Maybe she just needs a crazy straw...
November 9, 2009 4:25 PM   Subscribe

Not really worried, more just curious about my cat and how she's been drinking water...she dips her paw and then licks the water from it, repeatedly.

My cat Smudge is a real doll, and like many cats, totally fascinated by water. She's there every time fresh water is poured into the dish, trying to drink out of the jug and then spending some quality time with the bowl. Taking a bath? She's right on the edge of the tub, with that "how do you DO THAT????" look on her face.

As of late, she's developed a strange habit...she seems to exclusively drink by dipping her paw in her water dish and then licking up everything she can get. She then repeats this until, presumably, she's had her fill.

She's done a version of this since she was a kitten, but we always interpreted it as "finding the surface," trying to figure out where the water is in the dish so she didn't submerge her nose. For the past month or so now, she's pretty much only using the paw.

Anyone had a similar experience? She's pretty normal otherwise, so I'm not thinking this is something to worry about....but it's a pretty strange little quirk. Is she just another weird cat, or what?
posted by nevercalm to Pets & Animals (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My cat Sophia does that too and it's really funny to watch. She drinks it normally most times but every once in a while, I'll see her drinking like this and it makes me laugh. I've no idea what she's thinking.

Also had a cat that loved drinking from the faucet, especially the bathroom one. When he got too old to jump up there, I'd put him up and help him with it.

The things we do for love, eh?

Your cat seems fine to me, a mom of four cats. :)
posted by Mysticalchick at 4:31 PM on November 9, 2009

I've known a few cats that do this, and, in fact, one of our orange tabbies used to eat his food this way, as well (gripping little pellets in between his toes). I always attributed it to the deep food bowl and his desire not to have his head in it (which would leave him 'exposed' in his mind).. I may be over-analyzing on that one, though.
posted by mbatch at 4:32 PM on November 9, 2009

I am not a cat owner, and I don't know if there is a specific cause for this, but I have definitely heard of cats doing this. My boyfriend's former roommate's cat would do it. I once lived with some people who owned a cat that wouldn't drink water until *you* splished water on her paw, and then she'd drink of her own accord. It was like she didn't trust it until this was done.
posted by katillathehun at 4:32 PM on November 9, 2009

every cat has their quirks. i vote for cat-normal.
posted by bunny hugger at 4:33 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

My cat only ever seems to drink water by tipping over his water dish and drinking it off the floor. My guess is the same "finding the surface" issue: the dish is metal and the water is still, so he doesn't want to dunk his nose. I wish he'd learn your cat's trick instead...

I'm considering getting a fountain. I think they prefer drinking from running water.
posted by whiskeyspider at 4:33 PM on November 9, 2009

Did you find kitteh at a shelter? I've known a few cats that would pick up once piece of food, slide it over a few inches, and eat it. And then repeat the process. One at a time. Turns out it was a mechanism the kittehs developed when they had to share food with other kittehs, to avoid the crowd, and at least get a kibble or two. I've never known one to do it with water, but maybe she dips her paw and licks it sort of like a sponge, remembering a time when times were rough, and she had to compete to get at the water bowl?
posted by raztaj at 4:33 PM on November 9, 2009

I cannot answer this question without photos of the creature in question.

Does she have any Maine Coon blood? My in-laws have a pair of Maine Coons that drink that way.
posted by sugarfish at 4:36 PM on November 9, 2009

Yes, my cat has done this for years. Does this with food also. Picks it up and eats with paw. Actually eats and drinks properly sometimes. I tell him he should wash his paws before he drinks and eats but he just gives me that, 'you disappoint me' look and carries on with his bad self to the litter box.
posted by alteredcarbon at 4:36 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

Welcome to the world of cat ownership. The next stop on your journey will be that magical day when kitty discovers running water in the sink or tub, sticks her nose in to inspect it, and then inhales a dose. She'll then look at you with a confused "", and will proceed to promptly sneeze sweet, sweet kitty snot all over your face.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:39 PM on November 9, 2009 [6 favorites]

An Abyssinian I am acquainted with likes to put his front paws in his water bowl before he can drink from it. He also likes to jump into the (full) bathtub with his human, then jump right back out again, shake and sit on the edge.

His owners wonder if he may be part tiger.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 4:40 PM on November 9, 2009

I've never had a cat that has done this exclusively, but I've left a tall glass with a little bit of milk in it out accidentally a few times and caught a cat doing that because their head won't fit all the way. I would assume that your cat is doing it because for whatever reason they feel more comfortable drinking that way rather than the normal way. You could try using a different bowl to see if that makes a difference, but it's probably not a big deal.
posted by burnmp3s at 4:42 PM on November 9, 2009

Response by poster: We have four cats too, and Smudge is definitely the character of the bunch. And nope, she didn't come from a shelter, she was just part of a litter that we adopted from an acquaintance.

After a quick googling, I think I can say with a fair amount of certainty that she isn't a Maine Coon. She's a grey shorthair with some white bits (the smudge of white on her nose is the origin of her name).

Also, I love the image of a cat picking up individual kibbles and eating. That's killer. Maybe she'd be a bit more svelte if she ate that way....
posted by nevercalm at 4:47 PM on November 9, 2009

I've got an old Ripley's Believe It or Not! paperback book that has an entry about a cat who would only ever drink via the paw-dipping method. My own cat. Tweak, does this bizarre stepping-in-place thing with all four of her feet as she laps her water.
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:47 PM on November 9, 2009

One of my cats is an amputee, and she will dunk the stump of her missing leg (a foreleg) into her bowl, and then lick from that. I've also had another cat that would jump in the shower with me.

My takeaway is that there's just no such thing as "normal" when it comes to cats. They're all weird, in their own way.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:51 PM on November 9, 2009

This is quite common--I've known several cats who prefer to drink this way. We had one cat who used to drink cold tea out of the bottom of our mugs this way, though of course in that case it was because she couldn't fit her whole head into a mug.
posted by FishBike at 5:02 PM on November 9, 2009

My cat only does this when my boyfriend leaves his glass of water only half-full on the bedside table so that she can't dunk her whole face in it. Drives him crazy, makes me laugh hysterically.
posted by janelikes at 5:09 PM on November 9, 2009

One of my three loves to dip his paws in our fishtank and scoop out water to drink - and he has huge paws. The other two drink out of the tank but prefer to use the fillter as a fountain.
posted by leslies at 5:13 PM on November 9, 2009

At least one of our cats does this occasionally. Also, I've known cats that waited for us to move away from the kitchen sink so they could drink from the droplet rich sink surface. Our male cat likes to wait until I am submerged in a bath, then walk along the edge and dip his foot in the warm water. (He likes warm baths too . . .) Cats lead a rich fantasy life.

It is a concern if your cat is drinking a lot more than normal, no matter what method it is using. That can be a sign of kidney problems.
posted by bearwife at 5:19 PM on November 9, 2009

I wish one of my cats did this. She's completely incapable of drinking water the "normal" way without spraying it halfway across the room.
Another of my cats (now my mom's cat) will only eat star-shaped kibble. And even then, she'll only eat the star edge bits. She's bite off each of the star bits and leave the rounded center. When the whole bowl is free of star pointy bits, she'll flip it upside own to let us know it needed refilling.

Cats are nuts. Your cat is obviously perfectly normal. I keep telling myself that that's why we love them...
posted by cgg at 5:22 PM on November 9, 2009 [9 favorites]

I've known a few cats that do this, and, in fact, one of our orange tabbies used to eat his food this way, as well (gripping little pellets in between his toes).


Yeah, this is normal. Cats is weird.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:25 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

We had a cat that did this, and it was her favorite way to sneak sips from liquids in glasses in particular (milk).
posted by Atreides at 5:33 PM on November 9, 2009

My cat does this with water sometimes, and also her food -- takes one kibble out with her paws, eats it, takes another, etc. I call it "having a snack."
posted by contessa at 5:37 PM on November 9, 2009

It's pretty common, at least in my experience. We used to have an orange tabby and a tuxedo cat (now both gone, sadly--RIP, kitties), and the tuxedo would try to drink water out of half-full glasses by sticking his entire head inside them, while the tabby would do the paw-licking thing.

An awesome thing happened one day when we saw the tuxedo intently watching the tabby doing this, and we could almost see the little light come on over his head. From that day forward, he drank from glasses by sticking his paw in and licking the water off.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:50 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

We have one cat, who when he finishes eating, immediately runs over to the water bowl to wash his front paws. He puts one paw in the bowl, swishes it around counterclockwise in the water, takes it out, rubs it on his face, and repeats with the other paw. He does it every single time he eats, without fail. He actually RUNS to the bowl to begin his routine.
posted by crankylex at 6:00 PM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

My kitty drank like this almost exclusively and lived a long and happy life. Also, this habit made all my friends fall in love with her.
posted by coppermoss at 6:31 PM on November 9, 2009

I'm so glad someone asked this question! Our boy cat does this and I've never seen any other cat partake so regularly in the paw-dipping. He's also fascinated with running water and loves to play in an empty tub. (For the record, he's an American shorthair that we adopted from a foster.) He'll only do this after we refill the dish, and he'll drink normally after he's done.
posted by greenland at 8:26 PM on November 9, 2009

One of the cats I grew up with drank in this way about half the time during her long, happy, 17-year life. I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:48 PM on November 9, 2009

We have seven cats. Out of all of them, Widget is the one who drinks like this. Of course, as soon as he's done, he prefers to come over and slap a soaked paw onto whatever clothes we're wearing. I think it's his entry in our kitties' smart-ass contest. (He still trails Dac and his drive-by off-the-plate food spearings. Little punk must be part ninja, because he pulls that off even when we're watching for him. And the spicier the food, the more he likes it.)
posted by azpenguin at 9:44 PM on November 9, 2009

I had a Turkish Van (another water-loving breed) who did this regularly. He also liked to push bits of kibble into the water and bat them around a little before eating. He had big old tufts of floof in between his toes, which I always suspected might have evolved to help cats drink like this.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:16 AM on November 10, 2009

One of ours will paw at the ground in front of the bowl repeatedly while he drinks; it's almost the same motion as when he's sweeping up in the litter box. He also laps water up the opposite side of the bowl, so about half of it gets in his mouth and the other half dribbles down the bowl onto the floor.

Both of ours will also lick the bathtub after our showers, and that disturbs me a little more.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:10 AM on November 10, 2009

The only normal cats are weird cats.

Congratulations. Your cat is normal.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:29 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

She's trying to make up for all the water wasted by this cat.
posted by artychoke at 5:35 AM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]

Nthing the fact that this is normal (if odd appearing) cat behavior. Some of mine do this occasionally. I suspect that they do it to annoy me.
posted by baggers at 6:09 AM on November 10, 2009

Our cat will stick his paw into a glass of whatever we are drinking apparently in an attempt to a) annoy the hell out of us b) just to see what we are drinking or c) get some of it. This only occurs at night when we are in bed. Also, he refuses to drink from a running tap, but will happily lick the water off my fingers when I put them under the running tap and offer them to him.

Thanks to artychoke for the link to the video, but the people I work with wanted to know why I was howling with laughter. God, I love catz.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 6:56 AM on November 10, 2009

One of my cats does this to get at liquids in deep glasses.. there was an answer in some thread about cat behavior that was basically just "the answer to every cat question is that cats are weird." That is pretty much the truth.
posted by zennoshinjou at 9:47 AM on November 10, 2009

Your cat sounds completely adorable.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:48 PM on November 10, 2009

My cat used this same method to drink from my glass when I wasn't looking. It got so bad I had to use travel mugs at home. This is what passes for normal cat behavior.
posted by workerant at 1:16 PM on November 10, 2009

One of our cats drinks this way. He was born with slight brain damage that resulted in a bit of a tremor. I think he developed this habit as a result of his poor motor control resulting in him sometimes dunking his nose when he tried to drink the usual way. As an adult his motor control improved and his tremor is almost completely gone, but he still drinks by dunking his paw.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:34 PM on November 10, 2009

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