Cats have formed all kinds of human-like habits that often confuse and entertain their owners. For example, they have learned to watch TV, enjoy Sunday morning lie-ins, and on occasion, they will eat their food or drink their water with their paws.
Is this just cats imitating us? Or is there some sort of cat logic behind it?
Why Does My Cat Drink Water With Her Paw?
Cats will drink water with their paws when they are unsure of its depth, when they don’t like their water bowl or where it is placed and their whiskers are getting in the way, or when they are not sure about the water quality.
A cat that is drinking with their paw may also be ill, or they may be feeling particularly vulnerable for whatever reason.
While seeing a cat drink with their paw is no immediate cause for concern on its own, you will want to keep a closer eye on them. If they are behaving differently than normal, you may want to take them to the vet to make sure they are okay.
Remember that cats can’t go too long without water, especially in the hotter months. If the water in their bowl gets warm or stale, they won’t want to drink it, which could lead to dehydration.
Let’s take a look at all the reasons a cat may choose to drink water with its paw.
Their Whiskers Are Sensitive
A cat’s whiskers are very sensitive. Their ends have numerous nerve endings which cats use to analyze the world around them.
If their water bowl is too small and narrow, or too deep, their whiskers can get irritated when they drink. Instead of dealing with it, they may simply choose to dip their paw in and drink from there.
Get your cat a wide, shallow water bowl that will accommodate their whiskers. Also make sure to upgrade the bowl as your cat grows. Bowls aren’t that expensive, so you can test out several to determine what your feline prefers. The rest you can use to give water to your local strays.
They Are Testing the Depth
Cats are creatures of habit, and they like things just so. If you are inconsistent with the amount of water in their bowl, they will dip their paw in to test out the depth, or may drink from their paw to avoid tipping their nose in the water.
Cats also like to be able to see what is going on around them while they are drinking. If they need to dip their head in too low, they will opt for the paw instead. This is especially true for timid cats, or in households where there are numerous pets or very young children. A cat will want to stay alert when there is too much going on around them.
Aim to keep the water in their bowl as fresh as possible, and at roughly the same level. Every time you walk past it, you can check how much is left and pour them fresh water. This will both encourage them to drink and make them feel more comfortable.
They Are Feeling Unsafe or Insecure
Cats understand that they are quite exposed while drinking their water. In the wild, water is a rare commodity, and both hunters and prey know that a skirmish might arise near it.
A cat’s instincts are still very highly developed, so if they are feeling insecure or unsafe, and believe they may need to bolt, they will drink water with their paw, as this allows them to observe the situation around them.
This may happen if your cat has undergone a change recently. You may have moved, you may have a new pet or family member, or something may have happened to upset your usual routine. If the cat’s bowl is placed in a busy area, it may cause them to drink with their paw too.
Aim to provide as much of a stress-free environment for your cat as possible. Stay consistent with your routines, including feeding and playing times, and make sure their bowl is placed in a cool, quiet area where they can be alone, but still observe what is going on around them.
They Don’t Like the Water Bowl
If your cat’s water bowl is too narrow, too high or too low, they may not want to drink from it at all. But since they also won’t want to go thirsty, they will dip their paw in as the second best solution.
The aforementioned whisker sensitivity is the key culprit here, as is the fact that cats naturally like to drink crouching down. If they need to assume a position that feels odd, or if they need to practically dip their nose in the water, they won’t like it.
They Don’t Like Where the Water Bowl Is
Cats want their water bowl to be placed somewhere where they can feel safe. If it’s up against a wall and they need to expose their back to the door, they will dip their paw in rather than crouch down.
Aim to place the bowl away from the wall, and provide space all around it for your cat. Try to plant several water bowls around the home, so the cat can choose where they want to drink, depending on what is going on elsewhere.
They Don’t Like the Water
If their water has been sitting out too long, a cat will not drink it. It will likely have gotten too warm, and chances are there are all kinds of particles in it too.
Aim to give your cat cool, fresh water as often as possible, and pour roughly the same amount in their bowl as well. This will help them feel more relaxed, as they will soon learn that there is a consistent source of water in the home (namely, you), and that they don’t have to worry about going thirsty.
They Are Getting Older
As our cats get older, they will suffer the indignities of old age we all succumb to. Their eyesight may be getting worse, so they won’t be able to judge how deep the water in their bowl is. They may also be suffering from arthritis, so their joints may hurt when they crouch down to drink.
Take your senior cat to the vet to try and determine if they are having any health-related issues that may be causing them to drink with their paw. Observe their behavior, and adjust as much as you can to their advancing age.
They May Be Ill
We do have to note that a cat may be drinking with their paw when they are ill. They may be having balance issues or stomach trouble, they may have issues with their eyesight, and so on. You will most likely notice other changes in their behavior, so your best course of action will be to take them to the vet.
Cats Prefer Running Water
Some cats will prefer drinking running water, rather than from the stagnant pool in their bowl. In the wild, running water is fresher and less likely to be infected with bacteria or parasites. It has been ingrained in a cat’s DNA that drinking from a stagnant pool can be bad for them.
If your cat loves the faucets and magically appears by your side every time you wash your hands or the dishes, you can be sure they are in touch with this knowledge. Get them a water fountain to simulate running water. Also, let them drink from the tap too. You can clean up after them if you need to.
It’s Just Fun
Finally, drinking with one’s paw might just be highly entertaining or enjoyable. Who are we to deprive a cat from having some fun? They may just like playing with water.
You may however want to add a couple more toys into their life, especially the interactive kind that requires them to think differently. Your cat may just be looking for some mental stimulation when they are playing with their water.
Why Does My Cat Dip Their Paw In the Water Before Drinking?
Cats dip their paw in water before drinking to test it out. They may want to be perfectly sure it’s safe, or determine how far they need to stick their head in.
Cats may not be able to tell how high the water in their bowl is, so they will use their paw to test the depth before drinking. They may also want to be absolutely sure it’s safe to drink, especially if it’s been sitting in that bowl for quite a while.
Should I Prevent My Cat From Drinking Water With Their Paw?
In most cases, you shouldn’t prevent your cat from drinking with their paw. Unless you can connect the behavior with illness or stress, let them have their fun.
You may need to wipe the space around their bowl afterwards, but you can place a mat underneath it to prevent too much spillage. A cat won’t leave its paws wet, so you won’t have to worry about paw marks cropping up all over the house.
How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Drinking Water With Their Paw?
While you don’t need to stop your cat drinking water with their paw per se, there are things you can do to improve their drinking environment.
1 – Make Sure They Are Healthy
Your first order of business is to make sure your cat is healthy and that there is no underlying issue that is causing them to drink with their paw. If their vet checkup comes out clear, you can consider making some alterations to stop them drinking with their paw, to make them more comfortable.
2 – Get a Better Bowl
Cats typically prefer shallow and wide bowls, so you may want to get them a new one. You can test several of them out, and see what they like. You can also get them several bowls, and distribute them around the house.
3 – Move the Bowl
Your cat may also feel uncomfortable with the bowl’s placement. Try moving it to a more quiet area, where they will feel more relaxed when drinking.
4 – Try a Water Fountain
If your cat prefers drinking running water, try getting them a water fountain. Place it in a calm area yet again, and see how they like it.
5 – Keep the Water Fresh and Consistent
Aim to give your cat roughly the same amount of water every time, and change it as frequently as possible. You wouldn’t want to drink a warm, stale cup of water either. Every time you walk past the bowl, change their water.
Wrapping It Up
Cats can be finicky and very particular creatures. Try figuring out what suits your cat best when it comes to their drinking and eating routines, and please them as much as you can. Why do cats eat with their paws is also somewhat of a mystery to us, but nevertheless a habit we just have to accept about our furry friends.