Do you have a cat who will drink water from any source other than his water bowl? My cat prefers a running faucet, my glass, the shower floor, and even the toilet bowl to the pretty porcelain dish I fill with fresh water every morning and put next to his breakfast.

Well, I have finally found an explanation for this quirky behavior. According to a recent article in Modern Cat magazine, instinct is telling my cat to stay away from it!

“Cats are intelligent creatures that possess evolved wildcat survival traits,” the article states. “One such example is to not drink water that might be contaminated with bacteria from dead prey.”

For your domestic cat, “dead prey” means the food you provide. Instinct dictates that fresh, running water from the faucet, for example, is safter than the stagnant water in his bowl.

“Even the dog’s water bowl might seem like a better alternative because it is not next to the catfood,” says Modern Cat.

So, what’s the simple solution? Move the bowl! And not just a few feet, but ten feet or more.

Feline behavioral experts recommend placing several water bowls filled with fresh water in different locations around your home. But don’t place the bowls near your cat’s litter box—because that, too, is a source of bacteria that your cat will naturally avoid (we don’t recommend placing food dishes near the litter box either).

Make sure to use ceramic, glass or metal bowls because plastic can taint the taste of the water, giving your cat another reason not to drink. Then, monitor the water levels. You will soon discover your cat’s favorite watering hole! You might also observe that your cat or kitten plays with the water in his bowl to recreate the rippling effect of fresh water.

In multi-cat households, separating food and water has other advantages, too. 

Cats are more territorial than dogs over resources such as food and water because that is how they structure their social hierarchy.  

“As with the food bowl, all it takes is one cat sitting next to, or in the way of, the water bowl to intimidate another cat,” Modern Cat says.  So, share the water-wealth when there is more than one cat in the house by placing a few bowls around the premises.

How much water does my cat need?

Veterinarians advise that a cat should drink 3.5 – 4.5 ounces of water daily for every 5 pounds of body weight. That means a 10-pound cat should drink approximately 8 ounces, or one cup of water daily.

Cats are designed to get most of their water from their food source—like mice, which are about 70 percent water. Most canned food contains at least 75 percent water. Dry food contains only 10 percent. TEAM recommends a diet that is mostly canned food (see our Healthy Feeding Tips for Your Cat post). This does the double-duty of giving your cat optimum nutrition while keeping him hydrated. If your cat eats a canned food diet, he might not drink as much water as a cat on a dry food diet. In addition to helping with hydration, cats fed canned food have a lower risk of illnesses such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, constipation and obesity.