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Why Does My Cat Move Their Water Bowl? 10 Common Reasons

Any cat owner will tell you that cats can be fickle creatures. They like their food one day, then hate it the next. They use the litter box in the laundry room for weeks, only to decide that they prefer the one in the bathroom. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise when your cat decides to start moving around their water bowl. But why do they do this? Here, we look at 10 common reasons that cats move their water bowls and what you can do to stop it.


The 10 Common Reasons That Cats Move Their Water Bowl

1. They Are Feeling Anxious or Stressed

Stress is one of the most common causes of feline water bowl displacement. Stress and anxiety can stem from multiple sources, including:

  • Moving to a new environment
  • New family members in the house, like a new baby or a new pet
  • Changes in the weather
  • Changes in your work schedule that leave them alone more often
  • Illness
Russian Blue Cat Eating
Image Credit: slawomir.gawryluk, Shutterstock

What to do about it

  • If you notice that your cat is suddenly pawing around their water bowl, assess for possible stressors. Be patient if there has been a recent move or change in your schedule. Your cat will likely adjust over time. If there is a new addition in your house, make sure to devote extra time and attention to your kitty so they don’t feel left out. If all else fails, it may be time to visit the vet to ensure that your cat is healthy.

2. They Want Fresh Water

Cats are picky about their water, so there’s a good chance that your cat is moving the bowl because they want a fresh supply. If you notice your cat moving their bowl when the water hasn’t been refreshed in a while, they’re trying to tell you something! It’s also worth noting that cats like their water at room temperature. If the temperature isn’t quite right, this can make drinking uncomfortable. Moving the bowl is one way of communicating to you that something’s wrong with the water.

Cat drinking from ceramic bowl
Image Credit: Pattysan, Shutterstock

What to do about it

  • Clean and change your cat’s water daily, and make sure it stays at room temperature.

3. They Don’t Like the Bowl

Sometimes cats just aren’t appreciative of the cute new bowl that you bought. If it’s a deep bowl, it’s more difficult to drink from. A wide and shallow bowl is often preferred.

The material could also be the issue. Metal or glass bowls are less likely to alter the taste of the water than plastic ones. Some cats can taste the plastic in their water.

feeding cat
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shuterstock

What to do about it

  • If you’ve recently introduced a new bowl to your cat, try putting the old one back to see if they still move the bowl around. If the behavior stops, you’ve found the solution.

4. They Want the Bowl in a Different Spot

Cats like their own space, so they could be pushing it because they’re trying to move it to a different location. Consider a place in your house that’s quiet and out of the way. Some cats don’t like eating and drinking in busy spaces, while others suffer from fear of missing out and won’t drink if they have to be away from their family.

American shorthair cat eating
Image Credit: Apicha Bas, Shutterstock

What to do about it

  • Try moving the bowl to a location that’s different than the one that it’s in. If it’s in a busy room, move it somewhere quiet. If it’s in a quiet space, try moving it into the action.

5. Your Cat Is Territorial

Cats like to claim ownership of things and mark their territory. They typically mark territory by using scent glands, but they could be pushing and shoving their water bowl to stake claim to it. This is more likely if you have a multi-cat household.

an old cat is depressed and sad, does not want to eat its food
Image Credit: Kitirinya, Shutterstock

What to do about it

  • The easiest way to prevent cats from becoming territorial over food and water bowls is to make sure each cat has their own set and that each cat can eat and drink in a different spot.

6. They Prefer Still Water

Some cats find moving water distracting or annoying. If your cat’s bowl features moving water, they might be trying to tell it to stop.

bengal cat drinking water
Image Credit: kalyanby, Shutterstock

What to do about it

  • Give your cat still water in a bowl, and see if they stop moving the bowl around.

7. They Prefer Moving Water

Cats that prefer moving water may push around their bowl if it contains still water. A dish with clear liquid can be unsettling to them, so they give the bowl a whack to make the water move.

cat drinking from water fountain
Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

8. They Do It Out of Curiosity

Cats like to know what’s happening around them. Sometimes this is why they move their bowls. They may want to know what’s in it, under it, or what happens when they tip it over.

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

What to do about it

  • This one is tough to fix. If your cat is dumping the water regularly, you may have to teach them that it’s unacceptable behavior by using a stern “no” when you catch them in the act. You can also reward them with a treat or affection when they drink from the bowl and don’t move it.

9. They Don’t Like Their Reflection

While it’s not a common reason for moving their water bowl, some cats display aggression toward their reflection. If they see that reflection in their water, they will hiss, claw, and paw at it, and the result is a traveling bowl.

cat drinking water
Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

What to do about it

  • The easiest way to know if this is the cause is to test your cat’s reaction to seeing their reflection elsewhere. Moving the bowl to an area that has less sunlight can prevent a reflection on top of the water.

10. They Want to Play

Sometimes cats move their water bowl because it’s fun. If your kitty has discovered that it’s fun to swat at the bowl and move it across the room, they’ll do it again.

bengal cat playing with fish toy
Image Credit: Anastasija Kru, Shutterstock

What to do about it

  • Replace the water bowl with an appropriate toy to play with. If all else fails, you can try giving them an empty plastic bowl to play with and replacing their water bowl with a different material.



There are many reasons that your cat could be moving the water bowl. In most cases, the behavior is harmless, but we understand that it’s frustrating and messy. Hopefully, these tips will help you determine both the cause and the solution to your cat’s interesting behavior.

Featured Image Credit: Cat Box, Shutterstock

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