Why Won't My Cat Drink Out Of Her Bowl?


cat drinking from sink

Cats are as unique as humans; no cat is alike. They have their individual likes and dislikes, which can sometimes be a bit ... mindboggling. Like when your beloved fluff absolutely refuses to drink out of a bowl, even though it's always full of fresh, clean water. But if you leave your glass of water unattended, your cat will have her head shoved in the glass and drinking like she's never tasted water before. 

Is there a reason behind this finicky and baffling behavior? Do our cats just get a kick out of giving their owners a hard time? It turns out there are more than a few reasons your cat might be turning up their nose at the water bowl. 


1. It's All About Perception

Cats actually have fairly poor depth perception: they have a blind spot right in front of their nose. This can make it difficult for them to see where the water in the bowl actually starts, resulting in a snoot full of water. This is why some cats will dip a paw in the water to test the level first. 

If your cat prefers drinking from a running faucet, it might be because they can hear the running water better than they can see the still water in the bowl.

Try a circulating water fountain designed for cats that prefer running water to encourage your cat to drink more - without you having to leave the faucet running! 


Cat Lady Face Mask and Filter Bundle


2. The Bowl Isn't "Just Right"

Photo: Lara Dietrich

For some finicky kitties, they won't drink from the water bowl unless it's the "purrfect" bowl. What the perfect bowl is depends on your cat, and you may have to try a few different styles to see which they prefer. Most cats tend to prefer dishes that are wide enough to accommodate their sensitive whiskers; if the bowl is too deep and narrow, it may squish or tickle their whiskers and make drinking unpleasant. 

3. Location, Location, Location

Most of us naturally place our cat's food and water bowls next to each other. But this placement can actually go against a cat's natural instinct to keep food and water separate. In the wild, cats will often go to great measures to keep their food and water sources separate to avoid having the food contaminate the water.

If you notice that your cat's water bowl is too close to the food and is constantly getting dry kibbles in the fresh water dish, simply try moving the water dish. It can honestly be as simple as that! 

4. They Don't Feel Safe

This is most common in multi-cat or multi-animal households. When a cat hunches over to drink, it puts them in a very vulnerable position. It opens them up to "attack" from other cats, dogs, or even rambunctious toddlers. Try moving the bowl to a "safer" location, ideally not in a corner or facing a wall. 

5. Taste Matters

The water in your cat’s bowl may taste different depending on the material it’s made from, or the source of water itself.  Just like many of us finicky humans might prefer to drink from plastic, ceramic, or glass, your cat may prefer ceramic or stainless steel

Some tap water is treated with fluoride, which might taste - or smell - unpleasant to your cat. Try giving your cat bottled or filtered water to see what your cat likes best.  

There are more than a few reasons your cat might be ignoring their water bowl. Do you have a cat that is picky about water? What was your water bowl solution? Let us know in the comments below! 


Face & Neck Gaiters for Cat Lovers With Filter Pocket


  • Jean Jenn

    I agree with the poster above, we had a Drinkwell water fountain and the cats LOVED it, drank a great deal more from it than previously!

    One of my former cats (actually more than one, but I’m thinking of a certain one) always preferred to drink a very slow, thin stream from the tap.

    Most vets will tell you to use canned (“wet”) cat food as opposed to just dry food, since it has a high concentration of liquid. Most cats NEED that extra liquid!

    Also, I’d suggest a Drinkwell or some other recommended brand of cat fountain. you DO have to change the filter frequently, and I would wash the other parts of the fountain in the dishwasher whenever we had to do that, so it stayed clean.

  • Lorraine

    My cat used to love drinking water from the shower. I’d turn shower on then he’d lap it up. Now he doesn’t want that. I’ve caught him drinking from the fish bowl several times.He won’t drink from faucet either.

  • jmuhj

    We’re on our second basic Drinkwell fountain. Clean it once a week, change the filters as recommended, fill it every morning, and it’s our favorite watering hole. Cats deserve fountains!

  • Sonja

    My cats prefer dirty fish tank water…. maybe because it tastes a bit like fish?

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.