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Why Do Cats Like Running Water So Much? Facts & FAQ


Apr 26, 2023
cat drinks water flowing


cat drinks water flowing

Does your cat ignore their water bowl and try to drink from the faucet instead? Have you ever wondered why that is? Generally, cats like running water so much because of either instinct or playfulness.

Keep reading for more details about why cats like running water, whether all kitties prefer moving liquid, and how to use this preference to encourage your cat to stay hydrated.


Reasons Why Cats Like Running Water

In the wild, big cat species prefer moving water sources like rivers to stationary ones like ponds. Instinctively, they may feel that the moving water is cleaner and less likely to contain dangerous bacteria or parasites. That same instinct may drive domestic cats that like running water.

Cats also have the instinct to avoid drinking near their litter box and sometimes food bowls. They may prefer running water because they don’t like where their drinking bowl is located. Instinct also drives a cat to protect themselves from being trapped in enclosed spaces or corners. If your cat’s water bowl is in a corner or somewhere the kitty leaves their blind side exposed while drinking, they may opt for running water from the faucet instead.

Finally, some cats may like running water because the movement appeals to their predatory, playful nature. You might see them pawing or trying to “catch” the water as it flows past.

Maine coon cat drinking water with tongue from tap
Image Credit: GrashAlex, Shutterstock

Do All Cats Like Running Water Better?

In 2010, two veterinary researchers conducted a limited study to determine whether cats really like running water more than drinking from bowls.1 Based on owner-reported behaviors, their theory was that cats preferred running water.

The cats used in the study drank slightly more water from fountains (running) than from bowls. However, the difference was small enough that it could simply indicate the individual preferences of the cats rather than a true reflection of species behavior. Given the small sample size of this study, additional research is needed before we can truly know whether cats like running water more than stagnant water.

How to Get Your Cat to Drink More Water

Many cats don’t drink enough water, which can lead to health issues, including dehydration and an increased risk of developing bladder stones. Cats with medical conditions like kidney disease or diabetes may need to drink even more and struggle to keep up. If your cat likes running water, consider purchasing a pet fountain or leaving a faucet dripping to encourage them to drink more.

Since not all cats like running water, you may need to try other strategies to increase your cat’s fluid consumption. Try changing to a different water bowl or placing it in a different location. For example, your cat may feel safer drinking from an elevated position, such as on the kitchen counter.

An easy way to increase your cat’s water intake is to feed them canned food. Wet food has a high moisture content and is an excellent option to keep your kitty hydrated. You could also try adding a liquid like no-salt chicken broth or clam juice to your cat’s food or water to make it taste better.



Like many cat behaviors that don’t make sense, our kitty’s preference for running water is rooted in instinct. Fortunately, you can channel that instinct to help you increase your cat’s water intake. If you want to get your cat a pet fountain, keep in mind the study showing that not all cats prefer running water. You may want to observe your cat’s reaction to a dripping faucet before investing in the fountain.

Featured Image Credit: Shyjo, Shutterstock

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