How To Stop Your Cat From Spilling Water Out Of Their Bowl

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Cats are not known to be water-loving creatures. So it’s often surprising to come home from work and find the contents of the cat’s water bowl all over the floor, or to catch your cat fishing through their water bowl.

The splashes of water alone create a mess for cat owners to clean, and then cats will kindly walk through their spills and track them into our home or soft furnishings, making more cleaning work for us.

Quick Overview

01

Excessive thirst or interest in water could be a sign of an underlying medical problem.

02

Cats might spill their water if it's stale or dirty, or if they dislike the bowl itself.

03

Switching to a heavier bowl or pet water fountain may keep your cat from spilling water all over the floor.

 

So why do they do this? And how can we persuade them to give up this delightful habit?

Why Do Cats Play With Water?

They do this because, in the wild, cats know that standing water can equal potential hazards, such as harmful bacteria.

Only some cats will show an interest in water. There are cats who will enjoy watching the running water in a tap or fountain or those cats who like to sneak into the bathroom to watch the shower in action. Water is reflective and creates sounds, and this stimulates the senses without needing much physical exertion from your cat. This makes it a win-win for your cat as they get entertainment for minimal effort.

Other reasons include age. Kittens for example are still exploring the world and discovering all the amazing things in your home, including the water bowl. Kittens are also learning to use their paws and are practicing catching prey when playing.

Some kittens will grow out of this phase, usually by around 6 months of age. To distract your kitten from playing with water, keep lots of toys around for them to play with. It’s also helpful to channel that energy by playing with your kitten regularly throughout the day or using toys that entertain your kitten without you needing to be there.

If your cat is frequently spilling their water bowl, there are some steps you can take to stop the behavior.

#1 Get a Vet Checkup

Increased thirst or interest in water could be a sign of a medical issue.

If making a mess with water is a new behavior for your cat, the first step is to rule out an underlying medical reason as the cause. There can be a few medical reasons that that can cause increased thirst or interest in water, such as kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, and thyroid disease.

You may even notice your cat is drinking from unusual places like the toilet, faucet, or puddles in the garden. If your cat is constantly thirsty or interested in the water bowl book a checkup with your veterinarian. A veterinarian will be able to run blood tests that can pick up these diseases, allowing you to start treatment earlier.

Stress or anxiety can be another common reason cats will play with or spill water. Signs of stress in cats can be subtle. Even just a new cat moving into the neighborhood can be enough to cause your cat stress. Thankfully there are lots of ways to treat anxiety and stress in cats, so having a chat with a veterinarian is a great first step.

If the health check at the veterinary clinic is all clear, you can try a few neat tricks to persuade your cat to stop spilling their water from the bowl.

Also Read: 5 Visual Signs Of A Stressed Cat And How To Help

#2 Cat Water Fountains

Cats love drinking from pet fountains, which filter and aerate the water, keeping it cool and fresh-tasting.

Running water is a sign of fresh water to a cat. Water fountains are specially made for cats and allow aeration of the water. Water fountains increase water intake which is useful in older cats or cats with other health issues, such as feline idiopathic cystitis.

Some fountains recycle the water in the bowl and others pump a continuous fresh supply so if you purchase the former, remember to change the water at least daily.

A water bottle (similar to the ones guinea pigs use) is another budget-friendly option. Not all cats will drink from these, but it can help cut down on water spills if your cat will use one.

Also Read: 7 Cat Breeds That Actually Like Water

#3 Regular Water Changes

If your cat is regularly dumping their water on the floor, they might be asking you to freshen it up.

Cats are fussy in nature, particularly around food and drink. Any doubts as to the cleanliness of the water can cause a cat to spill water to assess if it’s safe to drink or not. Changing all water bowls daily, and making sure to wash them out daily is an important part of caring for your cat.

Consider the elevated food bowl—you would never leave wet food in there for more than a few hours due to risk of contamination with bacteria, and the same is possible with water sources. Bacteria, algae, or mold in water can make your cat very unwell, so they are right to be cautious.

Also Read: Bacterial Infections In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

#4 Change The Cat’s Water Bowl

Spilling water out of the bowl could be a plea for a different drinking vessel.

Your cat may not like the bowl the water is held in. Try a different water dish, for example, a different material, such as a ceramic bowl or a wider shallower dish that your cat finds easier to drink from. Narrow or deep anti vomit cat bowls can be off-putting to cats if their whiskers meet the sides, or worse, get wet.

Cat whiskers need to be unobstructed when drinking and eating, as your cat feels more vulnerable to attack, and is relying on these extra sensory organs for information about their surroundings.

You can also try to change the location of the water bowl (e.g. moving from the kitchen to a more private area, such as a bedroom) to see if this helps reduce water spillage.

Also Read: Whisker Fatigue: Does It Really Happen?

#5 Reduce The Volume

Smaller bowls might be less tempting for cats to play around with.

Large bowls or very full bowls can be very inviting for cats to play with as there is a lot of water and a lot of space to make a mess. Try to cut down either the size of the bowl or the volume of water in the bowl. If reducing the volume, make sure to regularly top up the water throughout the day if your cat is drinking from it so they always have access to fresh water.

Also Read: How Much Water Should A Cat Drink?

#6 Add Some Weight

Cat drinking water from pet fountain

Though your cat might still play with the water in a pet fountain, it might be less messy.

To stop your cat from physically moving the food bowl around and reduce the risks of cracking a bowl, consider using a heavier bowl, setting the bowl into a permanent structure, or switching to a heavy pet water fountain. This won’t stop the desire to play with water, but the mess may be reduced.

#7 Attention Seeking

If you think your cat is dumping the water bowl to gain your attention, don’t react (wait for your cat to leave the room before cleaning up).

Your cat may have worked out how to press your buttons and get an immediate reaction from you by knocking over the water bowl. Most cats love and crave attention, especially from their owners. Through reinforcement, you may actually be making a problem worse by jumping up to clean the mess or trying to distract your cat.

To overcome this, ignore your cat when they are playing with the water, and wait until they are in a different room to clean up the mess. Try and spend time doing activities such as cuddling on the sofa for TV time or a morning play routine before work to reinforce new routines for quality time and this will hopefully reduce the amount of water play you will have to endure.

Also Read: 8 Purrfect Games You Can Play With Your Cat

Conclusion

If your cat enjoys water, consider offering water play in an area that’s easy to clean up.

It can be frustrating to clean up water and tipped-over bowls, but there is a good chance that with time and patience this minor issue can be a thing of the past. Being consistent and making small changes to your cat’s daily routine can have a big impact on their overall health and mental well-being.

If you are struggling to stop your cat from spilling the water bowl, professional help is out there. Consider asking your veterinarian for a referral to an animal behaviorist who can offer solutions based on your lifestyle.

Also Read: How To Safely Play With A Cat, According To A Cat Behaviorist

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my cat dump his water bowl?

Your cat may enjoy playing with the water, the water bowl, or may be looking for your attention. It can be difficult to work out the exact cause, see our list above for some ideas.

How do I stop my cat from flinging water?

You can try using a water fountain, changing the type of bowl, the location of the bowl, and adding in more play time with other toys to stop your cat from flinging water.

Why are cats obsessed with running water?

Cats associate running water with fresh water so are more interested in running water. They also enjoy the sensory experience of the sound of the water and the reflections of light in the running water.

Why does my cat scratch the floor before drinking water?

This is an instinctive behavior that is more pronounced in some cats compared to others. It stems from a desire to dig to create a freshwater supply. In your home the water is already present, so scratching around the bowl is the next best thing.

It is nothing to be worried about, and if you are concerned about the carpet adding an extra rubber mat or square of carpet can help reduce damage to the underlying floor.

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About Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS

Dr. Joanna Woodnutt (MRCVS) is a small animal veterinarian and writer who is passionate about helping owners to learn more about their pets in order to improve animal welfare. She loves to write and wants to empower owners to make the best decisions for their pets by giving them all the information they need. In her spare time, she takes consultations on the small island of Guernsey.

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