It’s happened to all of us: Someone leaves the toilet seat up, we go into the bathroom to find our beloved cat head-down in the porcelain bowl drinking like he’s never seen water before. Ewwwwwwwwwwww.
Or, you’re brushing your teeth, and your fury friend jumps up on the sink and starts lapping the running the water. Ugh.
Yes, toilet bowl drinking grosses us out, and faucet drinking is just annoying, but why do cats do this? How can you get yours to stop? Here’s why it happens and what you can do about it.
Why fresh water is appealing to your cat.
Cats LOVE fresh water. Standing water is a dating service for bacteria, mold, and parasites, and it’s likely cats can smell or taste these harmful and unwelcomed guests.
If you provide your cat with a bowl of water instead of a water fountain, it’s more likely she’ll be drawn to fresh water in a toilet or coming out of a faucet because it’s a step up from what she’s used to. At a minimum, put fresh water in her bowl once a day to keep the gross stuff that grows in it at bay, and wash the bowls every 1-2 days.
Remember: Most of the time, cats are driving to fresh water for non-health related reasons, which we’re about to cover. However, if your cat seems excessively thirsty, it’s important to have them checked by a vet. There are a number of illnesses and diseases that cause excessive thirst, so make sure you rule those out first!
Why cats love toilet water.
Although your toilet itself is dirty, the actual water in the tank is not. It’s often a cool temperature, which is refreshing to your cat, and it’s just as clean as the water coming from your faucet. When it fills the toilet bowl, the water is clean, but the bowl likely has germs on it, or, if you just cleaned it, deposits from the disinfectant. The size of the bowl also allows your cat to drink more comfortably since his whiskers won’t touch the sides.
Why cats love running water from the faucet.
Unlike the toilet, water from the faucet is flowing, which is appealing for many reasons.
- As skillful hunters, cats see movement better than things that stand still, so anything moving instantly attracts their attention. Ever see your cat tap the top of the water with his paw? That’s why. He’s trying to see where the top is because he can’t see it.
- The sound of moving water often attracts cats, which is likely instinctual (so they can find non-stagnant water in the wild).
- Just like toilet water, faucet water is cool and fresh.
- The design of the faucet keeps whiskers free so they won’t rub against anything.
Get your cat to stop drinking from the toilet and the faucet.
As always, don’t yell at your cat. He’s doing something that makes sense to him, and your yelling will just confuse him and not have the desired effect because you’re basically yelling at him for drinking fresh, clean water.
The toilet is an easy one: Keep the lid closed. The hardest part of this is just reminding guests (and husbands) to put it down too. You can also keep the bathroom door closed at all times.
For the faucet, it can be a bit more complicated. There are a few methods to try.
- You can put aluminum foil around the sink. Cats don’t like the sound of it and most cats won’t want to step on it.
- Teach your cat to “stay” with treats by placing treats on the floor while you’re at the sink. This can be done with verbal commands or even clicker training (click then put the treat down repeatedly, and your cat will start to associate the click with the treat).
The Best Solution: Choose a free-flowing water fountain for your feline.
Since cats love fresh water, why not give it to them all the time? Pet water fountains contain a pump and water filter to help keep the water flowing and clean! Your cat will be drawn the sound and appearance of running water, plus it’s freshness will make him more inclined to drink and stay hydrated.
There are a lot of pet fountains to choose from and the search can be overwhelming. Here are a few considerations:
Water flow. Look for a fountain that simulates the way water flows from a faucet, with either a spout or some other attachment that allows your cat to lick the water as it’s flowing out. While water coming up from a hole is still fresher than stagnant water, your cat will be licking the actual surface of the fountain, transferring bacteria from their tongue, requiring more cleaning and then putting you back into the situation of more germs.
Pump & Filter. Many fountains have a plastic container inside that holds the filter and the pump (together, in the same place). This common design is flawed because the pump and filter get very gunky. Instead, find a fountain where the pump stands alone and pushes the water into the filter. This will keep the pump much cleaner and eliminate the filter/pump container which also gets super gross quickly.
Assembly and Disassembly. Find a fountain that’s easy to put together and take apart, because even the best fountains need to be cleaned.
- Aesthetics. Let’s face it, you don’t want some ugly bulky thing in your home! Look for a fountain with a simple, modern design and a calming color that will stand the test of time, even as décor trends (and your color schemes) change.
Consider how many pets you have and make sure you don’t get something too small for your fur babies. You can’t refill a fountain when you’re not home!
Nearly every fountain comes with a filter, but not all filters are created equal. Make sure you pick a fountain with filters that are affordable, easy to replace (and order), and will last a decent time period. Some filters don’t work as well, and replacing a filter weekly is time-consuming, expensive, and should also make you question the quality of the fountain itself.
Use all this information and help your cat get his head out of the toilet. 😊
Article by Elizabeth Ann 🙋♀️
Cat Behavior Expert
The Magic Feline Fountain™