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Why Do Cats Put Things in Their Water Bowl? 9 Possible Reasons

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Vet, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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It’s common for cats to drop toys and other things into their water bowls, and while we don’t know exactly why each cat does it, there are a few theories. Let’s look at possible reasons that cats put objects in their water bowl.


The 9 Possible Reasons Why Cats Put Things in Their Water Bowl

1. Gathering Instincts

Besides hunting, cats are naturally driven to collect and gather. This instinct is most obvious when you watch a mother cat moving her kittens around or when she returns wandering kittens to the “nest.”

When a cat drowns their toys in their water bowl, it might be simply “gathering” up its toys for safekeeping.

American shorthair cat eating
Image Credit: Apicha Bas, Shutterstock

2. Hiding Their Prey

Cats are driven by their hunting instinct. This is what drives how they play with and view their toys. Your cat may see their toys as prey, so they put them in their water bowl. In the wild, cats bring their prey back to their nesting spot to protect it for safe keeping from other predators. Despite your cat’s domestication, this instinct is still present. Since they don’t have a nest to hide prey in, they put it in their water bowl.

3. Washing Off the Scent of Their Prey

In addition to hiding their prey from other predators, cats also want to disguise or wash off their scent. Therefore, they hide it in the water bowl. This washes off the “prey” scent, saving the cat’s meal from other animals.

While their toys aren’t actually a meal for house cats, they may still insist on drowning their catch in the bowl.

bengal cat eating
Image Credit: Photo_Olivia, Shutterstock

4. Teaching You or Other Cats How to Hunt

Your cat may be dropping toys in the water bowl to teach other cats to hunt (if you have more than one) or to teach you how. It’s the same way that a mother cat would teach their kittens. They are dropping the prey in a safe place to teach you how to hunt for yourself.

5. Leaving You a Present

Cats are smart animals and know who feeds and waters them daily. When cats want to show their affection, they bring their owners presents, often in the form of prey. You may have known an outdoor cat that liked to bring dead mice back to its owner. Similarly, your cat is leaving their toys for you to show their appreciation.

cat hunting mice in the wild
Image Credit: Kathryn19, Pixabay

6. Playing

Sometimes there is no other explanation for your cat’s behavior beyond the fact that they’re having fun doing it. Many cats are fascinated with water and love to paw, splash, or fish objects out of it. It may be that your kitty likes the game of dropping toys in the water bowl and pushing them around.

7. Displaying Learned Behavior

If your cat gets attention when you find toys in the water bowl, they will drop them in there again. It’s a learned behavior. They know that it gets your attention, so they drown more toys when you’re around.

long haired cat eating food from a cat bowl
Image Credit: Seattle Cat Photo, Shutterstock

8. Being Bored

Cats are naturally curious creatures that can get bored easily. They may find interesting things to do with their excess energy. Drowning toys in their water bowl may be one way that your cat alleviates their boredom.

9. Doing It for Convenience

It’s possible that your cat’s toys land in the water bowl simply because that is the spot where they have to drop them. Cats carry their toys around in their mouth. If they go to get a drink, they have to put the toy down, and it just lands in the bowl.

maine coon cat pawing its water bowl
Image Credit: Pickless, Shutterstock

Can You Stop Your Cat From Dropping Things in the Water Bowl?

Most of the time, there is no reason that you need to stop your cat from putting things in their water bowl. It’s cute and funny and no harm comes from it. There’s also the fact that your cat could be acting out their natural instincts when putting toys in the bowl, making it nearly impossible to stop.

Also, you can’t limit your cat’s access to water just to stop the behavior. There are health consequences to this, and your cat will simply find another place to drop their toys, perhaps somewhere less convenient to clean up than the water bowl.

That said, if your cat is a chronic toy drowner, there are a few things that you can do.

  • Buy water-safe toys: If your cat drops all their toys in the water bowl, there are certain toys that you may not want them to have. Toys that break apart in water will contaminate the water or be rendered useless.
  • Make sure your cat isn’t eating random items: Most cat owners find toys in their pet’s water bowl. If you find other household items, ensure that your cat isn’t eating them. This can be dangerous, though thankfully, it’s rare. Your cat may be making toys out of things like scraps of paper or dust bunnies, and that’s fine. Just make sure they’re playing with the items and not consuming them.
a cat playing with toys
Image Credit: winni-design, Shutterstock



Dropping toys into the water bowl is fairly common cat behavior. Hopefully, this list has given you an idea as to why your cat is doing this, but be aware that you may never know the exact reason. While your cat may be acting out their natural hunter/gatherer instincts, there’s also the good possibility that your cat drowns their toys for the same reason that they exhibit other odd cat behaviors: because they feel like it! Thankfully, there aren’t too many negative consequences that can come from this, other than occasional extra cleanup.

Featured Image Credit: Vera_Chan, Shutterstock

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