Why Does My Cat Drop Toys in the Water Bowl?

A cat owner is curious about his cat’s unusual behavior with his toys.

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I am the proud owner of two healthy male Siamese cats. I have trained the boys to play fetch with balled up pieces of paper. If they even hear me ripping out a piece of paper, they run to my feet and stand at attention. Lately though, one of my cats will go a few rounds of fetch and then he will take a shortcut to his water bowl, drop the ball into his water and look at me, meowing. This has been ongoing for about three months now and I'm wondering, is it something mental?

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Transporting non-food items, such as toys, to the food or water bowl is a common behavior seen in indoor cats. The reason why they do this isn’t clear, although several explanations have been suggested. Cats often put their toys away in a “safe” place after playing with them, and cats look upon their food area as a secure part of their territory. This behavior is similar to cats in the wild who often take their prey back to their nest area to hide it from potential predators. Your cat simply might be storing his toy in a secure area to be played with later. (When my cat, Mittens, is finished playing with her fuzzy mice, she likes to store them behind a large flowerpot in the corner of my living room.)

Another possible explanation is that this is a manifestation of gathering/collecting behavior. For example, cats will transport the toy to the water bowl in the same way that a queen will return wandering kittens back to the nest, or move kittens from one place to another by the nape of the neck.

Arnold Plotnick, DVM

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Reader Comments

Sarah    Belmont, NC

6/10/2016 3:43:54 AM

My kitty likes to walk around with my socks in her mouth and occasionally will drop a sock in her water bowl :) it's strange but adorable.

Michelle    Austin, TX

8/11/2014 9:42:54 PM

I have two cats. One is clearly a domestic tabby. The other, however, is a little different. She looks like a domestic size Bengal and she has feral characteristics . I've had both cats each for their entire lives and I got them at almost the exact time.

One behavior that the more feral cat had that the other doesn't is she takes my hair ties from my vanity daily and pays with them in the bathroom. I keep their water on the bathroom floor and I'd always come home to find my ponytail holder in their water.

Finally one night I'm bathing and she's playing with the hair tie in front of me and then she stops, and cats to the water bowl and drops it in, and then tries to get it out.

I have no idea why does this. And I have no clue why the other cat is so different when they were raised together from just a few weeks old.

miz    International

6/4/2014 5:58:36 AM

Late one night my cat was outside&I was on the pc near the front door.She knew I was there&started scratching at the door to come inside.I took no notice.later she went around to the back door&started pushing on it.When I let her inside she had a dead mouse in her mouth.She started playing with it like she does with her toys.Later when she was eating her cat biscuits I noticed something else,she had picked up the mouse&dropped it in her food bowl&ate most of the mouse with her biscuits.In the morning when my partner was leaving for work he said our cat had on kitchen mat a partly eaten mouse&some cat biscuits!Our cat had taken the mouse&some cat biscuits out of the food bowl&put it on the mat for her "dad" to see.Our darling cat does some comical&freaky things.Shes good at hiding when don't want to go outside.She sits&watches me put on my shoes or socks.She sits and stares at me for a long time.She is maine coon/ragdoll with short hair&small ears but has the maine coon face, body and tail.She is 3yrs old&loves to play.Objects frighten her like a broom or something she doesnt recognise.I have had many cats over the years but not one like her.

Cindy    Roanoke, VA

5/22/2014 12:58:51 PM

My cat loves putting her mouse toys in the water dish and then takes them back out to dry. Most recently, she has also been placing her fresh catnip leaves in the water too. Perhaps she wants to have some tea. :)

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