Stopping Cats From Spilling Water

How To Prevent Water Bowl Games

Photo of Cat Playing With Water
Getty Images / David G. Miller

If you find your feline companion doing more splashing in its water bowl than drinking it, your cat might have a serious health issue that's affecting its innate desire to hydrate itself. This is especially true if you've already tried changing the water regularly or alternated drinking bowls and the problem still persists.

Behavior specialists and veterinarians examine a cat’s physical and emotional health, as well as traits of instinct, to help figure out problem behaviors and find solutions—think of this as the H.I.S.S. Test, which stands for health, instinct, stress, and symptom solvers.

Once you've been able to diagnose what behavioral or physical ailment is affecting your pet, you can then begin to fix the problem of a cat splashing in its water bowl instead of drinking it.

The H.I.S.S Test for Animal Behaviors

In order to determine whether or not your pet is suffering from a serious ailment, applying the H.I.S.S. test can be used. As for health, cats can increase thirst and water intake with several health conditions including diabetes, kidney failure, and thyroid issues, all of which can make them thirsty. However, it's extremely rare for a young kitten rarely to have such conditions.

As a general rule, kittens are known to play with objects a great deal as the instinct to manipulate with their paws is a natural impulse. Although this could be the cause of their playing with water, which would be solved by buying more toys and scratching posts for your kittens to claw at, it's highly unlikely it's the only reason your pet might be playing in its drinking water.

Stress sometimes prompts strange behaviors as well, and obsessive or compulsive disorders can become worse with stress, but again, kittens rarely would be affected by these types of long-term behavioral patterns.

Finding a solution, then, would hinge upon your individual pet's needs. If a veterinarian finds a physical issue, for instance, treating the disease or ailment would likely result in your cat's behavior improving upon its health improving.

Practical Advice for Playful Kittens

Sometimes a kitten playing in water is just a kitten acting its age—some young felines love patting around in the water while others simply can't stand the stuff. Kittens are inclined to grow out of behaviors like splashing in the water, though, so patience may be the best solution if your young cat is using its water bowl as a toy.

Kitten object play is most active up through the five-month-age and starts to decline thereafter, but if the behavior does not begin to wane by the time the kitten starts reaching maturity, it may be helpful to redirect the kitten's focus to a better outlet for play, even with water bowls.

If you have a shower or bathtub, consider placing a bowl filled with water inside it and showing it to your young kitten. You can reinforce your cat's play with treats and praise to encourage it to only play with water bowls inside the shower, where spillage won't be as big of an issue. If given the space to get this water play out of the way, the kitten is less likely to play with bowls meant to be left out and full of water for drinking.

Alternatively, you could investigate water bottles (used for guinea pigs or other small pets) from pet product stores as a means to water your cat; many cats can be taught to drink from these non-spill-able water sources, but to get the kitties attracted to the water bottle and help them learn to drink from it, flavor the water with tuna juice.