Why in the World Do Cats Drink From Toilets?

Updated on July 4, 2019
Rainbeaux profile image

I've done stranger things, myself . . . but that's a whole 'nother article!

Bottoms up!
Bottoms up!

To some cats, the toilet is the equivalent of a mouth-watering, bottomless drinking fountain. It beckons to their incomparable ability to repurpose just about anything (drapes as trapezes, fuzz as food, and antique sofas as scratching posts). It also hones their superb aptitude for balancing on extremely smooth surfaces and contorting themselves into advanced-level yoga poses. But why do they do it?

The Churning Water Mesmerizes Cats

One of the reasons that cats like drinking from the porcelain throne may be that the hypnotic swirl of its water triggers the cat’s instinct to lock onto movement, either for enjoyment or for hunting. They may also notice reflections in the water, and, other than admiring their dazzling image in them, may perceive them as something to play with.

In the wild, cats were hardwired to interpret running water as safer than stagnant or still water. The streaming, swirling sound of toilet water may sound like a river or creek to your cat and trigger her primal side.

Although more dogs than cats like their water served in a toilet bowl, felines are a close second when it comes to seeking a royal flush. Take comfort in the fact that they won’t drink out of a toilet that still has waste in it. But cats don’t perceive a commode as gross like we do. They don’t know what it’s used for. They only see it objectively—a nice, big receptacle filled with fresh, cold water!


Toilet Water Is Cleaner Than Cats’ Water Dishes

Believe it or not, with regular upkeep of the bowl, toilet water is often cleaner than the water in a cat’s dish. New water replaces old every time the toilet is flushed, whereas the water in the cat’s bowl may have sat for a while, turned stagnant, and may also have food, hair, whiskers, and other debris in it, and turned slimy from kitty's saliva.

Continual flushing also oxygenates the toilet’s water, infusing it with a cleaner, purer taste. Contained in a porcelain vessel, water also remains more enticingly chilled than it may be in a standard cat bowl. Bathroom tiling also helps lower the toilet water’s temperature.

Cats’ Mouths Are Mighty Bacteria Blasters

Cats’ mouths are filled with brawny microorganisms that can tackle hazardous elements in substances such as raw meat, and can slay small amounts of toilet contaminants. Cats also have robust immune systems that can deal with impurities.

Partaking of toilet water is an instinctual function. It hearkens back to cats’ wild ancestors drinking safer cool water, rather than bacteria-ridden warm water. It’s possible that if a cat’s water becomes lukewarm, a colony of bacteria in it can multiply to 38,000 in under 48 hours—and that’s from bacteria scattered after only one sip of water.

A discriminating cat displays her astute choice of water bowl.
A discriminating cat displays her astute choice of water bowl.

Cats Want to Be Far From Their Scuzzy Water Bowl

Cats may favor lapping from toilets because they’re a substantial distance from their own tepid, murky water. They don’t care how trendy and pricey their water may have originally been. If their humans forgot to change it, cats aren’t going to want to be near it; they're not going to drink it, and they will opt for the potty.

In the North African desert from which cats evolved, they had to rely on their prey for all the hydration they could glean, since water sources were scant. In this way, felines became accustomed to their water source being isolated from their food source.

Peace....quiet....and refreshment!
Peace....quiet....and refreshment!

Cats Want to Escape Commotion

Often, cats’ food is placed in high traffic areas, such as kitchens. For more sensitive felines, this arrangement can be a stressful one. Like a harried human grabbing a beer and escaping to the patio, a high-strung kitty can find comfort in drinking in solitude, in the bathroom.

What you see....
What you see....
What they see
What they see | Source

How Do You Prevent Your Cat From Guzzling Toilet Water?

You’ve got to appealingly present water in a way that rivals toilet water. This can be done by providing water in a ceramic or stainless steel bowl (both keep water nice and cool and resist bacteria buildup). Place the bowl out of sunlight and refill regularly with chilled water.

Add ice cubes to it in the summer. (Frozen chicken broth ice cubes are also enticing.) You may have forgotten to fill the bowl in the first place, and your cat is simply acting upon her instinct to stay hydrated.

You can also space several bowls throughout the house (including one near the bathroom, so the kitty will gravitate to it instead of the toilet). This is especially important if you have several cats since they are territorial animals and will stake out their own specific bowl.

And, of course, don’t place the water bowl near the litter box. Oddly enough, cats don’t mind drinking from your toilet, but they won’t drink anywhere near theirs! (And, for further irony, these are creatures that lick their own butts! Go figure.)

Because your cat has highly developed taste buds, she is extremely sensitive to the taste of her bowl and the flavor it imparts to her water. If the taste of her bowl is displeasing, the toilet could be her go-to. Cats will also seek water elsewhere if their sensitive whiskers rub against their bowl’s sides.

A pet water fountain. Hey, that kinda looks like a....
A pet water fountain. Hey, that kinda looks like a....

A pet fountain may be preferable to a bowl. It continually filters and circulates water so that the liquid remains oxygenated and clean. And, like a toilet, it has a gushing stream of water to spellbind your cat. This way, cats can always smell and hear the water, and are reassured that it’s there.

However, if you don’t clean it or change the filters regularly, the water in it may be less clean than your toilet’s water—and this may send your kitty right back to swigging from the commode.

Caught in the Act!

As long as there are cats, and as long as there are toilets, there’s a good chance they’ll be up to their whiskers in porcelain. However, there’s one thing there won’t be a chance they’ll do anytime soon—put the seat down!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Rainbeaux


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