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Why Does My Cat Like Water & Swimming? Vet-Approved Feline Behavior Explanation

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on April 26, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Scottish straight-eared long-haired cat swimming

Why Does My Cat Like Water & Swimming? Vet-Approved Feline Behavior Explanation


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats have a reputation for disliking water. But, while it is true that some of our feline friends detest getting in baths and would never dream of taking a dip in the river or ocean, some breeds love nothing more than showering, bathing, or sharing neighborhood pond space with the goldfish and koi carp.

Whether a cat likes the water depends on several factors, such as their personal history with water. And some breeds are so at home in water they have partially webbed paws and water resistant coats, but it depends on where the breed originates.

Below, we look at the reasons some cats seemingly love to swim while others detest the sight of water.

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Why Do Some Cats Like Water?

Breed preferences, as well as individual experience, as well as species traits, will determine whether a cat likes or dislikes water. Some of the reasons cats might like water and may even enjoy swimming include the following.

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

Some Breeds Naturally Like Water

Most cat breeds originate from desert regions of the world: regions where there is little to no water. It has been established that a cat’s breed may have a significant impact on their behaviors and personality traits 1. As such, it isn’t unheard of for some breeds to be distrustful of water. Others originate from areas where there is water. The Turkish Van, for example, is referred to as the “swimming cat” and even gets their name from Lake Van in Turkey.

These athletic cats are also quite intelligent and their fascination with water means they can learn to turn on faucets and find other ways to access the water they crave.

Some of the breeds that tend to like water include:
  • Bengal
  • Egyptian Mau
  • Maine Coon
  • Norwegian Forest Cat
  • Savannah
  • Siberian
  • Turkish Van

Brought up Around Water

Beyond genetics, a cat’s personal experience with water will determine whether or not they are comfortable in or near bodies of water. If your cat is accustomed to baths from a younger age, they’re likely to be less terrified of water.

They Like Fresh Water

Some cats like water, even if they don’t necessarily like getting in the water. You might find your feline friend batting water from the shower or drinking water directly from the faucet. Some believe that this is a survival instinct. In the wild, cats can be distrustful of still water and prefer to drink from moving water, because it is less likely to cause them harm. While you know that the cat’s water bowl is filled with fresh water every day, your cat doesn’t necessarily recognize this.

A more plausible explanation is that since cats are naturally drawn to moving and flowing objects, water from a faucet or fountain will likely be more interesting to them when compared to water from a bowl.

cat drinking tap water from the faucet
Image By: jaroslavzelenka0, Pixabay

They Like What’s in the Water

Some cats are so driven by their desire to hunt that they will climb trees to impossible heights, and some that would usually avoid water at all costs might jump in ponds or fish tanks to chase whatever they see moving.

They’re Inquisitive

One reputation that cats have and that is truly earned is that they are highly inquisitive creatures. They will investigate new sounds and sights to see whether there is something edible or something they can play with at the source. This might include noises made by the water itself or by whatever is lurking in the water.

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Why Do Other Cats Hate Water?

While some cats naturally gravitate towards water sources and bodies of water, others will do everything possible to stay as far away as possible.

Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

They Naturally Dislike It

A cat’s fur coat is designed to absorb water, which means getting wet will weigh them down. A sodden coat is uncomfortable and hampers movement. It can also temporarily wash away the natural oils in your cat’s coat. Those cats that naturally like the water typically have coats that repel water, rather than absorb it.

They’re Afraid of It

Cats can naturally swim. They have a similar technique to doggy paddle. But, while they can swim, they are not at their most agile when in water. This lack of agility means that cats are naturally afraid of ending up in the water because they may not be able to get out as easily.

Past Trauma

If your cat fell in a bath or got stuck in a pond when it was a kitten, this may form the basis of the cat’s relationship with water for the rest of their life. They will be very reluctant to get in the bath or even in the shower, as a result.

cat looking scared and hating bath time
Image By: JSep, Shutterstock

It’s Messy

Water can destroy the natural oil in a cat’s coat. At the very least, a sodden coat needs cleaning. Cats are fastidiously clean and will not enjoy getting wet because it will mean a lot of cleaning.

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How to Tell if Your Cat Likes Water

The more interaction a cat has with water, the more likely they like the water. If your cat bats a dripping faucet or gets in the shower tray when there is water in there, it could be an indication that your cat really enjoys the water. You can try leaving a small amount of water in the sink or bath and see if your cat gets in.

Do Cats Like Swimming?

Some cats strongly dislike water, but some enjoy getting in and splashing around. It will depend on the cat’s individual experience with water, as well as breed preferences. So, a Turkish Van that has been brought up around water will likely want to spend as much time as possible in the water. Cats that have had negative experiences in water will stay as far away as possible.

How to Satisfy Your Cat’s Desire to Play In Water

If you have a cat that enjoys playing in water, you can put the faucet on gently or put a small amount of water in a sink or bathtub. Alternatively, you can buy cat water fountains and other water features that your feline friend will enjoy playing in. If your cat doesn’t like the water, there is no need to try and push it. They may change their view over time, but it is not guaranteed. However, it is worth noting that cats who dislike swimming or baths are still perfectly comfortable using water fountains to drink.


Cats have a reputation for hating water, but this is only true of some cats and some breeds. Other cats enjoy getting in the water and even playing in it. Breeds like the Turkish Van are more likely to enjoy water and are reasonably skilled swimmers.

Cats that have been brought up around water and have positive experiences with it will be more inclined to play in water, too. You can buy water fountains and let your cat play with the faucet if it enjoys water, and you may find them in or near the pond or other body of water.

Featured Image Credit: Irina Kovynyova, Shutterstock

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