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I have a ~4 year old cat of uncertain breed. For as long as I can remember, he's had the rather unfortunate habit of drinking out of cups containing water instead of his own water bowl. Considering that we let him outdoors where he hunts a lot of rodents and small birds, this makes the prospect of continuing to finish said beverages an unpleasant one.

I could start rambling on about how this is all my fault for allowing him to drink out of a near empty glass of water as a kitten, but I'd really just like him to stop.

Every time I get a glass of water, I have to be careful to drink the entire contents of the container, lest my cat jump up on the table and stick his head inside. Indeed, if the glass is empty, he'll sometimes come over to sniff it. Indeed, he just likes sniffing things in general, but that's probably a non-issue.

Thankfully, he doesn't seem to like the smell of anything that isn't tapwater, but that's a small grace considering the fact I almost exclusively drink the stuff!

I've tried putting various things on top of the cups. Coasters, screwdriver kits, books... Coasters are easy to fit and they appear to discourage this behaviour slightly, but it's not uncommon to see him push them away with his nose. Heavier items seem to be more effective, but also make it easier for me to knock the glass over, and I'd rather he not jump up on my table and desk in the first place.

I should also mention that the water bowl I actually want him to drink from is a used, plastic tin of Celebrations chocolates that we empty, clean and fill whenever it starts looking like it's running low. We take our cat for regular checkups and I've never heard the vet mention anything about him being dehydrated. When there are no cups of water around, he'll drink out of the bowl just fine, usually after taking a bite of food first.

What can I do to stop him stealing drinks?

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    Not a cat owner myself, but what about covering the glass with a plastic sandwich bag? Do you think that might deter him? – bob Mar 24 at 20:11
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    Even it was a strictly indoor cat, I know where their tongue has been, and do not want it in my water. – Bradley Uffner Mar 26 at 16:32
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    You really shouldn't be letting your cat outside when he is knowingly decimating local wildlife populations. – BallpointBen Mar 26 at 20:24
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    Have you considered a refillable water bottle instead of a glass? Cat-proof, and much harder to spill if it is knocked over. – Bobson Mar 26 at 22:00
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    First problem: he jumps up on the table. My cats know this is strictly not allowed! – CJ Dennis Mar 27 at 0:06
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I propose replacing his assigned water bowl with something he likes drinking from, like a desert glass bowl or a drinking glass with a low rim.

Different containers can add their own smell and taste to the water in them, especially containers that aren't supposed to hold liquids for a long time. The main reason why water bottles have a use before date is not that the water somehow goes bad, but that the bottle itself slowly breaks down and releases weird chemicals into the water.

To make him unlearn that he can find drinkable water in your glass, you should always put a lid on your glass. There are different types available online or in stores for kitchenware. I think it would be best to find a lid that fits your usual drinking glass as best as possible, or maybe buy a new glass with a lid included.

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    Seconding using a covered container to drink from. One of my cats likes to "poke" my water, so I exclusively drink from bottles and lidded tumblers to prevent her from putting her paw in my drink. – Allison C Mar 24 at 13:13
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    Another good option is a pet fountain, especially if you have a cat that's averse to drinking standing water. I had one for a while and my cats used it all the time, which really cut down on them sneaking water from my cups. They didn't totally stop drinking from my cups-- cats are curious, and seeing fresh water flow into a cup seems to make it a high-priority target to sample. – Upper_Case Mar 24 at 16:13
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    Regarding the second paragraph, an answer on the Skeptics Stack Exchange refutes chemicals getting leeched into the water, although it cites just one study and other studies I've found online claim the bottle does break down after about two years. Needless to say, it's still a debated topic after all these years: Rory Alsop's answer to "Is refilling water bottles bad for you?" – Davy M Mar 24 at 17:52
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    @DavyM there’s a big difference between refilling a bottle (probably for a few months until you lose it), and leaving a bottle unopened for 5 years and then drinking the contents. – Tim Mar 24 at 18:07
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    My mom had a cat that apparently couldn't see standing water in his bowl. He'd sit there and slowly lower his face into the water to try to figure out where it was, only to generally get it in his nose. Being in a glass, the cat can probably see the water level better and avoid drowning when it tries to drink. I 2nd the fountain bowl suggestion, as my mom's cat would really only drink from a running/dribbling faucet. – computercarguy Mar 25 at 17:06
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I presume you're changing it very regularly already, but if not: make sure your cat's water is fresh, and keep the water and food bowls away from the litter box.

If the water in the glass is fresh but the one in the bowl is from hours ago or worse, one can hardly blame the cat for preferring to drink from a glass than from its bowl.

Cats sometimes prefer running water if given the opportunity to drink it. See for instance what happens if you leave a faucet slightly open. (If your cat is one of them, consider investing in a cat fountain.)

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    Denis mentions an important aspect that took me a while to realize: keep the water away from food bowls. My cats started actually drinking from the provided bowls once they were clearly not in the food area. Also, you can try offering more than one water bowl in various places. – Thor Mar 24 at 16:03
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    Yeah, you want to find three separate corners in your house: one for the food, one for the water and one for the litterbox. Keep them as separate as possible (though just a few feet should be sufficient). – Wasabi Mar 24 at 18:23
  • I do NOT advice wasting water by leaving a faucet running all day. But a fountain (e.g. the CatIt Fountain catit.com/shop/flower-fountain) are loved by probably every cat in the world. It may take her a few days to adopt it, but mine always loved it. – FrK Apr 7 at 7:55
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Add a bit of lemon or lime juice to your water. Cats generally dislike citrus and that may discourage the behavior. Of course, that's assuming you like lemon or lime flavored water.

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I have found that some cats seem to dislike getting their whiskers wet, and these cats generally prefer drinking from glasses instead of bowls since the whiskers are pushed back by the rim of the glass.

It's just a theory and I'm in no way a professional, but it might be worth a shot to replace the wide bowl with something a little narrower so he doesn't dip his whiskers in the water when he drinks.

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With my cat it was a matter of the specific water glass I was currently using. She just liked hanging out by me and using my stuff. I could take a water glass of mine she enjoyed drinking from, put it anywhere else, like by her water bowl, and she lost interest. For a while I poured 2 glasses and drank a little from each. She was happy picking one. My particular cat hated wobbly surfaces, so if one was on a flimsy table she'd gladly drink from the other.

Pouring an extra glass and checking is less work than a normal cat, which climbs all over your lap, and bats at your pen. Plus it's adorable. If you train yours to stop, you'll miss the little stretched out body and lapping sounds.

But I accidentally trained her to stop, anyway. A 1-handed lift-and-dump is easy, with practice. Being dropped from 3 feet is apparently a huge insult to some cats. She eventually learned to only go for food, including water, that I placed on the floor. For a while, I tried putting the second water glass for her down next to me, but it wasn't used much and I always ended-up kicking it over.

Also, as I write this, I'm drinking water out of a soft-drink bottle which seems less stable, but my current cat has never knocked it over.

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Cats instinctively dislike standing water, which in nature is a breeding ground for disease. He may be drinking your water because he can smell it's fresher than what's in his bowl.

A water fountain provides the running water that cats prefer, plus most have filters and a large reservoir that means you don't need to refill or clean them daily. When I switched, my cats lost interest in drinking anything else, plus they drink every time they pass the fountain.

Dehydration is the leading cause of fatal kidney failure in housecats, especially if you give them dry food, so anything that gets them drinking more water is a good thing.

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I have had cats my entire life. I have 6 cats at the moment and most of my cats have lived past 20 years old so trust me when I tell you that cats crave fresh water. I don't think you need to change YOUR behavior too much but getting a cup with a lid won't hurt.

What you need to focus on is what the cat needs and you are not providing. Sometimes cats develop kidney disease slowly over time because cat owners only give them dry food and they start showing signs that their kidneys are not functioning fully by constantly seeking out fresh water from sinks, your drink etc. Dry food is not natural for them as in the wild if they were hunting, they'd be eating wet meat regularly and not a dehydrated kibble. Please consider giving your cat wet canned food daily. We do that and since it is more expensive, we give them wet in the morning and then a combination of wet and dry at night.

Also, we have seven water bowls throughout the house(we even keep one outside in the patio and it's so many because we have 6 cats. If you only have 1 cat, you might try getting 2 bowls) and we change them out with fresh water 2 times a day, morning and afternoon. Also, plastic will start to harbor bacteria even if you wash it. I suggest tossing any plastic food or water bowls and getting ceramic for the food and a few water stainless steel or stainless steel lined dishes as this keeps the water freshest. Put the bowls in different places in the house.

Good luck!

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