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?

Brian
Via email

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.

Regards,
Arnold Plotnick, DVM

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Reader Comments

Snow    Waitsburg, WA

6/16/2013 3:29:56 PM

My male cat likes to put his toy mice in the water bowl and sometimes next to it which will ruin the cardboard mouse sometimes the dye on the mouse changes the color of the water. Then I have to change the water and later on give him a new mouse to play with. Since I started give them water at the sink (a happen that develop with the new kitty and he enjoys it too) he doesn't leave the mouse in the water so much anymore which is good because I'm not home as much to keep an eye on the water bowl that provides water for four cats all day. However, he is always happy to get a new mouse so he can chew off the tail and he'll enjoy it for about a week then he wants a new one. He loves to play fetch with the mouse but he so skittish that he drops the mouse away from you and sometimes you have to get up to get the mouse.

janet    Bethlehem, PA

5/2/2012 2:31:08 AM

good article, thank you

regina    arden, DE

11/2/2010 6:38:05 PM

My cat puts her favorite ball in the water bowl all the time. I think she is telling my 80 lb dog that it is her bowl!

Regina    Arden, DE

11/2/2010 6:34:14 PM

My cat puts her favorite ball in the water bowl all the time. I think she is telling my 80 lb dog that it is her bowl!

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