As adorable as it is to see a cat drinking water with their paw and as much as you may need them to drink water, you do want to be sure there aren’t any underlying issues causing them to do so. This article will cover the reasons your cat may be exhibiting this behaviour and ways to correct it.
Why is my cat drinking water with their paw?
Cats likely drink water with their paw because they don’t want to lean their head down into their water bowl. This may be for a few reasons, such as it uncomfortable on their whiskers or body, they have a hard time seeing where the water line is and don’t want to dunk their nose in, or because they don’t feel safe putting their head down as it leaves them in a vulnerable position.
1. They’re uncomfortable
There are a few situations that may make drinking from the water bowl uncomfortable for your cat, and lead them to drinking water with their paw.
Bowl is too narrow
Your cat’s whiskers are very sensitive. If they’re being over-stimulated, your cat may try to avoid objects coming into contact with their whiskers. If their water bowl is too narrow, or the water is too low in their bowl, the sides of the bowl may press on their whiskers and be uncomfortable for them.
If you think about how cats drink water in the wild, it’s typically from a pond or stream. Their whiskers wouldn’t come in contact with an object, they’re simply dipping their tongue down into the water.
Bowl is too high
If you think about the way a cat would drink in the wild, they must crouch down and drink from a pond, stream, or even puddle. They naturally want to sit in this position even though they’re drinking from their water bowl and not a pond.
Some of the water bowls on the market, especially the water fountains, are much higher than ground level, so your cat may not feel comfortable drinking water in more of a standing position.
Bowl is too low
Although you would likely know if this were the case, it’s still worth mentioning. If your cat is older and has sore joints, or perhaps they even have an injury, it may be uncomfortable for them to squat down to drink.
However, if this is the reason behind them using their paw to drink, they would likely attempt to do the same with their food, unless their food dish sits higher up.
2. They can’t see the waterline
Your cat may have a hard time seeing where the water in their dish starts. You likely know the uncomfortable feeling of getting water up your nose, so you can understand why your cat may want to avoid it.
If they’ve dunked their nose into their water bowl one too many times, they may have adapted by using their paw to drink the water and avoid putting their face in the bowl.
3. They feel vulnerable
In the wild, cats are more vulnerable to predators when they’re eating and drinking, as they have their heads down and their backs open. Although your cat may have never been attacked by a predator in the wild while drinking water, those natural instincts are still there. Or, if you have other animals in the house, such as a big dog, your cat may feel on-edge when they’re drinking or eating.
Your cat may have also been startled while drinking water in the past, perhaps by someone running into the room or a loud noise. They may now associate that slightly traumatic event with their water bowl and not want to put their head down. They may be staying upright and dunking their paw in the water to drink so they can be alert and ready to react.
Why does my cat dip their paw in the water before drinking?
If your cat is dipping their paw into the water before drinking, and they’re not actually using their paw to drink the water, it’s likely they’re just trying to find where the water line is. They may dip their paw in the water a few times to get it moving, so they can see the ripples, and tell how far they need to stick their head in the bowl.
How do I get my cat to stop drinking water with their paw?
This is generally harmless behaviour, but if it’s new, you may be concerned that there’s something wrong. Or you may not like the water they get on the floor, making the surface slippery for you. Here are some things to try.
1. Talk to your Vet
If your cat drinking water with their paw is new behaviour, and it’s accompanied by other new habits, such as drinking more water, call your veterinarian. The behaviour may be related to a health issue so it’s a good idea to get them checked out and rule any diseases out. You also want to be sure your cat isn’t experiencing any joint pain or dealing with an injury.
2. Try a different bowl
When a cat is avoiding drinking water normally, it could be because their water bowl is the wrong shape or height. Try to pay attention to their behaviour to see if they go to drink from the bowl but jerk their head back when their whiskers touch. This may be a sign to try a wider and perhaps even shallower bowl or saucer.
If they’re showing a bit of strain in other situations, such as eating or jumping up or down from things, it may be a sign that they’re bowl is too low for their mobility and they may prefer one that allows them to drink water while standing up.
3. Keep water at a consistent level
It’s always a good idea to give your cat fresh water at the start of every day. Their water bowls can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so you should be cleaning it every few days as well. This will get you in the habit of topping up their water bowl and your cat will start to realize the water level is almost always at the top of the bowl.
4. Try a cat water fountain
A cat water fountain, such as the options below, will keep the water moving. If your cat is using their paw to drink because they have a hard time seeing where the water starts, the movement will help them see where the water is. Or they can drink from a spout.
5. Move their water bowl
Try moving your cat’s water bowl to a different location if you think they’ve been startled in the past. This will help them break the connection between a scary event and their water dish. You may also try moving their water dish a few feet away from a corner. This will allow your cat to sit with their back in the corner while they drink water; keeping their back protected and allowing them to see out into the room.
I hope this article has helped you determine why your cat is drinking water with their paw 🙂
You may also be interested in reading:
- Why Does My Cat Drink from my Water Glass (& How to Stop it)
- Why Your Cat Moves the Water Bowl & How to Stop Them