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Why Do Cats Like Moving Water?

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When it comes to drinking water, cats are well known for being more than a bit peculiar. Some cats decide it’s best to flip and tip their water bowl at every chance they can get. Others will completely ignore their water bowl altogether in favor of a dripping sink.

But one of the most common behaviors for cats is a preference to drink from water that’s moving.

So why do cats like moving water?

We’ve got 6 reasons why your cat likes moving water!

Reason 1: Moving Water Is Safer To Drink

Your cat’s ancient feline ancestors certainly wouldn’t have drunk from a small bowl in the middle of their vast territory.


Because standing or stagnant water is more likely to be filled with disease and bacteria. Running or moving water on the other hand is typically much safer. And for your cat’s wild African ancestors, getting sick just wasn’t an option.

As Dr. Deb Greco tells VetStreet, cats might be suspicious of water in a bowl because of their “instinct that whispers to them telling them standing water isn’t always safe. It might be contaminated, for instance. For most wild animals – and I think we can safely say that most cats are at least wild at heart – running water is a better bet.”

This could also explain why some cats give their water a little splish splash before drinking. They may just want to see the water moving a bit in order to feel more confident about the quality. So many cats do this, that I actually wrote a guide to finding the best cat water bowl that won’t spill or tip over. 

But splashing around in the water might also be related to reason number 2!

Reason 2: Your Cat Can’t See Water Very Well

While felines are well known for their superior senses and excellent night vision, they can’t actually see standing water very well. Dr. Greco continues to explain that cats might prefer moving water because they can hear it better than they can see the water in their bowl.

I actually wrote quite a bit about the cat’s impressive ultrasonic hearing when we explored why cats like crinkly things. Your cat’s hearing is so good, they can actually hear the ultrasonic frequencies that mice use to communicate!

This means hearing moving water from the sink upstairs is no problem at all!

Reason 3: Your Cat Might Not Like Where The Bowl Is Located

Your cat might also be looking for sources of moving water because the water bowl location isn’t ideal. While most cat owners place water bowls in remote corners of the home, this isn’t always best. Remember, your cat’s wild ancestors were both predators and prey. That means the idea of leaving their back open to the world while they go into a corner for a drink runs against their survival instincts. While your cat is domesticated, it’s only been about 10,000 years since the ancient Egyptians first lured in African wildcats with the promise of fish. 

In other words, your cat is still a bit wild, and placing the water bowl in a vulnerable position might make seek out other moving sources of water instead. If you’re wondering what else you need to know about where to put your cat’s water bowl, I wrote about 7 other things you need to consider when deciding where to put your’s cat water bowl. 

Reason 4: Your Cat Likes The Taste Of Moving Water

Even if you’re changing your cat’s water bowl every day, it’s going to be hard to beat the taste of moving water. According to Dr. Greco, not only is it likely cooler but since it’s moving it’s also more oxygenated which may improve the taste for your cat. While you might think that a furry creature that’s happy to eat the same food every day would be happy to drink anything, many cats can be very picky about the taste of their water!

Reason 5: Moving Water Is More Fun To Play With

You already know your cat likes to play and many cats love to splash around in their water, moving or not. While there’s plenty of reasons related to your cat’s instincts it’s also possible that some cats just like to play with moving water! When you imagine your cat’s world, water is certainly one of the more unique things that they’re exposed to and it can make a fun game for any cat. Not only is the water fun to splash around but your reaction is probably all part of the fun!

Reason 6: Moving Water Can Keep Whiskers Comfortable

Whisker fatigue doesn’t get much attention but it occurs when your cat’s whiskers are constantly stimulated. This usually happens when your cat is eating or drinking because in order to access the food or water they have brush their whiskers up and down the bowl. It can eventually lead some cats to flip their food or water in order to eat or drink off the floor. But your cat might like moving water simply because it allows them to drink without having to use a bowl.

If you think your cat might have whisker fatigue, I recently wrote an article about the 6 best bowls for whisker fatigue relief. While many cats with some level of whisker stress won’t show signs like bowl flipping or aggression, they might instead just go for the most comfortable moving water option.

Should You Get A Water Fountain For Your Cat?

With the many reasons why cats like moving water it should be no surprise that there’s a wide range of water fountains just for cats on the market. One of my favorites is the Catit Water Fountain which you can see here on Amazon.

This water fountain checks a lot of boxes in terms of why your cat likes moving water. The fountain is constantly circulating water which keeps it oxygenated and tasting great. Not only that, but it also features a filter to make sure even the pickiest of cats get only the finest tasting H2O. I recently got one of these for my kitchen after I was tired of watching my cat track down any facet she could find. Overall, I’m happy with it and it seems to satisfy my cat’s craving for moving water.

A quite note though, while the water found is very quiet it does make a gentle hum. When Royal Canin was studying the drinking habits of cats they actually found that some cats were afraid of the noise from the fountain. So if you’ve got a particularly shy cat this might not be best.

When Your Cat Likes Moving Water Too Much

While normally it’s fun to see your cat’s love of moving water play out if you think your cat is becoming obsessed with drinking moving water or with water in general you’ll need to consult your veterinarian. Excessive water drinking can be a sign of severe disease with the most common condition being kidney disease. 

Closing Thoughts

There you have it! Six reasons why your cat likes moving water and the best water fountain in case you really want to cater to your cat’s loving of H2O on the move.

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