Why Does My Cat Put His Paws in the Water Bowl?

Your cat's tendency to put her paws in the water bowl may seem cute and funny; on the other hand, it may be an annoyance. Your cat may be trying to make sense of her environment, may be looking out for predators, or may simply be playing with the water.

Kitten watching goldfish in fishbowl
Cats paw-dip to sense the water level in the bowl.
credit: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

Finding the Water

Your cat may use her paw to find where the water is in the bowl. Especially when the water is not filled to consistent levels daily, she might not know where the top is because it changes from day to day. Senior cats with failing eyesight may also need to use their paws to find out the depth of the water, simply because they can't see as well as they used to.

Preserving the Whiskers

Whiskers are sensitive, and cats don't like to squish them. If the water bowl has a small diameter and the cat's whiskers touch the sides when she tries to get a drink, she may opt to dip water out with her paw instead. A flat, shallow dish for water might encourage her to use her tongue.

Anxiety or Insecurity

Cats are sensitive to changes in routine. If a pet or human joins the household, or if you place her in a new environment, she may display signs of stress -- and she may dip water with her paw so she can keep an eye out for danger.

Having Feline Fun

Cats like to play. Making the water move with a paw may be one way a kitty keeps herself entertained. A pet water fountain might satisfy your cat's need to make the water dance and keep you from having to clean up her wet messes.