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Home > Cats > Why Does My Cat Drink Dirty Water? 5 Common Reasons

Why Does My Cat Drink Dirty Water? 5 Common Reasons

siamese cat drinking water

You would think that when given a choice between a bowl of fresh, clean water and one full of dirty, murky water, a cat would choose the clean bowl every time. While this is the case most of the time, some cats simply don’t discriminate between clean and dirty water, while others will almost always choose the impure variety over the fresh stuff. As strange and inconceivable as it sounds to us, they have their reasons.

Keep reading to learn more about why cats drink dirty water.

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The 5 Reasons Why My Cat Drinks Dirty Water?

While we can’t know why cats sometimes drink dirty water, we have several theories on why they choose dirty over clean water.

cat drinking water
Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

1. They don’t like where your water bowl is placed.

Cats will choose dirty water sources over clean if they don’t like where you’ve put their water dish or fountain. Cats in the wild don’t drink where they hunt because their kill would contaminate their water source and make them sick. While your kitty doesn’t have to hunt for food, these instincts remain coded in his DNA. So, if your water bowl is placed near where he eats, he may instinctively feel as if the water source is contaminated and will show no interest in drinking your nice fresh water.

Solution: Place your cat’s water dish far from where he eats.


2. The water isn’t as fresh as you think.

Another reason your cat could be drinking dirty water is that the clean stuff you’ve provided is not as fresh as you think. A cat’s water bowl can become stagnant and build up an impressive collection of dust, hair, and litter particles quickly. Though you may not see these contaminants, your cat can taste them.

Solution: Provide fresh, clean water every day.


3. The water isn’t at an ideal temperature.

Like humans, some cats can be particular about the water’s temperature. Some like to have it at room temperature, while others like it cooler. On the hot days of the year, your kitty might even like ice cubes put into his bowl to keep his water nice and refreshing.

Solution: Find out what temperature your kitty prefers his water. If he’s drinking from a rain puddle after a summer storm, put a finger in it to see if it’s on the cooler or warmer side.

blue tabby maine coon cat playing with water in metal bowl
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

4. They don’t like the water bowl.

If there’s anything you should have learned from this blog so far, it’s that cats are picky little creatures. If yours doesn’t like his water bowl’s size, shape, or height, he’s likely to look to other sources to get his water fix.

Solution: Sorry to say, but trial and error is the only solution to this problem. While it might cost you some extra money, sampling different bowls and fountains to find one your kitty likes, you can recover these costs by returning the bowls he doesn’t like or selling them on your local marketplace.

If your cat needs help drinking enough water, you may want to try a cat water fountain. A well-designed option like Hepper's Stainless Steel Cat Water Fountain can provide clean, flowing water that will appeal to your cat.

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5. They don’t like the way it smells or tastes.

Tap water is usually treated with chemicals strong enough that your cat can smell it. This smell can be highly offensive and strong enough to turn your kitty off its water. Additionally, the strength of the chemicals can affect how the water tastes.

Solution: Invest in a pet water fountain with a filter to filter out all the offensive smells and tastes. Alternatively, you can buy a filter for your sink’s faucet that will achieve the same goal, and you’ll get clean, filtered water to drink yourself to boot.

divider-cat My Water Fountain Filters Water; It Will Be Clean, Right?

Some pet parents invest in water fountains for their cats and are lulled into a false sense of security that the reservoir in their fountains is big enough to provide fresh, clean water for several days. Then, when they see the water level is getting low, they’ll refill the reservoir instead of disassembling the entire unit and giving it a thorough clean.

When your cat drinks from his fountain, any germs in his mouth are transferred into his water. Leftover food particles, hair, dust, and other airborne contaminants combined with your pet’s saliva create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Unfortunately, bacteria can even grow within the fountain’s pump, making it difficult to see bacteria bloom without removing all fountain components.

To prevent this, give the water filter a good cleaning and check and replace the filters when recommended.

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

Is It Safe for My Cat to Drink Dirty Water?

If you know your cat enjoys drinking from dirty water sources, it is your responsibility to ensure the water he has access to is always clean and fresh. Dirty water, even from natural outside sources, can be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria or parasites like:

Blue-green algae: This is caused by cyanobacteria. An overgrowth of this bacteria can cause water to have a blue or green coloration. Bacterial colonies can float on the water’s surface or be blown into algae-like mats along the shore. Blue-green algae can produce liver, skin, or central nervous system toxins and may cause affected animals to develop shock or become comatose.

Giardia: This is caused by a microscopic protozoan and is distributed worldwide in lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds. It can be found in even high-quality water sources. While the disease is rare in healthy adult cats, it is more commonly seen in kittens or adult cats with other health issues. The parasites cause weight loss, chronic diarrhea, and fatty stools.

Coccidia: This is caused by one-celled organisms known as coccidia. Certain types have been found in public water supplies in some major cities. Cats infected with coccidia may not have any clinical signs at all. It may cause watery or mucous diarrhea, abdominal pain, dehydration, and vomiting in kittens and debilitated adult cats.

Leptospira: This is caused by a bacteria in the genus Leptospira and is shed in the urine of affected animals. This urine can contaminate surface waters, causing the disease to be waterborne. Leptospirosis has a broad range of effects, from mild infections to multiple organ failure or even death. The most common signs include fever, sore muscles, stiff muscles, shivering, depression, lack of appetite, dehydration, and vomiting.

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Final Thoughts

Cats are silly little things that occasionally turn to dirty water sources over the fresh and clean water you provide. If this is the case with your pet, you must conduct some home experiments to determine why your cat acts this way. Once you know why your kitty is turning his nose up at your clean water, you can work toward getting him out of his bad drinking habit. Hopefully, one of the solutions above will help you guide your kitty into drinking cleaner water, so it won’t get sick from the germs often found in the dirty kind.

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Featured Image Credit: Ermolaeva Olga 84, Shutterstock

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