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Why Do Cats Put Things In Their Water Bowl? 13 Likely Reasons

It has been said that curiosity killed the cat, but in reality, it is their curiosity that often keeps them safe. A cat’s natural curiosity leads them to investigate everything they encounter, from new smells to strange noises. This inquisitiveness often puts them in unique situations where they can see and learn new things. While cats may sometimes get themselves into trouble by being too curious, this trait also helps them become better problem solvers, more adaptable to change and helps them learn and grow.

Cats use their curiosity to understand how the world works, and they can be very resourceful in figuring things out. They often explore their surroundings by playing with objects they find. So, it’s no surprise that cats sometimes put things in their water bowl. But what is the reason behind this behavior? Read on below to find out more.

divider-catclaw1 The 13 Reasons Why Cats Put Things In Their Water Bowls

1. Hiding Prey

grey cat drinking water from bowl
Image Credit: Prilutskiy, Shutterstock

One of the reasons that cats may put things in their water bowl is to hide prey. When a cat catches a prey animal, it may be difficult for the cat to consume the animal immediately. The cat may want to keep the prey hidden so that other animals, such as rodents or birds, do not steal the food. Placing the prey in the water bowl may help to keep it safe and concealed. If your cat is not an outdoor cat, they may see their toys or other objects as prey.

When a cat catches prey, they often play with it before killing it. So, by putting things in their water bowl, cats are simulating the act of hunting.

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2. Gathering Instincts

Cats putting things in their water bowls may be explained by the fact that they are engaging in a behavior known as “gathering.” Gathering is an instinctual behavior exhibited by many animals, including cats, which involves the collection of items (usually food) to bring back to a central location. By putting things in their water bowl, cats may be trying to create a makeshift “gatherer’s cache” where they can store their findings.

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3. Eliminating Prey Scent

cat carrying a dead mouse
Image Credit: Markos-Loizou, Shutterstock

An additional potential reason why cats may put things in their water bowl is to eliminate prey scent. If a cat was to hunt and kill a rodent, for example, and then bring the carcass back to its home territory, the scent of the prey could give away the cat’s location. Predators such as coyotes and foxes can detect the scent of prey from a long distance, so by putting something in their water bowl, the cat is masking the scent and making it more difficult for the predator to track them down.

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4. Teaching You to Hunt

Another theory as to why cats put things in their water bowl is that they are teaching their owners how to hunt. When cats are raising kittens, they will often deposit objects into their nest, so they can provide a “tutorial” on how to catch prey. By placing objects in the water, the cat is creating a contained environment in which to demonstrate how to stalk and capture prey. Their food bowl is a guaranteed area of interaction between you and your pet, and this exhibition may be your cat’s way of passing on their hunting knowledge to you.

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5. A Token of Appreciation

cat drinking from a large pan
Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

A possible explanation for cats putting things in their water bowls is that they are attempting to show their owners gratitude. By placing objects, especially prey, in the water bowl, cats may be trying to communicate that they appreciate all that their owners do for them. It can be seen as a sign of respect and gratitude. Your cat appreciates the effort you put into feeding them every day. That is why they will gift you a dead bird, toy, or missing sock as a gesture of goodwill.

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6. Having Fun

Cats enjoy playing with water, so they may put things in their water bowl to amuse themselves. Some cats may enjoy batting around a toy or playing with a piece of food in their water, while others may be curious about what the object looks like floating in their drink. Cats are intelligent animals and many experience delight in interacting with objects that they place in their water bowl.

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7. A Learned Pattern

Domestic cat drinking water
Image Credit: AleksandarMilutinovic, Shutterstock

Alternatively, one explanation for why cats put things in their water bowl is that it is a learned pattern. It is possible that cats think that placing toys or other objects in the water bowl caused you to interact with them, speak to them, or show them affection. You may have inadvertently trained them to repeat this behavior by reinforcing it with a reward.

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8. Convenience & Easy Access

Possibly, one explanation for why cats put things in their water bowl is that it is simply convenient for them. When a cat wants to drink, it has to drop the object it is holding in its mouth in order to do so. Often, when a cat has a toy or other item it wants to play with, it will carry it to its water bowl in order to have easy access to both items at the same time.

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9. Boredom

bored domestic cat
Image Credit: IceEye, Pixabay

It has been hypothesized that cats put things in their water bowls out of boredom. It could be that they are looking for something to do and the water bowl is a convenient place to start. Some cats may also just be curious about what will happen if they put something in the water. This can be a way of entertaining themselves and providing some stimulation.

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10. Showing Dominance

Another possibility is that they are trying to show dominance over their territory. By putting objects in the water bowl, they can claim it as their own and demonstrate that they are in control. By depositing objects in the water bowl, they are essentially saying, “This is my space, and you’re not welcome here.”

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11. Seeking Attention

cat biting owner's fingers
Image Credit: Crina Doltu, Pexels

It is possible that cats are seeking attention as a result of this behavior. They may be doing this to get their owners’ attention, as they may want to be petted or played with. Another possibility is that the cats are trying to get their owners to refill their water bowls more often, as fresh water is important for their health. Some cats may learn that when they place objects in their water bowl, their owners will come over to investigate and provide them with affection. This behavior may be reinforced if the owner responds positively (e.g., by petting, changing the water or providing food) when the cat places an object in the water bowl.

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12. Their Water is Dirty

Cats are known for being clean animals, so why do they put things in their water bowl? The most likely explanation is that their water is dirty. Cats are smart animals and know when their water needs to be refreshed, so they add something new to the bowl because they no longer see it as a drinking place or source of hydration.

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13. Possible Health Concerns

Sick cat medicines
Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

Although health issues are not the most likely reason, your cat putting objects in their water could be a warning sign of a potential health issue. It’s possible that your cat has a health issue that is causing them to act differently around water. The relationship cats have with water changes when they develop thyroid imbalance, urinary tract infections, feline diabetes, or kidney problems. These problems are typically accompanied by lethargy, reduced appetite, confusion, messy drinking, or excessive drinking. You should schedule an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian if you notice any of these warning signs.


How Can You Stop Your Cat from Putting Toys in Their Water

It is difficult to determine whether or not one can “stop” their cat from doing anything, as every feline has a unique personality and set of behaviors. In some cases, it may be possible to discourage the animal from continuing a certain activity—such as putting toys in their water—by using positive reinforcement, but it is ultimately up to the pet owner to decide what is best for their furry friend. That said, it is possible to extinguish unwanted behaviors in cats, but it may take a bit of effort. If you are trying to stop your cat from putting toys in their water, you will need to be very consistent in your efforts.

1. Distract & Entertain

cat playing with a toy
Image Credit: Darkmoon_Art, Pixabay

By adding more toys and enrichment to your cat’s environment, you can distract them from putting toys in the water. Ensure your pet is engaged by increasing interactive playtime.

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2. Change to a Water Fountain

You can prevent your cat from putting toys in its water by getting rid of the water bowl altogether. But you should still ensure that your cat stays hydrated. An excellent way to change the scenario for your cat while enticing it to drink is to swap the water bowl for a water fountain.

Not every cat water fountain will make your life easier. This is why we recommend the well-designed Hepper Stainless Steel Cat Water Fountain, which has advanced triple filtration, three different flow modes, and an automatic shutoff feature.

Hepper stainless steel water fountain

This modern, minimalist fountain runs surprisingly quietly and is very easy to clean.

At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

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3. Do “Nothing”

nebelung cat playing on the floor
Image Credit: Milada Vigerova, Pixabay

In most cases, it is best to simply ignore this behavior and continue providing food, water, and toys to the cat. Don’t pay attention to your cat if they intentionally place their toys in the water bowl to attract your attention. Wait until your cat is distracted or asleep before cleaning up the mess. In this way, you will send the message that you are disinterested in the behavior.

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4. Keep Their Water Clean

It is not uncommon for cats to play in soiled water, but they generally refuse to drink it. You can prevent your cat from dropping toys by changing its water bowl frequently. Keep your cat’s water clean to prevent them from putting toys in it. This means regularly changing the water and cleaning the bowl.

divider-catclaw1 Conclusion

In conclusion, cats put things in their water bowl for a variety of reasons. Some cats do it to cover up their scent, some do it to teach you to hunt, and others do it just for fun. If your cat is putting things in their water bowl, there is no need to worry. Just keep an eye on the bowl to make sure that the cat is drinking enough water!

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Featured Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay