Why Does My Cat Spill Water Bowl?

Why Your Cat Spills Water Bowl

This happened to me this morning, and I suspect it might have happened to you at some point as well. I woke up this morning and walked to the kitchen to make myself my morning coffee when *plop* I stepped into a giant puddle of water on the kitchen floor. For a moment I panicked that I might have a leak, looked up, but the ceiling was dry, thank God!

But then I remembered… CHEWY! My cat loves to knock over his water bowl. Sure enough, his water bowl was toppled over and was the source of the small lake taking over my kitchen floor.

If your cat keeps spilling the water from its bowl like mine, it can be considerably annoying. Nobody enjoys dealing with water spills, and when it happens on a daily basis, it can get tiring. 

It may make you want to know what is going on in your cat’s mind to make it want to tip its water over and spill it. The truth is that there are numerous reasons why your cat is spilling its water, with each reason having its own solution. 

Some cats may be playing, while other cats may be doing it out of annoyance. It is important to know how to distinguish a cat who is simply having fun where cats shouldn’t have fun between a cat who is genuinely frustrated at the water bowl.

In this article, I will go through some of the reasons why your cat might be constantly spilling over their water bowl.

1. The Water Bowl May Be Too Small

Despite the reputation that cats have for being able to see well, cats have surprisingly poor eyesight. Cats’ eyesight is especially bad around their snout, to the point where they cannot really see what is under or around it, which is where their whiskers become useful. 

Cat whiskers function much the same as the antennae on bugs, sensing air currents and acting as sensors to let the cat know if a passageway is too narrow for it to fit the rest of its body. (Which is why it can be a problem when they start to lose whiskers.) If something brushes their whiskers, it tells the cat that an area is “too narrow” for the cat to fit. 

For some cats, water bowls may be too narrow for the cat’s face, with its whiskers coming too close to the edges of the bowl.

In the cat’s mind, this is telling the cat that there isn’t enough room for its head in the water bowl. However, the cat knows two things. 

  1. The cat knows that, from a distance, it can see the water in the bowl. 
  2. It also knows that this is the proper place for the cat to get its water. 

Naturally, this can be frustrating, as the cat believes it cannot reach the water in the bowl. Depending on how smart your cat is, it may try other ways to “reach” the water without its whiskers telling it that there isn’t enough space.

The best solution to this is to simply get a water bowl with a wide opening. When your cat, especially if you have multiple cats, is able to stick its head near the bowl to drink water without its whiskers telling it that there isn’t enough room, it won’t have to resort to methods that leave your floor covered in water. 

Ideally, your cat’s water bowl should be large and shallow. It should also be made from a heavier material, such as ceramic, so that your cat cannot accidentally push it around.

2. Your Curious Cat is Just Being Playful

Many cats (and dogs), especially younger ones, are fascinated by water. It’s clear, it feels weird on their paws, and it’s probably a different temperature compared to the rest of the room. 

Because of this, your cat might be interested in playing with the water in ways that only make sense to your cat. Consider it like a toddler playing with their food. Sure, your cat can put the water in its mouth, but that’s not as interesting as actually touching the strange substance.

This can lead to your cat pawing at the water, almost acting as if it is digging the water out of the bowl, or pushing the bowl around with its head to watch it slosh and move around. 

For some cats, the spilling water is due to the fact that your cat is simply having fun with itself. Some kittens do end up growing out of this phase, but there are plenty of adult cats who enjoy playing with water.

There are a couple solutions that you can try here. 

The best solution is to consider getting your cat toys that it can play with by itself. If you are at home a lot and have the time to play with the cat yourself, you can consider some high-energy toys as well. If your cat feels entertained and isn’t getting bored during the day, there’s a better chance that it won’t turn to the water to play. 

If this isn’t enough to deter your cat from its interest in water, you can consider purchasing toys that cater to this interest. Some cat toys are designed for the inquisitive cats who think water is the coolest thing in their little cat world.

You should combine the solution of entertainment with making sure that you minimize the mess your cat makes from playing with its water when you aren’t looking. 

The water bowl you are using for your cats should be made from a heavier material, such as ceramicOpens in a new tab., so that your cat cannot easily push it around to spill the water.

If you know that your cats are prone to playing with water, you should consider placing the bowl on a water-absorbent mat or on another surface to protect the floor underneath. 

These solutions combined should reduce the amount your cat plays with the water and how much of a mess it ends up making.

3. Your Cat Drinks Differently

Some cats simply drink water a little bit differently than others. Sometimes this behavior is learned due to an uncomfortable water setup, sometimes it is learned because cats enjoy playing with the water, and sometimes it is because the cat has its own preference. 

Some cats prefer to dip their paw in the bowl nd lick the water off it instead of drinking directly from the bowl. This can absolutely cause more of a mess, and it is something that is a lot harder to deter since it becomes ingrained in their brain as being the “proper” way to drink water.

The best way to combat this is a combination of finding solutions to prevent the mess as well as seeing if your cat can change this behavior. 

There are a multitude of reasons why your cat may take up this behavior, so it can be some trial and error trying to figure out what aspect of the water bowl caused your cat to develop drinking water this way. 

Keep in mind that some cats simply prefer this method of drinking water and won’t be inclined to change. The most that you can do is change out the bowl for a larger one with a circular shape, and seeing if this helps.

Your best solution is to try to minimize how much of the water becomes problematic. You can consider placing a mat down underneath the bowl to pick up the spilled water from this method of drinking. 

You can also consider placing the water bowl on a surface that will not be as affected by spilled water. 

You should never discourage a cat who does this behavior, because they do not connect the issue of spilled water with the way they drink. 

Discouraging this behavior will come across to your cat as discouraging it from drinking. Rather than trying to change this behavior, you should learn to find ways around it.

4. Your Cat Prefers Running Water

Finally, one of the main reasons cats end up spilling over their water bowl is simply because they don’t like standing water. Some cats prefer to drink running water, like their ancestors and wild siblings do, from rivers and streams!

One quirky thing I’ve noticed about my cat is that he LOVES drinking from the sink. Every time I start to run the faucet, he jumps up on the counter and dips his entire head in the sink before lapping up the water as it flows out of the faucet.

If your cat is like mine, they will tap at their water bowl in an effort to get the water moving around for them to drink. This obviously leads to quite a mess.

One solution to help with this habit and eliminate the mess it creates is to purchase a water fountain for your cat. There are several cat fountain options availableOpens in a new tab. for your kitty, so make sure to purchase one that is the right size for your cat.

Lara Kitt

When we aren't scooping up droppings to ensure a luxurious litter box experience for our fur babies, we are writing all sorts of stuff about cats for your enjoyment and knowledge.

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