Why Your Cat Drinks Water From Its Paw

Your cat drinks water from its paw because of:

  • Whisker discomfort
  • The bowl is small
  • It is fun
  • Changes in the house make it feel insecure
  • It is an instinctual behavior

A shallow and wide bowl, placed away from the wall, makes your cat feel secure and comfortable while drinking water.

We have all seen trending videos on the internet of cats drinking water from their paws. Without a doubt, it is one of the cutest things you might catch your cat doing.

But, you might also wonder why they are doing it. If your cat drinks water this way, you are about to learn all about this feline behavior.

There are a number of factors that can influence your cat to use its paw as a drink implement. These are:

  • The shape of the bowl
  • Changes in the household
  • Sickness
  • The presence of other pets in the household

We also need to remember that each cat has its own unique character. Drinking water with their paws is a fairly common behavior among cats, although not all cats will do it.

There are several logical reasons why your cat prefers to drink water this way, ranging from instincts to health problems.

However, it’s important at this point to stress that there is no reason for concern.

Let’s now delve into some of the reasons, and how to make your cat comfortable as it uses its bowl.


1. Small bowl causes whisker discomfort

Your cat’s whiskers are very sensitive since they contain blood vessels and nerve endings. These help your cat judge distance and space.

The whiskers help a cat make decisions like “Can I fit into this box?” “How far do I need to jump to reach the counter?”

The whisker’s roots are 3 times deeper than regular hair.

If you give your cat a small drinking bowl, its whiskers can touch the sides of the bowl, which can be very irritating to them.  

If your cat’s whiskers get squished when it tries to drink from a bowl, it may decide to avoid such discomfort by dipping its paws in the water.

It’s advisable to give your cat a big shallow bowl, one that can accommodate its long whiskers. Alsoplace one or more of these bowls in strategic places in the house.

You can also invest in a cat water fountain. Some cats enjoy quenching their thirst from a pet fountain.


2. Your cat is aging

If your feline friend has been around for a while, it could be drinking water from its paw because it can’t see well.

Aging cats can lose their eyesight. Since they don’t have sharp vision as they used to, they can use their paw to test the depth of the water before drinking it.

Consider having a vet check your cat’s eyes to see what could be the problem.


3. It is an instinctual behavior

The act of dipping its paw into the water is an instinctual one for your cat. Observing their ancestors in the wild can help us understand why they do it.  Although our felines are predators, they can also have other animals predate on them. 

Your cat may dip its paws in the water to disturb the surface, and see if any predators are hiding under the water.

Your cat also feels it needs to be careful when drinking water, so dipping its paws in the water helps it be more alert to any lurking danger.


4. Recent changes in the household

Cats thrive on consistency. Sudden changes in the house, such as a different furniture arrangement, new pets, or people, can make your cat not feel safe.

Your cat may want to use its paw to drink water, so that it can easily see who is coming and make a quick escape if necessary.

A senior cat may also be sensitive to change, and thus feel more vulnerable. Other changes in the house that can make your cat less secure are redecorating the house, a change in feeding time, and moving the water bowl to another location.

The presence of a new cat or dog can also make your cat feel insecure, and drink water from its paw. Your cat doesn’t feel comfortable lowering its head into a water bowl, which is so deep that it can’t see over the other side.



Don’t make drastic changes in the household. This might not seem practical, but it’s something you need to be ready to do as a cat owner.

If you are expecting a lot of visitors, it’s better to put your cat in a room with its water bowl and other necessities. This way, they don’t feel overwhelmed by the presence of strangers.

Each time you bring a new cat or dog, make sure you properly introduce them before leaving the pets alone. Ensure they get along.


5. Water level consistency

Your cat may dip its paws in the water before drinking because they are unsure about the water level. This usually happens when you are not consistent when filling the bowl. Perhaps you fill the bowl at a different level and from time to time.

Keep the water level consistent when refilling your feline’s bowl. If you fill it to the middle, keep it that way.


6. Water fun

Our cats love to play. No matter how old they are, they always have that playful spirit in them. Your cat may have realized that putting its paw in the water creates movement, which seems like a fun activity.

Maybe your cat noticed a crumb of food inside the water bowl, and tried to play with it. Some cats will dip their paws inside a bowl out of boredom.

Perhaps your cat just wants to have some fun.



The fact that your cat is playing with water shows that they are not getting enough play. Schedule some time to play with your cat.

You can invest in food puzzles, balls, and other toys that your cat finds entertaining. Be sure to have a wide variety of toys that mimic prey, such as a mouse.

Rotate the toys at least weekly so that your cat doesn’t get bored with one kind of toy. For instance, you can roll a colorful ball across the floor for a few days and weave a feather wand through the air in the following days.

Reward your cat with treats at the end of each play session to provide positive reinforcement. 


7. The water is unpalatable

Most cats prefer to drink freshwater or water in movement. Stagnant water may not be so inviting to them.

In the wild, cats seek out sources of water that are running, and not stagnant. This is probably something they do to protect them from drinking water poisoned by bacteria or other substances common in stagnant water.   

This is why you might see a cat drink from the faucet.


Make Your Cat Feel Relaxed when Drinking Water

As we have seen, changes in the house, water bowl placement, and bowl size are some of the factors that affect your feline friend’s drinking habit.

To ensure an enjoyable experience when drinking water, it’s important to make your cat feel as comfortable and secure as possible.

You can do this by cleaning the bowl and refilling daily to ensure your cat is getting a clean and fresh supply of water daily. By refilling often, you also ensure a consistent water level in the bowl, so that they don’t have to dip their heads down low to reach the water.

Be careful on the bowl placement. Remember cats are hunters, and would not like to place themselves in a position where they are an easy target of a predator.

If the water bowl is against the wall, this means your cat would have its back to the room while drinking. Therefore, your cat will choose to dip its paw in the bowl, so that it doesn’t become so vulnerable.

To encourage your cat to feel more comfortable, place the bowl away from the wall, perhaps facing the main door.

In a multi-cat household, have multiple water stations because each cat may have their preferences.


Get Food Away From the Water Bowl

For some cats, this is such an important issue. In the wild, cats don’t like to eat near the water source. If these two bowls are close to each other, your cat might attempt to drag the water bowl away from the food.

They believe that the food (prey) can contaminate the water. Try to move the food bowl to a separate side of the water bowl, and see if your cat still engages in this behavior.


Use a Pet Water Fountain

A pet water fountain could be the best gift you could ever give to a cat that loves to drink moving water. It keeps filtered water moving and fresh.

Almost all water fountains work on the same principle.  A motorized pump circulates water through a filter (some have a series of filters), and then pushes the water into a fountain stream.

This water circulation keeps the water cool and aerated, appealing to your furry friend’s senses in the best ways.

When choosing cat fountains, you have 3 options:

  • Ceramic: This type is a bit fragile, and may not be the best option when used in busy households. Some ceramic water fountains have two drinking levels.
  • BPA-Free Plastic: This is a relatively common type. It is resistant to breakage.
  • Stainless steel: This is the sturdiest of the 3 options. Most of them have multiple fountain settings.

It is a healthier, safer, and more practical way to keep your cat hydrated than the use of a traditional drinking water bowl.

Here is why using a cat water fountain is worth trying:


  • The correct water temperature

A fountain will keep your cat’s water a bit cooler than a water bowl. This could be about 1 or 2 degrees cooler. Although this might not seem so much, it ensures the water is refreshing to encourage your cat to drink more.


  • Filtration

Most modern cat water fountains have a small filter located at the motor. You can choose one with a carbon filter that removes impurities, and improve the taste and smell, thus encouraging your furry friend to quench its thirst.


  • Hydration

Most cats don’t like to drink water. If your cat is on a dry diet like kibble, they need to drink plenty of water.

Proper hydration in felines improves digestion, increases nutrient absorption, and can also be a primary way in which toxins, and bacteria are flushed out of the urinary and digestive tract.


  • Circulation

Stagnant water can be a breeding ground for bacteria. A water fountain ensures proper circulation, and this helps prevent the accumulation of bacteria or fungus.


How Much Water your Cat Should Drink

Water is essential to your cat’s vigor. It helps your cat maintain good health and replace the fluids they lose through urine and feces.

It is also necessary for circulation, digestion, and waste removal. Without proper water intake, your cat could get dehydrated. When this occurs, your cat loses essential minerals in the body, such as sodium, potassium, and chloride.

This is a dangerous situation because it can lead to other severe medical concerns.

Overheating, hot weather or heatstroke are some of the causes of dehydration. To ensure your cat stays hydrated, ensure it has a clean supply of water in the bowl every day.

Your cat needs about 3.5 to 4.5 ounces of water per 5 pounds of body weight. However, if your cat is on a wet food diet, you will notice that it drinks less water.

This is because wet food is made of 80% water, and therefore your cat is already consuming water.

If your cat primarily feeds on dry food, they don’t consume as much water from their food. You need to provide them with an adequate supply of water.


How to Monitor Your Cat’s Water Intake

Unfortunately, you can’t judge your feline’s water intake by the amount you see them drink. They might drink water while you are away or as you sleep. 

Since it is not always possible to catch your cat in the act, you can monitor the water level trends in its bowl.

Check at the end of the day, or at the beginning of the next, to see if the water level has dropped, or is still the same.

Each time you clean and refill the bowl, take note of how much is left over. When you fill its water bowl to the same level each day, it becomes easier to tell when there is a significant change.


How to Get Your Cat to Drink More

If you are worried that your furry friend is not taking enough water, try one or more of the following tricks:

  • Find the flavor:  You can make your cat’s water more appealing by adding a bit of tuna or clam juice to their drinking water.
  • Switch type of food: Try switching from dry food to wet food. As mentioned earlier, wet food has a high level of water. Your cat can get most of its water from the intake of canned food.
  • Chill out: Place a few ice cubes in the water bowl. Most cats are fascinated by the look and sound of bobbing ice cubes. If your cat doesn’t like drinking, perhaps this trick might make it happily go for a few laps.


Signs of Dehydration in Cats

Even if you have caught your cat drinking water, it is often difficult to tell if they are dehydrated.

Check for these signs of dehydration:

  • Loose skin: To know about the elasticity of your cat’s skin, try pulling a bit of its skin over its shoulders. It should return to normal positioning once released. If the skin returns more slowly, then your cat is dehydrated. This skin test is the best way to check for dehydration, but it isn’t always perfect.  Other factors such as level of fat, muscle under the skin, and the overall health of their skin.
  • Depression or lethargy: Cats that seem lazy, sleeping throughout, less excited to see you come back from work, or less playful. These changes in behavior indicate your cat is dehydrated.
  • Dry or sticky gums: If your cat’s gums are dry and tacky, it could be a sign of dehydration. They are supposed to be moist and not sticky.
  • Sunken eyes: A dehydrated cat may have sunken eyes or eyes that look dull or drowsy.
  • Panting: Cats rarely pant, but they might do itdue to overheating. However, our feline friends are quite adept at finding cool places to rest, where they can regulate their body temperature.
  • Less urination: This is why it’s important to scoop the litterbox daily. It makes it easier to monitor for changes in their urination and defecation.

All these above changes are a clear clue that your cat is not drinking enough water. But they can also indicate other health problems.

That’s why it’s always advisable to take your cat to the vet each time you notice a drastic behavior change.

Writer: Flora Ojow

flora ojow

Read about me