Why Do Cats Scratch Before Drinking Water? Let’s Find Out

Cats can have strange and amusing habits, including scratching the ground before drinking water. But, of course, that can be pretty puzzling to cat owners, who might not know why the cat is digging into the ground. This guide will explore the reasons behind this behavior – and how to prevent it from happening.

Table of Contents

Why Do Cats Scratch Before Drinking Water?

A cat is drinking tap water.

A cat is drinking tap water.

Natural Instincts

Scratching might be due to their instincts. For example, wild cats tend to dig in the ground for water. Also, they may have to move debris (leaves, pebbles, etc.) out of their way to drink water. So, suppose your kitty was once a stray. In that case, it could portray this behavior instinctively despite having access to clean drinking water in the house. 


Kittens have a habit of kneading as they suck their mother’s teats. Consequently, if your cat tends to do more kneading than digging, it’s likely it’s carried this habit with it into adulthood. So, please don’t act surprised next time you see your kitty kneading by its water bowl.

Releasing Pheromones

Kitties have scent glands around their paws. Worry not; it just means your cat is scratching the floor to claim the water source and the surrounding area. Furthermore, this theory is common in cats that were once stray or lived with multiple cats. Similarly, the view might hold if you have several kitties in your home.

Cats release pheromones for different reasons, including to signal stress and happiness. Consequently, if this is a new behavior in your cat, consult a vet to rule out any health issues.

To Move the Water

Another reason cats may scratch the floor before drinking water is an attempt to move the water or the water bowl. Cats often do this when they feel unsafe while drinking water – probably because they’ve felt unsafe in the same area and are trying to avoid repeating the situation.

Quest For Water

Digging/searching for water is in the felines’ DNA, lasting several generations.  Such cats find themselves scratching the floor before drinking water.

To Signal They’re Not Happy with Their Water

Your cat may be unhappy about the floor or the water bowl. For example, they may dislike the type of water you’re giving them or even its temperature. Additionally, your cat may dislike a new water bowl and its scent. Therefore, if you’ve recently changed something, switch back to it and see if your cat will stop scratching the floor.

However, if you haven’t changed anything and your cat is scratching the ground, try changing the water more frequently. 

Why Your Cat Meows Before Drinking Water

A cat is drinking water.

A cat is drinking water.

If your kitty meows before drinking water, it may have issues with the water or the bowl. It would be best if you switched the water bowl to a new one, probably ceramic or stainless steel. Then, place the dish in a cat-friendly location where the cat may feel safe drinking the water. Furthermore, refill the water bowl regularly.

How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Scratching the Floor Before Drinking Water?

A cat is drinking pond water.

A cat is drinking pond water.

Clean their Water Bowl

Clean your cat’s water bowl with a mild-scented soap – cats dislike strong-scented detergent residue on their bowl. Also, make sure to do it every day. It’s just that kitties have a keen sense of smell, and the slightest odor can make the felines scratch the floor before drinking water.

Note: pet water bowls can be a breeding ground for bacteria, emitting a foul odor.

Try a New Location

Cats tend to become picky with age and may dislike drinking water from the same location. So, move the water bowl to a new location, away from the food bowl. The best place would be one that doesn’t keep them exposed – for example, a few feet from a corner.

Try a New Bowl

Normalize replacing plastic water bowls frequently. These bowls can harbor foul-smelling bacteria. They might contain harmful toxins that can spread to your kitty’s water. Replace plastic water bowls with new stainless steel or ceramic bowls. These are safer options.

Try a Cat Water Fountain

If your cats are scratching the floor to try and find where the water starts, try and get them a water fountain. For your information, cat water fountains keep the water flowing into the cat’s bowl, helping resolve the issue of where the water may be coming from. That may help stop your cat from scratching the ground before drinking water.

Frequently Asked Questions

A cat is drinking water from a faucet.

A cat is drinking water from a faucet.

Why Does My Cat Shake Her Paw When She Drinks Water?

Your cat may have gotten her paw(s) wet and is trying to shake the water off. Cats tend to shake off anything unpleasant (including water) that gets in contact with their paw(s). However, if you feel something is wrong, consult a vet quickly.

Why Do Cats Upset Their Water Bowl?

Some health conditions, including diabetes, can make cats extremely thirsty. Consequently, the affected cats may drink water more frequently, sometimes creating a mess by splashing the water. Furthermore, these kitties might drink water from unusual sources: faucets, toilets, etc. 


Now you know why cats scratch the floor before drinking water – and how to get them to stop doing it. For more information on this subject, contact us today.