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Dear Matthew Alice:

I am puzzled by my kitty's habit of sloshing his drinking water around with his paw before drinking it. I have tried coloring the water, theorizing that he is unable to see how high the water is in his dish. This doesn't seem to be the answer. Please tell me why kitty engages in this odd ritual. Do all cats demonstrate the same habit, or is mine especially strange? Would kitty counseling help?

-- Purrplexed, San Diego

Especially strange is just the normal state for kitties, yes? Who knows what peculiar thoughts lurk in the obtuse feline brain. It's any cat's manifest destiny to taunt and bewilder its owner.

But here's one explanation I've gleaned from several cat experts (kitty likely would get a chuckle out of that concept). Domesticated cats still have their primal hunting instincts, but there's not much in their indoor environment that can serve as prey. That's why kitty goes nuts over yarn balls, flies, dust specks, fringe, toes, and hallucinatory images only the cat can see-- anything it can chase that behaves like potential prey. Pouncing and batting at things with its paws are all part of the hunting process in the wild. Some cats are particularly fascinated with dripping or moving water, apparently thinking there are live fish in their bowls, though it's probably just shadows or reflections. Certain wild cats feed on fish and catch them by scooping them up in their paws. Most likely, yours is just exercising its frustrated hunting skills playing Fluffy, King the Jungle.

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