November 02, 2021

What's with that pawing at the water bowl?

What's with that pawing at the water bowl?
Dr. Chris Brown

For so many little hairy humans, simply drinking water isn’t straightforward. They have to paw and splash at the water first. But here’s why they do it…

Water might be an essential part of every day life but it seems playing with water is also a big part of every day. But all that poking and prodding does actually serve a purpose. Firstly, dogs and (especially) cats instinctively know that still, stagnant water can be a dangerous breeding ground for bacteria and parasites so that pawing at the water is basically a depth, temperature and water quality check. It also gets the water moving which immediately makes it more appealing to drink. It’s why your tap is so popular. Let’s be real, the fur-kids are like human kids and therefore playing with water is ALWAYS fun. For dogs, water play also keeps them cool...

The other factor playing into a water pawing are whiskers. Cats instinctively don’t like putting their head through a space where those highly sensitive hairs touch the side walls. In fact, whiskers are meant to be the same width as a cat’s body so they become a good warning for spaces where they might get stuck.
So for bowls with high sides (or that are close to empty) the paw is deployed as a bit of a dipstick. I’ve even seen cats dip their paw in and drink directly from their dripping toes. Now that’s some wild water consumption. And yes…paws for thought. I’m sorry, that was there for the taking.

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