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)

If your feline furkid seems to get more water on the floor than in their mouth, then you may have found yourself furiously typing ‘how to a stop cat from spilling water bowl’ into Google and guess what? You’re not alone!

It turns out that cats spilling their water bowls is high on the pet parent list of frustrations, which is hardly surprising given you’re the one that has to play Cinderella and mop it all up. And perhaps worst of all is when it sloshes over into a neighboring bowl and ruins the cat food you painstakingly spent time picking out for them. 

But, rest assured, we come bearing good news because just like the best cat food bowl can help make mealtimes easier and stop the food from flying, there are plenty of fool-proof ways to keep their water bowl (and its contents) firmly in place.

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 a 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 cats 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 best cat 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 the heaviness of them 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. 

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two 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 one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.