by Nomi Berger
Picture this: you’re brushing your teeth or preparing a meal and your kitty hops into the sink. Competing for the same stream of water from the tap inevitably goes from amusing to annoying.
Why, you ask, does your finicky feline prefer the sink to her water bowl? Is it by choice or by something more sinister, such as an underlying medical condition that has her seeking out additional sources of water?
Essential to answering these questions is having your capricious cat seen by the vet for a thorough examination. If she’s happily healthy, the next step is to carefully inspect your home, then make some equally essential changes to both her living space and her daily routine.
Begin with the location of her water bowl. Cats who crave high places may prefer a faucet because of its “view” to a bowl that’s placed flat on the floor. If it rests in a raucous or heavily trafficked area (shared with children and/or other pets), a sink may seem like a quieter and more appealing solution to all the unwanted hubbub.
Experiment with various locations until you find the purr-fect one. If your cat is happiest with heights, set her bowl on an easily accessible counter. If there are several cats in your household, there should also be several drinking locations. Most importantly, keep kitty’s water bowl far from her litter box. Many fastidious felines prefer not to drink near the place that they potty.
Quite often, cats prefer sipping from the sink simply because the water tastes better. It may be due to the sink’s being free of the lingering scents or residue found in a bowl that’s not cleaned regularly, is made of a product whose odor she dislikes (think plastic), or whose sights and sounds are disturbing to her (think metal). Two solutions: clean her current bowl daily with an unscented cleaner that leaves no residue, allowing the water to remain fresh and clear or experiment with different bowls to find the most pleasing material for your persnickety puss.
Cats in the wild favor freshly flowing sources of water and turn down their paws at drinking from stagnant bodies of water. Is it any wonder then, that some cats prefer the sink tap’s free flowing water to the still water in their bowl? Replace your kitty’s bowl with a specially designed pet fountain that regularly replenishes its water, thereby redirecting her attention away from the sink. To further tempt her, smear a soft, high-value treat along the edge, and consider putting a flavored additive into the water (consult your vet first, paw-lease).
Some cats seek out the sink purely to play with the water – a clear indication that they’re bored. If your kitty’s fascination with the running faucet is all about entertainment, find other ways to keep her constructively engaged – preferably for the entire day. Food puzzles, regularly scheduled interactive play sessions and games of hide and seek work wonders when it comes to both holding her attention and burning up her excess energy.
Key to the success of any new routine is reinforcing only the behavior you want repeated. Reward your kitty for drinking out of her bowl or fountain with praise and pets, treats and play: whichever she values most, any combination of the four, or all four. Whenever she reverts to drinking from the faucet or playing with the water, turn off the taps and either look or walk away. With time and perseverance on your part, she’ll hopefully learn to choose the behavior that wins your approval rather than the one that earns her the proverbial cold shoulder.