Have you ever seen cats put bits of kibble in their water bowl? It might be fine at first, but the kibbles start to disintegrate and make the water murky after a while. It’s definitely not a pretty sight, and it might even cause the cats to refuse drinking water from that bowl.
Cats put food in their water bowl because they see it as their territory. It’s a common behavior that’s linked to hunting and gathering instincts. Since indoor cats don’t have a specific spot to store their “prey” as wild cats do, they use their water bowl instead.
Aside from that, cats may do this as a way to fight boredom and play within their domain. There are many other possible reasons why cats put food in their water bowl. In this article, we’ll explore why cats do this and how you can stop this behavior.
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Reasons Why Cats Put Food in Their Water Bowl
Cats love interacting with their food and water bowls. Most cats consider these bowls their domain, their happy place, so it’s normal for them to want to interact with these bowls positively. For example, they drop bits of their food in the water bowl.
Each cat may have its own motive, but here are some of the most common reasons cats put food in their water bowl.
This behavior is similar to that of wild felines. In the wild, cats often save some of their food for later because they have small stomachs and prefer to graze instead of eating everything in one sitting.
And, of course, they prefer to save their remaining food rather than hunt for more.
Wild felines usually have caches or special spots where they can store their prize. However, most indoor cats don’t have caches, so they’ll keep their food in other spaces they deem safe, such as their water bowl.
This reason ties to the first theory. Cats have a natural survival instinct to remove their prey’s scent and strong odors may give away their locations to predators or scavengers in the wild, putting them in danger.
That’s why wild cats often hide or bury uneaten food, as this is essential to survival.
Of course, your kitties are safe, regardless of whether they hide their uneaten food or not. But since they evolved this way, they might still feel the need to cover their tracks. So, your kitties may drop uneaten food in the water to wash off the scent.
This video will give you a more in-depth explanation as to why cats hide or bury their food:
Teaching You How To Hunt
Have your cats ever brought you “gifts” such as dead mice, leaves, or bugs? Domestic cats offer “gifts” to teach their owners to hunt, just as they would with their own kittens.
And perhaps, they’ve noticed how often you interact with their water bowl, for example, to change the water. So, your cats consistently drop food in there to get your attention, show off their hunting skills, and teach you how to hunt properly.
When your cats drop food into the water, you likely interact with the water bowl to remove said food. Moreover, it might cause you to scold your cat, which tells your cat how they can get a reaction from you.
Cats often don’t care if you’re praising or scolding them. Your kitties might find this rewarding, so they’ll keep doing it whenever they want attention.
Just for Fun
Cats are notoriously playful, especially when they’re bored. They love to play with anything and everything, including their water bowl.
Some cats simply love playing with the water, while some enjoy the sensation of dropping food and fishing it back out again. So, maybe your kitties are doing this because they need more entertainment and enrichment.
Why This Behavior Can Be a Problem
Now that we have concluded that it’s common and natural for cats to put food in their water bowl, should we stop them from doing so? Will this behavior cause any problems?
Apparently, yes. Letting cats put food in their water source can cause various problems.
It will cause the water to be murky, and as soon as the food touches the water, it will start to disintegrate and pollute the water. As a result, you’ll need to clean the bowl more frequently to keep the water clean and fresh.
Moreover, bits of food in the water can also promote the formation of biofilm. Bacterial biofilm is that nasty slimy substance that sticks to the water bowl and can cause serious life-threatening conditions when ingested.
Fortunately, cats usually refuse to drink water that’s contaminated with biofilm, mainly because it produces a disgusting smell that repels animals, especially cats. However, this also spells disaster since your cats will experience dehydration and even serious medical conditions in the long run.
How To Stop Cats From Putting Food in Their Water Bowl
Block the Water Bowl During Mealtimes
Blocking the water bowl during mealtimes is the easiest first step, as it will make it harder for your cats to access the water bowl, let alone use it as food storage. You can do this by covering the top of the bowl with a bigger bowl or a food dome.
If necessary, you can also remove the water bowl altogether. Just make sure to open the water bowl’s access again once they’ve finished eating.
Set Up a Water Fountain
Cats think that running water will wash their food away, so setting up a water fountain may help with this issue.
There are plenty of great pet water fountains you can buy online, such as the Wonder Creature Cat Water Fountain from Amazon.com. Its circulating filtration system and carbon filters help provide clean and fresh water for your kitties 24/7.
Moreover, a water fountain may encourage your kitties to drink more often, preventing dehydration. Many cats prefer moving water for drinking because, in the wild, their ancestors learned that puddles and stagnant water are more likely to have harmful bacteria and are not as safe as running water.
Put Colored Marbles in the Water Bowl
Lastly, this trick comes from a cat owner on the internet: put some marbles in the water bowl.
This person tried providing more water bowls and even moving the bowl frequently. However, those things didn’t seem to help.
Then, they noticed that their cats loved staring into the water bowls. Thinking this behavior was driven visually, they decided to put colored marbles in the bowls instead, and surprisingly, it worked.
Perhaps the marbles’ visual please the cats, so they don’t feel the need to put kibbles inside the water. This is a great and easy way to keep your cats happy without compromising their drinking water quality.
Cats are incredibly complex creatures, and like other mammals, they can develop little rituals when it comes to their food and drink. Putting food inside their water bowl may simply be one of them.
It can be hard to pinpoint why your cats are doing this. Although this behavior is puzzling, we hope the science behind it has cleared up some of your confusion.
Regardless of their motive, their water bowl is their safe space. That’s why cats love interacting and playing around with it. So, provide them with additional water sources and give them more attention.
- Born for Pets: Why Do Cats Put Food In Their Water Bowl?
- Soft Paws: Why Does My Cat Play in the Food and Water Bowls?
- Stack Exchange: Cat dropping food in her water
- National Kitty: Why Do Cats Drop Toys In Their Water Bowl?
- Cat Behavior Associates: Why Do Cats Bury Food?
- Gallant: Why Cats Don’t Eat All Their Food
- Whiskas: Why do cats never finish their food?
- Bat County Pet Sitting: Biofilm: The Common Slime That’s Poisoning Your Pets & Family
- Meowingtons: Why Do Cats Bring Gifts to Their Owners?
- Vet Street: Why Does My Cat… Paw at Her Water Dish?
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.