Cats are known for their mysterious and quirky behaviors, often confusing their owners. One such habit some cat owners notice is their feline friend scratching the floor before drinking water.

What’s behind this odd behavior? Let’s delve into the world of cats to understand why and what you can do about it.

Understanding Cat Behavior

1. Instinctive Behavior

Cats exhibit various instinctive behaviors, many of which have roots in their wild ancestors.

Domesticated cats still retain some of these habits, which can seem peculiar in a household setting.

Understanding your cat’s instincts can explain why they scratch the floor before drinking water.

2. Wild Cats vs House Cats

Although house cats have been domesticated for thousands of years, they still share many traits and instincts with their wild counterparts.

In the wild, cats must ensure their safety and survival by hiding their scent, marking their territory, and protecting their resources.

Some behaviors, like scratching the floor before drinking water, carry over to our beloved house cats.

Cat Kneading and Scratching

1. Cat Paws: Versatile Tools

Cat paws are more than just cute and fluffy; they are versatile tools that serve various functions.

Cats use their paws for grooming, hunting, climbing, and kneading surfaces. Kneading is a common behavior where a cat pushes its paws in and out against a soft surface, often accompanied by purring.

This behavior is believed to be a comforting gesture that originates from kittenhood when kittens knead their mother’s bellies to stimulate milk production.

2. Scent Glands in Cats

Cats have scent glands in their cheeks, paws, and other body areas. These glands produce pheromones, which cats use to communicate and mark their territory.

When a cat scratches or kneads a surface, they leave behind its unique scent, asserting its presence in the area.

Reasons for Scratching the Floor

1. Marking Territory

Cats are territorial creatures using scent marking to establish their domain. When your cat scratches the floor before drinking water, it might mark its territory around its water dish, asserting ownership of its resources.

This behavior is a normal part of feline communication and can help your cat feel more secure in their environment.

2. Food and Water Bowls

Cats may also scratch the floor around their food and water bowls to ensure cleanliness. Cats bury their leftover food in the wild to hide the scent from potential predators or competitors.

Your cat may instinctively try to keep their eating and drinking area clean and safe by mimicking this behaviour.

3. Litter Box Habits

Scratching and digging behaviors are also linked to a cat’s litter box habits. Cats instinctively bury their waste to hide their presence from predators and competitors.

Suppose your cat’s water dish is close to its litter box. In that case, they might associate the floor scratching behaviour with covering up their waste.

4. Covering Their Tracks

Cats may also scratch the floor before drinking water to cover their tracks and hide their presence.

In the wild, cats need to be cautious of predators and rivals. Scratching the floor could be a way for your cat to instinctively mask the sound of them drinking water, even though it’s not necessary for the safety of your home.

Water Dishes and Fountains

1. Cats and Wet Food

Cats naturally prefer wet food, as it provides hydration and mimics the moisture content of their natural prey.

Some cats may scratch the floor around their water dish if they’re not getting enough moisture from their food. Ensuring your cat has access to wet food can help address this issue.

2. Choosing the Right Water Dish

The type of water dish you provide for your cat can also affect their floor scratching behavior.

Some cats may not like how their whiskers touch the sides of the dish, leading to discomfort and prompting them to cross the floor.

Experimenting with different water dishes or fountains, such as those with wider or shallower designs, can help resolve this issue and make your cat more comfortable while drinking.

How to Manage Floor Scratching

While floor scratching around the water dish is generally harmless, it can be bothersome for some cat owners. Here are some tips for managing this behavior:

1. Keeping Your Cat Engaged

Providing your cat with mental stimulation and physical exercise can help reduce its need for floor scratching.

Provide toys, scratching posts, and interactive playtime to ensure your cat is entertained and satisfied. This may help curb their desire to scratch the floor around their water dish.

2. Trimming Your Cat’s Nails

Regularly trimming your cat’s nails can help reduce the damage caused by floor scratching.

Use proper nail trimmers designed for cats and avoid cutting too close to the quick, which can cause pain and bleeding.


Scratching the floor before drinking water is a natural and instinctive behavior for cats.

Understanding the reasons behind this habit can help you address any underlying issues and ensure your cat is comfortable in their environment.

Experiment with different water dishes, provide mental and physical stimulation and maintain proper grooming to help manage this quirky feline behavior.


1. Is scratching the floor before drinking water harmful to my cat?

No, it’s normal and instinctive behavior that doesn’t pose any harm to your cat.

2. How can I prevent my cat from scratching the floor around its water dish?

Experiment with different water dishes or fountains, provide mental and physical stimulation and maintain proper grooming to help manage this behavior.

3. Why does my cat knead the floor before drinking water?

Kneading or scratching the floor before drinking water could be a way for your cat to mark their territory, ensure cleanliness, or cover their tracks.

4. Should I move my cat’s water dish away from their litter box?

Yes, it’s a good idea to separate your cat’s water dish from its litter box to prevent any association between the two and reduce the likelihood of floor scratching behavior around the water dish.

5. Do all cats scratch the floor before drinking water?

Not all cats exhibit this behavior. It’s important to remember that each cat is unique. Their habits and behaviours can vary based on individual personalities and experiences.


Fauzan Suryo Wibowo, experienced online publisher and founder of, combines his love for cats with deep knowledge to provide reliable, engaging content. With a history in pet-focused platforms, he offers a trusted resource for cat enthusiasts, promoting appreciation for felines worldwide.

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