over to indicate that they don’t like the proximity.

Curiosity or Playfulness?

Like mischievous little explorers, some cats see their water source as an opportunity for play. They’re like mini scientists, conducting experiments with their paws to see what happens when they interact with the bowl.


Temperature Preferences

Believe it or not, some felines prefer their water at a certain temperature. A few might splash around to cool it down or, conversely, warm it up with their furry little paws.

Hunting Instincts

In the wild, cats often tap into water sources while hunting. So, mimicking this behavior could be your indoor kitty’s way of honing their hunting skills, albeit in a more domestic setting.

Since cats are natural hunters, and playing with water can mimic the sensation of stalking prey. Additionally, water can provide a source of entertainment and stimulation for cats who may be bored or lacking in other forms of enrichment.

Attention-Seeking Behavior

RELEVANT: The Cat-Human Connection: Understanding Attachment Bonds and What They Mean for Your Relationship

Some cats might just be trying to catch your attention! If they notice you reacting whenever they create their liquid masterpiece, it might become their go-to show-stopping routine.

The Bowl’s Design

RELEVANT: The Purr-fect Amount: Uncovering How Much Water Your Cat Needs

The bowl itself could be a source of fascination. Certain cats might find the reflective properties of the bowl intriguing, leading them to interact with it more than necessary.


When Finnegan, my mischievous little furball, was a kitten, he had this knack for turning every water bowl interaction into a liquid circus. It was as if he was on a mission to unravel the mysteries of his liquid environment. I vividly recall those playful moments when he’d dip his tiny paws into the water with sheer curiosity, creating a tiny splash zone in our home.

And then there was Abigail during her teenage cat phase—quite the rebel, I must say! She had a fascination for water that seemed to surpass the usual feline norms. Her teenage antics included occasionally dipping her paws into the water bowl or investigating dripping faucets, clearly asserting her love for liquid exploration.

Admittedly, I allowed these watery adventures because it was evident they were learning and, most importantly, having a blast! It was like witnessing their scientific exploration firsthand.

Learning Through Liquid Play

For kittens like Finnegan and teenagers like Abigail, their affinity for water play was a way of understanding their world. As they frolicked around the water bowls, I could sense their curiosity, almost as if they were conducting their own research about this liquid element.

A Tolerance for Water

Some larger cat breeds, like the majestic Maine Coons often have a more accepting attitude toward water compared to others.

When these cats, including my own sort of Gentle Giant, Finnegan, are gently introduced to playful water activities or baths when they’re young, it’s possible that this familiarity stays with them as they grow up.

It was quite fascinating to see how Finnegan’s early encounters with watery adventures might have influenced his ongoing comfort with water even as he became a more grown-up and regal cat.

Understanding these playful tendencies allowed me to appreciate the learning process behind their watery escapades. It’s fascinating to witness how kittens and teenage cats embrace their environment, even if it involves turning water bowls into their personal liquid playgrounds.

Final Splash

While this behavior might leave you wondering, it’s typically harmless. However, if it’s a new development or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s worth consulting your vet to rule out any underlying health issues.


🐱I have a few favorites (including giving Finn his own human water glass too!) and this is one of my absolute TOP FAVORITE CAT WATER FOUNTAINS

The best type of water bowl for a cat depends on various factors like the cat’s preferences, health needs, and your lifestyle. Here are some considerations to help you choose:

  1. Material: Opt for stainless steel or ceramic bowls over plastic. They are more durable, easier to clean, and less likely to harbor bacteria.
  2. Hydration Style: Some cats prefer running water, making a fountain-style bowl an excellent choice. It keeps water fresh and might encourage your cat to drink more.
  3. Health Considerations: If your cat has whisker fatigue (sensitivity in the whiskers), choose wider, shallow bowls to prevent discomfort. Elevated bowls can benefit cats with arthritis or those who struggle with standard bowls.
  4. Maintenance: Consider how easy the bowl is to clean and maintain. Automatic refill or self-cleaning options might suit busy households.
  5. Stability: Ensure the bowl is stable and won’t easily tip over, especially if your cat is playful or tends to be enthusiastic around their water source.
  6. Number of Cats: If you have multiple cats, having multiple water sources can prevent competition and ensure everyone gets enough to drink.

Ultimately, observe your cat’s behavior and preferences. Experimenting with different bowl types or styles can help determine what works best for your feline friend.

Style of Cat Water BowlDescription
Traditional BowlThis classic design features a simple, shallow bowl suitable for everyday use. It’s easy to clean and comes in various materials like ceramic, stainless steel, or plastic.
Fountain BowlA dynamic water dispenser that mimics flowing water, attracting cats who prefer running water. It maintains freshness and encourages hydration.
Elevated BowlRaised off the ground, these bowls reduce strain on a cat’s neck and provide a more ergonomic drinking position. Great for senior or arthritic cats.
No SlipThe non-slip design and anti-skid grip bottom work together to prevent spills and provide stability
Opt for a stronger, more hygienic version of our best selling pet fountain. Dishwasher safe and BPA-free.
Self-Refilling BowlEquipped with a reservoir or system that automatically refills the bowl as water levels decrease, ensuring a continuous water supply.
Heated BowlIdeal for cold climates, these bowls have a built-in heating element to prevent freezing during winter months, ensuring access to unfrozen water.
Travel BowlPortable and collapsible, perfect for travel or outdoor adventures, ensuring your cat has access to water on the go.
Ceramic Fountain BowlCombines the aesthetics of ceramic with the functionality of a fountain, providing a stylish and functional water source for cats.

These various styles cater to different needs, preferences, and situations for our feline friends, ensuring they stay hydrated and content.

RELEVANT: Feline Estrus: An Overview of When Do Cats Go Into Heat?

Concluding Purrs

There are many reasons why cats may play with their water, from boredom to thirst to communication. While this behavior may be amusing or frustrating for cat owners, it’s important to remember that it’s a natural and instinctual behavior for cats. If your cat’s water play becomes excessive or starts to interfere with their hydration, it may be worth consulting with your veterinarian to ensure that there are no underlying health concerns.

🐾 Lisa Illman is the Founder of Kritter Kommunity, LLC! 🏡 She’s got a dapper tuxedo cat who’s been her sidekick since he was a tiny furball. 🐱 Before Finnegan came along, Lisa cared for two FIV-positive cats for over ten years! 🌟 Their love inspired her to create a cat enclosure and a portable catio, giving kitties the purrfect spot to bask in the sun and feel the breeze. ☀️🌿

As a kid, Lisa shared her home with a Poodle and a chirpy parakeet! 🐩🐦

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