Q:My cat drinks from the faucet all the time. Why do cats like water from a faucet? Is this normal?
A: Yes. Just like us, cats can prefer cool, running water over that old, room-temp drink in the corner.
Does your cat come running every time you turn the kitchen faucet on? Do you have a “getting ready” buddy who joins you in the bathroom every morning to drink water from the faucet while you brush your teeth? Does your cat look at you longingly until you turn on any faucet anywhere?
Whether you’ve been a cat parent forever or you’re still getting to know your new four-legged friend, you’ve probably already realized that cats have very specific preferences when it comes to certain things. And when we say "certain things," we mean everything, from what they will (or won’t) eat, to where they like (or don’t like) to sleep, and what they spend their days doing (or not doing). And that persnickety nature even extends to the water they drink.
Some cats like to slurp from the faucet every chance they get. Some may even prefer it to the water in their bowl.
“Every cat is different and some just have particular preferences,” says Haley Pryor, an associate certified cat behavior specialist in Durham, North Carolina.
Let’s explore those preferences further.
Why Cats May Prefer to Drink Running Water Over the Water in Their Bowl
There are several reasons why a cat may choose to drink running water from a faucet instead of the water in their bowl:
- Evolution has taught them not to trust standing water
- They really don’t like their water bowl or where their bowl is placed
- Water from the faucet just plain tastes better
It’s an Evolutionary Behavior
Even though your kitty lives a posh life of privilege, their ancestors were wild animals, drinking from rivers and streams. Those wild animal instincts tell them that standing water, i.e. the water in their bowl, isn’t always safe.
“Water that is just sitting around in a puddle outside is prone to dangerous things growing in it and can sometimes make a cat sick so it’s beneficial [for them] to avoid water like that in nature,” Pryor says.
Cats also may be instinctively wary of turning their back on others to take a sip from their bowl. If there are other animals—even other cats—around, your cat may feel uneasy putting their head down to take a sip.
“If another pet chases them away from the water bowl, they may be afraid of lowering their head to drink since that would put them in a vulnerable position,” says Amelia Wieber, CPDT-KA, CCBC, owner of Caring Behavior Animal Behavior Consulting in Frederick, Colorado.
She recommends having several water bowls placed in various parts of your house to help with this. “It should really be the norm in even a single cat household,” she adds.
The Water Bowl Is Not to Their Liking
Some cats my turn up their nose at their water bowl because of the bowl itself. Maybe they prefer ceramic bowls to metal bowls, or glass over plastic. You can try a bowl made of a different material than what you have to encourage them to drink.
“My cats prefer a glass bowl to metal or ceramic, but they will drink out of the dog’s larger metal water bowl sometimes,” Wieber says.
Or the bowl may be too small, and it rubs your cat’s whiskers the wrong way—literally.
“If the bowl is too small, every time they go to eat or drink, their whiskers get pushed back,” Wieber explains. “The nerves attached to them can become sensitive or painful.” She suggests trying a wider bowl, or even an elevated bowl to limit pressure on the whiskers.
Or maybe the spot where the bowl is kept is not to their liking. “Environmental stimuli like … a loud household appliance may be keeping your cat from being comfortable approaching the bowl,” Wieber says. In which case, move the bowl to a quieter location. Again, having multiple water bowls in different locations throughout the house can help.
Running Water Tastes Better
Think about it: Would you rather drink the water from last night on your nightstand or get yourself a fresh glass? The fresh glass, right? Just like us, running water from the faucet may tickle your cat’s tastebuds more than the stale, dusty water in their bowl.
“Cats, like all of us, prefer fresh cool water,” Wieber says.
Can you really blame them? (If you swear you can taste the difference between Dasani bottled water and Evian, then we bet this really makes sense to you.)
Also, “cats have really thick saliva since it is also used to clean themselves, and drinking out of the same water over and over can cause the water to have a stale taste or cause a build-up of saliva, which is also not pleasant,” Pryor adds.
Make sure your cat has fresh, clean water in their bowl every day. You may also consider getting your cat their very own water fountain. Pet water fountains circulate water through a filter, keeping water fresh and creating movement, which as we learned above, cats tend to prefer thanks to their wild cat ancestors.
Here are some of our faves:
“There are plenty of fantastic cat fountains, if you wish to give your cat their own ‘faucet,’” Wieber says. “Chances are they’ll still solicit a few slurps when you are washing your hands, but we want to be sure they have 24/7 access to water they enjoy drinking.”
Well, at least they aren’t using the water dispenser on the fridge door. Yet.