Categories: water

Why do cats prefer dirty water?

Why do cats prefer dirty water? The internet has been incredibly educational regarding cat welfare and therefore I would expect most people to know the answer to this question but for the sake of clarity I’ll discuss it in any case.

Photo: D Coetzee on Flickr under creative commons license.


We know that there are chemicals in tap water. It is often chlorinated strongly enough to be able to smell the chlorine. A websites states that the full constituents of tap water are:

  • Chlorine.
  • Fluorine compounds.
  • Trihalomethanes (THMs)
  • Salts of: arsenic, radium, aluminum, copper, lead, mercury, cadmium and barium.
  • Hormones.
  • Nitrates.
  • Pesticides.

Are you surprised that some cats don’t like it that much?

There is another source of chemicals which is the detergent that people use when washing cat bowls in dishwashers. It is possible and probably likely that some detergent is left on the bowl.

As the cat’s nose is very sensitive they quickly detect these chemicals and for some cats it is intolerable. Water allows the chemical smells to become noticeable but the odor of cat food probably masks them. In short, tap water is too sanitized and therefore an individual cat may prefer a dirty puddle of water in the garden. It does depend on the cat.

There may be microbes and rotting vegetation in water puddle but it doesn’t put off a domestic cat because they are natural. They may even like the flavor! One danger of a puddle of water in the back garden if that it may contain chemicals as well. I am thinking of garden pesticides and weedkillers. I am not a believer in the use of garden products such as weedkillers, pesticides and lawn enhancers when cats are around. All of them can hurt a cat in my opinion.

Should Cats Drink Softened Water?

Safe option

Perhaps the safe option is to make sure that the water bowl with which you provide your cat is rinsed efficiently of traces of detergent. Also, it may help to allow the chemicals to dissipate in the water by allowing it to stand for some time before offering it to your cat.

The cat is very sensitive to chemical contamination. We know how impossibly difficult it is to encourage a cat to eat food that has a pill hidden in it. They can pick up the smell of the pill or the taste of it incredibly quickly.

Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts

What kind of water bowl is best for cats?

The kind of water bowl that is best for cats is either glass, ceramic or…

5 hours ago

Substantial number of people give Covid-19 to their companion animals

There have been a few studies on this subject unsurprisingly. It is obviously highly pertinent…

9 hours ago

People prevented from feeding stray cats in the UK

This is an extraordinary development as far as I am concerned. Councils in the UK…

9 hours ago

I can feel my cat’s spine when I pet him

If you can feel your cat's spine when you pet him, he might be underweight.…

1 day ago


The title is in Japanese. It means: 7 shironeko (7 white cats)...which is not true…

1 day ago

New Zealand: man who trapped and drowned eight cats thought he was doing the right thing

ANALYSIS AND NEWS - WARNING: this content may upset some people so please don't read…

1 day ago