Just about anyone who owns a cat knows that they are strange creatures that seem to have thoughts as inane as a toddler’s. Much like people, cats will form their own habits that they may practice throughout the house.

For instance, some cats prefer to sit in the middle of the hallway, seemingly wanting to bask in the attention they get from everyone needing to walk around them. Other cats can be found pawing at their food and water dishes before using them.

The latter habit can be strange and even concerning to people who are caring for cats for the first time. To some people, it might indicate that there is something wrong with the water or food. To other people, it is a noisy and annoying habit that needs to be stopped.

No matter what the cause is, it is important to understand why cats commonly exhibit this behavior. Once you understand why your cat is doing this, you will be able to find a solution to the situation much more easily.

1 – Instinctive Behaviors

You may notice that your cat exhibits quite a few unexplainable behaviors similar to pawing at the floor before drinking water. One of the most common examples out there is the way that cats will “bury” their droppings by scratching the sides of a litter box.

To them, it is an instinctive behavior to bury their droppings, and in an enclosed space like a litter box, sometimes scratching on the wall is the only thing that feels right to your cat.

The idea behind scratching at the ground before drinking water is a similar one. For cats, it is an instinctive behavior to paw and dig for both food and water. When your cat gets ready to drink its water, they may have an instinct to try and “dig” the water up.

In a home environment, the closest thing that they can do is paw at the ground in front of the water.

2 – An Unhappy Cat

Some cats express their distaste for things by burying them the same way they would bury droppings. If you know that your cat expresses discontent through an attempt at burying something and you see your cat pawing at the ground beside its water bowl, it might be because your cat is unhappy with the water.

You should consider checking the water to make sure that it is clean and that there is nothing in it that would affect the taste. You should also consider the location of the water, as many cats do not like to drink their water beside their food and a particularly picky cat may be expressing its distaste for the water placement.

The key to knowing what your cat is doing is knowing what your cat’s typical behavior is.

3 – A Curious Cat

The third, and final, reason your cat may be pawing in front of or at the water dish is that it is simply a curious creature. Curious cats and younger kittens might see a water bowl as something fascinating and hard to understand, especially if the water bowl is clear.

This can lead to them trying to “dig” around the bowl, leading to this type of behavior.


I have two Associate’s degrees, one in Medical Assisting and the other in Computer Technician, and I am roughly five classes from a bachelor’s degree. Though I never ended up working in the medical field, I have five and a half years of experience in IT. I recently became a stay-at-home mom to my two young boys, and I’m so excited to start this adventure with them! In my spare time, I love to bake and read pretty much anything I can get my hands on.

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