Why Does My Cat Dunk His Toys In His Water Bowl?

Have you ever caught your furry feline plunging their toy mouse into their water bowl? It might seem like a silly sight, but it’s actually quite common for cats to dunk their toys in water. If you’re scratching your head wondering why your cat is doing this, don’t worry – we’ve got the answers.

At first glance, you might think that your cat is just being clumsy or playful. However, there are several reasons why they might be engaging in this behavior. For one, it could be linked to their natural instincts as hunters. In the wild, cats would throw their prey into water to immobilize them and make them easier to catch. Dunking toys in water could be a way for your cat to practice these hunting skills.

Another reason why cats dunk their toys in water is related to cleanliness. As we all know, cats are meticulous groomers who love to keep themselves neat and tidy. By soaking their toys in water, they may perceive them as cleaner and more hygienic than dry ones.

So if you catch your cat dipping their favorite toy into their water bowl, don’t fret. It’s just another quirky habit that makes our feline friends so unique and entertaining. In this post, we’ll explore the different theories behind this behavior and what it says about your pet’s personality and instincts. Get ready for some fun facts about our purring pals.

What is the Behavior of Dunking Toys in Water Bowl?

It’s a common sight to see your feline companion dunking their toys into their water bowl. Although this behavior might seem strange to humans, it has fascinated cat owners for a long time. There are several theories that explain why cats do this, and we’ll explore them in-depth in this article.

One theory suggests that cats may be trying to mimic the act of hunting by dunking their toys in water. As natural predators, cats often catch their prey near water sources. By doing so, they may be recreating the experience of catching fish or other aquatic animals.

Another theory suggests that cats may also be trying to clean their toys by dunking them in water. In the wild, cats frequently use water bodies to clean themselves and their prey. By doing the same with their toys, they may be attempting to remove dirt or debris.

Cats may also dunk their toys in water as a way to cool down on hot days. By soaking their toys in water, they can create a refreshing and cooling sensation when playing with them. This is especially true for long-haired cats who might feel hotter than others.

Moreover, cats may be marking their territory by placing their scent on their toys. In households with multiple cats, this behavior is more common where there is competition over resources.

While dunking toys in water is generally harmless, it’s essential to ensure that your cat’s water bowl is clean and free of any potential contaminants. If you notice excessive or obsessive behavior surrounding dunking toys in water, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Instinctual Hunting and Capturing Prey

As you watch your cat dunk their toy into their water bowl, you may be left wondering why they engage in such peculiar behavior. The answer lies in their instinctual hunting behaviors, which remain even in domestic settings where food is readily available.

Cats are natural hunters, and when they hunt and capture prey in the wild, they may encounter water sources such as streams or ponds. Dunking their prey in the water can help clean it and make it easier to handle. Similarly, when cats dunk their toys in water, they may be trying to “clean” them or make them easier to handle.

Beyond just cleaning their toys, dunking them in water can also create a more challenging play experience for cats. This stimulation is especially important for younger cats who are still developing and practicing their hunting skills. It’s no surprise that this behavior is common among felines.

However, it’s important to note that if a cat is not getting enough mental or physical stimulation, dunking toys in water can be a sign of boredom or anxiety. Therefore, providing your cat with plenty of interactive toys and playtime can help alleviate boredom and reduce this behavior.

Marking Territory

Cats are fascinating creatures with unique behaviors, and one of their most instinctive behaviors is marking their territory. This natural behavior is rooted in their survival instincts and the need to protect themselves from potential predators. Cats use different methods to mark their territory, including scratching, urine marking, and rubbing their scent glands against objects.

If you’ve ever caught your cat dunking their toys in their water bowl, you may be wondering why they’re engaging in such a peculiar behavior. Well, fear not. As an expert on marking territory in cats, I am here to shed some light on this fascinating feline behavior.

One possible reason for this behavior is that your cat is marking their toys as their own. By soaking the toys in their scent, they are claiming ownership of them and establishing their presence in the environment. This behavior is more common in male cats who have a stronger urge to mark their territory.

Another possible reason is that your cat is using the water bowl as a playful toy. Some cats enjoy splashing around and playing in water, and dunking their toys in the water bowl can be a way for them to engage in this playful behavior. It’s important to note that this behavior is more prevalent among younger cats who are still developing their hunting skills.

Lastly, some cats may dunk their toys in their water bowl simply because they enjoy the sensation of wetness. Cats have sensitive whiskers and paws, and the sensation of wet toys may be particularly stimulating for them.

Enjoyment of Wetness on Toys

While this behavior may seem odd to us, it is entirely normal for cats and can be attributed to a variety of reasons.

One of the reasons why cats enjoy wet toys is due to their attraction to the sound and movement of dripping water. The sensation of wetness on their toys can be appealing to them, leading them to play with them while they are damp. Additionally, cats have a highly developed sense of smell, and when they dunk their toys in their water bowl, it changes the scent of the toy, making it more intriguing to them.

Moreover, some cats may resort to dunking their toys in their water bowl as a way to cool down during hot weather. Cats regulate their body temperature through panting and sweating through their paws, but if they need to cool down quickly, dunking their toys in the water bowl creates a source of coolness.

The enjoyment of wetness on toys is not only fascinating but also beneficial for cats. It can provide them with mental stimulation and entertainment, which is essential for their overall well-being. However, excessive or destructive behavior should be discouraged to prevent any mishaps.

To prevent excessive dunking behavior, it’s crucial to provide your cat with adequate playtime and different types of toys. Interactive toys that mimic prey and encourage exercise are perfect for keeping your furry friend entertained. You can also consider rotating your cat’s toys frequently to keep them engaged and interested.

Keeping Teeth and Gums Clean

One aspect of cat health that is often overlooked is dental hygiene. Believe it or not, maintaining clean teeth and gums in your cat is crucial for their overall wellbeing.

Why is this the case? For one, dental issues can lead to other health problems. If left untreated, dental problems can cause infections which can spread throughout the body, leading to serious illnesses such as kidney disease and heart disease. Unfortunately, cats are prone to dental issues due to the bacteria in their mouths which form plaque and tartar buildup on their teeth.

To prevent these problems from arising, it’s essential to establish a regular dental care routine for your cat. Brushing their teeth is the most effective way to keep their teeth and gums clean. It’s important to start gently with your cat by massaging their gums with a finger or a gauze-wrapped finger before introducing them to a toothbrush designed for cats and safe toothpaste made for pets.

In addition to brushing, there are other ways to help keep your cat’s teeth clean such as incorporating dental treats and toys into their routine. Dental treats are specially formulated to remove plaque and tartar buildup on your cat’s teeth while toys can help stimulate the gums and remove debris from the teeth.

Finally, it’s important to schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian. They can perform a thorough dental exam and cleaning if necessary.

Multi-Cat Households

While it may seem peculiar, this behavior has several potential reasons behind it.

One possible explanation is that cats in multi-cat households dunk their toys in water to mark their territory. In homes with multiple cats, competition for resources such as food, water, and toys can occur. By dunking their toy in the water bowl, a cat is essentially saying “this is mine” and letting other cats know not to touch it.

Moreover, dunking toys in the water bowl could be a way for cats to engage in social behavior and bond with other cats. Leaving the toy in the water bowl indicates an invitation to play together or an indication of interest in playing with other cats.

In addition, this behavior could stem from play behavior where cats are natural predators and enjoy playing with their prey, even if it’s just a toy. Dunking the toy in water could be viewed as a means of making the toy more intriguing or “catching” it.

While this behavior is usually harmless and typical of multi-cat households, it’s critical to ensure that all cats have enough resources to prevent competition and stress-related behaviors such as toy dunking. Providing numerous water bowls, food dishes, and toys can help alleviate the likelihood of this behavior in multi-cat households.

Other Reasons for Dunking Toys in Water Bowls

One such behavior is dunking their toys in water bowls. While we have already discussed the most common reasons why cats do this, there are other reasons why cats may engage in this peculiar behavior.

Temperature regulation

Cats have a higher body temperature than humans, and they may dunk their toys in the water bowl to cool them down, especially during hot weather. This behavior is more commonly seen in outdoor or feral cats who do not have access to air conditioning or other cooling methods. By cooling down their toys, cats can make them more comfortable to play with.


Cats are known for their fastidious grooming habits, and dunking toys in water could be a way for them to clean their toys. By soaking the toy in water, they can remove any dirt or debris that has accumulated on the surface of the toy. This behavior is particularly common in cats who have access to outdoor spaces and bring back toys that may be dirty or covered in mud.

Sensory stimulation

Cats are curious creatures that enjoy exploring new textures and smells. Dunking their toys in water could provide them with a sensory experience that satisfies their natural curiosity. The sensation of wetness on their toys may be more appealing than dry toys and could evoke a different response from the cat.

Coping mechanism for stress and anxiety

Just like humans, cats can experience stress and anxiety, and dunking their toys in water bowls could provide a sense of relief or comfort to the cat. The act of dunking the toy in water may provide a distraction from stressful situations or help the cat to relax.

Playful interaction

Lastly, some cats may simply enjoy playing with their owners and engaging in playful interactions. Dunking their toys in water bowls could be a way for them to initiate playtime with their owners or to get their attention. This behavior may be more common in cats who have a close bond with their owners and enjoy spending time interacting with them.


To sum it up, cats dunking their toys in water bowls is a common yet strange behavior. However, there are valid reasons why they do this. It could be due to their innate hunting instincts, a way to keep their toys clean and sanitary, or just a way to cool off on hot days. Dunking toys in water can also provide cats with a more challenging play experience, which is crucial for their mental stimulation and overall well-being.

Moreover, cats may dunk their toys as a means of marking territory or engaging in social behavior with other felines. This habit is generally harmless but can become problematic if not appropriately managed. To prevent stress-related behaviors and competition, providing multiple water bowls, food dishes, and toys can help.

It’s worth noting that while dunking toys in water is usually safe, excessive or obsessive behavior should be monitored and addressed by consulting with a veterinarian. Additionally, establishing regular dental care routines for your cat through brushing their teeth and incorporating dental treats and toys into their routine can help prevent dental issues that can lead to other health problems.