Why Does My Cat Put Toys in the Water Bowl?

One of the reasons I find cats so interesting is that many of their behaviors are still a mystery to us. Yes, even to the experts. They can’t tell us why they do the things they do, so we’re left observing, testing, and even guessing when it comes to their behaviors. One of these mysteries is why cats leave little “gifts” in their water bowl. We don’t really know why, but here are the most common theories.

Cats like to play in water.

One of the most common theories is some cats just like to play in the water. Some cats even like to lick the water from their paws when they drink. It’s cool, refreshing, and something they need to survive. And even though cats get a reputation for not liking water, there are actually some wild cats who love it, like Tigers and Fishing Cats.

Cats drown or clean their prey.

Many believe that dropping a toy in the water is part of the hunting instinct. Popular theories suggest that cats like to drown their prey, or that they’re simply cleaning it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case. Cats are smart and are very clean animals. Either of these is a possibility. 

water bowl with a squid cat toy floating in it

Cats are saving their prey for later.

A feline’s water and food bowls are safe spaces where they get meals regularly. If their instincts are telling them their favorite fuzzy mouse toy is prey, they’re might be inclined to put it where the food goes. It’s safely stored where they can feast on it later.

Cats like convenience.

If your cat is prone to carrying her toys around in her mouth, she might just be leaving her toy in the bowl because she got thirsty while playing. And plop! Into the water it goes. Why leave it there? Well, now it’s wet and she doesn’t want to play with a wet toy. 

ceramic water and food bowls

Cats are unique.

Personally, I like to think each cat is different, and the ones who drop toys in their water probably do it for a variety of reasons. Maybe they just like your silly reaction when you find it. Or maybe it’s something to get your attention. It’s what they do when they want you to play with them.

But I’d love to hear from you. Why do you think cats drop toys in their bowls?


  • Andrea

    Cats’ personalities are as unique as the markings on their fur. I have 2 rescue cats. My tuxedo cat, Cricket, loves to play w/her toys in the water bowl. Her brother, Louis, loves to lick any remaining water out of bottom of the sink then curl up in the sink for a good nap. Both will spend hours playing w/their toys in an empty bathtub. I am a firm believer that those people who don’t like cats will come back as mice in their next life! 😽😻

  • CarryonCarol

    My Bengal loves to drop her toys in the water bowls situated around the house. She also dips her feet in them and the drinking water fountain. She is not as keen being in water as our rescue feral kitten though. The feral loves to play in the shower and doesn’t mind a bath. Both love to play in the toilets. We have to keep them pristine and closed as much as possible. I do often wake up to soaking wet soft toys right next to my bed. A gift, I suppose.

  • jmuhj

    I’m inclined to think it’s a prey -washing thing. Raccoons are not the only ones who do this!

  • Stephanie McCurry

    Yes! I call my Hunter Ray a little serial killer😹He’s always drowning his toys in his water bowls. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, he’ll fish it back out and bring it to the bedroom and lay it on my face while I’m sleeping😼

  • Nancy

    I’ve actually never had a cat do that but my 18 year old tortie, Maggie, loves to drag water bowls out about a foot or so and usually spills some of the water. I agree with you though that it’s probably for a variety of reasons. My orange tabby Tuffy, who passed away a few years ago, loved to knock pictures off the wall and he also opened a cabinet occasionally and drag out some towels and fall asleep on them. He was a real character!

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