a calico cat taking a drink from a garden pond

How To Stop My Cat From Spilling Their Water Bowl?

Does your cat keep spilling the water bowl or knocking it over or tipping it? What are they up to? Read on to find out and get the solution…

Cat owners know cats do some weird things sometimes. It makes them intriguing and cute characters to have around – and sometimes infuriating!

Cats often engage in behaviors or habits that their owners can’t immediately explain. It’s normal for any new cat owner to have a lot of questions – and even people who have been cat owners for years might suddenly notice that their cat is doing something strange or unusual every now and then.

Some of the strange things cats might do include sleeping at the foot of the bed, clawing at their food, or fighting with other cats they were friends with only minutes before! 

Domestic feline behavior can sometimes be explained by redundant instincts developed over thousands of years of living in the wild (and often, even lions and tigers will engage in the same types of behaviors living in the wild today). These instincts were there to protect them and improve their odds of survival, but now, in a domestic environment, they are not so critical to survival.

Cats have a bunch of these survival instincts and behaviors that display when they are around water. Some cats do weird stuff around water. Have you seen your cat spilling its water bowl? Once is fine, but several times is weird! What is going on here and how do you stop them from making this mess?

Spilling their water bowl can happen to kittens and might also happen to older cats. Sometimes it’s a behavior that cats will display only while they are small, but they might also suddenly start-up with this habit seemingly “out of nowhere” later during their lives.

The spilled water issue is surprisingly common for cats.

It is also a complicated question to answer. 

There is no single reason why cats spill their water. Owners should be looking for other behaviors or habits that their cat is displaying at the same time if they would like to figure out why their cat is doing this.

Have you noticed your cats developing a fixation with their water bowl, or your cat keeps spilling water over the floor and their food? 

It’s an easy problem to fix, once you’ve figured out exactly why your cat might be doing it.

Here’s what cat owners should know about this specific strange habit (and what their cats might be trying to tell them).

The Water Bowl Problem

orange tabby kitten looking into a bowl of water outside

Cats have an interesting relationship with water. 

Even though most people think that cats hate water, this depends on your cat (and this might highly depend on their breed). Some cats like water more than others and some cat breeds even enjoy swimming on warm days.

But why do some cats spill their water bowls? 

Why Does My Cat Spill Their Water Bowl?

Kittens and young cats often spill their water because they are still learning to drink. After they have been weaned, the action of drinking might be confusing to kittens for a couple of days (and during this time, spilled water or wet kitten feet are common things an owner might see).

Mature cats might spill their water when they are dissatisfied with the contents of the bowl – it might be dusty, stale or the flavor might be odd. Spilling the water could indicate that they are flat out rejecting the water as contaminated – and it can even extend to cats knocking the bowl over several times in a row. Change the water source, clean the bowl and see if the behavior stops if you suspect this is the case.

A cat spilling water may happen on occasion if it is the wrong type of bowl. Some bowls are either too deep or not deep enough. 

A deep bowl might irritate a cat’s whiskers if they are sensitive. They may spill the water to drink the water from the floor without messing with their whiskers! 

If the bowl is too shallow they might not be able to see the water clearly (think about water in a white dish – not easy to see) and end up spilling the bowl to double-check the water is even there!

The bowl might just be an odd shape meaning the cat has to change the way they reach in to get to the water, which leads to accidental spills. It’s not fun for them, either! 

Change their type of water bowl and see if this changes the problem.

Should none of these issues seem appropriate for the behavior that your cat is displaying (and the problem appears to continue), keep reading. You might find the right answer in one of the following questions.

Why Does My Cat Yell At Their Water Bowl?

When cats yell at their water bowl, they are usually trying to indicate something to their owners. Yelling is their way of telling you something, and if they continue with it in spite of your changes, there’s something you might be missing. 

Start by changing their water and food bowls as a first measure. 

It’s common for cats to yell at their food or water when they think there’s something wrong with it. 

Why Do Cats Prefer “Gross” Outside Water?

Many owners see their cats giving their clean water bowl a miss only to drink water from a fountain, a puddle, or directly from a tap or bath. 

Rest assured, this is completely normal behavior for the majority of cats. This is something that even large cats in the wild will do – and even feral cats in the local neighborhood would engage in.

Cats are sometimes craving minerals, vitamins, or specific environmental microbes that might be in untreated water. Aerated water that has fallen some distance might even just have a different flavor to your cat! While the same water could be called “gross” by most humans, cats can process it just fine.

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

Why Do My Cats Drop Things In Their Water Bowl? 

One of the other strange water-related behaviors that many cats might engage in is dropping things into their water bowl. Food, rocks, or even twigs, bugs, and leaves might find their way in – but why do cats do it? 

Sometimes, cats are trying to display dissatisfaction with either their food or water. Change both and see if the behavior stops. 

Cats usually do this when they want their owners to change their water or food.

Do All Cats Hate Water? 

It’s a myth that all cats hate water. 

Cats are just careful of water, but they don’t hate it by any means. Some breeds will prefer to stay away from water, but others will love sitting in the rain for hours at a time (and some might even swim as they do in nature).

If your cat appears to display aggressive behavior towards their water, it could be a sign of a serious condition like rabies. Contact your vet immediately.

Why Do Some Cats Want To Swim? 

While some domesticated breeds sulk when it rains or dread the thought of getting into a bath, other cat breeds will display the urge to swim – and sometimes, they might spill their water during attempts to swim in their water bowl.

Where you notice that your cat wants to swim in their water bowl, it might be a great idea to provide them with a larger container or vessel to swim in. Usually, this stops all attempts to turn their regular water bowl into a pool!

Possible Solutions For Cat Owners

close up profile of a calico cat investigating a cat water fountain
Calico Cat At Cat Water Fountain

Have you seen repeated spills around your cat’s water bowl? Do they keep throwing their water over, or creating a big mess next to their bowl every morning or night? 

How to stop my cat from knocking over the water bowl? Here are some possible solutions to the problem.

Change The Type Of Bowl

When cats or kittens keep spilling their water, change the type of bowl to see if it fixes the problem. Watch your cat while they drink to see how they’re doing it for an indication of what’s going on.

Use Separate Water Bowls

If you have several cats in the home, they might cluster around their water bowl and accidentally cause a spill. Use separate water bowls for each of your cats, and space them a little further apart.

Check Or Change The Water

Cats might appear to spill their water because they don’t like what’s in it. If you suspect this, change or check your cat’s water to something else. It is likely that this might stop it. Consider seeing a vet where the behavior continues, or try some of the other tips mentioned in this article.