Why Cats Splash Water

Caitlin Dempsey


Curious blue tabby maine coon cat playing with water in metal bowl outdoors on grass touching water with paw

Most cats may have an aversion to being in water but that doesn’t stop a lot of them from playing with water. Cats may paw at their water wishes or may play with a stream of water coming from a faucet.

Here are a few reasons why your cat may love to play with water.

Cats have an instinct for fresh water

Cats will instinctively seek out fresh water. Still, stagnant water can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and other toxins. In the wild, cats will seek out running water over still water.

Domestic cats may still carry that instinct to use their paws to move aside leaves, debris, and other contaminants from their waters sources in order to reach cleaner water to drink.

Black cat drinking water from the sink.
Cats prefer running water over stagnant water for drinking. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Your cat is measuring the water

Cats are short-sighted and have a hard time seeing things close up. Often, cats will use their paws and the sensitive whiskers around their face and front legs as their “eyes.”

My orange tabby cat loves to drive water from the bottom of the bathtub. Every day, he will run into the bathroom, hop into the tub on the side farthest away from the faucet, and look up at me expectantly.

After I have filled the tub with some cold water, he will stretch out a paw to make sure that I really did add water for him to drink.

An orange tabby drinking water from a white bathtub.
This orange tabby cat loves to drink cold water from the bathtub. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Water is fun to play with

Another reason why cats splash water is that they find it fun and amusing.

Cats are highly curious animals and enjoy exploring their environment. They may splash water as a way to interact with and explore a new object or surface. In this case, the water itself is the toy, and the cat is simply playing with it.

Your cat is hunting

Cats are natural predators and have a strong drive to hunt and catch their prey.

When a cat plays with water, they may be mimicking the behavior of hunting prey that lives in or near water. For example, if a cat sees a fish in an aquarium or a bug near a puddle, they may instinctively try to catch it by splashing water with their paws.

This is the reason you may also find toys in your cat’s water. Cats mimic their prey drive when they play with certain toys.

For example, a ball mimics a rodent, the end of a rope with feathers mimics a bird, and the red dot of a laser pointer mimics insects. Once the “prey” is caught, your cat may dump the object into the water to “finish the job.”

Your cat is exploring

Cats use their paws to explore things. Cats will often gingerly reach out their paw to swat at a new object or bat it around carefully. The same things can happen with water.

Whether it’s water from a new bowl, a cat water fountain, or a faucet, swatting at the water is a way to explore for your cat.

Curious blue tabby maine coon cat playing with water in metal bowl outdoors on grass touching water with paw
A Maine Coon reaches out with a cautious paw to explore a tub of water. Photo: © FurryFritz/stock.adobe.com.

When to worry about your cat splashing water

It’s also sometimes possible that some cats may splash water due to an underlying medical condition, such as a urinary tract infection or kidney disease. If your cat is displaying unusual water-related behaviors and is showing signs of discomfort or pain, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian.


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey holds both a master's in Geography from UCLA and a Master of Library and Information Science. She is the editor of Geographyrealm.com and an avid researcher of geography and feline topics. A lifelong cat owner, Caitlin currently has three rescued cats: an orange tabby, a gray tabby, and a black cat.