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Why Does My Cat Play in the Food and Water Bowls?

Learn why some cats mess around in their water bowls.

Have you ever had a cat that loves to dip her paws in the bowl and then lick the water off? Or maybe she grabs kibble out of the food bowl and drops it on the floor to eat it. Is there a reason for this odd feline behavior? Actually, there are a few different possible reasons.

Many Cats Prefer Moving Water

When your cat bats at the water in her bowl, she might be trying to get it moving. That's because, in the wild, cats evolved to learn that still or stagnant water isn't as safe to drink as running water. Puddles of unmoving water are more likely to have harmful bacteria growing in them.

Slapping at the water dish is a way for cats to get their water moving a bit, which makes them feel more comfortable about drinking it. If your cat bats at the water in her bowl before getting a drink and likes to climb on the counter to drink water out of the tap when you turn it on, this might be the reason.

If you think your kitty prefers running water, get a water fountain. They have charcoal filters to get rid of yucky tastes and smells that might turn cats off from drinking, and the water is continuously moving. Water fountains can encourage more water drinking in cats, and that's a great thing because they often tend to run dehydrated, which may exacerbate or cause specific medical issues.

Getting Food and Water Out of the Bowl Might Give Extra Security

This happens most often in multiple cat households where some of the cats might jump on or bother others. When that's the case, a cat might not want to turn her back to the rest of the room and hunker down for a drink or a bite of food. Those cats might feel more secure facing the room and drinking water off their paw or food pulled out onto the floor.

If you think security might be the reason your cat is engaging in this behavior, try feeding your cats separately or pulling the food and water bowls out from the wall, so your cat can face the room while eating and drinking.

Cats Just Want to Have Fun

Some cats might bat at their water or pull food out of their bowl because it's fun. Cats might not generally like to be submerged in water, but they often do like to play with it on their terms. This might be a more significant reason in kittens than older cats.

If you think your kitty might be playing in the water for fun, try increasing your interactive play time with her.

If your cat makes a mess around the food and water bowls, consider getting new litter mats (ones never used by a litter box) to set the dishes on. They are easy to clean and can catch much of the mess.


Getting Food Away from Water Is Important to Some Cats

In the wild, cats don't like to eat near their water source. If it ends up there, they'll often drag the food to another spot. That's because evolution has taught them that their prey can contaminate their water. So, if you have the food and water bowls next to each other, some cats will drag the food to another spot to get it away from the water.

Move the food and water bowls to opposite sides of the room to see if this is the reason your cat engages in the behavior.

Cats Like to Be Near Their Humans

Sometimes cats pull food out of their bowl, carry it to where their human is, drop it, and eat it. If your cat does this, it can be because she feels like you are part of her pride, and she want to eat together. It can also be because you provide protection from other cats in the home who might be bothering the kitty while she eats.

If your cat is doing this, consider feeding your cats separately.

Whisker Fatigue Can Be Uncomfortable or Painful

Perhaps the biggest reason cats engage in the behavior of drinking water off their paws instead of directly from the bowl and pulling kibble out of the bowl to eat it on the floor is whisker fatigue. When cats eat or drink out of deep, narrow bowls, it pushes their highly sensitive whiskers backward. That can be extremely uncomfortable or even painful, especially over time, and the kitty will try to avoid it by getting the contents out of the bowls before consuming them.

If you believe your cat might be having whisker fatigue pain, try a shallow, wide bowl like Dr. Catsby's Whisker Relief Bowl, which is excellent for dry kibble, or Dr. Catsby's Stainless Steel Water Bowl, which is even wider and a tiny bit deeper, making it better for wet cat food and water.

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