We've recently noticed our cat goes to its water plate/tray/pot and, instead of drinking the water as she usually does, she puts the tip of her paw in the water, and then licks her paw.

She does that a couple of times in a row, then goes on with her life.

As I've said, she also drinks water straight from the pot as cats regularly do - it's not that she doesn't know how to drink water or something.

We're having fun seeing her do this - it's kind of funny weird. Is this behavior usual in cats? We're intrigued to know if there's a known reason for this behavior.

2 Answers 2


This is your cats instinct and is a leftover from when cats lived in the wild.

The behaviour is normal and is how many cats in the wild removes floating leaves and other stuff from their water source.

Most cats prefer running water over pools of stagnant water in the wild and the surface of running water will stay cleaner than water in pools.

A lot of a cats behaviour is learned from their mother so if your cat learned to dip the paw in water from the mother your cat will often continue to do it this way.

And some cats dip their paw in water and lick the water off their paw just for the fun of it.

  • I've seen a cat learn it by accident -- pawing inside a 1/2-full cup, then shaking and finally cleaning it's paw, Once it knows how, it seems to be the cat equivalent of drinking through a straw. Aug 24, 2020 at 22:49
  • 1
    Are there any sources for this information?
    – Dioxin
    Apr 11, 2021 at 3:51

This is not exactly usual behavior, but your cat is definitely not alone in dipping its paws in its water bowl in order to drink.

Whether a cat will do this depends on the individual animal and the situation. Some cats are more tactile than others, and are more likely to use their paws sort of like hands instead of using their mouths. When it comes to the water bowl, a cat might be extra motivated to do this if there's something about putting its face in the bowl that it doesn't really like. It's theorized that many cats don't like the feeling up putting their head inside a bowl because their whiskers will brush against the side of the bowl, or maybe because it can't see its surroundings when its face is in the bowl, especially if the bowl is up against the wall.

Though I don't think this is a particularly concerning problem, it might be a good idea to try things to see if you can make the water bowl more appealing, so it isn't inclined to do this at all anymore, such as getting a bigger bowl, placing it in a more open area, and trying to keep it more full. The reason why I suggest this is because cats frequently don't drink as much as they should, and if the cat is showing signs it isn't thrilled about its water bowl, it could also be the case that it's drinking even less than it would be if it liked the bowl better.

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