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

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It doesn't take very long for any first-time cat owner to notice that their feline has some interesting — and unequivocally adorable — habits. This includes the zoomies (aka your pet's tendency to run around the house like a maniac for no apparent reason) or pawing under the bathroom door should you dare to ever shut him out. Among all, a cat's most renowned and bizarre habit may be his penchant to tap.

Most internet users have seen viral videos of cats carefully tapping glasses of water to the ground in a fit of playful mischievousness, but their tendency to paw at water extends to just about any accessible water around the house. This includes open toilet bowls, dripping sinks, and even your cat's own water dish. Believe it or not, there is a method to the madness.

Though cats can't really verbalize beyond a meow or a chirp, experts do have an idea about why your cat might put his paws in his water bowl (or your water cup should you have your head inadvertently turned away).

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It’s just a personal preference

If you find that your cat is dipping its paws into a water dish or glass, and then licking off the moisture, it could just be the way your cat likes to drink. Consider it a personal preference. In the same way that you might use your hands to take a sip of water from the sink, your cat may just prefer using their paws rather than lapping it up directly from the source. This preference can form at an early age and doesn't necessarily have to do with anything else.

He can't take the pressure (on his whiskers)

Sometimes your cat's preference to drink from their paws extends beyond a childhood habit. They may be unhappy with the shape of their water bowl or the level of water within their bowl because of the way it feels on their whiskers. This is known as "whisker stress."

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Whisker stress is particularly prevalent if your cat is drinking from a bowl with a small diameter or a drinking glass made for humans. While some cats don't like feeling pressure on their whiskers, others don't mind. If you think your cat may have an aversion to drinking directly from their bowl, try replacing it with a flat, shallow dish or topping up the water so their whiskers don't brush the sides.

The water isn’t fresh enough

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You may notice that your cat enjoys drinking water directly from the sink — and this is no mistake. Cats are particularly sensitive to taste. Call them the divas of the pet world, but many can't stand the taste of stale water and actively prefer drinking moving water, even if they have to make the water move themselves.

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If your cat is dipping his paws into his water bowl, he may be trying to mimic running water. This actually compounds the problem because it helps bacteria and bits of litter build up in the bowl. You may find that your cat isn't drinking enough to stay hydrated. Instead, replace the water daily or use a fountain that keeps the water constantly moving.

Your cat feels too vulnerable

Cats like to feel safe and secure, but they're particularly vulnerable when they're eating or drinking. For this reason, many cats feel uncomfortable when putting their heads down to drink or when drinking with their back to the room. This is particularly true for households with more than one pet, especially if there's been fights or tension between animals.

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To make your cat feel more secure, don't back the water dish into a corner or against a wall. Allow them to see the room while they drink. The water level also makes a difference. Make sure it's not so low that your cat can't see over the edge of the bowl. In a multi-animal household, you may also want to give each animal their own drinking station.

Your cat is playing around

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Your cat's water bowl may be in the perfect position with the perfect amount of fresh water but he's still pawing away and leaving little wet paw prints around your kitchen. In this case, your cat may simply like to play with his water.

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If you think your cat may be playing because he's bored, try offering it alternative toys that deter him from splashing around. It never hurts to spend a few extra minutes a day playing with your pet.

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