Why Do Cats Touch Water Before Drinking?

Why do cats touch water before drinking?

When you watch your cat go about their daily routine, you may wonder why they touch the water before drinking it. There are several reasons for this, including age, anxiety, and even the shape of your water bowl.

Cats touch the water before drinking to make the water move. Doing so makes drinking more desirable as running water is perceived as being fresh. Touching the water also helps a cat to avoid getting its whiskers wet. If you have an older cat, this action may indicate poor eyesight.

In this article, we’ll explore the factors that explain why your cat touches water before drinking it. By understanding your cat’s actions, you’ll grow a closer bond with your furry friend and improve your overall relationship. So let’s get started, shall we?

Cats Have Sensitive Whiskers

Your cat may touch the water before drinking because its whiskers are extremely sensitive. In fact, a cat’s whiskers are as sensitive as a human’s fingertips! This is because the whiskers are packed with nerve endings and blood vessels.

Therefore, just dipping their face, whiskers first, could prove extremely painful for a cat. But, by slapping the water and drinking using their paws, they can overcome this problem and avoid any pain.

A cat’s whiskers are ultimately a sensory tool. They help with perception and awareness of environmental changes and even act as a measuring tool. Whiskers are connected to nerves throughout the cat’s body, which allows them to judge the width of a tight gap to see if they can fit through.

Whiskers are also much more deeply embedded into the nervous system than other hairs. This increases their sensitivity to outside stimuli as well as their ability to perceive the outside world, but also makes them more susceptible to pain.

Additionally, your cat’s whiskers help with night vision. In fact, they interpret air currents to locate walls and furniture in the dark. They truly are amazing instruments, and that’s why cats try very hard to protect their whiskers.

Your cat may refuse to drink from a bowl that is too narrow and deep because it will hurt its whiskers too much. A wider bowl will help combat this issue, so if your cat isn’t drinking, consider changing the bowl they drink from.

A wide and shallow bowl should work much better than a narrower one.

Cats Love Running Water

We all know that every cat has their quirks and own personality. But something that seems to be universal in cats, and many other animals, is a love for running water.

Drinking running water is in most animals’ DNA. Before they were domesticated, cats used to drink from streams and sources of running water. This is because running water is fresher and therefore safer than standing water.

So, when a cat touches the water before drinking it, it may be that they aren’t comfortable with the idea of still water and are trying to change that. (Cats genuinely are resourceful little creatures!)

Here’s a great example of a cat drinking from its paw:

Changing Water Level Can Be Stressful

Cats adore routine because they are territorial creatures, who like to have everything the way they left it.

A routine can also be a great way to relieve stress for your furry friend, as they will know what is happening and when.

When something is not right, even the smallest of things, it can send your cat into stress. For example, if you allow the bowl to empty before refilling or fill up the bowl to different levels each time, then you may find that your cat starts to paw at the water.

The inconsistency of the water level may cause your cat to be uncertain about whether or not they’ll have water to drink. So they paw at the water to gauge the water level.

If you want to relieve some stress from your cat, make sure you fill up their water bowl to the same level each time. You should also top up their water multiple times a day to keep their water level as consistent as possible.

To help you get the water level right, you could draw a small line on the inside of the bowl and fill it from there every time. This will help with consistency and reduce your cat’s stress.

Keep in mind, your cat needs to drink around 3.5 ounces (99.2 gm) of water per 5 pounds (2.2 kg) of body weight, as dehydration can lead to many problems in cats, such as sunken eyes and skin problems.

Water Bowl Location Causes Anxiety and Insecurity

Just like humans, cats can suffer from anxiety and a feeling of insecurity. While they may not express this vocally, they certainly will through their body language. And one of these signs could be hitting the water.

One common reason for this is the location of their water bowl. If your cat’s bowl is placed on the edge of a room, they must turn their back and face the wall, which will make them feel anxious. This is because they are not in full control of their surroundings.

So, touching the water with a paw could be a defense mechanism, a means of quick escape if a threat reveals itself. The primary ‘fight’ defense mechanism for a cat is to attack with its claws, so touching the water is like getting ready to fight.

To relieve your cat’s anxiety, place their water bowl in a neutral location, where they can face the room and therefore look out for danger. Multiple water bowls may also reduce their feelings of insecurity.

Sign of Poor Eyesight

As a cat gets older, their eyesight will inevitably start to decrease. In fact, this generally occurs over one or two years, and there isn’t much an owner can do to help, as a loss in eyesight correlates with age.

Poor eyesight can lead to a cat touching the water with its paw to assess the depth of the water.

Instead of misjudging the water level and experiencing pain from water coming into contact with their whiskers, some cats will find it much easier to dip their paw into the water and drink from it instead. It’s a creative solution, and one that may save your cat from a lot of pain.Why do cats touch water before drinking?

If your cat is starting to get old, and you notice that it is beginning to paw at its water bowl, it is a good idea to see a vet. It may be a sign that your cat needs medical attention, and diagnosing the problem as early as possible will lead to the best chance of recovery for your cat. And, that’s all that you and I want.

It’s probably nothing serious, but it’s much safer to check with a vet than leave it, and potentially let your cat go blind.


Many of the reasons why your cat touches the water before drinking are evolutionary, such as avoiding contact with whiskers and avoiding danger. Nevertheless, there are many things that you can do to make your cat feel more comfortable drinking out of its bowl.

Understanding your cat’s responses to their environment will improve your relationship with your furry friend, as awareness will better equip you to help them in times of stress and discomfort.

Touching the water before drinking can also be an early indicator of eyesight deterioration. By observing your cat, you really could save their life.