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Why Won’t My Cat Drink Water From Their Bowl? 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Written by: Jessica Rossetti

Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

young cat staring at the bowl

Why Won’t My Cat Drink Water From Their Bowl? 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Cats are notorious for not drinking enough water. You also may notice that your cat prefers to drink from other locations than the bowl of fresh water that you provide every day. The bowl may be fresh, but that stale toilet water seems more attractive to them.

Why do cats do this? There are a few reasons, and here, we look at the most common ones. The good news is that there’s something that you can do about this behavior to get your cat to drink more water every day.

cat face divider 2

The 6 Reasons Why Cats Won’t Drink Water from Their Bowl

1. Instincts

Most cats are not effective drinkers. Cats have a natural tendency to prefer drinking water from running sources. In the wild, a cat would avoid drinking from stale water sources that might harbor excessive bacteria, algae, or parasites. Cats naturally prefer drinking from sources of running water such as rivers or streams.

What to Do

It is always a great idea to invest in a water fountain. Cats don’t usually drink enough water to keep themselves well hydrated, and water fountains are naturally attractive to cats. This is especially important if your cat is on a dry diet. Cats evolved to get most of their hydration from their food. A cat’s prey is moisture-rich; the body composition of a mouse is up to 80% water.1

cat drinking from fountain
Photo Credit: Nana_Hana, Shutterstock

2. They Can’t See the Water

Cats have a blind spot right under their chin. That may prevent them from being able to see the water in the bowl. You may have noticed your cat lowering their face toward the water and then being surprised when they make contact with it.

Since they can’t smell the water, it’s difficult for them to find it. Some cats use a paw instead and test the water level to make sure they know where it is. You may even find that your cat prefers to lick the water off their paw instead of lapping it from the bowl.

What to Do

A water fountain may be a solution. If your cat can hear the running water, they’ll always know where it is. This is especially true if you have a cat that likes to drink from the faucet. There is no guessing where the water is if it’s running!

Cats can be very particular about many things, including the water they drink. The right water fountain can provide your cat with clean, fresh water.

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3. They Don’t Feel Comfortable

If you have a multi-pet household, your cat may not feel safe or secure while drinking water. In the vulnerable position of drinking, cats may be attacked by other animals in the house or be knocked out of the way by an animal that wants to drink instead. If you only have one cat, is the water bowl in a noisy location of the house? Does a toddler often try to grab the cat while they’re drinking? If so, your cat isn’t going to want to use the bowl for long.

What to Do

Try moving your cat’s water bowl location to a more peaceful area of the house. You can also try adding multiple bowls in different rooms to give your cat options. If one area of the house is noisy, they can find a water bowl in a quieter spot.

4. They Don’t Like the Bowl

If the cat’s water bowl is too narrow or deep, they may find it uncomfortable to drink from. Cats prefer bowls that don’t touch their whiskers. Since their whiskers are sensitive, the constant rubbing on the side of the bowl can be uncomfortable. It can cause something called whisker fatigue, which is stressful for your cat. This can also occur with your cat’s food bowls.

What to Do

Wide and shallow is better than narrow and deep for your cat’s water bowl. Find a bowl that will accommodate their whiskers without making contact with them.

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5. They Don’t Like the Water

Does your water have a funny taste or smell to it? Is the bowl dirty and in need of a good cleaning? Sometimes the material of the water bowl can give the water a bad taste. Other cats just prefer to drink out of a bowl made from a certain material, like stainless steel or ceramic.

What to Do

If your tap water tastes bad, try giving your cat filtered or bottled water to see if that’s the issue. You can also try switching water bowls to see if they prefer a different one. Always make sure that your cat gets a clean bowl of fresh water each day and that the bowl is cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria and mold buildup.

Cat Bowl
Photo Credit: Marco Giuseppe, Unsplash

6. They Don’t Like the Water Temperature

Some cats jump into the shower after you’re done and lick the warm water from the walls. Other cats might like to lick ice cubes or condensation on windows for a cool taste. If your cat is unhappy because they want the water warmer or cooler, they will avoid drinking and seek out other places to get their hydration.

What to Do

You can’t constantly maintain the temperature of your cat’s water bowl, but you know that your cat prefers cool water, you can freshen up its bowl a few times a day. If your cat prefers warm water, you can fill it with lukewarm water from the tap or wait for it to reach room temperature before offering it to them.

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Cats do strange things, and it seems like we are always trying to figure out the reasons for their behavior. If your cat is not drinking from their water bowl, trying a few of the tips in this article should help remedy this situation. Always give your cat clean, fresh water daily, and remember to contact your vet if your cat stops drinking water completely, as this can be a medical emergency.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock

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