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Why Do Cats Drop Toys in Water? 10 Possible Reasons

Written by: Chris Dinesen Rogers

Last Updated on February 28, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Cat Sensory Toy

Why Do Cats Drop Toys in Water? 10 Possible Reasons

Cats sometimes do unpredictable things. They’ll get startled when you move your shoes and jump straight into the air; they will suddenly dart around the room, making unearthly noises. A kitten can make a toy out of anything, whether it’s a clothespin, a pen, or the TV remote. Why they drop toys into water had us scratching our heads until we did some research on cat behavior.

Cats are much closer to their wild side than you may realize. That explains much of their behavior. But what are the reasons for dropping toys in water, specifically?

The 10 Reasons Cats Drop Toys In Water

1. Just an Accident

Some cats really go into overdrive when they play. Toys go flying, landing everywhere. Sometimes, they fall into places they shouldn’t, such as your pet’s water bowl. If you fish the toy out of water often, know that it might just be accidental. Felines are usually pretty stealthy, but kittens are another story. If it starts to be a problem, simply move their bowl out of harm’s way—but still make sure it’s easily accessible.

Generic rubber fish toy floating
Image Credit: Bits And Splits, Shutterstock

2.  Playing

All bets are off when a cat starts playing. You may have just fed them, and the food is beginning to fuel their bloodstream. Many pets experience short bursts of energy. Sometimes, things get out of hand. There isn’t a rhyme or reason to it; it’s all just a part of the game, even if your kitty ends up dunking the umpteenth toy in their water bowl.

3. Hunting Lessons

Wild or feral cats will feed their kittens and turn on the instinct to hunt rodents by exposing them to the animals. Domestic felines will react similarly if exposed to mice or toys when young. A pet dropping a toy into their bowl could simply be their way of dealing with their kill and dragging it to a place that feels like “their” territory.

little red ginger striped kitten playing with duck toy
Image Credit: MarinaTr, Shutterstock

4. Caching Prey

Cats and water usually don’t go together. We don’t always think of them hiding food. However, researchers have documented a European Wildcat (Felis silvestris) caching prey. These observations are significant since the ancestor to our pets is a subspecies of the wild feline, the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica). We know that cats have many wild instincts. Perhaps, storing toys in a safe place is one of them.

5. Boredom

You’ve undoubtedly noticed your kitty knocking objects off of a table. You put it back in place, and down it goes again. Cats do many things, appropriate or not, out of boredom. Remember that you’re dealing with an intelligent animal. They must have mental stimulation or enrichment for a good quality of life. A toy in the water bowl simply might entertain them as they bat it around and watch it move.

Toy cat with a blue background and a glas bowl
Image Credit: Patrick von Bargen, Shutterstock

6. Washing Off the Scent

If your cat views a toy as their prey, then it is possible that they are dunking it in water to wash off the scent, which is purely instinct. After all, if there is no scent, then how will other predators come to take their kill?

7. Being Impulsive

Personality has a genetic component and can, in turn, affect behavior. Scientists have studied feline behavior and use specific terms to describe various traits. One tool is the ”Feline Five” personality model, which includes dominance, agreeableness, extroversion, neuroticism, and impulsiveness.

This study found that impulsiveness was associated with owner assessments of excitable, erratic, and reckless. Indeed, dropping toys in a water bowl qualifies. We can then strike up this behavior as a part of the cat’s personality that manifests itself in this odd way.

maine coon cat with toy in his mouth
Image Credit: Alena A, Shutterstock

8. Learning From You

We must also consider how the owner-pet relationship has molded animal behavior. A cat dropping a toy in the water bowl may have inadvertently learned it from you! If you make a fuss about it, it may entertain your kitty. They may learn that they get a new toy with perhaps a stronger catnip scent than the previous one. Stranger things have happened!

9. Getting Your Attention

Probably one of the main reasons your kitty acts this way is to get your attention. They figure out the cause and effect. They may use this behavior to remind you that it’s feeding time. Many pets learn that doing something naughty rouses attention, even if it doesn’t always result in a positive response. The fact is that you’ve noticed, and that cements the positive association.

cat lying next to a toy
Image Credit: I.K.Media, Shutterstock

10. They’re Leaving You a Present

If there is one place that your cat knows you’re going to look, it’s their water bowl. Your cat could simply want to give you a token of their affection and leave you a gift where they know you’ll see it. It sounds odd, but it’s totally plausible.


Realizing your cat’s close ties to their past can make it easy to understand what seems like odd behaviors. Remember that your pet is still hardwired to roam the steppes and scrublands of their ancestral home. It’s also worth noting that felines are obligate carnivores that get most of their food from animal-based proteins, which explains many of their food-motivated traits and behaviors.

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Featured Image Credit: SoulArtimage, Shutterstock

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