Cat drinking from faucet

Is it possible to train my cat to drink out of her water dish rather than the sink?

A cat that drinks out of the faucet can be adorable — but she can also be a nuisance if she’s hopping into the sink when you’re trying to get ready for work or prepare a meal. The first step in teaching your cat to drink from her bowl rather than the sink is determining why she’s ignoring her bowl.

Before you assume that your cat’s behavior at the sink is motivated by choice, it’s imperative to rule out potential medical conditions that may be contributing to the behavior. Seeking additional water sources may be related to an underlying illness, so your first step should be to schedule a visit to the veterinarian to rule out any problems.

Once your vet has eliminated any medical problems, you can begin to direct your cat away from the sink by making a few simple changes to her living space and daily routine.

Why Cats Drink From the Sink

Your cat’s habit of drinking from the sink may have to do with where her water bowl is located. Cats who like high spaces may prefer a faucet with a view to a bowl on the floor. If her watering system is located in a noisy or heavily trafficked part of your home, the sink may feel like a quieter, safer place for her to refresh herself. Sharing her space with children and other pets may also deter your cat from drinking from her bowl.

Start by removing or reducing any stressors that may be keeping your cat from using her water bowl. This may mean relocating her water dish. Experiment with a variety of locations — for example, if your cat typically prefers being up high, try placing her bowl on an accessible counter. If you have multiple cats in your home, opt for multiple drinking locations. And keep your cat’s water and food away from the litterbox — many felines will avoid drinking near spaces where they eliminate.

Your cat may also prefer drinking from the sink because the water tastes better. This may be because the sink is typically free of the residue, scent or taste present in a bowl that’s either not cleaned often enough or is cleaned with a product the cat dislikes. Regularly cleaning your cat’s bowl with a non-scented cleaner designed to leave no residue can help make her water taste fresher and encourage her to use her bowl.

Another reason she may prefer the sink is that the porcelain is less likely to have the funky odor that may be present in some water dishes, particularly those made of plastic. Your cat may also be bothered by the sights and sounds of her bowl, particularly if it is made of shiny metal. Experiment with different types of bowls to find the most suitable material for your cat.

Make Drinking More Interesting

Your cat may prefer the free-flowing water from the tap to the still water in her bowl. In the wild, cats naturally opt for fresh, flowing water sources and avoid drinking from stagnant bodies of water. Replacing your cat’s bowl with a pet fountain that regularly moves and replenishes water may be the way to redirect her away from the sink. To get your cat interested in the fountain, smear a soft treat on the edge. You can also try a flavored additive that goes in the water — ask your veterinarian to recommend one.

Your cat may also favor the sink because she enjoys playing with the water. If you suspect that her interest in the faucet has more to do with entertainment than anything else, look for other ways to keep her occupied during the day. Food puzzles, regular play sessions and games of hide and seek and find it can help channel your cat’s energies away from the sink.

As with any new trick, be sure to reinforce only the behavior you want to see repeated. Reward your cat for drinking out of her fountain or bowl with praise, petting, treats or playtime — whatever she values the most. Additionally, ignore her when she plays in or drinks from the sink. Turn the water off and look or walk away. Over time, she will learn to prefer the behavior that ears your attention and will give up the behavior that gets her nothing.

Finally, if you are concerned about your cat’s water intake, talk with your veterinarian about how to monitor how much she’s drinking. Ask, too, about the possibility of adding canned food (which contains more water) to her diet.

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