Catster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Why Do Cats Put Things in Their Water Bowl? 5 Possible Reasons

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on April 18, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat drinking water

Why Do Cats Put Things in Their Water Bowl? 5 Possible Reasons

It has been said that curiosity killed the cat, but in reality, their curiosity often keeps them safe. A cat’s curiosity leads them to investigate everything they encounter, from new smells to strange noises. This inquisitiveness often puts them in unique situations where they can see and learn new things.

While cats may sometimes get into trouble by being too curious, this trait also helps them become better problem solvers, more adaptable to change, and helps them learn and grow. Cats use their curiosity to understand how the world works and can be very resourceful in figuring things out.

They explore their surroundings by playing with objects they find. So, it’s no surprise cats sometimes put things in their water bowl. But what is the reason behind this behavior? Read on below to find out more.

divider-catclaw1 The 5 Reasons Why Cats Put Things in Their Water Bowls

1. Hiding Prey

grey cat drinking water from bowl
Image Credit: Prilutskiy, Shutterstock

One of the reasons that cats put objects or food in their water bowl is to hide prey. The cat may want to keep the prey hidden so that other animals do not steal the food.

Placing an item in the water bowl may help to keep it safe and concealed. If your cat is not an outdoor cat, they may see their toys or other objects as prey. When a cat catches prey, they often play with it before killing it. So, by putting things in their water bowl, cats are simulating the act of hunting.

2. Eliminating Prey Scent

cat carrying a dead mouse
Image Credit: Markos-Loizou, Shutterstock

Another potential reason cats put things in their water bowl is to eliminate the prey’s scent. If a cat were to hunt and kill a rodent, for example, the scent of the prey could give away the cat’s location.

Predators such as coyotes and foxes can detect the scent of prey from a long distance, so by putting something in their water bowl, the cat is masking the scent and making it more difficult for the predator to track them down.

3. Having Fun

Some cats enjoy playing with water, and they may put things in their water bowl to amuse themselves. Some cats enjoy batting around a toy or playing with food in their water, while others may be curious about what the object looks like floating in their drink.

Cats are intelligent animals, and many experience delight in interacting with objects they place in their water bowl.

4. Convenience & Easy Access

Possibly, one explanation for why cats put things in their water bowl is that it is simply convenient for them. When a cat wants to drink, they have to drop the object they’re holding in their mouth in order to do so. Often, when a cat has a toy or other item, they will carry it to the water bowl to have easy access to both items at the same time, and they might end up dropping the object inside their water bowl accidentally.

5. Possible Health Concerns

Sick cat medicines
Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

Although health issues are not the most likely reason, your cat putting or dropping food or objects in their water bowl could be a warning sign of a potential health issue. Your cat may have a health issue that is causing them oral or dental pain, and they might be accidentally dropping treats or food inside it.

It is also possible that your cat has a health condition that is causing them to act differently around water. Cats may increase their water intake drastically when they develop thyroid imbalance, urinary tract infections, feline diabetes, or kidney problems. These problems are typically accompanied by lethargy, reduced appetite, confusion, messy drinking, or excessive drinking. You should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if you notice these warning signs.


How Can You Stop Your Cat From Putting Toys in Their Water

It is difficult to determine whether or not you can “stop” your cat from doing anything since every feline has a unique personality and set of behaviors. In some cases, using positive reinforcement may discourage the animal from continuing a particular activity; however, with such behavior, this may prove challenging because it depends on the reason behind.

It is possible to reduce unwanted behaviors in cats, but it may take a bit of effort. If you are trying to stop your cat from putting toys in their water, you must be very consistent in your efforts.

1. Change to a Water Fountain

You can prevent your cat from putting toys in their water by removing the water bowl, but you should still ensure that they stay hydrated. An excellent way to change the scenario for your cat while enticing them to drink is to swap the water bowl for a water fountain.

Not every cat water fountain will make your life easier. This is why we recommend the well-designed Hepper Stainless Steel Cat Water Fountain, which has advanced triple filtration, three different flow modes, and an automatic shutoff feature.

Hepper Stainless Steel Cat Water Fountain
  • Premium 304-Grade Stainless Steel - This metal cat water fountain is hygienic, with superior...
  • Serene & Healthy Cat Drinking Fountain Experience - With whisper-quiet pumping & an advanced...
  • Say Goodbye to Dehydration - Provide your cat with a constant source of flowing water with this...

This modern, minimalist fountain runs surprisingly quietly and is very easy to clean.

At Catster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

2. Do “Nothing”

nebelung cat playing on the floor
Image Credit by: Milada Vigerova, Pixabay

In most cases, it is best to ignore this behavior and continue providing food, water, and toys. Ignore your cat if they intentionally place their toys in the water bowl to attract your attention. Wait until your cat is distracted or asleep before cleaning up the mess. That way, you will send the message that you are disinterested in the behavior.

3. Keep Their Water Clean

It is not uncommon for cats to play in soiled water, but they generally refuse to drink it. You can prevent your cat from dropping toys by changing the water frequently.

divider-catclaw1 Conclusion

Ultimately, cats put things in their water bowl for various reasons. Some cats do it to cover up their scent, because they have oral disease or do it just for fun. If your cat puts things in their water bowl, there is no need to worry unless they are showing signs of illness, in which case you should visit your vet. Otherwise, just keep an eye on the bowl to ensure the cat is drinking enough water!

Featured Image Credit By: rihaij, Pixabay

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Catster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.