This is one I haven't seen before: our cat (about 18 months old, rescued from the street before 6 months old) always wants to be sure there is food floating in her water bowl before she drinks from it. If the water is clear, then without fail she very intentionally switches to her food bowl, takes 3-4 pieces in her mouth, and goes back to her water bowl to drop them in. (She ignores this ritual with other water sources, such as the toilet when someone forgets to leave the lid down...)

The pieces of food gradually soak up water, deteriorate, and make it rather unappealling — from a human point of view. What's the appeal to her? To clarify, we're not concerned, just curious.

One hypothesis so far is that she just likes the taste of her food and wants to flavour her water. But I gather that taste doesn't play a huge role in a cat's diet. Another one is that she isn't sure about the water level and wants some "buoys" floating in it to better gauge it. If so, she's a pretty weird cat, considering they don't all do this!

What are your ideas?

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    Update: We moved the water dish about 9 inches from her food dish. She now consistently drinks from it without going to get food to drop in! This seems to have solved the problem. We may try to move it back to avoid tripping over it but we'll see if this fix takes or not. Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 1:59
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    taste doesn't play a huge role in a cat's diet smell does, though.
    – Flater
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 10:43

7 Answers 7


Cats can develop strange little rituals when it comes to food and drink. If I put down food that our cat is not prepared to eat, he will stand over it and scratch the floor as if he is trying to cover up his droppings. You can't really make a more pointed complaint than that, without putting it in writing.

As for your cat, it may be that she simply doesn't like the taste of tap water. Remember that she has been used to drinking standing water that will have had all sorts of contaminants in it. Is her water bowl made of stainless steel? Such bowls will impart a metallic taste that a cat can certainly detect. Our cat didn't like drinking from a metal bowl that we used with a previous pet, so I bought him a ceramic bowl for his water. He has been quite happy with that.

Some cats prefer to drink running water, and there are plenty of videos on YouTube showing cats drinking from kitchen taps. However, this doesn't seem to be the case with your cat, especially if she drinks out of the loo, given the opportunity.

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    Agree with Mick--my guess is you're using a stainless bowl. Switch to ceramic, especially since the ceramic toilet bowl seems to her liking. Because she is a rescue, you don't know her experiences, idiosyncrasies, etc. I would clean her eating area with very mild soap and water, then new bowl filled with spring water. I refill my 5 gallon container at the store for a buck. A good article on tap water for pets: petplace.com/article/dogs/news-videos-fun/news/…
    – M.Mat
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 23:56
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    We're using a ceramic bowl, but I think we will try other water than tap water and see if that changes things. To be updated... Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 4:27
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    :-D My cat too used to show her dissatisfaction with the fare by "burying" her food bowl on occasion. Another cat I had wouldn't drink the clean tap water from his water bowl, but prefer to drink from pot-holes with dirt-water outside - guess he didn't trust water he couldn't see... Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 14:08
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    @BaardKopperud Such is the charm of our feline companions. Those who don't "get" cats obviously have no sense of humour.
    – Mick
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 14:42
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    Incidentally, we tried a different food for her recently, and she immediately started dropping about twice as much in her water. We assume the new stuff is half as flavourful. :p Commented May 25, 2017 at 13:48

I'm a fairly new cat owner.

I adopted my kitten after finding her in the street at roughly 5 weeks old. She is now in the region of 4 - 5 months old and for the last couple of weeks she started doing the exact same thing. Her bowl has a built in, inverted water bottle; which gravity fills a tiny void next to the food bowl, up to a certain level that stays constant.

At first I thought it was just a fun game she was playing, as she never actually eats the food in the water. It eventually gets soggy and the water turns murky, so I would tip it over so the bowl gets replenished with fresh water. That's when I noticed that whenever I do this, she comes running and starts lapping up the water immediately and taking in quite a bit of it at that time.

This has now led me to believe that it's her way of saying the water has been stagnant for too long and she needs a change. So far, it does actually seem to be the case as she drinks the fresh water every time.

This is just my personal opinion, but it makes sense. Hope it helps.


My water is chlorinated from sink, my tomcat will tote food across the room in his mouth to dump in his water system. I purposely separated the food area across the kitchen from the water bowl to see if he would stop doing this. It not only makes the water messy, the heavy plastic bowl also has to be broken apart every day to wash the God awful sewer smell from inside.

I think it may be the smell and taste of chlorinated water that he doesn't like. I'm going to try leaving gallon jug of water out overnight to see if that is the issue. I will let you know how it goes.

Cats are a trip; but I wouldn't take a million for him. Good luck and please post if you find the trick.

  • I give my cats tap water and they drink it just fine, but what I try to do is fill the dish and then let it sit for just a little while. It doesn't take all night for the chlorine to escape. I do this for myself, too - it tastes fine if it sits for a little while. About 15-30 minutes maybe (I've never timed it).
    – Violets
    Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 16:31

Try adding marbles to the bowl!

I've had this experience with 4 different cats now. The food in the water made the water mucky and it would even stink sometimes. I tried separating the water bowl from their food which seemed to work. Later, I tried to put the water bowl back next to their food, and the same thing happened again. More cat food in the water!

I noticed the way a few of my cats stared into the water as if they were looking for something. But it was just water. I thought maybe they're looking for the bottom of the bowl, or maybe it's because cats see things differently and it's a referencing thing? So I tried an experiment.

I dropped about 5 to 6 colored marbles in their water bowl, and problem solved! They haven't dropped one piece of cat food in it since.

So whatever it is, food play, visual thing, I don't know, but it seems to work. Image of several different sized marbles in a water dish

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    I'd worry a little bit about the cats trying to play with the marbles and accidentally swallowing them or trying to bite them and break a tooth. Obviously I don't know for sure that would happen, but we all know how they love to put everything in their mouths...
    – Violets
    Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 16:35

my cat does the same. she is about 5 and this just recently started. she hides food in her mouth and spits it in the water bowl. I thought it was because her water bowl is glass. maybe she just cant see it without the food in it? but recently she has been spitting her food out around the house as well. its almost like it gets stuck in her teeth or something. its not chewed at all. i think she may be gorging on her food or may have some dental issues. I will move her bowl away from the food to see if that helps. thanks for the tips! it's a nasty little habit.


My male cat is 15 years old, I rescued him right when he was weaned, he's done this his entire life, I've been on city water before and well water, but he much prefers fresh rainwater, I can only surmise that the flavor deposited in the water from the pipes is unappealing, if I put the water in a bottle and let it settle before giving him some it seems to do the trick, until the water gets stagnant then it's back to flavoring it up with his food, I came here for a better answer because he actually put a piece of broccoli I didn't notice I dropped in it today, but I honestly think it's just piped water leaves the flavor of the pipes. There are no real scientific answers to this question not even a veterinarian can answer it in 15 years.


One of my cats takes a piece of dry food in his mouth and drops it in the water and waits a few seconds before he scoops it out with his paw and eats it. I tell everyone he’s making soup.

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