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Can Cats See Water in a Bowl? (Solved & Explained)

Can Cats See Water in a Bowl? (Solved & Explained)

Sometimes, cats refuse to drink from a bowl even if it’s full of fresh water, which has raised several questions in my mind: Can cats even see the water in a bowl? Is there a rationale for this erratic behavior? Where should I put the cat’s water bowl to prompt it to drink out of it?

Cats have poor depth vision with a blind spot in front of their nose, making it challenging to see still water in a bowl. Therefore, some cats prefer to drink water from a running faucet, as they can hear the rushing water clearly and hence find it easier to satisfy their thirst.

Cats exhibit bizarre behavior when drinking water from a bowl. Not only are they picky, they sometimes outright refuse to drink water from their water bowl if it isn’t placed in their preferred position. As a cat parent, you must ensure that your cat gets enough to drink, even if it means going out of your way to bow down to their preferences.

Why Can’t Cats See Water in a Bowl

As I mentioned above, cats have a blind spot right above their nose, preventing them from seeing the water in their bowl and estimating the distance. This usually leads to their whiskers getting drenched in water when they try to drink it — and trust me, cats don’t like getting wet!

This pretty much explains why your furball is more inclined to drink from the tap or a running fountain; not only is the water tastier, but since your cat can hear the splashes, they’re able to easily drink without getting their snout filled with water.

Where To Put The Cat’s Water Bowl?

This question haunts cat owners daily: “Where is the ideal spot for my cat’s stuff?” Keeping the cat’s water bowl next to their food bowl might seem like the logical solution to most people, but most cat owners believe the water bowl should be placed in an isolated location.

So, who should you follow? Well, neither of these cat bowl placements is the ideal option for your fur baby. Your cat’s water bowl can be placed anywhere in the house as long as it fulfills the 3 following requirements I have laid out for you.

#1 Quiet Location

The ideal location for your cat’s water bowl would be somewhere with less foot traffic or noise. A peaceful, quiet environment, such as a separate bathroom, bedroom, or corridor, will relax your feline and let them drink in peace. A noisy and bustling environment can create stress, preventing cats from going near their bowl.

The kitchen works great as a place for your feline to drink in peace. However, I would not recommend it as kitchens tend to be a hive of activity. The noise may make your cat hesitant to eat and drink, or somebody might accidentally walk on your cat’s tail.

#2 Away From the Litter Box

Just like you find it revolting to have a snack in the bathroom, so do your cats! You should keep food, water, and litter boxes away from one another, and the main reason is to avoid cross-contamination. If litter particles wind up in your cat’s food or drink bowl, they may be ingested, making your cat sick.

#3 In an Open Area

Cats want to feel safe while being aware of what is happening around them. If you place the water bowls in the corner of a room, your feline can feel restless if they have to face their back to everything that is happening in the house. Instead, I would suggest you place the water bowl in an open area with a clear line of sight, especially if you have other animals in the house.

Cat Water Bowl Next To Food: A Good Idea?

Many people put their cats’ food and water bowl next to each other. As a cat parent, however, you should avoid this practice. Placing both the bowls next to each other might cause your fur baby to refuse to drink water, knock over the water dish, or dump food in its water bowl.

Generally, cats do not like the smell of food when they are drinking water. The reason behind this is believed to be the fact that cats instinctively don’t hunt in close proximity to their water sources in order to keep those water sources free of any contamination.

That is why I would recommend you place the water bowl at least 3-5 feet apart from the feeding bowl. While some cats adjust and are unaffected when both the bowls are placed together, others will often make their discomfort known.

Why Isn’t My Cat Drinking Water From Its Bowl?

Let’s say you’ve picked the right location to place your cat’s water bowl, but your cat’s still refusing to drink water? If your cat is displaying this behavior, it could be due to several factors. I have pointed out some of these reasons below:

The Bowl Material Matters

Cats are very picky about the bowl material from which they will sip water. In the worst-case scenario, you will have to try using water bowls made of different materials to see which bowl your cat prefers.

I’m lucky! Here’s the one’s I’m using for my cat “Chippie”.

Cat Water Dispenser

And fortunately, my cat hasn’t started doing this with her water container like in the video below. So funny!

Although plastic dishes are less expensive, your cat may not like how its whiskers stick to the surface. That is why cats commonly prefer stainless steel, ceramic, or glass bowls. Bowls made of these materials work great as the food inside emits less smell, and the water remains chilled the whole day.

Plastic BowlsCeramic Bowls
Absorb odor easilyDo not absorb odor
Some cats are allergic to itHarmless to cats
Can get scratched easilySturdy, and scratch-resistant

Cats Are Sensitive To Smell

Cats are very susceptible to odor. Your fur baby might refuse to drink from a plastic bowl if a chemical residue is developing on its surface. The same is true if you offer the cat another pet’s bowl or put water inside a food bowl.

That is why I would recommend that you never forget to replace the water regularly and disinfect the bowl once a week to eliminate any smell that might stem from it.

Your Cat Likes Flowing Water

Some cats dislike water dishes altogether. Your cat might prefer to drink water from a flowing source, such as a sink or hose. Still, water in a bowl might make a cat nervous since microorganisms thrive in these environments.

Of course, you can’t keep your kitchen sink running all the time just in case your cat needs a drink. In this case, you can buy a little drinking fountain for your cat to sip from. The water in these fountains is kept running, and some even have charcoal filters that guarantee that the water flowing through them is pure and safe for the cat to drink.

Your Cat Doesn’t like Old Water

Since cats are incredibly sensitive to taste, you will have to fill your cat’s bowl with new water every day, or it will taste old to your cat. Food and grime can build up in a water bowl, making the water taste bad and riddled with bacteria. Moreover, bacteria growth increases when your cat touches the water with her paw.

Use soft soap and water to clean your cat’s water bowl daily. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the bowl as the soap residue can have an unpleasant taste and even irritate your cat’s tongue.


Since cats cannot see still water in a bowl, they rely on their other senses to detect the presence of water, making them particularly picky about it. Owners must be extra careful and cave into their demands on more than one occasion.

However, with the correct practices mentioned above, you can get your cat to drink water from her water bowl without them complaining about it.



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As the founder of Container FAQs, my goal is to provide readers with in-depth information on the containers used in daily life and related subjects. Don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have any suggestions for articles you would like to see on my blog.

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