Ever since she was a kitten, my cat has generally preferred to pull her kibble out of her food bowl a piece at a time and eat them off of the floor. She also has a tendency to drink her water by dipping her paws in and licking the water off.

She displays this behaviour about half the time. As far as I can tell, it's usually when she is more relaxed or lazy, but there's no discernible pattern from which I can draw conclusions.

Occasionally she will lounge with one arm around the kibble bowl, pulling the food out with the other paw, almost as if she's eating a bag of chips.

  • It's just her style.... My cats all have different eating styles. My cat Pounce does things similar to your cat (she pawed food more when she was younger). She also likes to paw at the water bowl. It is a personal style and makes things more interesting, food and play at the same time.
    – Dan S
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 2:08
  • 1
    One of mine does this too. Its a heck of a mess and attracts ants if left on the floor, but as I am working from home these days, a small dustpan and brush come in handy--I just sweep it back up and re-deposit it in the bowl. (They only eat dry) With cats, I know I can only train them so much, I have to pick my battles. This one I have given up on and just sweep it up.
    – cat momma
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 13:58
  • One thing to check: is the bowl shallow enough and small enough for her to comfortably reach the food?
    – keshlam
    Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 19:12
  • My cats do this. I read about the whisker touching the sides of their dishes. I have since used larger bowls and it has helped. Although they still do it from time to time
    – user10220
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 11:47

3 Answers 3


I have a cat who does this, and have heard about the behavior in other cats. One researcher (sorry I don't have a reference) believes that some cats don't like their whiskers touching the sides of food or water bowls, so they use their paws. In engineering terms whiskers serve as sensitive proximity sensors, sending a signal to the brain when they contact something.

You can try a bigger bowl or a fountain-style bowl if you don't like puddles of water around the water bowl. Several of my cats enjoy sitting in the tub or sink and drinking a thin steam of water right from the tap.

  • 1
    Hmm, I can imagine cats doing this because of whisker sensitivity. It's tough to know whether this is the case with mine as she only does it sometimes. As I mentioned, it may be based on her mood.
    – MokoJumbie
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 19:33
  • 1
    Recently, I got her a food-dispensing ball which she seems to enjoy. Of course, it deposits kibble on the floor, so she's probably fine with that. I'll try using a shallow, wider dish for her kibble for a while and report back on whether there is a behavioural change. Yes, mine likes to drink from the bathroom tap as well. Before long I think she may figure out how to turn it on. :) (I apologize for separate comments. I didn't realize the comment would be submitted on hitting return.)
    – MokoJumbie
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 19:43

A cat I had pawed her food as well. In her case, there were ants who had found traces of food in her dish and she was trying to separate her food from the ants. Once she started doing this, it became a habit that she continued.

Pawing water in a dish may be a reaction to an unfortunate drinking accident in the past (darn that clear water! sneeze, sneeze). Drinking water directly from the faucet may be a preference for cleaner water than she can get in a bowl. Or there may actually be a difference in flavor; my brother used to claim he could taste which faucet in our house water came from, but since I couldn't taste any difference he may have been trying to pull one over on me.


I have a subscription to Catster Magazine, formerly known as Cat Fancy. Had it for years now and have learned a lot from it. One article says that cats do not see water unless it's moving (because it's clear). That may be the reason they prefer to drink from the tap. I have a cat fountain which works for my cat quite well but she still prefers to drink from the tap if possible. I also learned about them not liking to eat from dishes that touch their whiskers. I bought bigger bowls.

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