Tabby cat drinking water from a bowl

Cats can suffer whisker fatigue if their water bowl is too narrow. 

© Lenstravelier - Unsplash

Why does my cat spill their water? Reasons why and how to stop it

By Greta Inglis Dog Behaviourist | Animal Behaviourist

Published on the

Have you had enough of your cat splashing around and spilling their water? Here we take a look at why they do this and how to break the habit.

Does your cat spend more time getting large amounts of water all over the kitchen floor than actually drinking it?

This is a fairly common problem for cat owners, and you may have wondered why your feline friend is always spilling their water.

My cat keeps knocking over his water bowl, but why?

If your cat seems to be spilling his water bowl every time you top it up, it’s important to look at the reasons behind this behaviour.

Your cat isn’t trying to be difficult or make a mess deliberately, and it’s up to us as owners to work out what’s going on.

The first thing to consider, is that while they may detest bath-time, many cats are fascinated by water and will spend hours splashing around at the bathroom sink.

If your cat is knocking over their water bowl, this is probably more of a playful thing (as they enjoy watching moving water), than because they want the contents spilled all over the kitchen floor.

Why does my cat spill their water on purpose? 

If you see your cat regularly swiping at their water dish, trying to fish out the contents, it may be the bowl you’re using is too deep.

Narrow, deep bowls can cause your cat whisker fatigue because their whiskers are having to brush against the side of the water dish in order to reach the contents.

Whisker fatigue is caused by over-stimulation of the whiskers, which can result in an overload of sensory messages being transmitted to the brain. This can lead to a cat who is anxious, agitated and may even avoid drinking or eating.

How do I get my cat to stop spilling water? 

If your cat is regularly spilling water or swiping it from their bowl, it’s important to look at why this is. Are they bored, and using their water bowl as a way to entertain themselves? Or, is their bowl too narrow and shallow?

Let’s take a look at how to stop your cat spilling their water on a regular basis.

Eliminate any health issues

Before you delve deep into your pet's behaviour, take your cat to the vet's and check for any health issues. Diabetes, kidney failure, and thyroid issues can make cats thirsty. If, on top of water spillage, your cat is also drinking a lot of water, it could be that they are suffering from such an issue.

A heavy bottomed bowl

To prevent your cat being able to tip their bowl over as they play with the water inside, we would recommend investing in a heavy bottomed bowl. These are designed to resist your cat’s play patterns and will stop most spillages.

When looking out for the right kind of bowl, try to find a wide, ceramic container. These are hygienic and sturdy, and will offer enough space for your cat’s whiskers to be able to drink comfortably.

A cat water fountain

Cat water fountains are brilliant solutions for cats that like to play with their water bowl. They offer a wide, flat surface to drink from and all of the entertainment of a running water source. Plus, they're too heavy for your cat to knock over!

If you’re concerned about your cat spilling their water bowl while you’re at work, it may be time to consider a water fountain. You’ll be able to leave them in the knowledge they have a supply of clean water while you’re not at home.

Attention and interactive games

If your cat seems to be fixated on playing with their water bowl, it may be that they’re not getting enough mental and physical stimulation at home.

Cats are active, curious and intelligent, and they need to move their bodies and use their brains on a daily basis. If your feline friend is spending too long indoors and is becoming bored, you may find they play with their water bowl in order to entertain themselves.

There are lots of ways you can keep your cat busy, from games you can play to toys that get their brain ticking.

Identifying why your cat is spilling their water is the first step, after which you can work to put solutions in place. Take some time to observe your pet and the reasons behind this behaviour. 

Once you know why they’re splashing and spilling their water, you can look to put the right steps in place. A combination of interactive games and a cat water fountain will keep your cat happy and hydrated

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