By Julia Williams
Does your cat run to get a drink from the faucet every time you turn it on? If so, he’s not the only kitty who prefers running water to the H2O in his bowl. In fact, just about every domesticated housecat will choose the faucet over the water bowl at least some of the time, and there are actually several reasons for the behavior.
It Tastes Better
You know how a cold drink of water straight from the fridge tastes soooo much better than when your glass has been sitting on your desk for hours? It’s kinda like that for cats too. Water that comes out of the faucet is typically cooler and more oxygenated than water sitting in a bowl, which improves the taste. Faucet water can be cleaner too, because standing water collects dust particles.
Some of the things your cute little “house panther” does are behaviors inherited from their wild ancestors. In this case, instinct tells a cat to avoid standing water because it could be unsafe. In the outdoors, standing water is much likelier to be contaminated than water from a flowing stream. Hence, wild cats always chose running water over standing water whenever possible. So even though your tame kitty isn’t exactly wild now – just “wild at heart”– the instinct is still there.
Many people place the pet food and water bowls against a wall, where they will be out of the way of foot traffic. That makes sense from a human perspective, but the location could be making your cat feel vulnerable to being ambushed from behind, particularly if you have other pets. If the water bowl is in a corner, this increases the danger in your cat’s eyes. Try moving the water bowl someplace where your cat can take a drink without feeling exposed to an attack.
Sight Versus Hearing
In the wild, cats locate running water by relying on their keen sense of hearing more than by sight. That’s because cats can hear running water much better than they can see still water. In fact, that water in the bowl is practically invisible to your house kitty. But they can hear the sound of water flowing from your bathroom faucet no matter where they are in your house, and it’s an irresistible siren song!
A cat’s whiskers are highly sensitive, and if they are over-stimulated the cat can experience whisker fatigue. Contrary to what the name implies, this doesn’t mean the whiskers become “tired.” A better term might be whisker stress. When a cat drinks from a small, deep water bowl, the sensitive whiskers continually brush against the rim of the bowl. This naturally bothers your cat because it doesn’t feel good to them. A wide, shallow water bowl will allow your cat to drink without pulling his whiskers back to avoid uncomfortable contact with the dish.
Pet owners often place the food and water bowls together. It just seems natural to us, and it’s convenient to have them in the same place. From your cat’s point of view, however, water that is too close to food can be perceived as sullied. It goes back to instinct again. Wild cats drag their kill away from their water source so as not to contaminate it with the remains. Separating your cat’s food and water bowls might encourage him to drink more.
Cats are playful creatures by nature, and water flowing from your faucet is just more fun than that lifeless stuff in their bowl. While they’re having a blast batting at the stream from your faucet, they can take a little sip or two – a perfect example of the proverbial “killing two birds with one stone.”
Is Faucet Water Safe?
The quality of tap water varies tremendously from city to city, but it could contain chlorine by-products, fluoride, heavy metals, bacteria, arsenic, pesticide residue and other things that can negatively impact your cat’s health. If you want to let your cat drink from the tap, it’s best to install a faucet filter. A pet fountain that dispenses filtered water is another good option for kitties who insist on flowing water.
Read more articles by Julia Williams