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Q: My cat drinks by scooping water from her dish and licking her paw. Is this normal?

A: This is one of my favorite cat behaviors. It almost looks as if the cat is going fishing in her water bowl.

If your cat has always used this way to get water from her bowl, don't worry. Some cats have integrated a play behavior into their drinking pattern. There is some evidence that the behavior can be an inherited trait. Most cats with this drinking trick are simply amusing themselves.

If you have an older cat for whom this behavior is new, you no longer have just a cute behavior on your hands. Sometimes a new drinking pattern in an older cat can indicate excessive thirst. This is a warning sign for us to look for a disease process.

Examples of diseases that cause excessive thirst are diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease. Simple blood testing can screen for these diseases and others. Your veterinarian can help you differentiate between an adorable behavior and an early indication of a problem.

Prepared as a public service by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society. Send questions to Pets, P.O. Box 1252, Buffalo, N.Y. 14205 or to the Web site at Sorry, personal replies cannot be provided.

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