While many people believe that cats are lazy and uninterested creatures, the reality is that cats are natural-born explorers. Their curiosity is what often gets them into trouble, but it is also what makes them so fun to watch. If you have a cat, you know that they are always checking out new things and trying to figure out how they work. This curiosity is what drives them to play with toys, climb on things, and even open doors. Just like we use our five senses to learn about the world, cats sniff, paw, and pat objects around them to learn more about the world.
This curiosity extends to their relationships with water. While some cats may be afraid of water, others take great interest in it. This can manifest in different ways, from playing with dripping taps or even taking a dip in the family pool. One common way this curiosity manifests itself is in some seemingly inexplicable behaviors when they drink. Your cat may playfully splash or bat their water bowl, seemingly out of nowhere. But there are many reasons why your cat may paw at their water bowl. To learn more about why they might behave this way, read on.
Top 11 Reasons Why Cats Paw at Their Water Bowl
1. Whisker Fatigue
Cat whiskers are long, thin hairs that protrude from the sides of a cat’s face. The whiskers also help the cat judge the width of openings and determine whether it can fit through them. These whiskers are deeply rooted in your cat’s face and highly sensitive to touch, temperature, and vibration, allowing your cat to judge distance, navigate their world, and detect minute changes in their environment. There is a good chance that cats who dip their paws in their water bowls before licking them might be experiencing whisker fatigue.
Cats with whisker fatigue feel unsettled and agitated because their whiskers are overstimulated. Cats with whisker fatigue don’t want their whiskers to touch the edges of a bowl when dipping their heads into it. Instead of drinking normally, your cat may paw their bowl and then drink from their paw. Consider getting your cat a wider bowl and filling it to the brim if they do this frequently.
One potential explanation for why a cat may drink from its wet paw instead of the bowl is that it feels safer that way. This could be due to a variety of reasons, including the fact that the bowl may be too close to the wall. Wide open spaces tend to make cats feel vulnerable when drinking. If your cat has to put their back facing the room, they may feel exposed to potential predators. Their upright posture and awareness of their surroundings are maintained when they drink water from their paw instead of their bowl. It is possible to relax your cat by changing the position of their bowl.
3. Marking Their Territory
A cat’s paw pads contain eccrine glands used to mark their scent. The scent is produced by the cat’s body and secreted through the gland, which is then transferred onto the ground or other objects around them. The scent helps the cat to identify their territory and communicate with other cats. This behavior is likely to occur before or after the cat drinks from the bowl. By pawing around the bowl, the cat is able to leave their mark and claim the bowl as their own. This behavior is also a way of communicating with other cats in the area, letting them know that this bowl is off-limits.
4. Having Fun
One potential explanation for why cats might paw at their water bowl is that they are simply trying to have some fun. Some cats enjoy playing in water and might see their bowl as a toy to be played with rather than a source of hydration. When cats paw at their water bowl, it can create a ripple effect in the water. This may simply be entertaining for them to watch.
5. Instinctive Burying
One explanation for why cats might paw at their water bowl when drinking is that they are trying to bury the water. This behavior could be instinctual, as in the wild, cats would want to bury their waste or prey to avoid attracting predators. Cats are fastidious creatures, and they have a natural instinct to bury their waste. If they find their water bowl to be dirty, they may paw at it to try and bury the dirty water. This is their way of keeping their environment clean.
6. Compulsive Behavior
There are a number of reasons why a cat might paw at their water bowl compulsively. It could be a sign of stress or boredom. If the cat is stressed, they may be trying to self-soothe by pawing at the water. Boredom is another possible reason for this behavior. This repetitive behavior could also be a way for the cat to release excess energy.
7. Preferring Moving Water
The cat’s pawing at the water bowl is possibly due to their preference for moving water. Cats prefer running water to stagnant water, so their pawing is likely an attempt to get the water moving. This behavior is likely a result of the cat’s natural instinct to avoid still water, which may harbor harmful bacteria or other contaminants. This preference for moving water could also be due to the fact that moving water is more oxygenated and thus fresher tasting. Additionally, moving water may be more stimulating for a cat’s senses, providing them with a more enriching experience.
8. Depth Perception
When a cat paws their water bowl, they are measuring the depth of the water. This is because cats need to know how deep the water is in order to determine how much they need to drink. By dipping its paw into the water and then withdrawing it, the cat can gauge how deep the liquid is. This information may be important to the cat in deciding whether or not to drink from the bowl. This behavior is likely a result of the cat’s natural instinct to be cautious when around water, as they are not naturally adept swimmers.
9. Removing Debris
Cats can also use their paw to scoop out any debris that may be floating in the water. The feline pawing behavior observed in this case is a means of cleaning up the water bowl. This is a common behavior for cats, who often use their paws to clean themselves and their surroundings. In this instance, your cat is using their paw to remove any dirt or other particles that may be present in the water bowl. This helps to keep the bowl clean and ensures that the cat has access to clean water.
10. They Are Thirsty
Your cat may simply be thirsty and seeking out water to drink. By pawing at the water bowl, the cat is trying to communicate this need to its owner. If your cat is pawing their water bowl, try emptying the bowl, cleaning it, and refilling it with fresh water. You can be sure that thirst is the issue if they stop the pawing behavior and begin drinking instead.
11. Cooling Off
When cats paw their water bowl, it is can be because they are hot and want to cool down. The act of pawing at the water bowl creates a sensation of the cool water on their paws. The cat is likely trying to cool down its paws by dipping them in water. The pads on a cat’s paw are full of blood vessels and are very sensitive to temperature. By placing their paws in cool water, the cat is able to lower the temperature of its paws and, in turn, their body.
In conclusion, there are a variety of reasons why cats paw at their water bowl. It could be that they are bored, their water bowl is dirty, or they are simply thirsty. No matter what the reason, it is likely that they are trying to tell you something. If your cat is pawing at their water bowl, take the time to observe and try to understand what they are trying to say.
Featured Image Credit: Pickless, Shutterstock