When Your Cat Converts Her Water Dish Into a Floor Puddle, Here's What She's Really Saying

Story at-a-glance -

  • People say a lot of things about cats that may or may not be rooted in truth, such as “cats can’t stand water,” because clearly, some can
  • Some cat breeds, both exotic and domestic, may surprise you regarding the habits they have when they’re near lakes and pools or the bathroom shower; sometimes they get in
  • Cats are mysterious, but there may be reasons you never thought of to explain why a cat might dip his paws into his water dish to drink rather than drinking it the conventional way like other felines

By Dr. Becker

Whether or not you’re a cat lover, you’ve probably heard rumors about cats for years: that they don’t “accept” people the way dogs do, they’re lazy or only buddy up to you because they want something.

But if there’s one thing that’s true about cats (or any other creature, for that matter) it’s that when you know the back story, you begin to not only understand but respect what makes them behave as they do.

Just like dogs, different cat breeds have different talents and tendencies. Some climb trees better than others — one type, the Norwegian Forest cat, has been known to climb down trees head first because it has sturdier paws in comparison with other breeds. Abyssinians and Savannahs are said to be among the most easily trained.

Then there are cats who use completely different methods to drink their water, and those who enjoy a good dousing with the garden hose. For some interesting facts about cat breeds with a certain affinity for water, read on.

Six Cat Breeds That Adore Water

1. Turkish Van

Perhaps the Turkish Van wins the prize for being the most acclimated to water. Not only do they love swimming and playing in water, they may claim your toilet bowl as their own private water park.

In fact, this cat is the subject of interesting folklore that may explain its name: A pair of Turkish Vans on Noah’s Ark, which lodged on Mount Ararat in Turkey when the flood waters receded, are said to have gotten so hot in the arid climate that they jumped into the water and swam to Lake Van.

2. American Shorthair

This is the guy who prefers dipping his paws into his water bowl and drinking the water off them instead of drinking it with their tongue the way most other cats do. The Dodo suggests one reason for this:

“Some cats may prefer licking their paws to drinking out of a water bowl if they don't like the shape of the water bowl. Cats are subject to ‘whisker stress’ where they may not like pressure on their whiskers while they eat or drink.

But many cats may just see water as more than a source of hydration; it’s a way to have some fun. Some cats (are) attracted to moving water, so perhaps moving it themselves — and making ripples in the bowl — makes the water more interesting!”1

That’s a good reason to set out water in a dish larger than the outside tips of your cat’s whiskers. Some owners of this most common breed report their cat’s habit of intentionally spilling their water bowl.

It may be because it’s creates easier access to it, or because they like the way water looks when they play in it.

3. Maine Coon

There are rumors suggesting these cats have a little raccoon blood in them, but that’s not actually possible.

Maine Coons do have a few things in common with raccoons, though, one being a tendency to dunk their favorite toys in their water bowl, push their dish around (and spill their water) and again, to use their paws to scoop and drink.

Some of these habits have prompted owners to put their cat’s water dish inside a larger container, like a cardboard box or a litterbox-sized box, with four sizes to make it a little more complicated to push around.

Keep your toilet bowl lids closed: this kitty’s water fetish may have you cleaning up after his enthusiastic paddle parties.

4. American Bobtail

If you know anything about the Golden Retriever, it’s probably its modus operandi for retrieving in water, so the reputation the American Bobtail has as “the Golden Retriever of the cat world” hints at her natural bent toward water play. She’s another cat you might find happily “baptizing” her favorite toy in her water dish.

A friendly cat breed with a brawny profile, this one also has naturally water-resistant fur, but her antics with her water may require putting a towel under her water dish to soak up the mess she makes.

5. Turkish Angora

Regal and alert, this silky feline may one day surprise you by strolling into the shower with you, or sliding languidly into your bathtub. Turkish Angora kitties have been known to sit on bathroom counters, as well, to playfully and vigorously splash water, watching it in fascination.

As comfortable as any cat can be in water, you may find this one swimming alongside your dog at the lake or in the pool, and even come running whenever you turn on the kitchen or bathroom faucet.

6. Bengal

Here’s another feline with a fascination for floating objects, whether it’s soap in the bathtub, a wooden spoon in the kitchen sink or ice cubes in your water glass. Needless to say, aquariums should have a secure lid!

The reason for this behavior may be the way these objects appear that makes Bengal cats stalk, zero in and bat at such objects to see how they behave. Interestingly, the Bengal is a descendant of a larger cat, the Asian Leopard, so it’s not so surprising how mesmerized she may be by the spray of water in the shower.

Cats Playing in Water Is One Thing; Bathing Them Is Another

That said, the claim that all cats are naturally terrified of water is another myth. In fact, some kitties will actually allow themselves to bob along, half immersed, as you lovingly suds them down. Don’t get excited, though, because that’s certainly not always the case.

Another thing that’s not always true about cats: They don’t always have the best hygiene in the world. Injured or overweight kitties or unfortunate accidents can necessitate a bath, so recommendations to make it easier include having an assistant, preparing thoroughly beforehand and watching this video: “By Popular Demand: How to Bathe a Cat and Live to Tell About It.”

If you introduce cats to water gradually when they’re young, and show them you’re not going to be rough or forceful when they really need some good old soap and water (such as when they get into something sticky or smelly) they may be much more apt to be calm when bath time arrives.