I just adopted a cute little 1 year old and one of the first things I noticed when I brought her home is that she liked to knock over her water dish. What she would do is paw at the dish until some water spilt and then she would drink the spilt water. Sometimes it would just be a little and sometimes the whole contents of the bowl would spill. I have a pretty heavy glass bowl and the water is changed constantly.

So my question is, what causes this behaviour and how do I correct it?

  • Mine has had the exact same behavior since she was a kitten. In her case I discovered it was related to the depth of the bowl. She does not play with a shallow bowl. With a deep bowl, even full to the brim, she will always knock it around then drink off the floor. Sometimes she does drink from the deep bowl but when she does she takes a very... willful (?) pose first (she'll plant her front paws firmly in the ground and stare at the bowl with much trepidation before bravely drinking). She is 1 yr now and the behavior remains. Try a shallower bowl, like a dog bowl.
    – Jason C
    Feb 3, 2015 at 22:59
  • In fact now that I've written that, it occurs to me that perhaps it is related to the depth of the water itself. I will try some experiments with a deep bowl with not much water in it and see if she still does it.
    – Jason C
    Feb 3, 2015 at 23:00
  • I also agree with wanting to know where the water is at... My kitten Abbie knocks her water bowl over EVERY SINGLE TIME I put fresh water in her bowl... I have tried switching out bowls and nothing is helping. I recently caught her with her paw in the toilet just flinging it around 😂 but I think I will try a fountain I just came across them on Google, so let's pray... Although I have noticed when she knocks her water over she is quite aggressive and I'm not sure why. Aug 15, 2020 at 18:04

5 Answers 5


Cats in the wild prefer running water. Still water can have leaves and scum on it, so cats learn to clear the surface with a paw. Those where this instinct is strong can make a big mess.

A good way is to replace a water dish with a recirculating fountain to create a permanent stream. This will also encourage your cat to drink, which can help fight kidney disease in later life.

  • Hm interesting. My last cat never had an issue with this and she lived until 20. I might invest in one of those, they look pretty cool actually.
    – aman207
    Feb 3, 2015 at 18:37
  • The amount of interest in splashing can vary from cat to cat...but all cats I've known really like the fountains to drink from.
    – Oldcat
    Feb 3, 2015 at 18:39

This is cute, I never heard of this before though I have some suggestion to it.

1) Your cat is bored and some cats do like to play wtih water. Try getting some toys for her and spend some time every day to play with her.

2) The bowl you're using is too steep for her drinking. My cat prefers drinking water from flat and broad surface with a suitable height for her. It might also be the shape of the glass bowl use that makes her behave this way.

Something like this container's height will be good.

enter image description here

  • Might as well be the bowl's material (like aluminium reflecting light). Try some flat that's notreflective, like some ceramic one, if yoou can.
    – Mario
    Feb 3, 2015 at 8:08
  • @Mario I see but am afraid that some one accidentally break it for the ceramic one..
    – Win.T
    Feb 3, 2015 at 8:15

Just for the curious, we ended up putting a small amount of water on a small plate and replaced it with the bowl. She didn't try to tip it over anymore and just drank like normal. We make sure we change it regularly and that she always has enough water.


I've wondered about this and I have decided that the cat wants to be able to tell where the surface of the water is so as to not stick their nose in it.

I think they paw at the bowl to cause vibration and movement in the water to be able to more clearly see where the air stops and the water begins.

Others speak of fountains and such. Some cats, we've had a few, like to drink from the faucet and like the fountains. Also, I fountain will have movement on the surface of the water which, again, I think helps the cat figure out just where the water starts.

Cat's put very little in the water, just a bit of the end of their tongue and I simply think this is all about determining where the water starts.

That's my take based on the observation of a lot of cats.


I have 3 indoor male cats ages 20, 13, and 10. I have 6 water bowls throughout the house. The type of bowls containing various brands of daily changed bottled water and placement of the bowls have not changed since 2011.

About 3-months ago, my 12-yr old started scooping out most of the water with his paw. This later progressed to tipping-over the entire bowl. He doesn't do this all of the time, but often enough to cause concern.

Now all 3 cats are tipping-over their water bowls. I am not satisfied with people's assumptions that cats do this because of their whiskers, for play, or due to instinctively wanting or craving running water.

After all these years of drinking water normally, why this sudden change in behavior? I am looking into the theory that its a chemical in the plastic bottle as many brands have switched to a much thinner and flimsy type of bottle. Stay tuned.

  • Welcome to Pets, this is more of an anecdote that a referenced and objective answer, this Q&A site prefers answers that are not based on more than only a single household example, please try adding some external references which could support your theory of this.
    – lila
    Sep 28, 2020 at 19:34

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