cat obsessed with fish tank
Questions About Cats

How to Keep a Cat Out of a Fish Tank

Cats and fish tanks are a challenging combination in any home. By introducing them to your house, you are mixing predator and prey. You must take steps to prevent a cat from accessing the fish in an aquarium.

Keep your cat away from the fish tank by making it inaccessible. House it somewhere with no launch pads to climb. For security, fasten the lid of the fish tank. Deter the cat further by applying sticky tape and unappealing scents to the aquarium’s roof. Cover the tank at night.

If kept separate, cats and fish can co-exist in the same house. In fact, aquariums can be an endless source of visual entertainment for felines. It remains critical that the cat goes no further than watching.

Do Cats Like Fish Tanks?

Many owners of cats and fish complain that their feline is obsessed with their aquarium. This may appear strange, as many cats detest water. There are many reasons why a cat is besotted with a fish thank, though.

Colors and Movement

Feline vision is designed to respond to stimulation. This includes bright colors and sudden movements. A fish tank or aquarium will provide both of these traits. The more exotic the fish in your home, the more fascination an aquarium will provoke.

Multiple fish, in particular, will continually pique a cat’s curiosity. Swimming fish move in small, jerky motions. This will be spotted from the corner of a cat’s eye. The cat will then investigate, discovering the numerous occupants of the aquarium.

This can work in your favor. Many cats consider a fish tank a source of fun. This decoration in your home can delight both you and your cat. As always with cats, though, there can be too much of a good thing. Your cat’s exposure to an aquarium must be limited.

how to keep cat away from fish bowl


Depending upon the fish you keep, your tank may be heated. In such an instance, the heat will rise. This will make the lid of a fish tank cozy to a feline. Your cat may to lie on the fish tank, enjoying the warmth on its belly.

While this will be a welcome respite from the winter chill, it must be avoided. The main risks are obvious. The cat may fall into the tank or frighten the fish. There is also the possibility of the cat burning its skin through prolonged exposure.

Ensure that your cat has alternative, appropriate heat sources during colder months. Blankets and hot water bottles in a cat’s bed are ideal. These will perform the same role as the heat of an aquarium lid. They’ll just do so in a much safer manner.


Never underestimate the potency of feline hunting instincts. A predatory cat may eat fish from a tank. This is likelier in some cat breeds than others. Investigate if your particular pet has a tendency to eat live fish.

As explained by bioRxiv, cats are patient when hunting fish. Felines are typically happy to lie in wait and pick off shallow swimming prey. This makes fish in a tank easy prey for a hungry cat. It will simply pluck a fish from the tank using its paw.

This practice is unsafe for both species. Your fish do not want to be eaten. Nor will you want them to meet this fate. The stress of knowing a cat is waiting can frighten a fish to death, too.

In addition, raw fish is one of many toxic foods to felines. If your cat eats raw fish, its body will be unable to create thiamine. A lack of this B-vitamin can cause neurological issues in cats.

Running Water

If your cat keeps drinking from fish tank, there is a reason. The cat hears the constant flow of fresh water into the tank. The cat is interested in drinking from here. This is because many cats dislike drinking still water from a bowl.

In theory, there is no harm to your cat in doing this. All the same, it is not a habit that you’ll want to encourage. The cat will frighten fish by constantly drinking from the aquarium. The cat may also swallow stagnant water or fish feces and become sick.

Muffle the sound of this running water and provide your cat with an alternative. A water fountain is a great compromise. This ensures that your cat always has a running water supply. Better yet, it protects both animals from avoidable harm.

Unclaimed Territory

Both cats and fish are territorial animals but occupy different spaces. The underwater domain of a fish is of no interest to a cat. The tank, on the other hand, is available for claiming. No human scents have made an unmistakable claim to this piece of furniture.

Some cats will gleefully claim a fish tank as a place to nap and relax. Even if the cat has no designs on harming the fish, this will not work out. The cat will cause issues by spending time on top or around a fish tank. It needs to recline elsewhere.

Your cat must have undisputed territory in the home. This will reduce interest in the fish tank. All the same, the cat may still express an interest. To combat this, you must make the aquarium inhospitable terrain.

How to Protect Fish from Cats

If you are keeping these two species as pets, you must cat-proof your fish tank. Primarily, this is to protect your fish. The presence alone of a cat can frighten fish to death. The more the cat stalks the tank, the more stress the fish feel. The cat may also escalate to hunting.

You also need to protect your cat from itself, though. If your cat falls in a fish tank, it could be in serious trouble. Drowning is not necessarily likely, but the cat will get soaked. This can lead to hypothermia if the cat does not escape and dry off quickly.

Think about the possibility of injury, too. Some fish have defense mechanisms to deter predators. Betta fish and cats should never interact, for example. This antagonistic fish contains toxins that could harm a kitten or senior cat.

There is also the risk of a cat eating raw fish. This not just a sad end for a fish. The cat can make itself unwell doing so, or even choke on small bones. To ensure safety for all your pets, keep a cat out of a fish tank.

Relocate the Tank

Given half a chance, a cat will climb on top of a fish tank. The more difficult you make this, the less inclined a cat will be. This is especially effective in older, less mobile felines.

If possible, keep your tank as close to the ceiling as possible. You cannot have it touching the ceiling. You’ll need access yourself, without the use of a stepladder. A gap that is too small for a cat will keep it out, though. Cats enjoy snug spaces, but there are limits.

In addition, limit your cat’s ability to climb onto the fish tank. This means reducing the number of launching pads. Do not locate any furniture in the immediate vicinity of the aquarium. Cats will use sofas or armchairs to climb. A standing jump only takes a cat so far.

If you have a lightweight tank or bowl rather than an aquarium, this is especially important. A cat will be able to knock over these vessels without problem. It will proceed to eat the fish within, potentially leaving broken glass in its wake. Always keep fish out of a cat’s reach.

Seal the Tank

Assume that, no matter what safety precautions you take, a cat will climb onto an aquarium. Cats can be crafty and sharp-witted. If your cat is determined to access a fish tank, it will find a way. You’ll need to protect the fish within from this eventuality.

Seal the fish tank thoroughly. Most reputable tanks will be fitted with a lid. These will contain small holes for air and feeding. In most cases, these are too small for a cat’s paws. Just double-check this is the case. Small gaps can be made larger with determined clawing.

Once the lid is in place, ensure that it is completely secure. If you do have air holes and feeding slots, you can tape down the lid. Use strong, electrical standard tape for this. Make it impossible for a cat to shove or cut the tape with its claws.

You may also want to consider weighing down the lid. Be careful with this, though. Cats knock items over for a range of reasons. Whether by accident or design, this can be dangerous. If using a weighted item, prioritize safety for your cat, fish and family.

You can also consider adding netting below the lid. This will be placed inside the fish tank. This is an extra layer of protection for your fish. If your cat does open the lid, it cannot swipe and snatch the fish inside. This will not resolve the anxiety provoked by a cat’s presence, though.

Unappealing Textures

If your cat makes it to the top of a fish tank, encourage it to move. Rather than watching your cat and acting every time, use textures for this. Cats can be fussy about what they feel under their paws.

The easiest way to a cat is double-sided sticky tape. Cats dislike sticky sensations. It clings to the paw pads and feels uncomfortable. Double-sided sticky tap will encourage a hasty departure.

Aluminum foil is another household object that some cats dislike. Many cats enjoy crinkling sounds. The shiny, cool material is not to feline tastes, though. Most cats will avoid direct interaction with aluminum foil.

You could also lay a plastic layer over the top of the fish tank. Be careful with this, though. It is likely to be slippery. This could lead to your cat suffering an unexpected fall. If you take this approach, surround the fish tank with soft landing materials.

Unappealing Scents and Noises

Cats are often guided by their senses of scent and hearing. You could use this is to deter a cat from a fish tank. Playing sounds the cat does not like, or applying scents, can keep cats away.

Sound is a good deterrent. As per Hearing and Sound Communication in Fishes, fish have poor hearing. This means that noise is less likely to upset your aquatic pets. Consider an ultrasonic device on low volume so you have not bothered by the sound.

If you prefer to use sounds, apply citrus, mint, mustard or rosemary to the top of the tank. Cats will give these aromas a wide berth. Be aware that fish have a strong sense of smell, though. Do not cause unnecessary, unavoidable stress to the inhabitants of your aquarium.

cat obsessed with fish tank

Cover the Tank

If you are unavailable to supervise your cat and ensure aquarium safety, cover it up. This technique is most effective at night, while you are sleeping. If the cat cannot see the fish tank, it is less likely to show interest. Just toss a towel or blanket over the tank.

This also aids the fish that live inside the tank. Night is typically a dark and peaceful time for fish. The sudden appearance of a cat will provoke stress. Covering the tank will provide some welcome respite for its inhabitants.

You could also consider covering the tank while you are out of the house. This technique is best used sparingly, though. As explained by the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, many vet surgeries house fish tanks. This is because they entertain and amuse cats.

Cats do notice when their humans are not home. Aquariums can work in tandem with windows to stave off separation anxiety. As long as the tank is secure, your cat can contentedly watch it for hours. That security is a sizeable caveat, though. You must continue to prioritize safety for cat and fish alike.

Distraction Techniques

If your cast insists on circumnavigating your deterrents, you’ll need to distract it. This requires constant vigilance and can become wearisome. Eventually, though, the cat will get the message.

Watch your cat carefully. When it starts to make a move toward the fish tank. distract it. Simple but effective techniques for this include:

  • Loud noises, such as hand claps or whistles
  • Unpleasant sensations, such as a shot of water from a squirt gun
  • Vocal commands, like a stern, “no”
  • Offering playtime with a favored toy

Kittens are easier to train than adult cats. A senior cat, in particular, may grow indignant about this training. This is why it is critical to prevent a cat from falling into bad habits. If a cat sees an aquarium as its territory, it can be tough to prevent interaction.

In this instance, take a carrot and stick approach. When your cat stops interacting with the fish tank, provide a treat. This could be food, catnip, or attention – whatever your cat values most. Make it worth the cat’s while to cease interacting with the fish tank.

You’ll need to time this well. Never release the treat while the cat is still engaged with the aquarium. You need to teach your cat that leaving fish alone earns rewards. If the cat associates treats with the fish tank, it will remain determined to gain access.

There is no reason why you cannot have an aquarium and a cat in the same home. You’ll just need to keep your cat out of the fish tank. This will ensure that both species live happy and fulfilling lives.