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Why Does My Cat Paw at Her Water Bowl? 8 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat dipping its paw in water bowl

Why Does My Cat Paw at Her Water Bowl? 8 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.

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Cats do all sorts of silly things that seem senseless to us. Yet, their behavior, including the oddest tasks, can be explained reasonably well. Does your cat paw at her water bowl? Well, there are explanations for that!

Some reasons for this behavior range from harmless entertainment to mental distress or illness. If you think your cat may be exhibiting this behavior due to a medical condition, reach out to your vet immediately.


The 8 Likely Reasons Why a Cat Paws at the Water Bowl

1. She Wants to Mimic Flowing Water

cat drinking water from fountain
Image Credit: Daria Kulkova, Shutterstock

Have you ever caught your cat drinking out of the sink faucet? That is because cats prefer running water to motionless water. Running water appears more natural to them, making it feel like a safer water source than their bowl. When your cat paws at the water, she could be just checking it out.

You could get your cat a water fountain to drink from. The water fountain will keep the water in constant motion and may make it more appealing to your cat!

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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2. She Has Whisker Fatigue

Whiskers are more than an aesthetic accessory for your cat. They serve several important functions, such as sensation, orientation, and communication.

Whisker fatigue is when your cat’s whiskers are sending her into sensory overload. Each time your cat’s whiskers contact something, such as the side of her water bowl, sensory signals are transmitted to her brain. If she is already experiencing whisker fatigue, she may be reluctant to dip her head down into the bowl to get a drink.

A lip-less water fountain could be a good solution since it does not require your cat’s whiskers to come in contact with anything.

3. She Is Stressed and/or Anxious

stressed cat
Image Credit: photosforyou, Pixabay

If your cat is mentally distressed, she may paw at her water bowl.

Some symptoms of stress in cats are excessive grooming and scratching, isolation, increased meowing or hissing, aggression, urination or digestive issues, and isolation. If your cat is stressed, try to find the source of it and remove it, if possible.

Signs that your cat may struggle with anxiety include aggression, tail flicking, dilated pupils, fast breathing rate, and hair standing on end. Managing stress in cats may require therapy, environment changes, and medication.

4. She Is Struggling With OCD

Just as your cat can have anxiety, she can also develop OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is a behavioral disorder characterized by repetitive and senseless actions, such as pawing at her water. If your cat paws at her water in an exaggerated, intense way, she may be struggling with OCD.

Some other signs include excessive meowing, constant grooming, pacing, sucking, and chewing on fabric. The best way to deal with this is to talk to your vet, who will be able to rule out the possibility of other conditions or illnesses. If your cat does indeed have OCD, then you will need to remove the stressors in her environment as much as possible.

5. It Is Her Territorial Instinct

bengal cat playing water in the bowl
Image By: kalyanby, Shutterstock

Your cat may be pawing at her water bowl to mark it as her territory. Since cats are predatory creatures, they are prone to territorial behavior, especially if other pets are in the house.

Some territorial behaviors include rubbing herself against objects, clawing at furniture, urinating outside of the litter box, or fighting with other animals or people. If your cat is getting into fights or acting extremely aggressively, handling this territorial issue may be the solution. If there are several pets in your household, a good solution would be to ensure that all pets have their own food and water bowls.

6. She Is Playing

Your cat pawing at her water bowl is not always a symptom of something concerning. Sometimes, your cat just wants to play!

Cats are playful creatures, and messing around with the water in her bowl might just be your cat’s way of entertaining herself. Though this is generally harmless, it can cause quite a mess. If you want to keep the water inside the bowl, consider investing in new and exciting toys that may entertain her more than her water.

7. She Is Not Feeling Well

yellow sad sick cat
Image By: Nikolay Bassov, Shutterstock

Sadly, there are some illnesses that may be associated with your cat’s behavior. Some potential health concerns include thyroid issues and diabetes.

Hyperthyroidism could be an underlying cause behind your cat’s behavior. A drastic increase or decrease in your cat’s metabolic rates could significantly change her thirst levels, impacting how she acts around her water bowl.

Diabetes can also alter your cat’s thirst levels. Since symptoms of diabetes and thyroid issues can often overlap, you should reach out to your vet for a proper diagnosis and, if needed, a treatment plan.

8. She Is Trying to See the Water Level

Cats are not as good as humans when it comes to seeing things up close. Your cat does not have the proper muscles needed to adjust the lens of the eye to see things close to her, meaning that the water in her bowl can be difficult for her to spot. So, before she bends down to drink, she may paw at it to check the water level.

divider-catclaw1 Conclusion

Cats are quirky creatures that display a ton of behaviors that may confuse us. However, with a little investigation, many actions can be easily explained. If you think that your cat may be exhibiting strange behavior due to mental distress or illness, reach out to your vet as soon as possible. Otherwise, enjoy your new insight into your cat’s actions!

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Featured Image Credit: yykkaa, Shutterstock

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