Maggie is a 15-year-old indoor cat, and she loves to play in water. She climbs up on the toilet seat and splashes around. But she also splashes in the community water bowl (there are two other cats), and the water is all over the floor. She drinks by putting her paw in the water and then licking it.
I am constantly refilling this self-watering bowl because she splashes it all out. How can I break her of this behavior? She's driving us nuts with the mess. She's also keeping our other (male) cats away from the bowl with territorial behavior.
Playing in water can go from adorable to irritating in no time, but there's actually a good reason she's doing this, and it's one we can fix without too much trouble. Animals instinctively know that moving water is safer than still; rivers, streams and creeks all benefit from natural filtration as they flow over rocks, while puddles, ponds and other still bodies of water allow bacteria and other toxins to grow in them. Maggie, like many cats, prefers her water in motion. An inexpensive pet water fountain (a quick search gave me several results between $20 and $50) should help convince her she doesn't need to move the water herself, and encourage all the animals to drink more, which is better for their health anyway. While leaving a faucet running may seem like a cheaper and easier option, it will have a notable effect on your water bill in the long run. Fountains use less water.
As for her preventing the boys from getting to the bowl, remember, it's no accident that we call male cats the rather unexciting name of "Tom" but females are called "queens." She's likely to be in charge, no matter how much bigger those fellows are. Whenever there are issues with multiple cats, I recommend increasing their resources. Give them more food stations, more litter stations and definitely more water stations. Again, just adding a fountain may help with this, but it wouldn't hurt to have a station for each cat, if that's feasible in your home.
Amie Glasgow is head trainer and behavioral consultant with the Maryland SPCA. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.