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Do All Cats Hate Water? The Surprising Answer!

Written by: Luxifa Le

Last Updated on January 12, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat looking scared and hating bath time

Do All Cats Hate Water? The Surprising Answer!

Lots of dogs love jumping into ponds, swimming pools, or the ocean. But would a cat even take the plunge and dip their feet into water? Not all cats hate water. Yes, you heard us correctly! Some cats even like water and may enjoy playing in the water or taking the occasional dip to cool off. The key to understanding why not all cats like water is in their evolution.


Why Cats Avoid Water: The Top 3 Reasons

It’s hard to know precisely what makes cats so repulsed by water. It’s not like they can open their mouths and tell us, after all! However, based on their actions and behaviors, we can infer what makes them so averse to swimming.

tabby cat taking a bath
Image by: Marie-Claude Lemay, Shutterstock

1. No Need to Swim

While wild cats may need to swim to find food or shelter, captive cats haven’t needed to swim for thousands of years! The domestication of cats started in 7500 BC in Egypt. These cats were raised in the desert as the descendants of desert cats, and what little exposure to water they would have had in the wild was removed from their environment.

As with any desensitization, a lack of experience with a stimulus often results in fear and apprehension. Think of it in more relatable terms. Most people don’t like getting shots, but people who get fewer shots on average tend to be more afraid of them.

Since domesticated cats hadn’t needed to learn to swim for more than 5,000 years before the common era began, they have minimal positive experiences with water. Thus, they’re apprehensive about the water because it represents an unknown for them!

2. Wet Fur Is Annoying

Furthermore, wet fur has got to be annoying, right? I mean, think about how wild your own damp hair can be! Imagine if you had wet hair all over your body; that would be uncomfortable!

Wet fur affects a lot of facets of a cat’s life. It’s heavy. So, it would be hard to run away from predators and even harder to stalk your own prey. It’s uncomfortable on your skin, and it makes the cat less nimble and agile when moving.

Seeing as being wet is uncomfortable and dangerous for cats, it makes sense that they’d go to great lengths to avoid it.

3. Shock Value

Most people don’t like falling into the water, and it would be wholly unreasonable to expect our cats to enjoy it any more than we do. So, it makes sense that falling into a bathtub would frighten a cat and even ward them off interacting with water for the rest of their lives.

cream tabby maine coon cat playing water
Image by: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Some Cats Like Water

Not every single cat hates water. Some cats love to take a swim and play in the water. Domestic cats often rely on the owner to properly acclimate their cat to the feeling of being wet. But big cats usually love water! Tigers, lions, and leopards are well-known swimmers who will chase prey into the water without the slightest hesitation. They’re even known to take a swim just to cool down on a hot day!

Additionally, plenty of domestic cat breeds love playing in the water. Breeds like the Norwegian Forest Cat, Maine Coon, Turkish Van, and Bengal are known for their water-loving ways. While these cats are all wildly different in appearance, they share one trait: a water-resistant coat, lending more credence to the idea that cats don’t like water just because it’s uncomfortable to be wet.

Even if your cat doesn’t like water, you can even get used to water and help them learn to enjoy it!

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How to Introduce Your Cat to Water in 5 Steps

1. Introduce Your Cat to a Dry Tub or Sink

Start by introducing your cat to a dry sink or tub. Bring their favorite toy with you and play with them there. You want to make time spent in the sink or bathtub fun for them and create positive associations between the bathtub or sink and your cat.

2. Introduce a Little Water

Once your cat is used to the feeling of being in the dry bathtub, you’ll want to introduce a wet washcloth to your cat. This will help them get used to feeling damp without the shock of suddenly being drenched in water.

3. Put Some Water in the Bottom of the Basin

Once your cat is used to the washcloth, fill the bottom of the bathtub with water and let your cat feel it on their paws. Bringing their favorite toy with you may help them create positive associations with the water in the bathtub and teach them how to play in the water.

wet cat in the bathtub having shower
Image by: Vladeep, Shutterstock

4. Use a Cup or Your Hand to Pour Water Over Your Cat

You don’t want to stick your cat under the faucet or submerge them in water just yet. That will scare them. Instead, use a hand or a cup to pour some water over your cat’s body. Avoid the head and the face since that will probably scare them as well.

5. Take Your Time, Be Gentle and Quiet, and Dry Your Cat Thoroughly

Your cat probably won’t like being wet. Their instincts will tell them that they need to stay dry as much as possible. So, they’re not inclined to enjoy it right away and will want to be dry as soon as they can.

Be gentle with your cat and understand they’re doing a new, scary thing. It’s important to be proud of them! Dry the cat as thoroughly as you can so that they feel comfortable again after their bath!

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Final Thoughts

There are many reasons a cat may not like water. Some of these reasons are evolutionary, but many are a product of a lack of experience and desensitization to water.

Even with your help, your cat may never fully acclimate to water. Even after desensitization, your cat may still have lingering apprehension about water since they’ve likely grown up fearing it. Still, with some effort and patience, you might be able to get your cat playing and frolicking in the water with you!

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Featured Image Credit: JSep, Shutterstock

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