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Home > Cats > Why Does My Cat Put Toys in the Water Bowl? 10 Likely Reasons

Why Does My Cat Put Toys in the Water Bowl? 10 Likely Reasons

cat playing with rubber duck in water bowl

Many cat behaviors have us confused, even when we live with them, we are still left scratching our heads at some of the things they do. You might have noticed toys floating in your cat’s water bowl, which is a common thing for cats to do, but still has scientists baffled.

Nevertheless, there are some theories to try and explain why cats put their toys in water bowls.


The 10 Reasons Why Your Cat Puts Their Toys in the Water Bowl

1. Your Cat Likes to Play with Water

cat playing with water from the faucet
Image Credit: ermaltahiri, Pixabay

Your cat might just be playful and enjoys playing a game in water. Cats are fascinated by water, and they love to pounce, strike, and fish things out of it. Your cat might just be enjoying the splashes or the sensation of dropping its toys and fishing them out.

2. Hiding Its Prey

gray tabby cat crouched at the doorway
Image Credit: 42 North, Unsplash

You might find a toy floating in the water because your cat thinks of the toy as its natural prey. This might make you laugh, to think of that poor toy being considered your cat’s nemesis. But it’s true. Despite our best efforts to completely domesticate cats, they still have the natural instinct to hunt. Just watch how they stalk their toys and pounce!

Before they were domesticated, these cats would have hunted their prey and then brought it to their nest, which is also known as a cache. This was to protect it from other predators that might steal it. This natural drive is still alive in your cat and since it doesn’t have a nest to hide its prey (the toy) it will use the next best thing, which could be the water bowl.

3. Cleaning Its Prey

gray tabby with its tongue out
Image Credit: Shubhankar Sharma, Unsplash

Before your cat would nest their prey to protect it from other predators, it turns out it would also drop it in water to disguise scents. This would help wash off the dead animal’s scent, saving the meal and the cat’s life from superior predators. So, it’s entirely possible this is what your kitty thinks it’s doing.

4. Collecting and Gathering Instincts

gray tabby cat on the floor with its toys
Image Credit: Noor Khalafy, Pexels

Cats have this instinct to collect and gather objects and it’s a behavior you’ll notice when a mother picks up her kittens by the loose skin on their necks and moves them. The same principle applies to the drowned toy in the water bowl. Your cat is acting on its collecting and gathering instincts.

5. Convenience

cat biting its toy on the couch
Image Credit: Helena Jankovičová Kováčová, Pexels

If your cat is prone to carrying toys around in its mouth, it could be that dropping them is just convenient. If you have to drink but there’s something in your mouth, the logical thing to do is to just drop it and drink. So, why doesn’t your cat pick it out when it’s finished? Well, now the toy’s wet, it isn’t as much fun as it was before. So, of course, the next logical thing to do is leave it there. You’ll dry it and then it’ll be much more fun later on, anyway!

6. Token of Affection

cat with dead mouse
Image Credit: B_kowsky, Pixabay

So, you know when your cat leaves a dead mouse in your bed? Well, the toy in the water bowl might be connected to this behavior. Your cat might be trying to show appreciation for everything you do. So that dead mouse and that soggy toy are all gifts, to show just how much it appreciates you. Lucky you, right?

7. Boredom

cat sleeping on the table
Image Credit: Min An, Pexels

A bored cat will try and find ways to entertain itself. Boredom can lead to destructive behaviors, and trying to drown their toy falls in this category, so really you might be feeling relieved the toy got it instead of your furniture.

8. Teaching You How to Hunt

cat in hunting position
Image Credit: Karsten Paulick, Pixabay

In the wild, a mother cat will bring prey (alive or dead) to the nest to teach her kittens how to kill. So, this might be your cat trying to give you a lesson in hunting, in much the same way a mother would with her kittens.

9. Learned Behavior

wild cat playing with toys in red basin
Image By: AJR_photo, Shutterstock

Think back to your first reaction when you saw the toy in the water bowl. If you made a fuss or laughed as you cleaned up the mess, this might motivate your cat to do it again. Cats enjoy attention, so this might be a habit of your own making!

10. Health Issues

cat drinking from water bowl with fountain
Image By: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

Most of the reasons behind this behavior are pretty innocent, but one theory points to veterinary health issues. When a cat develops things like feline diabetes, thyroid imbalance, or kidney problems, they can have a strange relationship with water. Some warning signs are splashing water coupled with lethargy, excessive drinking, confusion, and decreased appetite. If you notice any of these warning signs and are at all worried, contact your vet immediately to make sure everything is okay.



Should I Be Worried About This Behavior?

We’ve mentioned health risks, so of course, you might be feeling worried. But generally, your cat would be showing other signs of abnormal behavior, or there’s a noticeable change to their drinking and eating patterns. If you’re unsure, however, speak to your vet for advice.

What Do Cats Think Toys Are?

white Persian cat drinking from water bowl
Image By: Punyaphat Larpsomboon, Shutterstock

This very much depends on the toy and its behavior. Even if your cat has never set eyes on a real mouse, seeing the toy scurry across the floor is going to spark that natural hunting instinct. So, a toy that moves across the floor will make them think it’s similar to a mouse. If the toy is thrown in the air, it’s going to think it’s a bird!

Should I Give My Cat Toys?

The short answer is yes. Play is a fantastic way to reduce boredom by keeping your cat moving and their mind active. There are so many different types of toys, there’s going to be something your cat will love. Providing toys reduces boredom and is an excellent way for your cat to get in some exercise, which is especially important for an indoor cat.

How to Stop Your Cat Putting Its Toy in the Water Bowl

While some people might find this behavior funny, there are others who might be frustrated. So, are there ways to stop your cat from drowning its toys?

Try More Toys

We already mentioned that toys are an excellent way to keep boredom at bay. Adding more toys to the equation might not seem like the best idea, but it’s the perfect way to distract your cat from putting toys in its water and keep your pet engaged. If you find your cat is easily bored or overwhelmed by too many toys, rotate old ones out and new ones in. Repeat the cycle when you notice your cat getting bored again.

Ignore the Behavior

We already mentioned your reaction might be why your cat is putting its toys in the water bowl. So, try not to clean up the mess that’s been made when they’re in the room to watch. Instead, wait until they’re asleep or distracted. This will show you’re disinterested in the behavior.

Restrict Access to the Water Bowl

You can always remove the water bowl between feedings. If you try this tactic, just make sure your cat stays hydrated.

Make Sure the Water is Clean

Cats aren’t likely to drink dirty water, but they will play with it. And this includes putting objects into it. Make sure you maintain water hygiene to prevent your cat from dropping toys in it.



While we don’t have any definitive answers about why your cat is dropping toys into its water bowl, there are some theories. It could be that it’s bored, in which case the answer is to find ways to stimulate it both mentally and physically. Or it could be that your cat thinks you’re a terrible hunter and is gifting you some prey.

Whatever the reason, there are ways to prevent your cat from turning this behavior into a habit.

Featured Image Credit: MarinaTr, Shutterstock

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