Why Do Cats Hate Water?


While dogs may love a good swim in the pool or lake, cats have a notorious hatred of water. It can be difficult to bathe your cat without earning a few nasty scratches and your cat’s ire. Why do cats hate water so much, and what can be done to make them hate it less?

tortoiseshell cat

Why Do Cats Hate Water?

There are many theories as to why cats hate water so much. 

Large wild cats like tigers seem to adore going for a quick swim. In fact, if you go to your local zoo, you might even find that their cages have a small pond for them to splash around in. If their giant, wild cousins adore going for a swim so much, then why not our local tabby?

Domesticated cats avoid water for many reasons, such as instincts, ability to groom and hunt, and shock factor. 

Some cat experts believe that domesticated cats dislike water so much because it is a far cry from the environment the species originally evolved in: dry climates with few lakes or rivers. Over the hundreds of years that cats have been a part of a person’s family, they have never evolved any instincts to enjoy being near water, so they avoid it entirely.

Another reason may be due to your cat’s fur. Cats are meticulous groomers. They will spend hours fixing and cleaning not only their fur but the furs of their pack mates. Wet fur is extremely uncomfortable to cats. Not only does it take a long time for their thick fur to dry, but the water can wash away their scents.

Wet fur can also hinder your cat’s ability to hunt. Weighed down by the water, your cat is less nimble than normal. This results in your cat not only having a harder time catching prey but also having a harder time being caught themselves by coyotes and other predators. 

And finally, cats may avoid water due to previous bad experiences. Most cats are not introduced to water slowly the way dogs are. They often get their first taste of swimming by accidentally falling into a pool or bathtub. The shock of suddenly finding themselves swimming can develop into a lifelong fear of water. 

cats looking at eachother

Do Some Cats Like Water?

Yes! Despite their reputation, there are many domestic cat breeds that are known for being less fearful of water and may actually enjoy going for a swim. These breeds include:

  • Bengal
  • Maine Coon
  • Turkish Van

What makes these breeds different from other cats is the texture of their fur. Unlike the average domestic cat, their furs have water-resistant properties that can make being in contact with water less unpleasant.

Plus, all cats like water in their own way. While only specific breeds enjoy going for a swim, other cats like playing with running or dripping water. In fact, running water may be the best way to provide water for your cat if they enjoy hydrating otherwise. 

How Do I Get My Cat To Enjoy Water?

Generally, we recommend not attempting to teach your cat how to swim or play in the water, due to all the reasons we mentioned before. If you want to help your cat learn to like water in order to bathe them, then have no worries. Unlike dogs, cats do not need to be bathed unless under extreme circumstances, such as requiring a medicinal bath, Instead, cats clean themselves by licking their fur.

If you truly want to teach your cat to like water, then you will need to start when they are kittens and ease them little by little into enjoying going for a dip. Even then, your cat’s instincts may override their training and they may come to resent you. 

If you’re looking for a way to enrich your cat’s life, swimming isn’t the way to go. Instead, invest in building a catio or cat door that is accessible by a pet door only your cat can use. Fill the room with plenty of toys and places to scratch and climb. You should also play with your cat daily and help exercise them to keep them sane and healthy.

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