How to stop a cat from spilling their water bowl and why they do it

How to stop a cat from spilling water bowl: Ginger and white cat drinking from red cat bowl
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Does your kitty tip its water bowl over and leave you to clear up the mess? If you’re nodding ‘yes’ to that question, you might be wondering how to stop a cat from spilling their water bowl. 

Firstly, it’s important to note that this pesky habit can be a pretty frequent behavior for cats — and there’s a long list of reasons why this could be the case. One of the most common reasons why some cats do this is because they are fascinated by water, especially when it’s moving. Many felines also just find splashing around in shallow puddles of water a fun activity to pass the time. While some cats might not just be able to reach their bowl, so end up knocking it over. 

But before you tear your hair out thinking you’ll have to spend the rest of your days mopping up after your furry friend, make sure you try out our fool-proof ways to keep your cat’s water bowl (and its contents) where it’s supposed to be. From investing in one of the best cat water bowls which is sturdy and heavy, to placing something underneath their bowl — there are a range of options to try.  

Why does my cat paw at her water bowl?

Before you start trying to implement strategies to get your cat to stop spilling water, it can be a good idea to figure out the reason why they’re engaging in the behavior in the first place.

While most breeds of cat hate being submerged in water, many of our feline furkids find observing moving water to be pretty fascinating, which is why you might have noticed your cat staring at a fountain or trying to dip their paw under a running faucet.

Cats evolved to drink from free-flowing rivers and streams, so their fascination with the wet stuff is firmly embedded in their DNA, but their reasons for spilling it are somewhat more complicated.

The most common reason has less to do with deliberately trying to make your life harder and more to do with accessibility issues, with many cats struggling to drink out of narrow and deep bowls. If that’s the case, you’ll often see them using their paw to try and splash water on the floor and then licking it up from there.

Another reason is mental health issues, such as anxiety, stress, or cognitive impairment, which can sometimes cause strange and unusual behavior. If spilling their water bowl is out of the ordinary for them, it may be worth considering whether there have been any changes in your cat's home or routine lately that may be causing them to act out.

While those are the most likely scenarios, some furkids simply like the fun factor of tossing water about and if that’s the case, we’d recommend investing in a few of the toys to divert their attention towards a more suitable object of play. 

How do I stop my cat from spilling their water bowl?

If you suspect your kitty is spilling water due to a health issue or lifestyle change, we recommend speaking with your vet in the first instance. But even if that is the reason, you’ll still want a solution in the meantime to help make your life a little easier. Here’s a few of our favorites:

1. Get a heavy-bottomed bowl

For serial spillers, the best deterrent is to invest in a weighted water bowl. These tend to be made from stainless steel or ceramic, and their heaviness ensures they stay firmly in place. 

As a bonus, they tend to be incredibly durable and well constructed, so if you want a water bowl that’s going to go the distance, these are a great choice.

Whatever bowl you choose, make sure it’s wide and shallow as this will help prevent whisker fatigue.

 2. Invest in a feeding station

You could also try a feeding station that has space for food and water, like the Neater Feeder Cat Bowl. This has a high back and sides that contains splashes and any excess water gets filtered down into a tray below. Once your kitty has finished eating, remove the tray and discard the water.

3. Consider a pet fountain

The best pet water fountains are the purrfect way to give your kitty 24/7 access to fresh flowing water. Not only is a pet water fountain designed to be sturdy, but unlike a bowl, there’s none of the accessibility issues.  

4. Place something under their water bowl

Okay, so it’s technically not a solution to stopping water spillage, but placing a tray under your cat's water bowl will help contain any water that goes rogue and make cleaning up that much easier. 

5. Fill the bowl with less water

We know this one sounds like common sense, but sometimes spills are simply the result of the water bowl being too full. Try reducing the amount of water you pop in your kitties bowl and see if that makes a difference. 

6. Keep the water fresh

You'd be surprised how quickly the water in your cat's bowl can become contaminated with dust, food particles, fur, and other debris. Spilling water may be a sign from your kitty that their water is tasting a little stale and they'd like some fresh H20 stat!

Your pet needs constant access to clean and fresh water and unless you have a pet water fountain that takes care of that for you, you'll need to change their water at least once a day.

Say goodbye to spills

While frequently water spills can be frustrating, most of the time your kitty isn't doing it to annoy you. It's true that some may make a game out of it, but it's more than likely a result of the bowl not being accessible to them and in some instances the behavior could be being caused by a mental or physical health issue.

If you've ruled out the latter, making some of the above changes will help eliminate water spills and make getting their daily fluid intake an easier and more comfortable experience for your fur baby. 

Is your cat bored? Discover all the best ways to keep your fur kid entertained, even when you’re not at home.  

Kathryn Rosenberg
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past three years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with a very mischievous Cocker Spaniel and a super sassy cat, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.