Although you might think a cat would want to avoid a bathtub at all costs, many love to spend their leisure time in one. This may or may not be cause for concern (find out when and why you should worry about a cat sitting in the bathtub). The same applies to a cat licking the bathtub. Usually, it’s harmless behavoir, but there are situations in which cat owners should be concerned.
A cat will lick the bathtub to either get a drink of water after the tub or shower has been used or because they like the feel of the cool, smooth surface on their tongue. Drinking water from the tub may not be concerning at all, but it can be the sign of a health issue or that something’s off with their water dish.
Let’s take a look at the reasons your cat may be licking the bathtub, if/when you should be concerned, and ways to stop the behavior if it’s undesirable to you.
1. Smooth surface
Not all cat behavior can be logically explained (just like it’s hard to explain why humans love popping bubble wrap). If your cat isn’t particularly interested in the tub right after you bathe or shower, but rather, they lick the tub when it’s dry, it may just be they like the smooth surface.
You may also find them licking plastic bags, mirrors, or other smooth surfaces (check out: Why Does My Cat Paw at Smooth Surfaces?)
SHOULD YOU BE CONCERNED?
This may just be a quirky trait of your cat, but there’s no harm in speaking to your veterinarian about it. If the behavior seems obsessive and is accompanied by other strange/worrisome/obsessive behavior, your cat may be dealing with a mental health issue. Cats can experience anxiety, stress, and even disorders such as OCD (source). There are medications your veterinarian can prescribe to help. Here’s an interesting article on the subject.
It’s also important to consider what your cat may be ingesting when licking the bathtub. If your cat has a habit of it, be sure you thoroughly rinse the tub after each use to wash away any soap suds and hair. You should also thoroughly rinse the bathtub or shower after cleaning it. You may even consider switching to a natural, non-toxic bathroom cleaner to reduce any risks of your cat ingesting small amounts of cleaners.
2. Water source
It’s most likely your cat is licking the tub to get the little drops of water left behind after your shower or bathe. It will be fairly obvious to you if that’s what they’re after. But why do they lick the bathtub for water when they have a bowl full of it next to their food?
In the wild, cats look for fresh, moving water sources (e.g. a stream), which could explain why they’re drawn to the bathtub. They would also typically kill their prey, eat, nest, eliminate, and drink water in different spots. Your cat may like that the water in the bathtub is a fresher water source, and that it’s separate from their food dish.
They may also prefer the taste of water from the bathtub. Porcelain tubs aren’t porous and won’t leak any harmful chemicals into the water. The same can’t be said for most plastic pet bowls, which may make their water taste funny.
It may even be possible that you keep the bathtub cleaner than their water dish. Just as you wouldn’t want to drink water from a slimy container with 5-day old water, your cat doesn’t want to either.
SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED?
If this behavior is new, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian about it. An increase in thirst/water intake can be a sign of diabetes, kidney, liver, or urinary tract disease, hyperthyroidism, etc.
If your veterinarian has given your cat a clean bill of health, it may just be their natural instincts kicking in to drink from the fresh water source that’s away from their food. However, it’s worth exploring some scenarios with their current water supply to see if it can be improved (find suggestions below).
You also want to keep the shower free of any soap residue, hair, and toxic cleaners. Thoroughly rinse the tub or shower after each use and after cleaning. Consider switching to more natural soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and cleaners to reduce the risk of your cat licking up something toxic.
How do I stop my cat from licking the bathtub?
The simplest way to stop your cat from licking the bathtub is to close the bathroom door. But you should also explore the reasons your cat may prefer the bathtub water over their water dish to see if you can make improvements that decrease your cat’s interest in the bathtub.
1. VET CHECKUP
If the behaviour is new, take your cat to the veterinarian to be sure there isn’t an underlying health issue that’s changed since your last vet checkup. Our cat seemed completely healthy, but he became more and more obsessed with drinking water from the tub after a shower and drinking from a tap. It turned out he had diabetes and that was the reason behind his new behavior.
Once your cat has been deemed healthy by a veterinarian, explore the other water bowl factors mentioned below.
2. FRESH WATER
Your cat’s water dish should be emptied, cleaned, and refilled with fresh water each day. Their water bowl can be a breeding ground for bacteria so it’s important to keep it clean. A cat water fountain with circulating water will help, but it’s still important to clean the bowl and change the water regularly.
If your cat is heading to the bathtub because they prefer the freshness of the water, seeing you fill their bowl each morning with water from a running tap may just do the trick.
You may also consider the type of water you fill your cat’s dish with, this article explains what kind is best for your cat.
3. NEW BOWL
Plastic water bowls can leak chemicals into your cat’s water and make it taste strange. Consider switching to a porcelain water bowl or stainless-steel water bowl. It will keep the water cooler longer and won’t absorb or leak anything.
4. WATER FOUNTAIN
If it’s the sound of moving water that draws your cat to the bathtub when you’re showing, a cat water fountain may make their water station more desirable. There are several options here, but the ones below are popular among cat owners:
5. WATER BOWL LOCATION
As mentioned, in the wild, cats would typically eat and drink in different locations. Those natural instincts may be coming out in your cat and it may feel more natural to drink water from the bathtub, which is far away from their food dish.
You can try moving their water dish to a new location, or even next to or in the bathtub if you’re concerned about chemicals they may ingest drinking bathtub/shower water.
6. ADD ANOTHER BOWL
If you have another cat in the house, try adding another water bowl and putting it in a different location. It may be that one cat is more territorial and has marked the water dish area, or guards it, and your other cat doesn’t feel comfortable drinking from it.
If your cat likes to poop in the bathtub, that’s another problem. Find out why and how to fix it.
I hope this article has helped you understand why your cat licks the bathtub 🙂