Paws and Effect

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I adopted a sweet little female kitty in the fall. She has quirky little rituals which are very cute, and … well, very quirky, especially with her food and water. After she’s done eating, or if she doesn’t want to eat when you put her food down, she will “cover it up.” She walks around tbe bowl and paws around it like she’s covering her litter. I’ve read this is a trait from the wild. Is it a habit I can break or should I just let her do this? A few times she has dragged kitchen towels out of the kitchen and also covered her food/water with them.

Also, she constantly knocks over her water bowl. I put fresh water down every day and she stares into it, steps a little back from it like she’s scared of it, paws at it like she’s not sure what it is, and then moves it around until she knocks it all over the floor. Then, she will only drink her water from the side of the bowl, almost like she’s licking the inside of the bowl with minimal water in it. I’m so confused and frustrated because she spills so much water every day. What gives and how can I help her?

~ Jennie

Siamese cat drinking water from a running faucet

Some cats have very strange drinking habits. Photo by Yuval V, distributed under a Creative Commons-Attribution-Share Alike license

Siouxsie: First, let’s talk about the food burying. That is behavior from the wild: big cats will often hide the food they catch if they’re not ready to eat it yet. I guess you’re lucky she’s not dragging it to the top of the cat tree and leaving it there like leopards do with their prey.

Thomas: That’s probably a behavior that’s going to continue until she starts realizing that nobody’s going to eat her food when she’s not around.

Siouxsie: As for the water bowl tipping — well, there are a few ways you might be able to deal with that.

Thomas: First of all, we’d recommend a water dish that’s wider on the bottom than it is on the top. This will make it a lot harder for her to knock it over.

stainless steel water dish

Stainless steel dish with non-skid bottom

Siouxsie: It’s pretty easy to find stainless steel dishes with a non-slip rubber mat on the bottom, and you might try one of those.

Thomas: Our water dish is made of food-grade ceramic, and it’s wider on the bottom too.

Siouxsie: Mama got that because when Sinéad and Siouxsie were kittens, they used to paw in the water and knock the dish over, too.

Thomas: A heavy crockery-style dish could also help because the weight could keep her from moving it.

Siouxsie: We’d recommend that you not use plastic dishes: first of all, they’re too light to be safe for cats that like to move their dishes around; and secondly, they can develop very small scratches in them that harbor germs.

cookie sheet with rim

DIY spill-catcher

Thomas: Another solution to the water spillage problem is to get a plastic cafeteria tray or a cookie sheet with a small rim and place your cat’s water dish in that. The sides will contain the water spill, and also make it harder for her to drag her bowl all over the floor.

Siouxsie: If your cat is knocking her water over because she doesn’t like the taste, consider getting a filter pitcher or a faucet-mounted water filter and run her drinking water through that.

Thomas: City tap water can taste pretty yucky to cats because it has chlorine in it. So can hard water, because sometimes it has a metallic or sulfury taste.

Siouxsie: We’d recommend that you start with all of these tips, and if the wide-base water dish keeps her from knocking over her bowl, you can remove the cookie sheet and see what happens.

Thomas: Sometimes a pet drinking fountain can also help water-tippers. If your cat prefers to drink from shallow water or moving water (for example, lapping water dripping from the faucet), a fountain could resolve this problem.

Siouxsie: Again, we’d recommend a stainless steel or ceramic fountain rather than a plastic one.

Thomas: Good luck, Jennie. We hope this helps.

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