Why Does My Cat Dip Their Paw in Their Water Bowl?

Raising cats is never easy. They look cute and cuddly on TikTok or when you visit your friend’s kitties, but once you get your own feline friend, you soon discover a world of hidden antics and quirks your fellow pet parents were suspiciously silent about.

Your cat poking its paw into its water bowl is a perfect example of such questionable quirks. Why is your cat using its paw to drink? Don’t cats usually use their tongues to lap up the water? There are several reasons behind this strange behavior, as well as a few things you can do to prevent it. Let’s first take a look at what’s causing this peculiar paw dipping.

Petlibro blog Why Does My Cat Dip Their Paw in Their Water Bowl

Whisker Discomfort

Your cat’s whiskers are very sensitive. They’re rich in nerve endings that aid your cat’s vision and help them sense the environment around them. They can even sense the flow of air currents or the slight brush of an object as you cat prowls past. 

This level of sensory awareness is great for your cat’s survival, but it has a few downsides when it comes to drinking from their bowl. 

Petlibro blog Why Does My Cat Dip Their Paw in Their Water Bowl

If your cat’s water bowl is too narrow or deep, their whiskers squash against the sides. This is uncomfortable for your cat. The constant stimulation of those nerve endings overwhelms their senses, resulting in your cat to use their paws instead to avoid discomfort.

Inconsistent Water Depth

Cats are very fussy. Any change to the status quo can lead to yowls of displeasure and strange behavior, such as paw dipping. If you’re inconsistent in how much water you pour into your cat’s bowl, your furbaby might use their paw to test the depth of the water, checking to see if you’ve topped it up to the level they’re used to. 

Water Bowl Placement

Many cats dislike being backed into a corner. It sounds all kinds of alarm bells inside their brains. Now, of course, your home is a safe place for your furbaby, but this behavior is rooted deep in your cat’s genetics.

If their water bowl is up against the wall, they’ll have their back to the rest of the room while drinking. This makes your cat feel vulnerable if they lower their head to drinking normally. They wouldn’t be able to see the rest of the room, and thus couldn’t look out for potential dangers. As a result, they use their paws instead so they can still keep an eye out.

How Can This Paw Dipping Affect My Cat?

While this behavior is undeniably cute, there can be negative consequences that can affect your cat’s health.

Dirty Drinking Water

Cleanliness is key in your cat’s world. On average, cats spend between 30 and 50 percent of their day grooming themselves. However, even the cleanest of cats will sometimes track in dirty paws when dinnertime calls.

Petlibro blog Why Does My Cat Dip Their Paw in Their Water Bowl

Dirt, dust, soil, and all manner of unsavory things can cling to your cat’s paws. Dipping these paws in water results in this detritus polluting their water bowl. If left unchecked, it can affect the water quality in your cat’s bowl, potentially causing illness.

Soiled Floors and Carpets

All that splashing about of paws can leave your carefully-cleaned floors wet and dirty. This is especially concerning if you have carpets. Wet carpet can breed harmful molds and bacteria, exposing your entire household to harmful pathogens.

How Do I Stop My Cat Dipping Their Paw in Their Water Bowl?

The good news is that there are several easy ways to stop this paw-ful behavior.

Get a Wider and Shallower Water Bowl

A wider bowl will help accommodate your cat’s long whiskers, ensuring they feel comfortable every time they drink. Couple this with a bowl that’s also shallow and you can help your cat feel at ease when they bend their head down to drink. Since your cat no longer needs to stoop as low to drink, they’ll feel safer letting their guard down, still able to keep an eye on their surroundings. 

Try an Automatic Cat Water Fountain

Pet water fountains, like the Dockstream Battery-Operated Water Fountain, provide a larger drinking space for your cats, as well as a water level that’s higher than conventional water bowls. This combo ensures your furbaby’s whiskers won’t brush up against the sides of the fountain so they can drink without discomfort.


Where automatic cat water fountains really accel over traditional water bowls, however, are their filtration systems. The Dockstream Battery-Operated Water Fountain offers a filtration system that contains ion exchange resin and coconut shell activated carbon to remove hair, dirt, and other detritus. This purifies the water even when your pet dips a paw in, keeping your pet safe from urinary diseases.

That's all from us today. Let us know if your cat loves dipping their paw in their water bowl, or if you've noticed any other peculiar pet antics you'd like us to cover in future blogs!