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Why Does My Cat Move Their Water Bowl? 5 Typical Reasons (Vet-Reviewed)

Lorre Luther

By Lorre Luther

bengal cat playing water in the bowl

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats love to move their water bowls, as probably just about every human cat companion knows. You put down your feline’s water bowl in just the right place, and within seconds, your kitty has used a paw to move their dish, leaving a puddle of water behind for you to clean up. While cats are generally not the most well-behaved creatures on earth (hence their propensity to jump on coffee tables and knock glasses onto floors), this is one habit that makes sense, at least to your kitty. Keep reading for five typical reasons that your cat moves their water bowl!

hepper cat paw divider

The 5 Reasons Why Your Cat Moves Their Water Bowl

1. Cats Have Bad Close-Up Vision

Cats don’t see very well up close or in bright light. Their vision is optimized for hunting at dawn and dusk, meaning their night vision puts ours to shame, and they can focus on quickly moving objects more efficiently than we can. Their distance vision, however, is not quite as sharp as ours. They need to be within 20 feet of an object to see it as well as we can from 200 feet away.

Cats also lack the ability to focus on objects less than 1 foot away; they simply don’t have the muscles to change their retinal curve, making it impossible to focus on things close by. Cats often have difficulty seeing how much water is in their bowls, so they’ll stick a paw in the dish to gauge how far down they need to bend to get a drink, moving their water bowl a bit in the process.

2. Cats Love to Play

Cats like playing with things. They love swatting and using their paws to knock things over, and they’ll happily stick a paw in a water dish to entertain themselves. While some cats love water and enjoy dipping their tails in the bathtubs and going after fish in aquariums, others will resort to playing with the water in their water dish out of sheer boredom.

If you suspect your kitty might be fooling with their water bowl due to a desire to play, consider giving them a few more toys to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. While it’s always a great idea to spend more one-on-one time with your cat, many busy owners find that food puzzles provide their feline companions with a mentally challenging activity that keeps their cat out of trouble around meal time.

cream tabby maine coon cat playing water
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

3. Cats Love Moving Water

Kitties tend to prefer drinking moving water. It’s one of the reasons that veterinarians recommend buying a fountain for your cat; the running water encourages cats to drink enough to stay adequately hydrated and keep their kidneys healthy. Cats will often try to simulate the feeling of running water by using a paw to stir things up. A quick dip is often all it takes to make still water more appealing.

If you suspect your kitty is dipping their paw into their bowl to get things moving, a cat fountain might be a wise investment. Several designs are available, from simple plastic choices with filters to artisanal hand-glazed options. If you decide to purchase a cat fountain, keep in mind that some cats don’t like the taste of plastic. Using a metal or ceramic dish may be better.

4. Your Cat Might See Their Reflection

If your cat has a metal water bowl, it might be reacting to its reflection, as if there’s another cat nearby striking at the dish. Because cats can’t see well up close, seeing “another cat” might be a bit disconcerting for a curious feline. Imagine the confusion of possibly encountering another cat near your water bowl but not having smelled or sensed the strange creature at all before that moment.

It makes sense that a kitty in that circumstance might decide to reach out and give the image an investigatory poke or two, which then ends up moving the water bowl.

5. There’s Something About the Bowl

Kitties can be particular about their water bowls. Cats that dislike some aspect of their bowl often use a paw to knock the water onto the floor, where they can drink more comfortably. This usually occurs when the water bowl is too deep for your pet to reach the water comfortably or if the dish is too narrow and their whiskers hit the sides of the dish.

Your cat’s whiskers are incredibly sensitive, with each strand sending sensory messages to anywhere from 100 to 200 neurons. If a food or water bowl frequently touches your kitty’s whiskers, your cat’s brain can become overstimulated from too much sensory input. To avoid hitting their whiskers, kitties will use their paw to knock water onto the floor and drink from there instead.

Our cats deserve the best when it comes to their food and water dishes. These essential items must be well designed with the specific needs of our felines as top priority. Our Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl is a modern, whisker-friendly option that serves as an all-in-one pet dish. The removable stainless steel bowls are shallow for optimum comfort and slide securely into a PP plastic tray with a wide lip tailored to catch any overflow. This bowl is entirely dishwasher-friendly, too, which helps with tidying up (and will keep your cat happy)! 

Hepper 360 Cat Feeder, Stainless Steel, Anti-Chew...
  • NO MESS - The 360° tray on this cat food and water bowl set has a raised design to catch and...
  • WHISKER FRIENDLY - Shallow and wide metal containers with flat bottoms ensure your kitty can enjoy...

hepper cat paw divider


While it’s hard to understand all the reasons behind feline behavior, there’s generally a reason motivating most kitty shenanigans. While it can be tempting to chalk your furry companion’s behavior up to naughtiness, there’s often a justification for their antics. Cats love to move their water bowls for all sorts of reasons, and while we can speculate, we’ll never really know the true reason our cats insist on playing with and “adjusting the location” of their water bowls.

Featured Image Credit: kalyanby, Shutterstock

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