Why Do Cats Dip Paws in Their Water Bowl?

Cats show love and affection to one another, and humans, by using body language.
I​​mage from kittyspout

Cats are known for their quirky and mysterious behavior, and one of the most common actions that can leave cat owners scratching their heads is when their feline friend dips their paws in their water bowl.

First and foremost, it's important to understand that cats are natural hunters and survivors. In the wild, cats have to find their own sources of water and it's not always as simple as finding a clean bowl of water. They often have to hunt for water sources that are not contaminated, which means that they have to be very careful when drinking from a source.

So, why do cats dip their paws in their water bowl?

It's More Appealing For Them

Moving water is typically fresher than stagnant water, and a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. If wild animals didn’t drink from fresh running water, they would not survive, so it’s most likely instinctual that a cat seeks running (and cleaner) water.

When a cat paws the water to make it move, they may simply be making it more appealing for themselves.

To Measure The Freshness Of The Water

One reason why cats dip their paws in their water bowl is to test the temperature of the water. Cats are very sensitive to temperature and prefer to drink room temperature or slightly cooler water. By dipping their paws in the water, cats can gauge the temperature and decide whether or not it is safe to drink.

Also, biofilm is the name of that gross, gunky stuff you’ll find on water bowls, and although it comes in many colors of the rainbow, it can also be clear and hard to spot.

One of the most common types you’ll see in your cat’s water bowl is pink (what you also see on your shower curtain), and it’s a bacteria called Serratia marcescens (S. marcescens). In addition to causing periodontal diseases, it can also lead to other health issues, especially urinary- and kidney-related issues in cats.

Fortunately, cats have the ability to smell bacteria in their food and water. It’s possible dipping their paw in the water and making it move helps them smell to determine the freshness of the water before drinking.

Stimulate Their Instincts And Aerate The Water

Another reason why cats dip their paws in their water bowl is to aerate the water. Cats are very picky about the taste and quality of their water and they may not like the taste of tap water or stagnant water. By dipping their paws in the water and stirring it up, cats can create a more oxygen-rich environment that makes the water taste better and more refreshing. 

Cats may also use their paws to stir up the water bowl and create a sense of movement in the water. This can stimulate their natural hunting instincts and make drinking water more interesting and engaging for them.


Another possible explanation is that cats may simply be practicing their grooming habits by cleaning their paws after drinking water. Cats are fastidious groomers, and they may want to remove any stray water droplets from their paws before moving on to other activities.

Is Your Cat Dipping His Paws But Not Drinking Much?

It's also important to note that if your cat is consistently dipping their paws in their water bowl and not drinking much water, it could be a sign of a health issue such as dental problems, an issue with their sense of taste, or kidney disease. It's always a good idea to consult with your vet to rule out any underlying health issues.

Water Fountains: A Water Bowl Alternative

Water fountains are a great alternative to a bowl of water because the moving water in tandem with some sort of filtration system will help the water stay fresher and cleaner.

Also, fountains that have water flowing down from a spout are best because the cat can comfortably keep their whiskers free and position their head to drink without leaning over very much. It will also limit the tongue’s contact with the surface, decreasing the amount of bacteria and keeping the fountain cleaner longer.


In conclusion, cats dipping their paws in their water bowl is a normal behavior that can have various reasons, such as testing the water temperature, aerating the water, stimulating their hunting instincts, grooming their paws or a sign of a health issue. Understanding the reasons behind this behavior can help cat owners provide the best possible care for their feline friends and keep them happy and healthy.


The Pawrfect Fit For Your Cat's Instincts