Why Does My Cat Scratch The Floor Before Drinking Water?

A gray and black cat with white patches pawing at a blue water bowl in front of it.

Cats have many odd behaviors that often leave us perplexed or worried about their mental health. But the fact of the matter is that if you dig deep enough, there is usually a pretty good explanation for these strange behaviors rooted in a cat’s instincts.

Scratching the floor before drinking water is one of those behaviors. There are many speculations as to why cats do this. If you want to get to the bottom of your cat’s scratching before drinking water, read on to see some possible causes.

Blame it on Their Instincts

If you picture a cat in the wild, nothing comes easy to them. They have to hunt for their food, find water sources, and find shelter from the cold and rain. There’s no hand to fill their food bowl or faucet for their water. With this in mind, cats in the wild may have to dig for their food and even their water. Your cat’s scratching the floor before getting a drink may be reminiscent of that behavior, but since they can’t dig around in the mud at a water hole, they have to settle for scratching the floor before drinking water instead.

They May be Unhappy With Their Options

Cats are fastidious animals; they like things clean. This is very evident by the amount of time they spend cleaning themselves. Kitties like to have their surroundings clean, including their water. If your cat is unhappy with the cleanliness of their water, they may scratch the floor around it to bury it, similar to how they would bury their waste.

Even with a clean water dish, your kitty may not like the proximity of it to their food bowl or, worse yet, their litter box. Some picky cats prefer a little distance between their things, and who can blame them? Drinking water right near a litter box is enough to make any of us scratch the floor in disgust.

Let’s say that the water bowl is clean and an acceptable distance from everything else, so now what could be the problem? Believe it or not, some cats may not like the taste of tap water, especially if it’s been treated with chlorine or other chemicals. If you use filtered water or bottled water, these kitties may stop trying to “bury” their water.

They May be Happy With Their Options

On the flip side, scratching the floor before drinking water may be your cat’s way of saying that they’re content with their choices. Cats often knead their paws when they’re feeling happy or comforted; you’ve no doubt experienced this when your cat is snuggled on your lap. Scratching the floor around their water bowl could be a form of kneading because they are happy to be taken care of and comforted by what’s provided for them.

Making it Their Own

Along with being happy about their water bowl and what’s inside it, scratching the floor before drinking may be their way of laying claim to their stuff. Cats have scent glands in their paws and cheeks and use them to make their unique mark on people and things. This is part of why they like to rub on your legs or headbutt your face. By scratching the floor around their food bowl, they may be trying to tell other cats, “Paws off, this is mine!” This may be especially true if you have more than one kitty or even a dog in your household.

Curiosity Makes Them Do It

There’s a reason your cat may spend hours looking out the window or watching the dust particles settle in a ray of sunshine; they’re curious. Cats love to know what’s going on around them. They like to watch, touch, and even taste their surroundings. Scratching the floor around the water bowl, or even touching the surface of the water itself, may be their way of trying to figure out this receptacle and what exactly is inside of it. Kittens may dip their toes into their water bowl and then shake it or wipe it on the floor. Not only does this help them to understand better, but it’s also pretty entertaining.

Covering Their Tracks

Cats in the wild have to live in a world of balance. Not only are they predators that eat a variety of rodents and birds, but they are also prey to larger animals. This makes it essential to watch their backs, even when their eyes are on their next meal. They often have to cover their tracks so that other animals won’t know where they are or where they’ve stashed some leftovers meant for a future meal. Even though your housecat doesn’t need to fight for their resources, they may scratch the floor before drinking water to hide where they’ve been from other critters.

Final Thoughts

Our cats are a mix of weird and wonderful behaviors. While scratching the floor before drinking water may seem a little strange to us, to our cats, it may be a perfectly natural behavior that goes back to their ancestors in the wild. Even though domestic cats don’t face the same perils as wild cats, they still feel the drive and have the instincts that come out as strange seeming behaviors.

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