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

Why Are Cats Attracted To Running Water?

Why do cats like running water? What is the attraction? Often it is instinct – running water is more likely to be clean, free from predators, and taste fresher. Read on to learn more about why your cat prefers running water…

Why do cats love running water? You head into the kitchen to start preparing dinner; as you turn on the faucet to start prepping your veggies for your evening meal, your cat hops up onto the edge of the sink.

They stare deeply into the stream of water as if it’s the latest blockbuster movie. Totally captivated by the funneling stream of fluids, your cat sits there and watches, mesmerized by the flow while you smile in amusement at its behavior.

It’s strange how cats love moving water, and many of them will only drink from running taps. Why is this? Why do cats love running water so much?

Cats Don’t Like Standing Water

The reason why your cat loves running water lies deep in its genetic makeup. If you watch a leopard approach a watering hole, they stop a few feet short of the water’s edge and hiss at the water. This behavior helps them check for predators like crocodiles lurking in the water, ready to grab them when they come to drink.

All big cats display the same behavior when approaching the watering hole. Since your feline friend is a direct descendant of these cats, they have the same genetic hardwiring. Some people think that cats display an aversion to still water because it may harbor bacteria or disease, but that’s not the case.

It comes down to predator-prey psychology. Cats have no problem drinking from waterholes in the wild. It’s their primal instinct and fear that makes them cautious. It’s pretty much impossible to train this behavior out of your cat.

Therefore, your cat might display some aversion to drinking out of its water bowl. This behavior differs in cats, with some only drinking from taps, while others are fine with drinking from the water bowl. If your cat only drinks from the tap, we have a solution for this problem later in this post.

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

Cats Like The Audio Stimulation

Do cats like the sound of running water? Some experts believe cats enjoy the sound and visual of running water. Once again, this goes back to their genetic heritage. The sound of running water might seem familiar to your cat since big cats prefer to drink from rivers rather than watering holes.

Moving water is less likely to harbor predators like crocodiles, as they find it challenging to lay in wait with the current pushing against them. Therefore, big cats feel more comfortable drinking at the side of a river rather than a watering hole.

These genetics are hardwired into your cat, and there’s nothing they can do to fight them. However, if you continuously encourage your cat to drink from their water bowl, they’ll eventually get it, provided you have the right size water bowl and clean water at ambient room temperature.

Cats Think Moving Water Tastes Fresh

Cats are clean animals. Big cats won’t drink from stagnant water sources in the wild because the water tastes bad. Most big cats have strong stomachs and systems, and it’s not the potential of bacteria on the water that drives them away – it’s the taste.

Therefore, if your cat’s water bowl is dirty or has water in it from yesterday, they’ll avoid it like the plague. Make sure your clean it out every day. Also, it’s important that you don’t leave any dish soap traces in the bowl. Cats hate the taste of detergent, and their sensitive sense of smell will detect the lightest chemical traces.

It’s for this reason that you shouldn’t give your cat tap water. Make sure you fill their water bowl with clean, filtered cold water. Public water systems use a variety of chemicals like lime and fluoride to balance the water pH and kill bacteria. Your cat may detect the scent of these chemicals, even if you can’t.

a calico cat taking a drink from a garden pond

Moving Water Is Entertaining For Your Kitty

Moving water also presents a source of entertainment for your cat. They like to stare at the water as it rushes out of the tap. Once again, this heralds back to their genetic ancestry. The running tap water reminds them of rivers in their natural habitat.

Your cat may freak out if your try to bathe it, but it will sit on the edge of the tub and watch you fill it with water. Some experts say watching running water is like a cat version of watching a movie. They enjoy the audio-visual experience, providing them with entertainment.

Keeping Whiskers Out Of The Way

Your cat’s whiskers are extremely sensitive. Cats use their whiskers to help them gauge distance. If their whiskers can fit through a gap without touching the sides, then they can fit their entire body through the gap by dislocating their shoulders to squeeze through.

It’s for this reason that you should never trim cat whiskers – Imagine the pain if someone cuts off the tips of your fingers.

Your cat’s whiskers come into play when they drink out of their water bowl. If the edges of the water bowl come in contact with your cat’s whiskers, they’ll pull back from drinking.

If your cat avoids the water bowl, try getting them a bowl with a wider circumference and a shallow depth so they avoid touching the sides with their whiskers. Avoid purchasing bowls with deep, angled sides.

How Do I Get My Cat To Drink From A Water Bowl?

You can use a few strategies and tactics to get your cat to start drinking from its water bowl.

First, make sure you have the right bowel size as described above. If that doesn’t help, try moving it to a different part of the room away from the dinner bowl.

The materials used in the bowl’s manufacture may also affect the taste of the water and how your cat views drinking from the bowl.

If you’re using a plastic bowl, try swapping it out for a ceramic or stainless steel version. Does your cat spill water? If your cat doesn’t like the bowl, they’ll probably tip it over to show you their disgust.

If your cat is a tipper, you can always get them a bowl with a rubber rim around the foot or try some of these tips to stop your cat from spilling water. These bowls make it harder for the cat to tip it over.

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

Should I Get A Water Fountain For My Cat?

Since cats like running water, you can take advantage of this instinct to keep your kitty hydrated. Purchasing a water fountain for your cats is the best way of emulating running water.

A cat water fountain is a small unit with housing and a pump, with an internal water bowl. The pump moves water from the bowl at the base up to a fountain at the top of the unit. It’s like those drinking fountains we all used at school.

Some water fountains are battery-operated, while others plug into an electrical outlet. The water fountain emulates running water for your cat, and the movement of the water keeps it tasting fresh for your kitty. Look for models that include water filters to remove debris and saliva.

Water fountains are affordable and easy to set up and maintain. Get one for your cat and see if it likes the change to its traditional water bowl. Be aware though that not all cats need a water fountain.