Cat Sitting By Water Bowl – Should I Be Concerned?

close up profile of a calico cat investigating a cat water fountain

So you have come here because your cat is sitting by the water bowl. This is quite an unusual behavior which is why it has caught your attention and left you concerned enough to find an answer. But, although unusual, that does not mean it is a serious problem – although in some circumstances it might be!

Most of the time this type of strange behavior has a simple reason and remedy. In this short guide, we will look at the most probable reasons your cat is hanging out by the water, how to identify if your cat has a serious problem that needs intervention, and if the problem is less serious, what you can do to get your cat back to acting like normal.

Let’s check out the likely reasons your cat is sitting by the water bowl:

The Water Bowl Needs Filling


Duh! We checked that already! Of course – but it might not be as straightforward as the bowl being completely out of water and needing a refill (but it might be).

It could be that your cat has issues…They may have sensitive whiskers and the water that is left in the bowl is too deep for them to access comfortably. Or it could be that they just can’t tell that there is water in the bowl.

Their vision is not the same as ours when focussing on objects close up. Your cat might not see the water and without sticking their paw in or going in with their full face they just can’t tell.

Filling the water bowl near the top may mean your cat can get it without disturbing their whiskers or they might better sense the water is there to be had! 

Water Needs Changing


A cat looking at water but not drinking could be indicative that your cat is offended by the water in the bowl and has decided it needs changing – even if you don’t think there is a problem!

It could be that the water has been in the bowl for some time and the cat does not think it is fresh enough. It could be that the bowl hasn’t been washed in some time and the cat thinks the water is tainted.

Or it could be that your cat has gone off tap water – perhaps the water contains chlorine or fluoride that is putting your cat off.

a ginger and white tabby kitten checking out a bowl of water outdoors

Cat Is Thirsty But Doesn’t Like Position Of Bowl


Maybe your cat is thirsty so has approached the water bowl but feels something is wrong about drinking from the bowl when they get to it because of the positioning of the bowl?

Most cats in the wild won’t drink in the same place they eat. They have some sort of instinctive knowledge that the water source can be contaminated by a kill or decomposing prey. If you put your water bowl and food bowl together your cat may be instinctively reacting.

Alternatively, your cat might no longer favor the location of the bowl because something has recently occurred that put them on edge when drinking from the bowl previously.

Maybe they took fright at a noise or movement last time they drank or spotted a feline interloper out of the corner of their eye and now consider the location compromised.

Cat Is Claiming It As Territory And Possessively Guarding


Perhaps your cat is actually having a fit of pique and is guarding its water bowl against interlopers on what they consider their territory. If you have a multi-cat home, have your cats had an incident and now some kind of quiet stand-off and a territorial dispute is occurring? 

Maybe you live in a one-cat home but a neighborhood cat has been seen and needs reminding of boundaries? Worst still maybe the neighborhood cat has actually invaded and territory needs guarding?

Cat Just Likes The Spot And The Water Happens To Be Close By

Ok, I admit this is unlikely, but maybe your cat just favors that spot at this time. Perhaps, at a certain time of year, the sun lands just right at the spot for a few weeks of the year and the water bowl is merely conveniently located?

close up of a tabby cat drinking from a cat water fountain

Your Cat Has Health Issues


Unfortunately, your cat might be sitting by the water bowl because they have developed a health problem. 

Kidney Failure

One of the most common problems that cats suffer from is kidney disease. If you are an owner who has kept a few cats it is likely that you will be aware of this problem and have come across it in the past – it is that common a problem for cats.

Basically, the disease is progressive and often comes on gradually. In disease-free cats the kidneys are very powerful – they remove lots of toxins from the blood without needing to produce huge quantities of urine.

This is why even a small amount of cat urine can stink. However, in cats with the disease, the kidneys are less efficient and need more water to remove the toxins.

The cat urinates more heavily to remove the same amount of toxins. This additional urination dehydrates the cat and the cat feels more thirsty as a result. Your cat might be hanging around the water bowl because they feel more thirsty. 

Diabetes

Cats can suffer from diabetes just like people. 

Basically, the food your cat eats is broken down into constituents and transported around the bloodstream. Some are formulated into glucose which is used by the cells of the body for energy.

Insulin is the component that moves the glucose from the blood into the cells of the body. 

Diabetes is when the insulin is either not produced by the pancreas or is produced but doesn’t work as it should.

In either case, too much glucose is left in the blood. The body removes this excess glucose by excretion through urination. 

This additional urination to remove glucose places extra demands on the body and your cat has to drink more to make up for the additional urination. It will experience a greater thirst and maybe sit by the water bowl looking to relieve that thirst.

Hypothyroidism

Cats drink more when they suffer from hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is generally caused by a tumor on the thyroid gland. This gland produces hormones that are critical to the regulation of metabolism.

A tumor on the gland throws hormone production off whack and the result is that the metabolism becomes overactive. 

One of the symptoms of this overactivity (amongst a number of symptoms) is that the cat’s kidneys produce more urine – like they are operating on a higher setting.

This additional urination stimulates the cat’s thirst and may result in the cat hanging around the water bowl.

close up of a cat drinking from a large dish tongue out

When To Visit A Vet

From the list of reasons why your cat might be sitting next to the water bowl for extended periods, there are a number of reasons that are health-related and a number of reasons that are related to behavioral issues. So when should you take the problem seriously and potentially take your cat to a vet?

The simple answer is that you should check to see whether your cat is dehydrated, identify if your cat is urinating more than usual, and identify if your cat is drinking more than usual.

If you need to check whether your cat is dehydrated you should test your cat using the tenting method and look at the gums.

The tenting method is where you pinch the skin into a tented shape up behind your cat’s shoulder blades. If the tented skin snaps back within a second or so there probably is no problem. If the skin does not respond quickly it may be a sign your cat is dehydrated.

You can also check your cat’s gums. They should be wet and when pressed with a finger, return from a white to pink color quickly. If the color change is slow and the cat’s gums are dry and sticky this is a sign of dehydration.

Dehydration in cats is potentially dangerous and should be treated by a vet.

If your cat is urinating and drinking more than usual this could signify they have kidney or thyroid issues or may be diabetic. If both symptoms are identified then you need to visit a vet.

If your cat has just taken to drinking but you do not notice any issue with urination, It may be dehydrated but not have any specific health issues. A cat on a dry food diet only might well suffer from periods of dehydration brought about by diet, a bout of hot weather may encourage extra drinking, and stress is known to impact cats drinking regime.

a tabby cat drinking from a puddle tongue out

What You Can Do 

If you decide you do not need to take your cat to a vet and that the issue is some sort of strange behavioral problem what should you do?

Do Nothing.

Monitor the situation and leave your cat to resolve the issue. Over the course of a week or so, the cat might start behaving differently and this will just seem to have been some weird passing fad of your cat. So long as your cat is actually drinking and peeing as normal then sitting near the bowl probably isn’t a big problem to worry about.

Keep The Bowl Topped Up

Keep the water level high in the bowl. This should rule out if your cat has whisker sensitivity issues or issues actual recognizing that water is available!

Clean The Bowl

You might think the bowl is clean but your cat has a sense of smell that is sixteen times more powerful than yours! You might need to be cleaning the bowl on a daily basis if you have a very picky cat.

Alternatively, you may have an issue with the water supply that your cat has detected. Changing out the water to bottled or filtered or even rainwater just to see if your cat reacts can be an interesting way to deduce if your water supply is off.

close up of a cat eating from a bowl
Move the water away…

Position Water Away From Food

Cat guardians seem to have a tendency to put food and water bowls together – probably comes from the way people eat, we don’t usually have to go to a separate table at mealtime for drinks and food! 

Try moving the water bowl into a different spot and see what your cat does. If the cat remains in place then maybe they just like the spot!

Place More Water Bowls Around The Home

Instead of just using one water bowl, place a number around the home so your cat can change venue if they have an issue with territory caused by local cats or other cats in the home.

Additionally, if the behavior is possessive, extra water bowls may reduce the strategic importance of that particular water bowl and the behavior may come to a natural end. 

Add Water To Dry Cat Food

If your cat is a wet food fanatic and they are eating well then dehydration is unlikely to be a problem even if you never see them drinking from the water bowl. If your cat eats dry food and they are not drinking then try adding water to dry cat food to stave off any hydration issues.

Try Cold Water

Your cat may simply prefer cold water to tepid water or ambient temperature water. Add an ice cube to see if that helps get your cat interested and drinking.

Wrapping Up…

It is always wise to monitor your cat’s behavior around water. Their drinking and urination habits can offer a big insight into their health. If drinking and urination frequency and volume are normal you can quickly deduce when your cat is just acting weird.

Hopefully, some of our tips will solve behavioral problems for you and you won’t find your cat sitting by the water bowl as often!