Can Your Cat Be Trusted Around the Fishbowl?

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

Image Alt: A cat staring at fish inside a lightbulb

In many cases, the answer leans towards a cautious “no.” This scepticism stems from cats’ well-documented predatory instincts and undying curiosity for anything that moves—traits that seemingly doom fish to be perpetual targets. However, the reality is not so black and white.

Cats, much like humans, are individuals with varying degrees of interest and self-control. Some might gaze at a fishbowl with the curiosity to explore inside, while others may see it as a challenge and avoid it altogether.

Therefore, understanding the delicate dance between instincts and behaviour towards our finned friends requires delving deeper into the cat world. Read on to discover how your cat and your fish can live together, safely separated by a pane of glass.

Cat Behaviour Explained

Understanding cat behaviour, particularly their interactions with other animals, including fish, requires learning their nature before domestication. Let’s take a look.

Innate Hunting Instincts

Cats are natural predators, a trait hardwired into their DNA from their ancestors. This predatory instinct is a complex behaviour that involves stalking, pouncing, and capturing their prey. Even well-fed domestic cats exhibit these behaviours, indicating that hunting does more than satisfy nutritional needs.

When it comes to fish, cats are naturally attracted to their movements. A fish gliding through water can trigger hunting instincts, compelling them to watch, paw at the glass, or even attempt to catch the fish if given the opportunity. They can do this regardless of the fish breed; cats do not know the value of the betta fish or any other breed.

Curiosity and Fascination with Moving Objects

Cats are inherently curious creatures, and this curiosity extends to anything that moves, be it a laser pointer dot, a fluttering curtain, or fish swimming in a bowl. This fascination with movement is part of why cats are such effective hunters; they are hardwired to notice and react to motion, which would typically help them get their next meal in the wild.

The swift, unpredictable gliding of fish through water can trigger these predatory instincts. This interest is an active engagement that involves tracking the fish with their eyes, positioning their bodies for a potential pounce, and even making tentative swipes at the fishbowl.

The movement of fish also serves as a form of cognitive engagement for cats. Predicting fish swimming patterns can keep cats active and alert, providing a mental workout that is both stimulating and enriching. This cognitive engagement is crucial for indoor cats, in particular, who may not have as many opportunities for mental stimulation as their outdoor counterparts.

Another factor that makes fish’s visual stimulation attractive to cats is the contrast and visibility within the aquatic environment. Fish often display bright colours and move against clear water, plants, and colourful gravel, making them highly visible to cats.

Safety Measures for Your Fishbowl

Ensuring your fish is safe while accommodating the natural behaviours of your cat requires careful consideration and implementation of specific safety measures. These measures can help mitigate risks and foster peaceful coexistence. You can try the following:

Change Your Fishbowl Placement

Where you place your fishbowl is crucial in minimising the risk of cat interaction. For example, placing the bowl in a high, stable location that is not easily accessible to your cat can significantly reduce the likelihood of unwanted encounters.

However, avoid areas where your cat typically jumps or climbs, as these could provide easy access to the fishbowl. Additionally, ensure the fishbowl is on a non-slip surface and away from edges to prevent accidental knock-overs by more determined or agile cats.

Cover the Bowl

Investing in a fishbowl cover is an effective way to protect your fish from curious paws. Covers prevent your cat from physically reaching the fish and reduce the visual stimulation that might encourage persistent interest. When choosing a cover, opt for one that allows proper air exchange for the health of your fish while being secure enough to withstand any attempts by your cat to dislodge it.

Distract Your Cat

This strategy offers a proactive approach to keep your cat and fish safe. As such, engage your cat with toys and interactive play that mimic the hunting experience, such as toys that move unpredictably or simulate prey. Such games can satisfy their hunting instincts and divert their attention from the fishbowl. On top of that, regular play sessions can also help to expend energy your cat might otherwise direct towards the fish.

Incorporate Training Techniques

Positive reinforcement can be highly effective in training your cat not to bother fish. For example, rewarding your cat with treats, praise, or play when they ignore the fishbowl or choose to engage in other activities can reinforce desirable behaviour. Consistency and patience are key in training; over time, your cat can learn that steering clear of the fishbowl leads to positive outcomes.

Enrichment the Environment

Offer your cat a stimulating environment to lessen their interest in the fishbowl. Such enrichment can include climbing structures and scratching posts to encourage exploration and play.

You can create a play corner or other space for your cat so it does not have to hang around the fish all day. Having such environmental enrichment can satisfy your cat’s physical and mental needs, reducing the novelty and allure of the fishbowl as a source of entertainment.


The curiosity inherent in cats plays a significant role in their fascination with fish moving in water. The fishbowl presents a mini-ecosystem that is both foreign and intriguing to them, offering endless opportunities for observation and discovery. The fish movements within this contained environment may encourage cats to investigate further and keep coming back for more.

While it’s challenging to completely suppress these instincts, understanding these behaviours and implementing strategic measures can help maintain peace in your household. As such, take the best precautions and provide proper training and environmental enrichment to create a safe and stress-free environment for your cat and fish.

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1 thoughts on “Can Your Cat Be Trusted Around the Fishbowl?

  1. Catsandcoffee says:

    I have a cat that loved the Fish! She thought I got it for her. Every time I cleaned the tank, she monitored me and she would wrap her body and tail around the tank. But, she Never tried to hurt the fish.

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